Academic Catalog

Sociology (Ph.D.)

Admission Requirements

Admission to this program is contingent upon admission to the Graduate School. In addition, applicants must satisfy the criteria listed below. Applications are considered for new admissions to the fall term only; all stages and materials in the application process must be completed by January 15. 

Materials required for Ph.D. admission include:

  1. Graduate Application (demographic and educational profile).1
  2. Official transcripts from past universities attended.
  3. Three (3) letters of recommendation (at least two should be from university or college faculty members). Preferably, one recommendation letter should come from the student's Master’s-level advisor.
  4. Statement of Interest (describing applicant’s reasons for graduate study in sociology, proposed areas of study, and career goals).
  5. Writing sample (e.g. a term paper or report).
  6. G.R.E. scores.2
  7. TOEFL scores.3

Current students completing their MA degree in the department of sociology at Wayne State or students taking prerequisite courses at the Masters level can apply for admission into the PhD program by submitting an application through the WSU online admission’s portal. All the above criteria are required. In addition, current students must have completed their MA with a grade point average of at least a 3.5 GPA based solely on required coursework (theory, statistics and methods), and have written and defended a MA thesis prior to submitting the online application. Please refer to the Sociology Graduate Student Handbook for further details on requirements and process. Applications for current students are accepted on a rolling basis; however, students must contact the Director of Graduate Studies to begin the application process.


G.R.E. scores will be considered, but will not be a binding criterion for admission. The Department realizes that scores on standardized tests are greatly influenced by social and cultural factors, and may not be accurate indicators of performance ability. A combined assessment of students' GPA, G.R.E. scores, transcripts, letters of recommendation, writing sample, and statements of interest will be used to make admissions decisions.


We are currently asking for paper-based TOEFL scores of 600 or above (or internet-based TOEFL scores of 100 or above) for entry into our Ph.D. program. Nonetheless, we will consider students who have a score of 550 or better on the paper version of the TOEFL (or 80 or better on the internet-based version of the TOEFL). The Department realizes that scores on standardized tests are greatly influenced by social and cultural factors, and may not be accurate indicators of performance ability.

Applicants should have a 3.5 grade point average (G.P.A.) in their master's degree work and/or previous graduate work. In particular, we will review an applicants' grades in any previous statistics, methods, and theory courses.

PLEASE NOTE: Students who lack a master’s degree in sociology, or have not yet completed the master’s requirements in sociology at the time of application, may not be admitted directly into the Ph.D. program. They may be granted admission to the master’s program, possibly on a "qualified" basis, in order to take courses in preparation for the Ph.D. program. If students are placed in the master’s program to complete preliminary coursework, they will need to apply for a  the Ph.D. program once they have completed this coursework. Admission is not guaranteed, and the Graduate Admissions committee will evaluate students' grades in master’s-level courses when considering change of status applications. Any questions about this policy should be directed to the Graduate Director.

Program Requirements

The PhD degree requires a minimum of ninety (90) credits beyond the baccalaureate degree. Thirty (30) credits may be earned via a MA degree, thirty (30) credits are earned at WSU as part of the program of study in the PhD program and thirty (30) credits are earned by enrolling in dissertation credits. The thirty credit dissertation registration requirement is fulfilled by registering for the courses SOC 9991, 9992, 9993, and 9994 (Doctoral Dissertation Research and Direction I, II, III, and IV, respectively), in consecutive academic year semesters. If a student has completed all dissertation credits, but still needs to work on the dissertation, then he or she may register for SOC 9995 (doctoral maintenance credits in sociology). SOC 9995 is zero credits and students pay a set fee to be registered; the student will be considered full-time if registered in this course number. A total of six to nine credits of the thirty Ph.D. credits may be earned outside the Department of Sociology (see item 5 below). Students with an M.A. degree from another university must file a transfer of credit form with their plan of work (see note about plan of work below), in order to get credit for up to thirty credits from another master’s degree program outside of Wayne State.

In addition to the minimum of 30 credits earned during a M.A. program, Ph.D. students must complete the following courses:

SOC 7050Comparative Schools of Sociological Theory3
SOC 7290Advanced Social Statistics3
SOC 7260Qualitative Sociology3
SOC Methods: A third course in either quantitative or qualitative methods3
Electives: Four courses, preferably in the students' area of interest (see below)12
Cognates: Two courses (can be from a secondary area os sociology)6
SOC 9991
SOC 9992
SOC 9993
SOC 9994
Doctoral Candidate Status I: Dissertation Research and Direction
and Doctoral Candidate Status II: Dissertation Research and Direction
and Doctoral Candidate Status III: Dissertation Research and Direction
and Doctoral Candidate Status IV: Dissertation Research and Direction

Students choose four electives that best fits their area(s) of expertise. Students are encouraged to use their two cognate courses to build a secondary area of expertise.

