UMass Boston

Resources for Graduate Students

Would you like to join our department as a graduate student studying Sociology or Applied Sociology? Please scroll down for important information.

Are you a current Master's or PhD student? You can find essential academic and career resources on SharePoint.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an undergraduate degree in sociology and a graduate degree in sociology?

An undergraduate degree develops your ability to connect individual lives and individual troubles to larger social issues and social structures, reading about research, and learning the basics of research methods.

A graduate degree prepares you to shift from primarily consuming research to producing research about social issues. This means learning about how to design a study, conduct analyses, interpret results, and write reports or articles about the findings.

What is the difference between a master’s (MA) degree and a doctorate (PhD), and which do I want?

A master’s degree is typically a two-year degree in which students learn about research methods, social theory, and substantive areas in sociology. The culmination of this training is typically an independent research project in which students design and execute their own research project, typically in the context of a master’s paper seminar.

A PhD provides advanced training in research, including additional coursework in research methods (quantitative and qualitative) and social theory. Students also complete independent work, including written exams in methods and theory and in an area of their choosing. The culmination of a PhD program is the dissertation, an independent research project that is typically the length of a book manuscript or multiple (3-4) academic journal articles.

Our program offers both a terminal MA (e.g., an MA as the final planned degree) and an MA en route to a PhD. Students may apply to the PhD program with or without an MA; if they enter without an MA (in Sociology or closely related field), they complete it as part of their PhD coursework.

How do I know if the graduate programs at UMass Boston Sociology are a good fit for me?

One thing to consider is the substantive areas of research of our current faculty. In addition, you should consider how faculty approach their work methodologically. Our department has strengths in qualitative and ethnographic methods, quantitative methods, and survey research methodology.

How much does it cost? What kinds of financial support do you offer?

PhD students are typically offered a “full” assistantship. This entails 18 hours of work per week as a teaching assistant and/or research assistant during the academic year. The current full stipend is just over $20,000 and includes a full tuition waiver. Details on current graduate assistantship stipends and tuition waivers are available here. Students are still required to pay some fees.

PhD students with advanced standing (e.g., entering with relevant graduate coursework, including a master’s degree) typically receive a 3-year assistantship. PhD students without advanced standing typically receive a 4-year assistantship. This is usually enough time for students to complete the classroom portions of the program. Completing a dissertation usually takes longer.

If you are working off campus, you can request a part-time assistantship (9 hours or 13.5 hours), with proportional reductions in tuition waivers and stipends. Assistantships do typically require students to be on campus for part of their work time.

MA students typically are offered part-time assistantships. These may be increased on a semester-by-semester basis if funding availability allows.

Once matriculated, PhD students can apply for graduate research funding from a variety of sources, both internal and external.

How long does the program take to complete?

Full time students can complete the MA program in two years. This is 9-10 credits of coursework each semester.

The average time to completion for the PhD program among our current graduates (most of whom started with advanced standing) is 5.5 years. For those entering with advanced standing, this typically means 2-3 years of coursework and exams followed by dissertation work. Those entering without advanced standing have 3-4 years of coursework and exams, followed by dissertation work.

Students can complete the programs part time. MA students must complete the program in 5 years. PhD students have 8 years to complete the program.

How does the admissions committee evaluate application materials?

The admissions committee is looking for two primary things: evidence of likelihood of the applicant’s success and evidence that our program is well positioned to help that applicant succeed. For the former, we look holistically at the applicant’s academic and professional background. In particular, we look for evidence of research skills and/or potential to conduct research. This includes course grades, overall GPA, BA and/or MA research projects, research assistantships, and so on. Some students have more or fewer opportunities to conduct research prior to graduate school, and it is ok if you have had fewer.

For the latter, we look at your stated research interests, your plans for study, and consider our capacity to advise you accordingly. We expect research interests to evolve once in graduate school, but we are better equipped to support students in some research areas than others.

If you have a ‘red flag’ (e.g., a poor grade), you can speak to that in your statement and explain why it should not be seen as a reflection of your abilities. Many students have particularly difficult semesters or struggle in particular courses for one reason or another. For some, it takes time to find their footing in college or to find a major that is a good fit.

It has been a number of years since I was last in school. Will I be considered?

Yes! We have a number of graduate students who have returned to school after years in the workforce. Often, they have valuable professional experience to draw on, in addition to their prior academic training.

If you are concerned about a lack of recent academic experience or record, you might consider taking a course or two as a non-degree student. Admitted students can transfer up to 6 credits as a non-degree student into a degree program, as long as they earn a B or better. If you are interested in this, you should talk to the Graduate Program Director about possible classes to take.

I am newly graduated or about to graduate from college. Will I be considered?

Yes! You may apply directly to the PhD program, or you may apply to the MA program with plans to subsequently either join the workforce or apply to the PhD program.

Do I need to pick an advisor in advance? Should I contact people in advance?

You do not need to pick an advisor in advance. It is a good idea to look at our faculty specializations to ensure that your research interests are aligned with program strengths. However, we do not admit students to work with specific professors and you do not need permission or encouragement of individual faculty to apply. Once you arrive, you will be assigned a preliminary advisor. As you progress through your degree you will choose advisors to prepare you for comprehensive exams and to serve on dissertation committees.

What should I use as a writing sample?

We are looking for evidence of your understanding of social science research and your writing skills. Therefore, if you have a writing sample that reflects your research skills or experience (e.g., a senior thesis), that is ideal. If you do not, a term paper or course paper from a social science discipline or another paper that reflects your understanding of social science research would be a good choice.

Who should I ask to write letters of recommendation?

