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Prospective Students

Thank you for your interest in the graduate program in Sociology at UC San Diego! We are a full-time PhD program. We only accept students during the fall of each academic year. We do not admit "Masters-only" students or offer a terminal MA degree. Admission to the graduate program in sociology is open to students with excellent undergraduate records in any field. Some previous work in sociology or the social and behavioral sciences is advisable but not required. A bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university is a prerequisite for admission to the graduate program.

For any additional questions you may have about the program, please refer to the information below and in the "Admissions Process" section. Should you have additional questions, please e-mail your specific inquiries to the Graduate Program Coordinator at

**The GRE will not be required for the Fall 2022 Admissions cycle.**  

PhD in Sociology Program Overview

Course Requirements

  • Sixteen (16) courses and two (2) proseminars
  • Total 66 units

Field Exam Requirement

  • Two (2) Field Exams

Dissertation Prospectus and Hearing


PhD Time Limits

  • Students must be advanced to candidacy by the end of four (4) years.
  • Normative time is six (6) years.
  • Total university financial support cannot exceed seven (7) years.
  • Total registered time at UC San Diego cannot exceed eight (8) years.

Admissions Process

About the Admissions Process

The admissions committee reviews the applications and makes recommendations for either admission or denial to the graduate dean. Admission decisions are based on the quality of the applicant's academic degrees and record, the statement of purpose, letters of recommendation from professors or others familiar with the applicant's academic work, performance in aptitude and achievement tests as appropriate, relevant work experience, preparation in the proposed field of study, the fit between the applicant's goals and the program, and the fit between the applicant's research interests and those of the program's faculty.

Academic Requirements

US Applicants. Applicants for graduate admission must present official evidence of receipt of a baccalaureate degree from an accredited institution of higher education or the equivalent, with training comparable in standard and content to that provided by the University of California. This must be provided by the beginning of the first academic year of study at UC San Diego. A minimum scholastic average of B (or its equivalent, if the letter grade system is not used) is required for coursework completed in the final two years of undergraduate study and any post-baccalaureate study.

International Applicants. An international student whose postsecondary education is completed outside the United States must hold the equivalent to a US baccalaureate degree, with above average scholarship, granted by a non-US university or university-level institution.

Required Application Materials

The online application system will begin accepting applications September 7, 2022..

  • Official UC San Diego Graduate Application for Admission; you will need a permanent email address to create an account for your application.
  • **The GRE will not be required for the Fall 2023 Admissions cycle.** 
    • GRE general test (GRE subject test isn't required)
      • Examination Requirements
      • Scores are generally submitted 4-6 weeks after the test is administered, so please be mindful of the deadline. Examinations and information regarding this exam can be found at Educational Testing Service, or at the GRE website. Applicants should request that official scores be sent directly to the department of sociology at the above university address, or institution code 4836, department code 2102.
  • Three letters of recommendation.
  • Transcripts from all college/university work. Scanned copies of academic transcripts for each postsecondary institution attended, including certification of degrees, submitted electronically in pdf format. Certified hard-copy original transcripts will be requested/required upon acceptance of graduate admission.
  • Writing Sample
    • Your sample should be academic or scholarly in nature, such as a course term paper, published research, journal article submission, thesis chapter, presented paper, or report. It should be no more than 30 pages in length and uploaded in pdf format.
  • Statement of Purpose (2500 word limit).
    • Be certain to address your interest in the field, future goals, research interests, etc. in this statement.
  • The application fee is $120 for US applicants and $140 for international applicants; the fee is payable by a major credit card only. An Application Fee Waiver is available for applicants that meet certain eligibility guidelines.
  • English Language Proficiency (international applicants only)
    • Demonstrated proficiency in the English language is required for all international applicants whose native language is not English and who have not studied full-time for one uninterrupted academic year at a university-level institution in which English is the language of instruction and in a country in which English is a dominant language. Official written verification of test scores is required.
    • The following test(s) are accepted: TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language), IELTS (International English Language Testing System), PTE (Pearson Test of English)

It is important that all application documents are received by the application deadline. Please schedule your GRE exam early so that scores may be received by the deadline. We recommend at least 5-6 weeks in advance of the deadline. Additionally, requests for transcripts and letters of recommendation should be made in a timely manner to ensure arrival to the Sociology Department prior to the deadline for admissions consideration.

Application Deadline

Applications must be submitted by January 4, 2023.

Materials or documents that cannot be submitted online should be mailed to:

University of California-San Diego
Department of Sociology, Graduate Admissions
9500 Gilman Drive, MC #0533
La Jolla, CA 92093-0533

Incomplete files will not be considered. Applicants are responsible for overseeing that all materials (application, GRE scores, TOEFL scores, letters of recommendation, transcripts, and writing sample) are received by the deadline.

