Fall Deadline December 15
Spring Deadline The program does not admit in the spring.
Summer Deadline The program does not admit in the summer.
GRE (Graduate Record Examinations) Required.
English Proficiency Test Every applicant whose native language is not English or whose undergraduate instruction was not in English must provide an English proficiency test score and meet the Graduate School minimum requirements (
Other Test(s) (e.g., GMAT, MCAT) n/a
Letters of Recommendation Required 3

The program receives a large number of applications each fall from highly qualified individuals, requiring the admissions committee to be extremely selective.  The Departments of Sociology and Community & Environmental Sociology offer graduate study leading to the doctor of philosophy degree in sociology.  The departments do not admit students to pursue Master’s degrees only; however, students admitted to the doctoral program earn a Master of Science degree en route to the Ph.D.  A cohort of approximately 20 students is ideal, in terms of providing mentoring and training to all admitted students as well as making financial support available to them.  Total graduate enrollment in the program is roughly 140 students.  An undergraduate major in sociology is not a prerequisite. The admissions committee conducts a holistic assessment of each applicant’s qualifications.  Faculty members look for academic excellence as indicated by undergraduate GPA and Graduate Record Exam (GRE) scores, a writing sample, and references, along with interest in and motivation for graduate study in sociology as indicated by the statement of purpose.  (Note that a weakness in one indicator can be balanced by evidence of strong abilities in others.)  In particular, committee members look for students with the ability or potential to define a research question succinctly and to use empirical evidence to address significant sociological issues.  They also make an effort to identify individuals who demonstrate the potential for a creative approach to investigating empirical and conceptual social science issues. 

To apply, please submit an online application, all transcripts, a statement of reasons for graduate study, writing sample, recommendations, and tests scores.  GRE scores (general test only) are required of all applicants; international applicants are required to submit English Proficiency test scores—either TOEFL, MET, or IELTS—as well.  The application deadline is December 15 for the subsequent academic year. 

Graduate School Resources

Resources to help you afford graduate study might include assistantships, fellowships, traineeships, and financial aid. Further funding information is available from the Graduate School. Be sure to check with your program for individual policies and restrictions related to funding.

Program Resources

The departments guarantee five continuous years of funding to all incoming students. Sources of funding include teaching assistantships, project assistantships, research assistantships, traineeships, and fellowships. In addition, some admitted students arrive with outside awards such as National Science Foundation or Fulbright grants. International applicants admitted to the program must complete a financial statement that provides evidence of sufficient funds to support themselves for their first year and the intent for support to continue throughout the duration of study. Even though departmental funding is guaranteed, international students often must submit additional financial support documentation, demonstrating that they can cover the gap between the amount the departments provide and the amount the US State Department requires. Additional information about international student expenses can be found here.

Minimum Graduate School Requirements

Review the Graduate School minimum academic progress and degree requirements, in addition to the program requirements listed below.

Major Requirements


Face to Face Evening/Weekend Online Hybrid Accelerated
Yes No No No No

Mode of Instruction Definitions


Minimum Credit Requirement 51 credits
Minimum Residence Credit Requirement 32 credits
Minimum Graduate Coursework Requirement Half of degree coursework (26 credits out of 51 total credits) must be completed graduate-level coursework; courses with the Graduate Level Coursework attribute are identified and searchable in the university's Course Guide (
Overall Graduate GPA Requirement 3.25 GPA required.
Other Grade Requirements Students must earn a BC or above in all required courses. Grades of Incomplete are considered to be unsatisfactory if they are not removed during the next enrolled semester.
Assessments and Examinations Ph.D. students must pass two written preliminary exams in two different sociology subfields as well as an oral prelim. They then write a dissertation under the supervision of their major professor. After completing the dissertation, students take a final oral exam covering the dissertation and the general field of the major and minor studies.
Language Requirements No language requirements.
Doctoral Minor/Breadth Requirements All doctoral students are required to complete a minor.