Ideally, most of your recommenders can speak to your academic abilities and your potential to complete research independently (e.g., past experience, skills). If you don’t have previous research experience, that’s ok! Instructors from courses in which you excelled are also good people to ask. Supervisors, particularly from related work, are also good. Personal references are typically not preferred.

Can I arrange a visit to the department prior to being admitted?

We do not have formal visit days for potential applicants. However, once you are admitted, the Graduate Program Directors or Graduate Program Coordinator can help facilitate a visit. We also will hold a webinar for admitted students to ask questions and hear from faculty and current students.

Do you offer online courses? Do I need to remain in residence the full time of my degree?

We do not offer online or remote courses through the Sociology department. There are a limited number of online courses offered through related programs, and which sociology students can enroll in. However, you cannot complete coursework without time in residence. In addition, assistantships often require some on campus presence. Once you are at the dissertation stage, you have more flexibility in where you live.

Fact Sheets and Handbook

Graduate Student Organizations

The Graduate Sociology Student Association (GSSA) is designed to provide support, resources, and a community for students pursuing graduate degrees in the Sociology department at UMass Boston. The GSSA is here to build a sense of community, among graduate sociology students and the sociology faculty, by providing opportunities to socialize and engage with the larger campus and Boston communities. The GSSA is open to all graduate students in Sociology and is committed to being respectful, resourceful, supportive, and above all, welcoming. GSSA's mission is to enrich student involvement across all aspects of university life and within the broader community.

The Graduate Student Assembly is comprised of representatives from each graduate college. In addition to funding graduate professional organizations, the GSA offers several different types of grants to assist graduate students' professional development and research. They host a graduate research conference as well as plan social activities to bring graduate students from different programs together.

Awards and Honors Opportunities

The Graduate Program in Applied Sociology presents one Book Award for Outstanding Academic Achievement at Graduate Convocation every year. The award is given to the graduate with the highest GPA in the program.

The James E. Blackwell Prize is awarded each year by the Graduate Program in Applied Sociology in honor of Professor Emeritus James E. Blackwell, former President of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, founder of the Association of Black Sociologists, and author of leading books and articles about the African American community. The award is given to a student who has completed a graduate degree in Sociology and whose academic work exemplifies the spirit of Dr. Blackwell’s combination of rigorous research and scholarship about concerns of minority group members.

The Xiaogang Deng Graduate Paper Award recognizes the best empirical paper written by graduate student(s), and honors former faculty member, Xiaogang Deng, whose generosity made this award possible. It is selected from self-nominated papers by a committee of faculty members. Professor Deng was a vital and highly valued member of the Department of Sociology. He was also a significant contributor to Sociology’s graduate programs, regularly teaching well-received seminars on research methods, crime, and criminal justice.

The Teaching Assistant Award is given to a teaching assistant, nominated by faculty, whose work was of exceptional quality, and who showed an outstanding work ethic during their time as a TA.

Alpha Kappa Delta, the International Sociology Honor Society, was founded in 1920. It is affiliated with the American Sociological Association. Eligible graduate students are Master's or PhD students who have completed one semester of study with a GPA of 3.0 or higher. The $50 fee pays for lifetime membership and a year’s subscription to the journal Sociological Inquiry. For recruitment questions, contact the AKD faculty advisor, Professor Heather Zaykowski.

Learning Goals

PhD in Sociology

Students will be able to:

  1. Apply theoretical concepts to empirical issues
  2. Analyze data to address a research question
  3. Demonstrate scholarly expertise in a substantive area(s)
  4. Design and execute a research project of their own
  5. Demonstrate scholarly independence

MA in Applied Sociology

Students will be able to:

  1. Apply theoretical concepts to empirical issues
  2. Analyze data to address a research question
  3. Design and execute a research project on their own

Upcoming Events

Graduate Sociology Spring 2024 Events

Meredith Gamble Dissertation Defense - PhD in Sociology

Repertoires of Resistance: Latino Immigrant Food Service Workers, COVID-19, and the Struggle for Dignity and Justice at Work

Date: Wednesday, March 20, 2024
Time: 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Location: Public Presentation on Zoom

For Zoom link or more information, contact:

Tracy Reed Dissertation Defense - PhD in Sociology

A Patient and More: Exploring How Patients' Identities Affect their Satisfaction 

Date: Wednesday, April 3, 2024
Time: 12:30 PM - 2:00 PM
Location: Campus Center, 1st Floor, Room 1313

For Zoom link or more information, contact:

Tim Dacey Dissertation Defense - PhD in Sociology

After the Disaster: Environmental Harm and Cultural Change

Date: Thursday, April 11, 2024
Time: 3:30 PM - 5:30 PM
Location: Integrated Science Complex (ISC) 5300

For Zoom link or more information, contact:

EJ Neel Thesis Defense - MA in Sociology 

White Noise: A Dialectic Analysis of Fascism and Supremacy Movements

Date: Thursday, April 12, 2024
Time: 4:15 PM - 5:30 PM
Location: Wheatley Hall, 4th floor, W4-022

For Zoom link or more information, contact:

Graduate Sociology Student Association Research Symposium

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Musa Al-Gharbi

Date: Friday, April 19, 2024
10:00 AM - 6:00 PM
Location: Integrated Science Complex (ISC)


Panel 1 
Venue: ISC, 5th Floor, Conference Room 5300
Time: 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Panel 2
Venue: ISC, 5th Floor, Conference Room 5310
Time: 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM

Venue: ISC, 1st Floor, Atrium
Time: 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM

Afternoon Session
Venue: University Hall, 2nd Floor, Auditorium 2310
Time: 1:00 - 6:00 PM
Keynote Address at 4 PM