Race, Ethnicity, and Gender (REG)

REG focuses on how race, ethnicity, and gender serve as principles of social organization that shape individual experiences and reproduce social inequalities. Faculty in these areas examine how structural and individual sexism and racism impact both objective (e.g., educational attainment, earnings, career advancement) and subjective (e.g., racial identity, political attitudes, work-family conflict) outcomes. Recent student projects in this area have explored a broad range of substantive topics such as race and gender disparities in health and school discipline, the experiences of women and racial and ethnic minorities in the workplace, and the role of sexuality in shaping experiences of criminal victimization. 

Global, Transnational, and Comparative Sociology (GTC)

GTC prepares students to conduct theoretically grounded, methodologically sound, empirically rigorous research from a comparative perspective that addresses global and transnational social, political, economic, and cultural phenomena. GTC focuses on how fundamental macro-level structures and processes shape individual and group experiences, as well as relationships among nation-states. GTC research also evaluates micro- and meso-level processes across subnational and national units of analysis. Our GTC faculty conduct quantitative and qualitative research on a wide variety of topics such as international development, health disparities, migration, international political economy, and work and labor. Many of these substantive areas overlap with the department’s two other core areas, the Sociology of Health and Illness and Race, Ethnicity, and Gender. Students are encouraged to undertake research that engages two or more areas.

Sociology of Health and Illness (SOHI)

The sociology of health and illness examines the interaction between society and health. Sociologists within this specialty area examine how social factors impact health and illness and how health and illness impact society. This specialty also looks at health and illness in relation to social institutions such as the family, work, school, politics, and religion as well as the fundamental causes of disease and illness, the organization and operation of the health care system, behaviors of health care providers and patients, provider-patient relationships, access to care, etc. In all of these analyses, sociologists in this specialty area explore health disparities by race/ethnicity, gender, class, sexuality, age, ability, and nationality.

Ph.D. Preliminary Examinations

Upon completion of all doctoral coursework, students take a written qualifying examination (“prelim”). The purpose of the preliminary examination is to certify that doctoral students have acquired the necessary expertise in an area of study and can integrate, apply, and discuss what has been learned to contribute to the knowledge in the field. Students should begin preparing for the preliminary examination well in advance (e.g., 6 months) of the examination.

Students are allowed two attempts to pass the Preliminary Examination. The second attempt is final and students who fail this attempt are dismissed from the program. The examination committee must remain the same for both attempts. Students should consult their advisers and the Graduate Director before taking the prelim to ensure that they are ready to take the prelim.

Refer to the full preliminary examination guidelines on the Department website for further information on procedures and evaluation criteria.

Students must pass prelims in full before they can file for Ph.D. candidacy and begin their dissertation.

If students are done with their required Ph.D. coursework but have not passed their prelims, they can enroll in SOC 9990 (pre-dissertation credits) in order to maintain active student status. Students are sometimes allowed to enroll early in SOC 9991 (the first set of dissertation credits) if they are taking those credits during the semester that they are taking prelims. Students should contact the Director of Graduate Studies to discuss this possibility.

Ph.D. Candidacy Status

Following successful completion of the written preliminary examination, students work with their advisor to establish the Dissertation Committee, which is composed of four faculty members. The Dissertation Committee oversees student’s work on a dissertation prospectus and oral defense, as well as student’s work on the final dissertation and final defense. Refer to the Sociology Graduate Student Ph.D. Handbook for full details.

Dissertation Proposal

Prior to initiating doctoral research, Ph.D. Candidates must prepare a prospectus of the proposed dissertation research. The Graduate School requires Ph.D. students to complete an oral qualifying examination as part of their degree requirements. In Sociology, the oral qualifying examination is the Dissertation Prospectus Defense. It shall be conducted by the doctoral committee after a defendable draft of the dissertation prospectus has been completed. Students receive only one chance to complete their oral qualifying examination (dissertation proposal defense). Students who fail their oral qualifying examination may be terminated from the graduate program. Proposals include a short introductory chapter, literature review, a chapter detailing students' theoretical or conceptual framework (although sometimes this is combined with the literature review), and a methods chapter that proposes how they will engage in their dissertation research.

Back to top