Required COURSES

SOC/​C&E SOC  361 Statistics for Sociologists II4
SOC 362 Statistics for Sociologists III4
SOC 700 Introductory Proseminar for Graduate Students1
SOC/​C&E SOC  750 Research Methods in Sociology3
SOC 773 Intermediate Classical Theory3
Select four seminars in Sociology or Community & Environmental Sociology 1, 2
Additional courses required for students affiliated with the Center for Demography & Ecology or the Center for Demography of Health & Aging:
SOC 674 Demographic Techniques I3
SOC 756 Demographic Techniques II3
Each semester, throughout the graduate program, CDE/CDHA students must also enroll in:
SOC/​C&E SOC  995 Research: Methodology Trainees1-3
SOC/​C&E SOC  997 Research: Demography and Ecology Trainees1-3

Graduate School Policies

The Graduate School’s Academic Policies and Procedures provide essential information regarding general university policies. Program authority to set degree policies beyond the minimum required by the Graduate School lies with the degree program faculty. Policies set by the academic degree program can be found below.

Major-Specific Policies

Prior Coursework

Graduate Work from Other Institutions

With program approval, students may count up to 19 credits of graduate coursework from other institutions toward the minimum 51-credit Ph.D. degree requirement and the minimum 50% graduate coursework requirement. Coursework completed ten or more years prior to admission to the doctoral program may not be used to satisfy either of these requirements.

UW–Madison Undergraduate

With program approval, students may count up to 7 credits earned in an undergraduate degree program at UW–Madison toward the Ph.D. degree requirements. If the courses are numbered 300–699, the credits may count toward the minimum 51-credit degree requirement. If the courses are numbered 700–999, the credits may also count toward the minimum 50% graduate coursework requirement. Coursework completed ten or more years prior to admission to the doctoral program may not be used to satisfy either of these requirements.

UW–Madison University Special

With program approval, students may count up to 15 credits taken as a Special Student toward the Ph.D. degree requirements. If the courses are numbered 300–699, the credits may count toward the minimum 51-credit degree requirement. If the courses are numbered 700–999, the credits may also count toward the minimum 50% graduate coursework requirement. Coursework completed ten or more years prior to admission to the doctoral program may not be used to satisfy either of these requirements.


The Graduate School regularly reviews the record of any student who earned grades of BC, C, D, F, or Incomplete in a graduate course (300 or above), or grade of U in research credits. This review could result in academic probation with a hold on future enrollment or in being suspended from the Graduate School.

  1. Good standing (progressing according to standards; any funding guarantee remains in place).
  2. Probation (not progressing according to standards but permitted to enroll; loss of funding guarantee; specific plan with dates and deadlines in place in regard to removal of probationary status).
  3. Unsatisfactory progress (not progressing according to standards; not permitted to enroll, dismissal, leave of absence or change of advisor or program).


Students are expected to have ongoing contact with their faculty advisor. Dissertators who fail to confer with their advisor at least once each semester will not be allowed to register in the subsequent semester. All students are required to submit a yearly progress report that is read and discussed by a committee of faculty during the annual review.  In addition, all students are expected to create and regularly update an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and use it as the basis for conversations with their advisor about evolving goals, current strengths, and plans for mastery of new skills.  A student's advisor serves as chair of the dissertation committee, which must have at least five members, all of whom read and evaluate the dissertation prior to the student's final oral exam.  Committees are composed of three graduate faculty in Sociology and/or Community & Environmental Sociology, one graduate faculty member from outside these two departments, and a fifth person who may be any individual deemed qualified by the program's executive committee.


15 credits

Time Constraints

Doctoral students are expected to pass both written preliminary exams and the oral preliminary exam, thereby attaining dissertator status, by the summer after their eighth semester in the graduate program.  They then must complete the Ph.D. within five years of attaining dissertator status.

Grievances and Appeals

These resources may be helpful in addressing your concerns:

For students in the College of Agricultural & Life Sciences:

College of Agricultural and Life Sciences: Grievance Policy

In the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences (CALS), any student who feels unfairly treated by a member of the CALS faculty or staff has the right to complain about the treatment and to receive a prompt hearing. Some complaints may arise from misunderstandings or communication breakdowns and be easily resolved; others may require formal action. Complaints may concern any matter of perceived unfairness.

To ensure a prompt and fair hearing of any complaint, and to protect the rights of both the person complaining and the person at whom the complaint is directed, the following procedures are used in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences. Any student, undergraduate or graduate, may use these procedures, except employees whose complaints are covered under other campus policies.