For questions about this program or admissions requirements, contact, please allow one to three business days for a response.

Due to the winter holiday closure of the office (December 23 to January 2), we will not be able to respond to inquiries regarding the arrival of supporting documents until we reopen on January 3.


Funding for Graduate Students

We do our best to offer competitive funding or support to students we admit, with the most competitive funding -- in the form of fellowships, awards, or employment -- going to applicants who are best matched to our program. Unfortunately, we are unable to match a support package to every single admission offered. We strongly encourage applicants to consider additional resources and supplemental forms of financial aid.

Typically our funding packages include at least 1-year of fellowship and from 2-4 years of guaranteed academic student employment (ASE) in the form of graduate student researchers (GSRs), teaching assistants (TAs) or readers for a course. Each of these types of employment covers tuition and fees plus has a monthly salary. UC San Diego's Graduate Division offers the most current salary rates for all ASE appointments. Please note: salary rates listed here are at 100%; graduate student appointments may be for a maximum of 50% time (20 hours per week) during the academic year. 

For students who do not receive funding packages or who are no longer guaranteed employment, there are certainly still bountiful employment opportunities.  GSR, TA and readerships are available in our department as well as other academic departments and are advertised to all students via email. Graduate Division also posts job openings for graduate students.

Additionally, there are also spaces like the Center for Comparative Immigration Studies (CCIS), the Center for Research on Educational Equity, Assessment and Teaching Excellence (CREATE), and each of UC-San Diego's seven college writing programs that employ our doctoral students.  Finally, a few of our advanced doctoral candidates have what is called Associate-In teaching positions. This is when the student is the primary instructor for a course.

So, as you can see, there are plenty of ways to gain work experience while funding your education at UC-San Diego.  Our students are also encouraged to seek and apply for competitive grants and fellowships. These funds are often how our students afford research related costs such as travel, transcription fees, conference presentation materials, and field research.  

To encourage everyone to be involved in developments related to the discipline, the Department of Sociology pays the fee for all entering students to become new members of the American Sociological Association (ASA). Furthermore, Sociology and the Dean of Social Sciences make available special travel funds to support regular participation in national meetings. Current doctoral students also receive a personal research allowance of $2000 to be used towards research or conference travel. The first $1000 will be made available upon successful completion of first year of studies, with the second $1000 available upon advancing to candidacy.

English Proficiency Exams (International Applicants Only)

A test of English language proficiency is required for international applicants whose native language is not English and who have not studied full-time for one uninterrupted academic year at a university-level institution in which English is the language of instruction and in a country where English is a dominant language.

The following test(s) are accepted by this department:

TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language)
IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
PTE (Pearson Test of English)

English Language Proficiency Requirement for International Teaching Assistants (TA):

International students whose native language is not English will be required to demonstrate English language proficiency before they may serve as teaching assistants.

International graduate students who are nonnative speakers of English must be certified as having requisite language skills before they can serve as teaching assistants (TAs; UC San Diego Graduate Division policy in compliance with Assembly Concurrent Resolution No. 41).

Evidence of English Language Proficiency: Certification as Teaching Assistant Recommended Scores

Students may be certified either on the basis of their score on one of the following:

  • have a TOEFL iBT Speaking subscore of 28-30
  • have an IELTS Speaking subscore of 8.5
  • have a PTE Speaking sub-score of 83,
  • be an international graduate student who serves as a language assistant in courses conducted in their native language.

Those students with TOEFL speaking scores of 23 – 27, IELTS speaking scores of 7-8, or PTE speaking scores of 65-82 are required to take the English Language Certification Exam.

Students who do not pass the English Language Certification Exam are given the opportunity to improve their language skills.

For more information, please click here.

Admissions FAQs

Where can I get information about the graduate program in sociology?
The most current information about our doctoral program is located online in the Admissions Process section of the website. For information about University of California-San Diego graduate policies, pelase see the Grad Program Handbook (Course Catalog). For all other questions about this program or admissions requirements, contact

Where can I get an application?
The Grad Admissions Application is available online at The application for Fall 2022 admissions consideration will be available early September 2021. 

Is there a minimum GRE score?
We do not have a baseline acceptance score for the GREs, but the last few years' scores have been extremely competitive. The GRE scores are considered as one factor or measure among many other factors in determining suitability to the program in terms of research fit and ability to succeed.

Is there a minimum TOEFL/IELTS score? 

