Graduate Program in Sociology at Northeastern University
The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Northeastern University is home to a distinguished graduate program offering both the M.A. and the Ph.D. in Sociology. The program has enjoyed noteworthy growth in recent years, and is home to nationally renowned scholars who are leaders in a diverse array of sociological fields that involve various dimensions of social inequality. Graduate students in both the M.A. and Ph.D. programs are able to specialize in areas that address real-world issues of compelling importance, thereby pursuing scholarly careers that foster public debate, deepen social awareness, and prompt new approaches toward social policy.
Students wishing to pursue professional careers in applied sociology, or careers doing research or policy work with non-profit organizations, government, or in other non-academic domains, will want to explore our M.A. program. Students who envision a fuller immersion within the discipline of sociology, and who may primarily wish to pursue academic careers, will want to apply to the Ph.D. program. Students can enter the Ph.D. program with or without an M.A. in sociology. Those with an M.A. already in hand may receive partial credit toward the coursework required for the Ph.D. Those with only the B.A. degree can earn the M.A. degree along the way to Ph.D. completion.
The Master’s Degree
The M.A. program is designed to address the needs of applicants who seek professional training in a focused area of social research that can be chosen from urban sociology, environmental sociology, medical sociology, and several other fields. The program encourages students to develop deep expertise in research design, methodological techniques (whether quantitative or qualitative), evaluation research, and other research skills that are essential to data analysis and decision-making in varied organizational settings. It also equips students with substantive knowledge in fields that are relevant to consulting organizations, social policy and planning contexts, and non-profit organizations. Some proportion of M.A. students may elect to go on to academic Ph.D. training, though this is not the core mission of the M.A. program. Students who wish to enter into professional or research positions after completing the M.A. are advised to substitute an additional methods or statistics class for one of the two theory courses the department otherwise requires. Choices include training in program evaluation, GIS, and social epidemiology, in addition to traditional quantitative analysis. M.A. students who are considering continuing on with academic training are advised to complete the full two-course theory sequence.
The Ph.D. Degree
The Ph.D. program is designed to attract students who wish to develop a broad base of sociological knowledge, such as would equip students to embark on academic careers in leading institutions of higher education. The Ph.D. program boasts a wide array of curricular strengths and diverse methodological offerings, all of which draw upon the department’s emphasis on the study of social inequalities along lines of race, class, and gender. Faculty expertise ranges widely from domestic U.S. concerns to issues that affect groups, regions, and societies on a global scale.
The Ph.D. program is organized around four key areas of concentration.
In addition to the graduate courses offered in the areas of concentration,
the program provides a strong foundation in both theory (classical and contemporary) and methods (quantitative and qualitative). Reflecting the program’s distinctive emphasis on social inequalities, students are required to select a core elective in this field, choosing from a list of courses on the social psychology of stratification, racial and ethnic relations, work and inequality, and other such offerings. As students complete their core requirements, they also work closely with individual faculty members to advance their work within one of the department’s standing areas of concentration. Students also have the right to petition to construct their own areas of concentration (pending departmental approval), and have completed area examinations in a host of subfields. Among these are: environmental justice, political economy of global capitalism, theoretical criminology, feminist theory, political sociology, social psychology, sociology of violence and immigration, among many others.
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 Sociology Department 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.
Both the M.A. and Ph.D. programs are designed to admit relatively small numbers of graduate students each year, which affords students the opportunity to forge close working relationships with the faculty. M.A. students generally do not receive funding; the program is shorter, and culminates in a Master’s paper that must be approved by two faculty members. The M.A. program confers a professional degree that is of immediate use in furthering the student’s career.
Ph.D. students receive funding that can take several forms. Most students serve as Teaching Assistants (TA) during their first three years of study. Some students are employed as Research Assistants (RA), working on externally-funded grants that have been won by faculty members. Both TA and RA awards carry a stipend, tuition-remission, and benefits such as health insurance. After Ph.D. students have completed their coursework, most spend two additional years as teaching fellows. Teaching Fellows serve as the instructor of record for two classes per year in exchange for a stipend and benefits such as health insurance.
To ensure that Ph.D. 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. 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 Sociology Department and affiliated centers often host national and international 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, media relations, and other “professional development” matters.