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PhD Requirements


Students are required to enroll as full-time graduate students, to carry a minimum enrollment of 12 units of graduate-level courses each quarter, and to maintain a grade point average of 3.0 or better.

Course Lists and Planners

Required Courses for the Sociology PhD

Seven required courses

  • 200: Intro Methods/Epistemology
  • 201: Classical Sociological Theory
  • 202: Contemporary Sociological Theory
  • 205: Quantitative Methods I
  • 206: Quantitative Methods II
  • 252: Research Practicum I
  • 253: Research Practicum II


  • 208: Graduate Proseminar, 2-unit course taken in the fall and winter quarters of the first year

Two qualitative methods courses from

  • 203: Field Methods
  • 204: Text Discourse Analysis
  • 207: Comparative-Historical Methods

Three core seminars from

  • 212: Social Stratification
  • 214: Urban Sociology
  • 216: Sociology of Culture
  • 222: Social Movements
  • 226: Political Sociology
  • 230: Advanced Approaches to Sociological Theory
  • 234: Intellectual Foundations of the Study of Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • 244: Sociology of Race and Ethnicity
  • 264: Economic Sociology
  • 267: Sociology of Gender

Four additional sociology grad courses

  • One may be taken outside the department and be taken S/U.
  • Note: 298 (Independent Study) does not count toward elective course.

Total: 16 courses and 2 proseminars (66 units).

Independent Study Course Policy

An Independent Study course (SOCG 298) allows independent research and study for pre-dissertation students who have completed all of their course requirements and are in preparation of field exams or have passed their field exams already. For more information, please click here.

First-Year Evaluation

All students are evaluated by the department faculty toward the end of the academic year. At the end of the student's first year in the program, student performance is also evaluated by the Graduate Program Committee, including the Director of Graduate Studies, the faculty teaching the core sequences, and by their faculty adviser. Students whose performance is satisfactory are allowed to continue the regular course of study; others may be asked to repeat some courses or to do additional course work; others may be asked to withdraw from the program. Evaluations are communicated to students in writing.

Second-Year Evaluation and the MA

The M.A. is not a degree that students in the Ph.D. program commonly apply for in the course of their Ph.D. work; it is strictly incidental to our Ph.D. program. According to University policy, a student cannot be awarded an M.A. in Sociology if the person has already been awarded a master’s degree in the same or related discipline by another department or institution.

Students in the Ph.D. program may apply for the M.A. upon completion of the degree requirements, usually following and not before finishing the second year of study in the doctoral program. 

Requirements for obtaining the M.A. are based on the quality of the student’s course work. At the end of the second year, students have the option to be evaluated by the Graduate Program Committee for the master’s degree.

The fifteen core courses required to receive the MA degree are

  • 200: Intro Methods/Epistemology
  • 201: Classical Sociological Theory
  • 202: Contemporary Sociological Theory
  • 205: Quantitative Methods I
  • 206: Quantitative Methods II
  • 252: Research Practicum I

Two courses chosen from

  • 203: Field Methods
  • 204: Text Discourse Analysis
  • 207: Comparative-Historical Methods

Three seminars chosen from

  • 212: Social Stratification
  • 214: Urban
  • 216: Culture
  • 222: Social Movements
  • 226: Political
  • 230: Advanced Theory
  • 234: Science, Technology, and Medicine
  • 244: Race and Ethnicity
  • 264: Economic
  • 267: Gender

Four elective sociology graduate seminars, of which one graduate seminar may be taken outside the department for S/U.

At the end of the winter quarter of their second year, or by the first day in any quarter past the second year in which they wish to be considered, students must submit to the Graduate Program Committee 1) a cover letter stating the reason(s) for pursuing the M.A. degree and 2) three papers they have written for seminars taught by different faculty. The faculty members of the Graduate Program Committee will assess the quality of papers, as well as the student’s overall record.

The final decision regarding the M.A. is based on the student’s GPA, the three papers, and yearly Spring Evaluations. The committee makes one of the following three recommendations: pass, M.A.-only, and non-pass. "Pass" means that students have met the criteria of the department. Those given the "M.A.-only" evaluations are granted the degree but may not continue toward the Ph.D. Students who received "non-pass" evaluations are asked to withdraw without a graduate degree.