  1. The student should first talk with the person at whom the complaint is directed. Most issues can be settled at this level. Others may be resolved by established departmental procedures.
  2. If the student is unsatisfied, and the complaint involves any unit outside CALS, the student should seek the advice of the dean or director of that unit to determine how to proceed.
    1. If the complaint involves an academic department in CALS the student should proceed in accordance with item 3 below.
    2. If the grievance involves a unit in CALS that is not an academic department, the student should proceed in accordance with item 4 below.
  3. The student should contact the department’s grievance advisor within 120 calendar days of the alleged unfair treatment. The departmental administrator can provide this person’s name. The grievance advisor will attempt to resolve the problem informally within 10 working days of receiving the complaint, in discussions with the student and the person at whom the complaint is directed.
    1. If informal mediation fails, the student can submit the grievance in writing to the grievance advisor within 10 working days of the date the student is informed of the failure of the mediation attempt by the grievance advisor. The grievance advisor will provide a copy to the person at whom the grievance is directed.
    2. The grievance advisor will refer the complaint to a department committee that will obtain a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed, providing a copy to the student. Either party may request a hearing before the committee. The grievance advisor will provide both parties a written decision within 20 working days from the date of receipt of the written complaint.
    3. If the grievance involves the department chairperson, the grievance advisor or a member of the grievance committee, these persons may not participate in the review.
    4. If not satisfied with departmental action, either party has 10 working days from the date of notification of the departmental committee action to file a written appeal to the CALS Equity and Diversity Committee. A subcommittee of this committee will make a preliminary judgement as to whether the case merits further investigation and review. If the subcommittee unanimously determines that the case does not merit further investigation and review, its decision is final. If one or more members of the subcommittee determine that the case does merit further investigation and review, the subcommittee will investigate and seek to resolve the dispute through mediation. If this mediation attempt fails, the subcommittee will bring the case to the full committee. The committee may seek additional information from the parties or hold a hearing. The committee will present a written recommendation to the dean who will provide a final decision within 20 working days of receipt of the committee recommendation.
  4. If the alleged unfair treatment occurs in a CALS unit that is not an academic department, the student should, within 120 calendar days of the alleged incident, take his/her grievance directly to the Associate Dean of Academic Affairs. The dean will attempt to resolve the problem informally within 10 working days of receiving the complaint. If this mediation attempt does not succeed the student may file a written complaint with the dean who will refer it to the CALS Equity and Diversity Committee. The committee will seek a written response from the person at whom the complaint is directed, subsequently following other steps delineated in item 3d above.

For students in the College of Letters & Science:

Students should contact the department chair or program director with questions about grievances. They may also contact the L&S Academic Divisional Associate Deans, the L&S Associate Dean for Teaching and Learning Administration, or the L&S Director of Human Resources.


The department guarantees five continuous years of funding to all admitted students. Our graduate students receive support toward their studies through project assistantships, research assistantships, teaching assistantships, lectureships, traineeships, and fellowships (fellowship awards may come from either the university or external agencies). All types of funding payrolled through the university provide a full tuition remission, a stipend, and subsidized health insurance for students.

Graduate School Resources

Take advantage of the Graduate School's professional development resources to build skills, thrive academically, and launch your career. 

Program Resources

The Sociology graduate program offers students an array of professional development opportunities. 

SOC 700 Introductory Proseminar for Graduate Students  provides an overview of the discipline and the graduate program and addresses such professional development issues as teaching strategies and grant proposal writing. The proseminar also explores topics like productive advisor-advisee relationships, working effectively as part of a research team, co-authoring, and other matters important to graduate school success. 

SOC/​C&E SOC  875 Special Topics (Topic: Professional Development) covers a broad spectrum of topics—e.g., networking and peer support; time management; IRB approval and considering ethics throughout the research process; writing, revising, and submitting papers to scholarly journals; writing for public audiences; doing outreach work; speaking at conferences; investigating careers within and outside academia; and learning how to mentor. 

SOC 910 Teaching Sociology is a seminar focusing on course development, pedagogy, and evaluation.

SOC/​C&E SOC  995 Research: Methodology Trainees, for students affiliated with the Center for Demography & Ecology and the Center for Demography of Health & Aging, covers essential professional development skills such as grant writing, data visualization, presentation design, publication writing, applying for academic and research jobs, and responsible conduct of research.

SOC/​C&E SOC  997 Research: Demography and Ecology Trainees, for students affiliated with the Center for Demography & Ecology and the Center for Demography of Health & Aging, offers presentations of substantive work at the forefront of population sciences.

For students who are teaching for the first time, there is a weekly teaching workshop that focuses on issues typically of concern to new TAs—e.g., developing lesson plans, engaging students, facilitating discussions, and evaluating written work. 

