The aim of the Graduate Program in Sociology is to prepare students for scholarly and applied research and for teaching in sociology.


For admission to candidacy for the PhD degree in the Department of Sociology, the applicant must have a bachelor’s degree, or its equivalent, based upon a distinguished record of college work. Applicants who wish to pursue only the master’s degree are not accepted in the graduate program of the department. Undergraduate work in the social sciences, the humanities, the natural sciences, and mathematics are all considered an appropriate background.

Applicants must take the general test portion of the Graduate Record Examination in time for the results to reach the Admissions Office of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences by December 15. Information about taking the GRE may be obtained from the Educational Testing Service, Princeton, NJ 08540,

Financial Aid

Harvard intends that all graduate students should have support adequate to enable them to complete their studies while enrolled full-time. Prospective students apply for financial aid at the same time they apply for admission, and are also required to submit a supplement to the application for admission.

The financial aid package for sociology students typically includes tuition and fees plus a stipend for the first two years; tuition and fees plus a combination of teaching fellowships and research assistantships in the third and fourth years; and tuition and fees for the fifth year. Students who have met eligibility requirements may apply for the Graduate Society Dissertation Completion Fellowship to provide financial support for their final year of graduate study; this fellowship includes tuition and fees plus a stipend. All students in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences must be making satisfactory progress in order to be eligible for any type of financial aid. The Department of Sociology observes the general guidelines outlined in The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook.

Academic Residence

For the degree of doctor of philosophy, a minimum of two years (four terms) of full-time graduate study in residence in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences is required. Students must complete all of the requirements for the PhD degree within eight academic years after admission.

Academic Review

The committee on higher degrees is charged with monitoring the progress of students in the program. For University rules, students should consult appropriate sections of The Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Handbook. Details on departmental practices and procedures are provided in the Committee on Higher Degrees Handbook, on the department website.

Course Requirements

Each student is expected to take and complete at least 14 half-courses in sociology at Harvard University. These may be 100-level conference courses, 200-level courses, or (a maximum of two) workshops. Teaching Practicum (Soc 305) is also a course requirement and should be completed in fall of the third year. Sociology Research Design (Soc 205) is a semester-long course that is required of first-year graduate students. Qualifying Paper Seminar (Soc 310) is a semester-long course that is required of third-year graduate students while writing their qualifying papers. The Graduate School requires a minimum of a B average each term. Students are encouraged to take courses beyond these minimum requirements, including offerings outside the Department of Sociology.

First- and Second-Year Requirements

All graduate students must take and pass within the first two years two half-courses on theoretical approaches to sociology (Soc 204 and Soc 208) and two half-courses on methods of research (Soc 203 and Soc 209). If a student does not have the needed background, he or she will be required to take an appropriate course during the first term to remove the deficiency.

In unusual cases, an individual may be excused from one or more required courses by the Committee on Higher Degrees.

Qualifying Requirement

Written Examination

The department expects that each student will take a written examination in the broad field of sociology. Students must take this examination in the third term in residence. The examinations are graded by a single faculty committee appointed each year by the department chair. The outcomes are: pass, fail, or honors pass. If a student fails, the examination must be retaken by April 30th of the second year. Students will not ordinarily be permitted to retake the examination more than once.

Research Paper

Each student must submit one research paper of article length to a committee of three members of the faculty no later than by the end of the sixth term in residence in order to demonstrate the quality of his or her ability to deal systematically with empirical evidence. The faculty committee is appointed by the committee on Higher Degrees in Sociology.

Doctoral Dissertation


The candidate is required by the end of the tenth term in residence to submit to the committee on higher degrees a dissertation prospectus stating a plan or design for the research on which the doctoral dissertation will be written. The prospectus must be approved by a three-person dissertation-reading committee appointed by the committee on higher degrees. The dissertation-reading committee should have at least two members from the Department of Sociology, including the chair. If the prospectus is not accepted by the committee when first submitted, the student ordinarily is allowed one further opportunity to submit a new or revised prospectus.


After consultation with the dissertation reading committee and with its consent, the student submits the final draft of the dissertation for a public oral defense before the committee. The outcomes of this hearing are: pass, pass conditional on minor revisions, or fail. If the dissertation is passed conditional on minor revisions, the dissertation-reading committee can ordinarily approve the final draft without an additional hearing. The final manuscript must conform to the requirements described in The Form of the PhD Dissertation.

Requirements for the Master’s Degree

The department will not accept for admission to graduate study a student who is a candidate for the master’s degree only. But candidates for the degree of doctor of philosophy are allowed to take a master’s degree in the course of their work toward the doctor’s degree.

A candidate has met the requirements for the AM degree when he or she has taken at least eight half-courses (maintaining a minimum of a B average), of which seven must be the department’s required courses; has passed the written examination; and has passed the research paper requirement. Ordinarily, all of these courses will be 200-level seminars in sociology.

Teaching Fellowships

Teaching fellowships are available to students who have had at least two terms of residence at the University. Each student is required to be a teaching fellow for at least one term course.


For applications for admission and grants, write to the Admissions Office, Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, Richard A. and Susan F. Smith Campus Center, 3rd floor, 1350 Massachusetts Avenue, Cambridge, MA 02138. We encourage online submission of the application; see

Further information about the program of study offered by the Department of Sociology may be obtained from the Graduate Office, Department of Sociology, William James Hall 540, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge, MA 02138; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Related Programs

The PhD Program in Organizational Behavior (joint with Harvard Business School) offers training in the theory and methods of sociology or psychology combined with the study of business operations and with empirical research in organizational settings.

The PhD Program in Sociology and Social Policy (joint with the Kennedy School of Government) is particularly suitable for students who wish to combine theoretical and methodological expertise in sociology with policy training in the fields of urban poverty, inequality, segregation, labor market studies, and the like.

Details on these related programs may be obtained by referring to their respective entries in this publication.

Recent Dissertation Titles

Complete list of dissertation titles

Dissertations submitted in 2014–2015:

  • "Community Building and Local Traditions in the Reform Era Rural China"
    "Cultural Continuity and the Rise of the Millennials: Generational Trends in Politics, Religion, and Economic Values"
    "Defining Diversity: Professionals and Institutionalization Processes"
    "Historical Origins of Racial Inequality in Incarceration in the United States"
    "Life Chances: Infant Mortality, Institutions, and Inequality in the United States"
    "Separatists, Gangsters and Other Statesmen: The State, Secession and Organized Crime in Serbia and Georgia, 1989-2012"
    "The Making of a National Cadastre (1763-1807): State Uniformization, Nature Valuation, and Organizational Change in France"
    "Together, Close, Resilient: Essays on Emotion Work Among Black Couples"
    "Towards a General Theory of Education-based Inequality and Mobility: Who Wins and Loses under China's Educational Expansion, 1981-2010"

Faculty List