Sociology Professor Ivan Ermakoff, chalk in hand, standing in front of a blackboard, teaching a graduate course in political sociology.

Sociology applies the methods of science to explain social behavior. The interactions of individuals in families, groups, or organizations, and the institutions, social class, or shared beliefs of a common culture are all subjects for sociological research. There are many career opportunities open to people who complete a major in sociology, including business, counseling and social service, public policy, law, and criminal justice.

Students interested in sociology should meet with the undergraduate advisor before they register for the second semester of the sophomore year. The undergraduate office's resource center holds detailed information about the major, the department, research interests of sociology faculty, career opportunities, and student work. Declaration of the major during the sophomore year will give students access to required sociology courses for fall of the junior year.

Criminal Justice Certificate

Sociology majors wishing to earn a certificate in criminal justice may do so with a minimum of additional course requirements and permission of the Criminal Justice advisor. See Criminal Justice section in this Guide.


Required courses for the sociology major and for the CAR option may have temporary course controls that send non-declared students "Course Requisites Not Met" enrollment error messages. Certain 100-numbered courses each semester are restricted to freshmen and sophomores until freshmen have enrolled. Check the Course Guide for notes each semester.

Transfer students whose equivalent courses have been posted to their records as “electives,” numbered XXX, may use those courses as prerequisites if the department approves their equivalencies to similar UW–Madison courses. What is needed is a conversation with the undergraduate advisor either in the office or at SOAR.

Honors Program

A variety of courses in sociology offer honors credit, and may be used toward Honors in the Liberal Arts in the College of Letters & Science. These include the special honors introductory seminar, Sociology 181, Sociology 380 Contemporary Population Problems, other special honors sections of 100- and 200-level courses, and courses that provide honors by arrangement with the instructor. Sociology also has courses that award automatic honors, including SOC 362 Statistics for Sociologists III and SOC/​C&E SOC  693 Practicum in Analysis and Research, and certain other upper-division courses designated by semester in the Course Guide. Sociology also makes special offerings of upper-level courses available to sophomores in the honors program for one semester at a time.

Students must meet with the undergraduate advisor and review the requirements prior to declaring the major. 

To declare the Concentration in Analysis and Research, students must have completed  SOC/​C&E SOC  360 and SOC/​C&E SOC  357 with a 3.000 GPA between the two courses.

University General Education Requirements

All undergraduate students at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are required to fulfill a minimum set of common university general education requirements to ensure that every graduate acquires the essential core of an undergraduate education. This core establishes a foundation for living a productive life, being a citizen of the world, appreciating aesthetic values, and engaging in lifelong learning in a continually changing world. Various schools and colleges will have requirements in addition to the requirements listed below. Consult your advisor for assistance, as needed. For additional information, see the university Undergraduate General Education Requirements section of the Guide.

General Education
  • Breadth—Humanities/Literature/Arts: 6 credits
  • Breadth—Natural Science: 4 to 6 credits, consisting of one 4- or 5-credit course with a laboratory component; or two courses providing a total of 6 credits
  • Breadth—Social Studies: 3 credits
  • Communication Part A & Part B *
  • Ethnic Studies *
  • Quantitative Reasoning Part A & Part B *

* The mortarboard symbol appears before the title of any course that fulfills one of the Communication Part A or Part B, Ethnic Studies, or Quantitative Reasoning Part A or Part B requirements.

College of Letters & Science Degree Requirements: Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)

Students pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in the College of Letters & Science must complete all of the requirements below. The College of Letters & Science allows this major to be paired with either a bachelor of arts or a bachelor of science curriculum.

Bachelor of Arts degree requirements

Mathematics Complete the University General Education Requirements for Quantitative Reasoning A (QR-A) and Quantitative Reasoning B (QR-B) coursework.
Foreign Language
  • Complete the fourth unit of a foreign language; OR
  • Complete the third unit of a foreign language and the second unit of an additional foreign language.
L&S Breadth
  • 12 credits of Humanities, which must include 6 credits of literature; and
  • 12 credits of Social Science; and
  • 12 credits of Natural Science, which must include one 3+ credit Biological Science course and one 3+ credit Physical Science course.
Liberal Arts and Science Coursework Complete at least 108 credits.
Depth of Intermediate/Advanced work Complete at least 60 credits at the intermediate or advanced level.
Major Declare and complete at least one major.
Total Credits Complete at least 120 credits.
UW-Madison Experience
  • 30 credits in residence, overall; and
  • 30 credits in residence after the 86th credit.
Quality of Work
  • 2.000 in all coursework at UW–Madison
  • 2.000 in Intermediate/Advanced level coursework at UW–Madison

Non–L&S students pursuing an L&S major

Non–L&S students who have permission from their school/college to pursue an additional major within L&S only need to fulfill the major requirements. They do not need to complete the L&S Degree Requirements above.