Please note that students do not need to apply for the M.A. in order to advance to prospectus and dissertation work. This process is to be followed only by those who wish to be formally granted the M.A.

Field Exams

In the quarter during which students expect to finish their theory and methods requirements, the three core seminars, and the four elective seminars, students become eligible to take two field examinations. These exams must be completed by the end of winter quarter of the student's third year in the program. The objective of the field examinations is to demonstrate mastery of two established, broad, and distinct fields of sociological inquiry, selected from a list of fields provided by the department.

The field exams are overseen by two-member committees. Each committee must be composed of two departmental faculty who specialize in the fields of sociology in which the student wishes to develop competence.  

In a field exam committee, one faculty will serve as the lead reader. The lead reader must be sociology faculty. It is also expected that the other committee member is a sociology faculty. In the rare case where a student is unable to identify a second sociology faculty to supervise the exam on a particular field, the student may consult the lead reader if it is advisable to invite a faculty from another UC San Diego department to be the second reader. The lead reader may petition to Director of Graduate Studies on behalf of the student.

The choice of fields and the composition of the committees must be approved by the Director of Graduate Studies before the student starts preparing for the exams. Students must constitute their field exam committees by the end of their second year in the program.

The demonstration of mastery is achieved though one written paper and an accompanying oral defense for each field.

Written Paper - To prepare for the written portion of each exam, students will work with each of their lead advisers to draw up a bibliography of the respective field, which will give them a grasp of key issues and debates and a broad conceptual history of the field. Students are expected to know the central arguments of all the books and papers in their two bibliographies. The faculty for each exam will prepare a specially tailored prompt for each student. Students will have five days to respond to the prompt for each field exam -- up to ten days, combined, for the two field exams. Exams will be open book and will have a maximum page limit of twenty pages each, double-spaced, twelve point Times New Roman font, with one-inch margins.

Oral Defense - Once the student has completed each written exam, an oral defense for that exam is held no later than one week after completion of the written portion of the exam. Each field's oral defense will last one hour and will be given by the two-member examining committee. The oral defense for each field is based on the written exam prompt and any other work covered in the student's bibliography.

Results - Following the oral exam, the committee evaluates the student on the basis of both the written and the oral components of the exam and assigns an overall grade to each exam. Possible grades are high pass, pass, conditional pass, and no pass.

  • High pass recognizes exceptional performance.
  • Conditional pass indicates that the committee has passed the student pending the completion of additional work.
  • Students receiving a grade of no pass on the exam will have an opportunity to retake the entire exam, should they so desire, by the end of the subsequent quarter. Students electing not to retake the exam or receiving a grade of no pass a second time will be asked to withdraw from the graduate program.

Students must pass both field exams to proceed in the program.

Guidelines and Forms for Field Exams

  • Field Exam Guidelines
  • Field Exam Declaration Form
    • This form is due to Graduate Coordinator once a lead reader has been selected for each field exam
  • Field Exam Results Forms: Field Exam #1Field Exam #2
    • These forms are due to Graduate Coordinator once results and signatures from committee members have been recorded. Graduate Coordinator will procure signatures from Department Chair and Director of Graduate Studies. Once all signatures are obtained, a scanned copy will be e-mailed to student, while the original form remains in departmental student records. 
    • Please append a copy of your reading list AND exam questions to each form --these will be kept on file by the Department as a resource for Sociology faculty and graduate students.
    • Field Exam Results Form must be on file prior to setting a date for prospectus defense. 

Dissertation Prospectus and Hearing

The central intellectual activity leading to the award of the PhD is the doctoral dissertation: an original contribution to knowledge, based on substantial, original research on a topic of intellectual significance within the field of sociology. By the end of the spring quarter of the fourth year in the department, the student must have a dissertation prospectus approved by his or her doctoral committee. The dissertation prospectus is a document that presents the research topic of the dissertation, places it in the context of the relevant literature, discusses its significance, specifies and justifies the methods the student intends to use, establishes the feasibility of the research, and indicates the anticipated steps leading to completion.