The university accepts TOEFL score of 80 for the internet based test and 550 for the paper-based test as the minimum scores required for admissions consideration. The minimum IELTS required score for admission consideration is a 7.0. 

How many students typically apply to the program? 
Last year we had approximately 150 applicants to our program; historically our pool of applicants is very strong. 

What makes an applicant competitive? 
In general the strongest applicants can point to a history of academic achievement, relevant experience in the field, well-articulated intellectual interests and an agenda for future research, positive and detailed letters of recommendation, and competitive standardized test scores. An appropriate match between the applicant and the strengths of our department is also an important factor in our selection.

How many students are typically admitted to the program? 
Our cohort size typically is 9-12 students.

What is the average number of international students your department admits each year?
There is no predetermined average or number of international students that are accepted. From year to year, we may admit and make offers to the most competitive domestic and international students whose research interests fit the program and the department. Some years we make multiple offers; other years we do not make any offers. 

Does your department provide scholarships for international students?
Funding support is available and considered for all applicants, domestic or international, but is not guaranteed. It is in the applicant's best interest to consider additional supplemental support or alternate means for supporting their education in this program.

May I send photocopies of the GRE official report to you for my application?
No. We have to receive an official report from ETS. Photocopies will not be accepted.

Is it possible to be enrolled in the program part-time?
Part-time status is not an option. This program is not a part-time program, but after advancing to candidacy (usually by end of 4th year) students are enrolled and are working independently on research. 

Are students allow to take leaves of absences? 
Students may take up to 3 quarters of leave over the length of earning their degree. There are exceptions to the three quarters limit for maternity/parenting leave.

How long does it typically take to graduate with a PhD in Sociology?
The normative time of completion for Sociology graduates is 6 years. The university sets a time limit of 7 years for graduate funding support and 8 years of registration eligibility. 

If I already earned an MA in Sociology, would it be possible to transfer my previous graduate coursework to UCSD, or would I need to start from the beginning?
Graduate students who have received either a master's degree or its equivalent from other universities are not eligible to receive a second master's degree from UC-San Diego. They may petition to waive courses that appear to repeat work they have already successfully completed. Petitions requesting course exemption are to be submitted after the student has begun the program. Additional seminars will be required in place of a course being granted exemption.

With an MA you may petition for exceptions and waive out of taking certain courses and requirements if it appears there is duplication, but you will still be required to complete the same number of total courses (units) required in the program. Therefore, having an MA does not necessarily shorten the program. We suggest that you meet with the graduate adviser early on to assist in charting your course schedule.

Is it more difficult to enter the program being a previous student of the university? Would you highly discourage this course of action?
Previous affiliation with the university is benign; if you are a competitive candidate for admission, your chances are the same as anyone else who is competitive.

What would you say are the most important factors the university considers in an applicant?
Every admissions committee is different from department to department in terms of what they would like to see from an applicant. For the most part, they are looking for someone who is academically prepared to contribute to the greater body of research in academia. This requires being focused and interested in a particular area, driven to succeed in this area, able to sustain a level of intellectual rigor over a long period of time. This can be demonstrated by successful scores, highly articulated statements and writing samples, and overwhelming support by peers and teachers regarding their academic and intellectual capacities.

Are there plenty of fellowships available to graduate students and how soon would you recommend applying for them?
University-based Fellowships are at a minimum, with the greatest awards going to the most competitive scholars. A list of university fellowships can be found on the Graduate Division website. There are a number of extramural fellowships available for graduate study, both predissertation and dissertation.

Would you mind clarifying the conditions for the Personal Statement?
2,500 word limit. Don't be concerned with the font or spacing because the online application will autoformat it. We recommend that you produce your statement and then cut-and-paste into the online application. After you have entered it, revisit it to make minor edits because the autoformat is not a perfect tool.

Do you need the faculty/recommender to send the letters directly to your department or can I get them sealed and send them along with other supplemental materials?
Either way is fine. Materials or documents that cannot be submitted online should be mailed to:

University of California-San Diego
Department of Sociology, Graduate Admissions
9500 Gilman Drive, MC# 0533
La Jolla, CA 92093-0533

When will I know a decision about my admissions status?
Applicants are generally notified by mid-February of an admissions decision. Your admissions decision will be communicated via the email address associated with your GradApply account. 

If I am admitted, can I defer for a year?
We do not currently offer an option to defer admittance. Students requesting to have admission deferred may notify Graduate Admissions of their decision, however they are not guaranteed acceptance or financial assistance for the following year. Deferred files will be evaluated along with new applications for that year.

For more information, please visit Graduate Admissions FAQs.