Requirements for the Major

A minimum of 30 credits in SOC courses is required for the basic major. Students are strongly encouraged to complete the Foundation courses as early as possible; these courses are prerequisites for most upper-level SOC courses.

Foundation (Core)

Introduction to SOC (1 course)3-4
Survey of Sociology
The Sociological Enterprise
Honors Introductory Seminar-The Sociological Enterprise
Research Methods 1
SOC/​C&E SOC  357 Methods of Sociological Inquiry (Research Methods)3-4
Statistics 2
SOC/​C&E SOC  360 Statistics for Sociologists I3-4
or ECON 310 Statistics: Measurement in Economics
or GEOG 360 Quantitative Methods in Geographical Analysis
or MATH/​STAT  310 Introduction to Probability and Mathematical Statistics II
or PSYCH 210 Basic Statistics for Psychology
or STAT 301 Introduction to Statistical Methods
or STAT 371 Introductory Applied Statistics for the Life Sciences
Classical Theory
SOC/​C&E SOC  475 Classical Sociological Theory3
Total Credits12-15

Students may take methods and statistics in the same semester. If students take methods and statistics in different semesters, we recommend taking methods before statistics as an entry point to the methods and materials of the field.


Statistics courses taken outside of the SOC subject do not count for 30-credits required in the major, nor are they upper level in the major.  


4 courses from at least 2 of these areas:


SOC 351 Introduction to Survey Methods for Social Research3
SOC/​C&E SOC  361 Statistics for Sociologists II4
SOC 362 Statistics for Sociologists III4
SOC/​C&E SOC  365 Data Management for Social Science Research3-4
SOC 375 Introduction to Mathematical Sociology3
SOC 376 Mathematical Models of Social Systems3
SOC 461 Study Abroad in Additional Methods and Statistics1-6


SOC 462 Study Abroad in Additional Theory1-6
SOC 476 Contemporary Sociological Theory3

Deviant Behavior

SOC 421 Processes of Deviant Behavior3-4
SOC/​SOC WORK  422 Social Issues in Aging3
SOC 441 Criminology3-4
SOC 446 Juvenile Delinquency3-4
SOC 463 Study Abroad in Deviant Behavior1-6
SOC/​GEN&WS/​LEGAL ST  425 Crime, Gender and Justice3
SOC/​CHICLA/​LEGAL ST  443 Immigration, Crime, and Enforcement3-4
SOC/​CHICLA/​LEGAL ST  440 Ethnicity, Race, and Justice3-4

Social Psychology

SOC/​PSYCH  453 Human Sexuality4
SOC 464 Study Abroad in Social Psychology1-6
SOC/​C&E SOC  532 Health Care Issues for Individuals, Families and Society3
SOC/​C&E SOC  533 Public Health in Rural & Urban Communities3
SOC 535 Talk and Social Interaction3
SOC 543 Collective Behavior3
SOC/​C&E SOC  573 Community Organization and Change3
SOC 575 Sociological Perspectives on the Life Course and Aging3
SOC/​AMER IND/​C&E SOC  578 Poverty and Place3

Social Organization

SOC/​LEGAL ST  415 The Legal Profession3-4
SOC 465 Study Abroad in Social Organization1-6
SOC/​CHICLA  470 Sociodemographic Analysis of Mexican Migration3
SOC/​GEN&WS  611 Gender, Science and Technology3
SOC/​C&E SOC/​URB R PL  617 Community Development3
SOC 621 Class, State and Ideology: an Introduction to Marxist Social Science3
SOC 624 Political Sociology3
SOC 626 Social Movements3
SOC/​C&E SOC  630 Sociology of Developing Societies/Third World3
SOC 632 Sociology of Organizations3-4
SOC 633 Social Stratification3
SOC 640 Sociology of the Family3
SOC/​LAW/​LEGAL ST  641 Sociology of Law3-4
SOC/​C&E SOC/​URB R PL  645 Modern American Communities3
SOC 646 Race and Ethnic Relations3
SOC 647 Sociology of Sport3
SOC/​ED POL  648 Sociology of Education3
SOC/​C&E SOC  650 Sociology of Agriculture3
SOC/​C&E SOC  652 Sociology of Economic Institutions3
SOC/​HISTORY  670 Capitalism, Socialism, and Democracy in America Since 18903-4
SOC 678 Sociology of Persecution3

