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The PhD program is designed to admit relatively small numbers each year, which afford students the opportunity to forge close working relationship with the faculty. As of 2014, all PhD students are admitted with a five-year funding package including stipend, tuition remission, and health insurance (see: Financial Aid and Awards). Our faculty and graduate students work together in a number of interdisciplinary research projects, programs, and centers, including the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute; the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict; Kitty and Michael Dukakis Center for Urban and Regional Policy; the Institute for Urban Health Research; Northeastern Environmental Justice Research Collaborative, the Institute on Race and Justice and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies Program. Many of the faculty in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology have additional interests and are affiliated with other departments on campus, including environmental studies; law, policy, and society; Latino, Latin American and Caribbean studies; African American studies; international affairs, Jewish studies; and criminal justice. Students who wish to work with faculty in other disciplines are encouraged to enlist the aid of the sociology graduate director or their advisers in contacting individual faculty members.

To ensure that PhD students become not only effective researchers and writers but also successful instructors, we offer teacher-training with the aim of instilling a skill-set that prospective academic employers find desirable through the University’s Center for Advancing Teaching and Learning Through Research (CATLR). We also provide numerous funded research opportunities and other resources for our students with the centers or with individual faculty members. As a result, our students frequently present papers at professional conferences and publish articles during the course of their graduate studies. In addition, the department and affiliated centers often host national and international visitors, speakers, and conferences, further enhancing educational opportunities for our graduate students. Finally, each year the department offers a set of workshops on academic writing, teaching, grant writing, the job market, and other “professional development” matters.


Students interested in the PhD should apply directly to that program. Students admitted without a Masters degree earn the MA in sociology en-route to completing their PhD requirements (30 credit hours). Students admitted with a Masters degree in sociology from another institution may be exempt from taking the Qualifying Exam (see below), but may be required to do some additional coursework in Theory and Methods. For students admitted with a Masters degree in a field other than sociology, the Qualifying Exam requirement and supplementary coursework requirements will be determined on a case-by-case basis. Please note that, in addition to the usual application materials required for admission, all applicants for the doctoral program are required to submit a writing sample. The writing sample should consist of written materials that demonstrate their capacity for scholarship at the doctoral level. (Copies of several course or term papers or a copy of a master’s thesis or paper are appropriate.)

Residency Requirement

The university’s residence requirement can be satisfied by one year of full-time graduate work, or its equivalent, beyond the Master of Arts degree. If the student’s MA degree is not in sociology, a longer period of residence is typically required. Most students should expect to spend approximately two years, or the equivalent, in full-time graduate study beyond the requirements of the master’s degree.

2019 Program Requirements

BA upon entry Advanced Entry – MA upon Entry
*SOCL 7200: Sociological Theory *SOCL 7200 – Sociological Theory
*SOCL 7201: Sociological Theory 2 *SOCL 7201: Sociological Theory 2
*Research Methods *Research Methods
*Advanced Methods 1 *Advanced Methods 1
*Advanced Methods 2
8 Elective Courses 4 Elective Courses
15 Courses – 60 SH 10 Courses – 40 SH


Doctoral students are required to complete 60 standard credit hours (SH) with grades of B or higher if coming in with a Bachelor’s degree, and 40 credit hours if coming in with a Master’s degree in Sociology.  Students receiving two grades below B will be placed on academic probation and risk being separated from the program.

Required courses cover the core areas of Sociological Theory, Research Methods, and Statistics.  All students must take courses in these areas regardless of their areas of specialization. Students must fulfill these requirements during their first year in the program and must successfully pass their Theory Qualifying Exam at the end of their first year.  Students entering our program may be able to substitute courses taken at the prior institution for some or all of these requirements.

Students are expected to maintain satisfactory progress toward their intended degree. All students must register as approved by their advisors or the departmental Graduate Program Director. Registration must be continuous until graduation requirements are complete unless a of absence is allowed by and recommended by the committee in charge of the degree program and approved by the College. Please find information on leave policies here.

Theory Qualifying Examination

Students entering the graduate program must take a theory qualifying examination at the conclusion of their first year of study during the Spring semester. The theory qualifying examination is a standard exam taken by all students in the same cohort. The exam is graded on a pass/fail basis. Students who fail the examination may take it a second time but will not be allowed to enroll for course work beyond the thirty-semester hours MA requirement or their first year of PhD residence (whichever case applies) until successfully completing the qualifying exam. Students who fail the examination on their second attempt will be asked to leave the program. In the latter case, a student may petition the graduate committee for a review of the student’s record and performance in the program.

Post coursework but prior to proposal defense:

Students must complete two field statements prior to their proposal defense and will register for “SOCL 8960 – Exam Preparation” (with the graduate program director or their advisor as the instructor of record) until exams are complete .

If all field statements are complete and students are working on the dissertation proposal, students should register for a Research course (with their committee chair as instructor of record) until the proposal is successfully defended.

Candidacy Requirements

Effective Fall 2019, degree candidacy is achieved upon successful completion of a proposal defense.

Degree candidacy must be achieved within two years of completion of required coursework, and the PhD degree must be completed within a maximum of five years after completion of required coursework. Under extenuating circumstances, a student may request an extension of this timeframe from the Graduate Office.

Dissertation Proposal Defense

Students must submit a dissertation proposal describing the topic of the doctoral dissertation, the theoretical relevance of the research problem, and the methods of research. The proposal is to be discussed and approved by the student’s graduate committee and a reader from outside the department. All dissertation proposals must also be reviewed by the Office of Institutional Compliance for human subjects research issues.

For each of the first two semesters that a doctoral candidate has established candidacy, the student must register for Doctoral Dissertation. For each semester beyond the two Dissertation registrations, the student must register for Doctoral Dissertation Continuation until the dissertation is successfully defended, approved by the College and submitted to ProQuest. During the terms when a student is registered for Doctoral Dissertation or Dissertation Continuation, coursework is not permitted as the course requirements for the degree have already been met. Students must be registered for Dissertation Continuation during the semester in which they defend their dissertation (including the full summer semester if that is when defense occurs). Any student who does not attend Northeastern University by registering for a course for a period of one year may be required to apply for readmission.

External Reader

The external reader for the PhD dissertation must be from outside Northeastern’s sociology department. He/she can be from another department at Northeastern, or from another university. The expectation is that the external reader holds a regular faculty appointment and a PhD. The external reader should be in place and participate in the defense of the dissertation proposal.

Dissertation Defense

The dissertation may be defended only after completion of all other requirements for the doctoral degree. This oral defense is held approximately two – four weeks after the dissertation has been accepted by the dissertation committee, and at least four weeks before the commencement at which the degree is to be awarded. Please note that candidates for the doctoral degree must be registered during the term in which the dissertation is defended at the final oral examination.

All examinations by committee (including the candidacy examination, the dissertation proposal defense, and the dissertation defense) are departmental public events that faculty and graduate students are welcome to attend.