Students are encouraged to participate in “Working Groups” each semester. The departments offer nine of these training groups, each focusing on a different sociology subfield. The groups meet weekly and involve presentation and discussion of student and faculty work-in-progress as well as analysis of current developments and debates; often guest speakers from other universities join the conversation. 

The departments host scholars from other institutions who speak at departmental colloquia as well as speakers from campus units such as the Havens-Wright Center for Social Justice and the Institute for Research on Poverty.  Students are encouraged to attend these events. They are also advised to participate in the graduate program's workshops on career exploration and creating a professional website. Students are invited to collaborate with faculty and staff serving on department committees, and they are encouraged to develop leadership skills by becoming involved in the Sociology Graduate Student Association. 

The departments provide small grants that assist students with research expenses and support those who are traveling to present their work at professional conferences.  

The Sociology Department website includes several pages containing valuable resources for graduate students—e.g., Diversity & Inclusion Resources for the Classroom, Collected Wisdom, Academic Job Market, and Blogs on Academia. 

All graduate students are expected to create an Individual Development Plan to help them define interests and values, evaluate skills, develop specific plans for meeting degree milestones and professional goals, and communicate effectively with their advisors. 

  1. Demonstrate a broad understanding of major theories, methodologies, and research findings in the sociological literature. Develop critical thinking skills that empower them to analyze strengths and weaknesses in the existing literature, identify knowledge gaps, evaluate evidence, synthesize information, and form conclusions. Attain the skills necessary to teach and conduct research with intellectual and ethical rigor, care, and creativity.
  2. Create individualized programs to suit their specific interests and goals. Formulate ideas and develop research questions, design feasible research projects, use appropriate methodologies, analyze and interpret the resulting data, and identify avenues for further exploration. Their original research will expand the current boundaries of knowledge in the field.
  3. Write seminar papers and conduct dissertation research, prepare and submit manuscripts resulting from their research for publication in respected journals, and submit papers for presentation at professional conferences. Their independent research will contribute substantively to scholarship in the field.
  4. Demonstrate breadth within their learning experience by taking at least four seminars, completing a minor area of study, and passing written preliminary exams in two different subfields. In addition, because our program emphasizes collective responsibility for training, students will be supervised and mentored by several faculty members with a range of expertise. They will also learn to mentor others.
  5. Advance the contributions of sociological study to society by conducting research that explores complex ideas, analyzes quantitative and qualitative data, and disseminates new knowledge. Contribute to the vast body of scholarship and applied work that leads to the improvement of society. Share theory, methodology, and the results of research with the undergraduate students whom they teach and thereby foster an understanding of how social life works, what causes social change, and why humans behave in the ways they do.
  6. Communicate complex ideas in a clear, organized, engaging manner to diverse audiences. Craft effective grant proposals; gather, manage, and analyze data; write papers that are thought-provoking, concise, and persuasive; present research informatively; listen with care and patience; and give and receive feedback orally and in writing.
  7. Foster ethical and professional conduct by demonstrating respect for and having positive interactions with faculty members and staff, graduate student colleagues, and undergraduate students. Foster such conduct by the scientific rigor and honesty with which they design research, collect and analyze data, and interpret and report results.
  8. (Career Preparation) Prepare for a range of sustainable careers in academia as well as government, private industry, and the nonprofit sector. Develop flexibility, leadership, and broadly applicable skills in critical thinking, problem solving, project management, collaboration, and communication.

Faculty: Professors Schwartz (chair, Sociology), Bell (chair, Community & Environmental Sociology), Carlson, Curtis, Elwert, Emirbayer, Enstad, Ermakoff, Fletcher, Freeland, Friedland (affiliated), Fujimura, Gerber, Goldberg, Grodsky, Higgins (affiliated), Lim, Massoglia, Montgomery, Morales (affiliated), Nobles, O’Guinn (affiliated), Rogers (director, COWS), Seidman, Stoecker, Thornton (affiliated); Associate Professors Alatout, Christens (affiliated), Conti, Dykema (director, UWSC), Eason, Engelman, Feinstein, Grant (director, Graduate Studies), Halpern-Meekin (affiliated), Light, Posey-Maddox (affiliated), Shoemaker (affiliated), White; Assistant Professors Addo (affiliated), Baldridge (affiliated), Bea (affiliated), Besbris, Conwell, Garoon, Ifatunji (affiliated), Jensen, Leachman (affiliated), Meuris (affiliated), Oh, Rios, Simmons (affiliated), Trejo, Ward, Xiong (affiliated).