Demography and Ecology

SOC 460 Study Abroad in Demography and Ecology1-6
SOC 575 Sociological Perspectives on the Life Course and Aging3
SOC/​ECON  663 Population and Society3
SOC 674 Demographic Techniques I3

Community and Environmental Sociology

SOC/​C&E SOC  533 Public Health in Rural & Urban Communities3
SOC/​C&E SOC/​ENVIR ST  540 Sociology of International Development, Environment, and Sustainability3
SOC/​C&E SOC  541 Environmental Stewardship and Social Justice3
SOC/​C&E SOC  573 Community Organization and Change3
SOC 575 Sociological Perspectives on the Life Course and Aging3
SOC/​AMER IND/​C&E SOC  578 Poverty and Place3
SOC/​C&E SOC/​URB R PL  617 Community Development3
SOC/​C&E SOC  650 Sociology of Agriculture3


Additional SOC courses to achieve the required 30 credits for the major.4


 A maximum one introductory course (SOC 181, SOC/​C&E SOC  210, SOC/​C&E SOC  211) may count toward the 30 required for the major.

residence and quality of work

  • 2.000 GPA in all SOC courses and courses that count toward the major
  • 2.000 GPA on 15 upper-level major credits, taken in Residence5
  • 15 credits in SOC, taken on the UW–Madison campus

SOC courses numbered 300–699 are upper level, except for:  C&E SOC/​SOC  357, C&E SOC/​SOC  360, LEGAL ST/​SOC  415, PSYCH/​SOC  453, and SOC 497.

Sociology: Concentration in Analysis and Research Option

Honors in the Major

Students may declare Honors in the Sociology Major in consultation with the Sociology undergraduate advisor.

Honors in the Sociology Major: Requirements

To earn Honors in the Major in Sociology, students must satisfy the requirements for the major (above) and the following additional requirements:

  • Earn a 3.300 Unversity GPA
  • Earn a 3.300 GPA for all SOC courses, and all courses accepted in the major
  • Complete 21 credits, taken for Honors, with individual grades of B or better, to include:
SOC/​C&E SOC  357 Methods of Sociological Inquiry4
SOC/​C&E SOC  475 Classical Sociological Theory3
SOC 681 Senior Honors Thesis3
SOC 682 Senior Honors Thesis3

The remaining Honors credits, to reach the 21 credit minimum, must be in courses at or above the 300 level.

 Students may declare the Concentration in Analysis and Research ("CAR"). Speak to the major advisor about this option.