The prospectus defense is not open to the public.

Students will need to take the following steps to prepare for the prospectus defense and advancement to candidacy:

2-6 months prior to prospectus defense

  • Establish a doctoral committee to supervise dissertation research: 
    • Membership of the Ph.D. committee must comply with the Manual of the San Diego Division, Academic Senate, Regulation 715. Effective for Fall 2021, committee membership rules have been updated to reflect the following significant changes:
      • Minimum of 4 members with UC San Diego faculty appointments
      • At least 1 member must have a primary appointment in a different department than the chair's primary department
      • At least 2 members must be from the student's home department or program
      • At least 1 member must be tenured or emeritus
      • Proposed members from other UC campuses, other universities, or industry are exceptions and must be requested in writing
    • The committee should include the faculty members whose fields of expertise make them most appropriate for supervising the student's research. Students should approach the faculty members she or he would like to serve as chair and members of the dissertation committee, but the committee must be approved by the Department Chair before the student starts working on the prospectus. The composition of the committee may or may not overlap with the committee that carried out the field examination. If the student elects to have a six-member committee, the sixth member has all the same obligations as the other committee members.
    • For any questions about committee or the advancement process, please review the rules as outlined by Graduate Division:
  • Once you have established your doctoral committee and at least six weeks prior to the exam, please complete the Doctoral Committee Request form and e-mail to the Graduate Program Coordinator.

One month prior to defense:

  • Work with your advisor to determine when your prospectus is ready to be distributed to other members of your committee, at least four weeks prior to the defense. Send your prospectus by e-mail to all members of your committee (and copy the Graduate Coordinator), asking if they would prefer hard copy. Faculty commit to read and comment on the prospectus in approximately two weeks' time.
  • Contact the Graduate Program Coordinator to schedule a room for the date and time of your prospectus defense. 
  • Notify both the Graduate Coordinator and your committee of the date, time and location of your prospectus defense. 

Day of the oral prospectus defense: 

  • On the day of your prospectus defense, stop by your student mailbox to receive your Advancement to Candidacy form and complete all of the student information at the top. 
  • Following submission of the dissertation prospectus, the student must defend it at a hearing before the doctoral committee. The purpose of the hearing is to certify that the prospectus is significant and feasible, that the research design is appropriate, and that the student is prepared to carry it out successfully. Based on the written prospectus and the hearing, the committee may choose to approve the prospectus or to ask for revisions and resubmission. The prospectus hearing serves, in effect, as a qualifying examination, and approval of the dissertation prospectus is the final step to advancement to candidacy for the PhD degree.
  • After the prospectus defense, make sure that each committee member indicates their approval and signs the Advancement to Candidacy form. Once complete, return to Graduate Coordinator. 

After the defense:

  • Students who successfully defend their prospectus are now doctoral candidates. A mid-dissertation meeting with the sociology members of the student's committee as a whole will be required twelve to eighteen months after the dissertation prospectus defense. During this meeting, the candidate will be expected to give an account of their progress and receive feedback from the committee. This meeting serves to create a deadline for the student to make substantial progress on his or her dissertation research. It also asks students to articulate their achievements and reflect on the dissertation research process. Likewise, committee members will be expected to actively participate and engage with the student and committee members and provide intellectual input and support.

Mid-Dissertation Meeting

After passing the prospectus defense, students are required to hold a meeting with all of the sociology faculty members of their dissertation committee. At the meeting, the candidate will give an account of her/his progress thus far and get input from the committee. Students and their committee chair should determine the most useful timing for the meeting, but it should take place between 12 and 24 months after defending the prospectus, with most meetings occurring around the 18th month. In some exceptional cases, the student, after consulting with the chair, can apply to the graduate coordinator and director of graduate studies for an extension.

