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Graduate Program

The Sociology Department offers graduate study leading to the Master of Arts and the Doctor of Philosophy. The graduate program has concentrations in Criminology, Critical Race & Ethnic Studies, Environmental Sociology, and Political Economy & Globalization. Both the master's and the doctoral program allow for the construction of individualized programs of study. New students are admitted in Fall semester only and applications must be received by the Graduate School by January 15 for full consideration for funding.

Many of your questions about our graduate program may be answered below and on the FAQ page.

For graduate admissions program questions not addressed on our website, please see

International students can find important information at

Applying to Our Program

Admissions Requirements

  • Completion of the appropriate previous degree (baccalaureate, preferably with a major in one of the social sciences, for the MA program; master's degree in one of the social sciences for the doctoral program)
  • Completed application form, including Supplemental Questions on career goals and graduate study in sociology (i.e. Statement of Purpose) and on research and teaching experience
  • Three letters of recommendation (including UT's Graduate Rating form)
    Even if you have been out of school for some time, we strongly recommend that you include letters from academic references along with your professional ones.
  • Writing samples as follows:
    • Applicants for MA level study should submit 1 representative sample of writing
    • Applicants for PhD level study should submit their thesis or, if not finished, their thesis proposal AND 1 representative paper (at least 25 pages in length)
  • A CV (resume) is optional

Master's Program

A minimum of 30 hours beyond the baccalaureate degree, including 24 hours of coursework and 6 hours of Thesis 500, is required. Students must complete Sociology 521, 531, and one Foundations course (503, 504, 505, or 509). At or near the end of all coursework, the student must submit and defend a thesis before her/his committee.

All MA students must complete the following requirements (5 courses for 15 credit hours):

  • Sociology 506 Sociology and Social Justice (2 credits);
  • Sociology 511 Pedagogy and Graduate Instruction (1 credit);
  • Sociology 521 Sociological Theory;
  • Sociology 531 Research Methods in Sociology; and
  • Two courses (Foundations and one other) in a specialty area (Criminology, Critical Race & Ethnic Studies, Environmental Sociology, or Political Economy & Globalization) choose 1 from Sociology 503 Foundations of Environmental Sociology; Sociology 509 Foundations of Political Economy; Sociology 505 Foundations of Criminology; or Sociology 509 Foundations of Critical Race and Ethnic Studies AND 1 additional course in the same area.

Applied Sociology Master’s Program

We are excited to announce that the Department of Sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville is offering a new Applied Sociology MA program as of the fall 2022 semester. This new program will prepare students to apply sociological research skills and substantive knowledge to current social problems. The Applied Sociology Masters Track is designed to prepare students to obtain or enhance career opportunities outside of the university that promote transformative change for social equity.  The program will serve adult and professional students who want to further their careers or work towards their degree part-time. Students will take coursework in criminology, critical race and ethnic studies, environment, and political economy and learn a variety of sociological methods. The substantive and methodological knowledge gained in those classes and in a final practicum experience will relate to real-world applications, while maintaining a focus on how to foster lasting social change. For more information, contact Dr. Lois Presser, Director of Graduate Studies, at

The Doctoral Program


All PhD students must complete the following requirements:

51 hours of coursework beyond the master's degree (exclusive of S/NC credits): 27 hours in coursework (9 courses) and 24 credit hours in doctoral research.  At least 12 credit hours in Sociology at 600 level.

  • Sociology 621 Sociological Theory II
  • Sociology 631 Advanced Quantitative Methods;
  • One of the following additional methods classes: Sociology 633 Survey Design; Sociology 636 Field Research; Sociology 638 Comparative Historical Sociology; or Sociology 640 Discourse Analysis
  • First area = three courses (Foundations plus two classes) in a specialty area (Criminology, Critical Race & Ethnic Studies, Environmental Sociology, or Political Economy & Globalization).  This may be completed at the MA level.
  • Second area = three courses (minimum) in a second of the four specialty areas or one of the following options: a foreign language, the Interdisciplinary Graduate Social Theory Certificate, Intercollegiate Graduate Statistics and Data Science minor or MS, or an area proposed by the student in consultation with their advisor and approved by the Graduate Studies Committee.

Also, if the following courses were not completed at UT at the MA level, students must complete them without the credits counting toward the minimum number of hours required for the Ph.D.:

  • Sociology 506 Sociology and Social Justice (2 credits);
  • Sociology 511 Pedagogy and Graduate Instruction (1 credit);
  • Sociology 521 Sociological Theory
  • Sociology 531 Research Methods


Students must complete a Major Area Paper in the student's specialty area after completing course work and before embarking on the dissertation.

Dissertation and Defense

A dissertation based on original research must be completed. The candidate must pass an oral defense of the dissertation, including the theory and methodology related to the research, in accordance with the deadlines specified by the Graduate School.

Academic Common Market

An agreement among southern states for sharing graduate programs allows legal residents of some states to enroll in certain programs at UT on an in-state tuition basis. The M.A. program in Sociology is available to residents of the state of Virginia (concentration in criminology only); the Ph.D. to residents of Florida (concentration in criminology only) or West Virginia. Additional information may be obtained from the Administrative Services Assistant in the Office of Graduate Admissions.

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