University Degree Requirements  

Total Degree To receive a bachelor's degree from UW–Madison, students must earn a minimum of 120 degree credits. The requirements for some programs may exceed 120 degree credits. Students should consult with their college or department advisor for information on specific credit requirements.
Residency Degree candidates are required to earn a minimum of 30 credits in residence at UW–Madison. "In residence" means on the UW–Madison campus with an undergraduate degree classification. “In residence” credit also includes UW–Madison courses offered in distance or online formats and credits earned in UW–Madison Study Abroad/Study Away programs.
Quality of Work Undergraduate students must maintain the minimum grade point average specified by the school, college, or academic program to remain in good academic standing. Students whose academic performance drops below these minimum thresholds will be placed on academic probation.
  1. (Conduct Research and Analyze Data) Sociology encompasses both qualitative and quantitative research methods. Quantitative methods are used in market research, opinion polling, sales, government, and countless other applications and allow researchers to recognize trends and patterns and produce social statistics. Qualitative research skills provide an in depth understanding of interactions, communications, worksite practices, and social worlds. Advanced sociological research methods require graduate‐level training beyond the scope of our undergraduate major, but we expect that all undergraduate majors will be able to conduct small-­scale research using surveys, interviews, experiments, textual analysis or observations in which they formulate a research question, collect data, analyze results, and draw conclusions.
  2. (Critically Evaluate Published Research) Sociology graduates will be able to read and evaluate published research as it appears in academic journals and popular or policy publications. They will be able to identify the research methods used, assess the quality of the sample, assess the quality of measurements and procedures, evaluate the links between the data and the interpretations, identify possible threats to the validity of the results, and provide an overall assessment of the trustworthiness of the research results. They will be able to read and evaluate a set of research articles on the same broad issue and be able to draw summarize the research findings across multiple issue.
  3. (Communicate Skillfully) Because the sociology major involves a large amount of reading, writing, and discussion, majors learn how to convey ideas effectively in writing, presentations, and everyday conferences and meetings. Sociology majors write papers and make oral presentations that build arguments and assess evidence in a clear and effective manner.
  4. (Critical Thinking about Society and Social Processes) Sociological inquiry involves learning to look beyond the surface of issues to discover the "why" and "how" of social order and structure. Sociology majors develop strong analytical skills and learn to solve problems and identify opportunities. They are able to consider the underlying social mechanisms that may be creating a situation, identify evidence that may adjudicate between alternate explanations for phenomena, and develop proposed policies or action plans in light of theory and data.
  5. (See Things from a Global Perspective) Sociologists learn about different cultures, groups, and societies. They examine both variation and universality across places and through history. They are aware of the diversity of backgrounds and experiences among residents of the United States. They understand the ways events and processes in one country are linked to those in other countries.
  6. (Prepare for Graduate School and the Job Market) An undergraduate major in sociology provides an excellent foundation for work and graduate study in a wide range of fields including law, business, social work, medicine, policy research, public health, public administration and, of course, sociology. With the aid of faculty and staff, students use their social research skills to identify opportunities for employment or further study , assess their qualifications for these opportunities, and identify strategies for gaining the necessary knowledge and experience to improve their qualifications. Students are encouraged to develop and maintain portfolios of their written work and educational experiences to aid them in preparing applications.

Sample Four-Year Plan

This Sample Four-Year Plan is a tool to assist students and their advisor(s). Students should use it—along with their DARS report, the Degree Planner, and Course Search & Enroll tools—to make their own four-year plan based on their placement scores, credit for transferred courses and approved examinations, and individual interests. As students become involved in athletics, honors, research, student organizations, study abroad, volunteer experiences, and/or work, they might adjust the order of their courses to accommodate these experiences. Students will likely revise their own four-year plan several times during college.

First Year
Communication A3SOC/​C&E SOC  210 or 211 (SOC 211 also satisfies Communication B)3-4
Quantitative Reasoning A3SOC/​C&E SOC  3574
Foreign Language (if required)4Biological Science Breadth3
Ethnic Studies (may be taken in the major)3Intermediate MATH, COMP SCI or STAT (for B.S.)3
Physical Science Breadth3 
 16 14
Second Year
SOC/​C&E SOC  360 (satisfies Quantitative Reasoning B)4SOC/​C&E SOC  4753
INTER-LS 2101SOC Distribution (upper level)4
Humanities Breadth3Natural Science Breadth3
Science Breadth3Literature Breadth3
 15 15
Third Year
Declare the majorSOC Distribution (upper level)4
Humanities Breadth 6Electives11
SOC Distribution (upper level)4 
 15 15
Fourth Year
SOC Distribution (upper level)3SOC elective4
 15 15
Total Credits 120


This university is a very big place. Even the most well-prepared new students will have moments when they say to themselves, “Uh oh. What have I got myself into going to such a big school? Choosing courses at SOAR was stressful, fun, or both, but after SOAR am I on my own?” The answer is no. Every student has at least one assigned advisor. Over the course of their time at the university, students may have several assigned advisors. That is a good thing; L&S advisors are highly networked, and they always communicate with each other about shared students.

When students read their DARS reports—documents that were developed to help them find their way to a timely graduation, they can feel overwhelmed; it looks like they need 500 credits to graduate. How can they get all those requirements done? Do sociology (or Spanish, or English) majors really have to take biology courses?

In the Sociology Department, we take advising very seriously. We encourage our majors to see the advisor at least once every semester. The advisor will help you summarize the DARS and map your completed coursework onto the goals and timeline for graduation, including the sociology major and L&S requirements. The sociology advisor will have departmental or college news about guest speakers, new faculty, new courses, internships, and scholarships. This advisor will also be able to assist in preparation for, and applications to graduate school, and be able to connect students with faculty whose information about various sociology programs is always the most current. The sociology advisor will also see freshmen and sophomores exploring the major in sociology.  See academic advising for more information.