There are several reasons why this meeting is important. First, it creates a deadline for students to make substantial progress on the dissertation: By breaking up dissertation writing years into two phases, progress should be more manageable. Second, the meeting pushes students to reflect on where they are in the research process, articulate their achievements, and pose questions to their committee members about their project’s conceptual framework, their writing strategies, job preparation, and so forth. Third, the meeting provides an opportunity for the student’s committee members to interact not just with the student but also with one another, enhancing their collective responsibility for the student’s completion of the dissertation. And fourth, it is a time when committee members can give their intellectual input and moral support to the student in the final years in the program.

General guidelines

  • Once the student and his/her advisor decide on the timing of the meeting, the student will inform the graduate coordinator and schedule the meeting to include all sociology faculty serving on the committee. Typically, the meeting will last 90 minutes. Ideally, all participants will be physically present, but under some circumstances (for example, if the student is in another country or if a faculty member is on sabbatical), some participants may use online meeting technology.
  • Two weeks before the meeting is to take place, the student will circulate to all committee members a report on the progress of the dissertation to date. The student and chair will decide on the length and content of the report, but it might contain a summary of methods, empirical findings, and theoretical advances to date. In consultation with his/her chair, the student may also submit other documents, such as sample chapters, dissertation outline, stand-alone publications, questions she/he would like to seek advice from committee members, and a timeline for completion. The student should work directly with his/her chair to determine which materials are useful and appropriate for the meeting. For a few sample documents submitted by students, see the Social Assets site (Mid-Dissertation Meeting folder).
  • At the end of the meeting, the chair of the dissertation committee will sign the department form documenting that the student has successfully met this requirement.

In sum, the meeting is meant to provide feedback to the student at a time when committee input is highly valuable. This is not an assessment of progress so much as an opportunity for the student to get coordinated, formative information from committee members. Like any other departmental requirement, we expect it to be met in the timeframe indicated above, though, as above, extensions are available under certain circumstances.  


Upon approval of the dissertation prospectus, the student proceeds with dissertation research. Students are expected to consult with committee members as the research progresses and to keep the committee chair advised of progress made. Here are the steps required to successfully complete the doctoral dissertation and be eligible to receive the doctorate of Philosophy in Sociology degree: 

Immediately after the prospectus defense: 

While writing: 

  • Make sure you keep in contact with your chair on your progress. Students will often register for 299 with their dissertation chair as a course to work on dissertation research, however this is not a requirement. 

One month prior to the dissertation defense: 

  • Students are expected to submit a draft of the doctoral dissertation directly to each member of the doctoral committee at least one month before the scheduled defense. Students are strongly encouraged to schedule their preliminary appointment with the Graduate Division Academic Affairs Advisers during this time.
  • Once the dissertation is substantially completed and committee members have had the opportunity to review drafts of the written work, the committee meets at least one month before the defense takes place, with or without the student present, to consider the progress made and to identify concerns, changes to be made, or further work to be done. Once the committee members are substantially satisfied with the written work, the student, in consultation with the committee, is approved to schedule the oral defense of the dissertation. By university regulation, this defense is open to the public.
  • Contact the Graduate Coordinator to schedule a room for the date and time of your prospectus defense. 
  • Complete the Announcement of Dissertation Defense document and send the completed form to your dissertation committee and the Graduate Coordinator. 

One week prior to the dissertation defense: 

  • Graduate Coordinator will circulate the completed Announcement of Dissertation Defense to all Sociology students, faculty and staff. 

Day of dissertation defense: 

  • The day of your final defense, stop by your student mailbox to receive your Final Report form and complete all of the student information at the top. 
  • All members of the committee must be present at the defense. Exceptions may be made only under very restrictive conditions. Having obtained preliminary approval from Graduate Division and successfully defending the dissertation in oral examination, the student is eligible to receive the PhD. The final version of the dissertation is then filed with the university librarian via the Graduate Division. Acceptance of the dissertation by the university librarian is the final step in completing all requirements for the PhD.
  • After the dissertation defense, make sure that each committee member indicates their approval and signs the Final Report form. Once complete, return to Graduate Coordinator. 

PhD Time Limit

Students must be advanced to candidacy by the end of four years.

Normative time is six years.

Total university financial support cannot exceed seven years.

Total registered time at UC San Diego cannot exceed eight years.