Prerequisites, L&S BREADTH, and Course Levels

Sociology course numbers over 300 indicate subject matter rather than level of difficulty. Unless indicated otherwise, prerequisites at the upper level are junior standing and an introductory course in sociology or consent of instructor.

Most courses in sociology count toward the social studies breadth requirement. Courses SOC/​GEN&WS  200 Introduction to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer+ Studies, SOC/​ASIAN/​GEOG/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI  244 Introduction to Southeast Asia: Vietnam to the Philippines, and SOC/​AFRICAN/​AFROAMER/​ANTHRO/​GEOG/​HISTORY/​POLI SCI  277 Africa: An Introductory Survey count toward breadth requirements in either humanities or social studies. The following do not count toward any breadth requirement:

SOC/​C&E SOC  357 Methods of Sociological Inquiry3-4
SOC/​C&E SOC  360 Statistics for Sociologists I4
SOC 362 Statistics for Sociologists III4
SOC 496 Topics in Sociology1-3
SOC/​C&E SOC  693 Practicum in Analysis and Research3
SOC/​LEGAL ST  694 Criminal Justice Field Observation2-3


Sociology majors do very well in the job market. The critical, analytic, and quantitative skills they have mastered in the major, along with their commitments to social justice and their understanding of organizations make them desirable job candidates. Every year the department invites sociology alumni to campus for career panels or “speed mentoring.” Current sociology majors get to talk to people only slightly older than themselves who have successfully made the transitions from undergraduate to professional.

Sociology also has an advisor devoted exclusively to careers. This advisor teaches a 1-credit course where students learn the arts of resume building and resume writing, applying for and getting internships, and in which they practice self-reflection activities which lead to insights about what they really want to do after college, and where they learn how to make connections between their academic work and their work in the “real world.” This advisor is also available for one-on-one advising.

Our career advisor also partners with the L&S Career Services office to help you leverage the academic skills learned in your major and liberal arts degree, explore and try out different career paths, participate in internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and network with professionals in the field (alumni and employers). See SuccessWorks for more information.

L&S career resources

Every L&S major opens a world of possibilities.  SuccessWorks at the College of Letters & Science helps students turn the academic skills learned in their major, certificates, and other coursework into fulfilling lives after graduation, whether that means jobs, public service, graduate school or other career pursuits.

In addition to providing basic support like resume reviews and interview practice, SuccessWorks offers ways to explore interests and build career skills from their very first semester/term at UW all the way through graduation and beyond.

Students can explore careers in one-on-one advising, try out different career paths, complete internships, prepare for the job search and/or graduate school applications, and connect with supportive alumni and even employers in the fields that inspire them.


Faculty: Professors Schwartz (chair, Sociology), Borman (affiliated), Carlson, Elwert, Emirbayer, Ermakoff, Fletcher, Freeland, Friedland (affiliated), Fujimura, Gerber, Goldberg, Grodsky, Lim, Logan, Massoglia, Maynard, Montgomery, Morales (affiliated), Nobles, Nordheim (affiliated), Rogers (director, COWS), Schaeffer (director, UWSC), Seidman, Thornton (affiliated); Associate Professors Christens (affiliated), Conti, Eason, Engelman, Feinstein, Grant (director, Graduate Studies), Higgins (affiliated), Light, Shoemaker (affiliated); Assistant Professors Addo (affiliated), Conwell, Halpern-Meekin (affiliated), Jensen, Leachman (affiliated), O'Brien (affiliated), Oh, Simmons (affiliated), Xiong (affiliated).

For more information about individual faculty members, the research they do, and the classes they teach, see the Sociology web page.

The Wisconsin experience: Essential Learning in the College of Letters & Science

The three elements of learning described below—tools, breadth, and depth—work together to create a broad and rich education in the liberal arts and sciences, and promote attainment of core areas of essential learning: knowledge of human cultures and the natural and physical world, intellectual and practical skills, personal and social responsibility, and integrative and applied learning. These and countless other experiences comprise the Letters & Science approach to helping students obtain a distinctive Wisconsin Experience.

Additional information about the Wisconsin Experience can be found through the Office of Admissions and Recruitment/Why UW link.