banner USF Home College of Arts & Sciences OASIS myUSF USF A-Z Index

USF Home > College of Arts and Sciences > Department of Sociology

Admissions to the Ph.D. Program in Sociology

Priority Application Deadline: January 15

To review frequently asked admissions questions, click here.

Application Process:

Note: a detailed description of USF Graduate School policies surrounding admission can be found at:

1. Application and application fee:

     Applying to USF is a 100% online. Click here to create an account and get started!

2. The following documents should be submitted (uploaded) with your application:

  • official GRE scores. Successful applicants typically have a GRE score of at least 160 verbal and 144 quantitative;

  • two official transcripts from previous college work leading to the B.A. and M.A. degree. Successful applicants typically have an a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5 in graduate work;
  • international students having earned their M.A. in a country whose official language is not English are required to (a) arrange to have their transcripts officially translated; (b) send TOEFL scores which should be a minimum of 100 (internet based), 600 (paper based);
  • a statement of purpose detailing: research interests, reasons for seeking a Ph.D., future career goals, the fit between goals and the Sociology program at USF, a summary of scholarly and extra-curricular activities, and the names of Sociology department faculty members who would be appropriate advisors;
  • a writing sample written solely by the applicant (such as a thesis chapter or seminar paper) which demonstrates the ability to conduct research and write effectively;
  • a description of teaching experience:
    • formal teaching experience (as instructor of record for a class)
    • informal or formal teaching assistant experience
    • informal or formal teaching training
    • particular teaching skills/talents
  • Curriculum Vitae;

  • three letters of reference from academic sources or others able to judge academic abilities and potential.


    1. Applicants for the Ph.D. program are required to have a Master’s Degree from an accredited institution:

      • Additional documentation (such as syllabi) may be required to determine that there is sufficient preparation to begin work at the Ph.D. level. An outcome of this evaluation may be to require additional course work before formal admission into the Ph.D. program. Additional courses will not count toward units needed to achieve the Ph.D. degree.
      • Although admission decisions typically are made in January-February, final decisions for students who have not yet completed their M.A. degree are contingent upon the completion of that degree before entering the program.

    2. All applications are subject to a competitive review by the members of the Sociology Department Graduate Committee. Meeting minimum requirements does not guarantee admission into the program. Applicants might also be asked to participate in an interview (in person or phone) with members of the Sociology Department Graduate Committee.

    3. It is highly recommend that applicants establish contact with the Sociology Graduate Director quite early in the application process:

Graduate Assistantships for Ph.D. Students in Sociology

Ph.D. Graduate Assistantships carry a stipend of around $15,000 per year (two semesters) and a tuition waiver (not including student fees) for 9 hours each semester.

Students with assistantships

  • must successfully complete nine hours of course work each semester of the assistantship;
  • will be assigned (a) full responsibility to teach an undergraduate class in Sociology and/or (b) serve as a teaching assistant for particular faculty members. Assignments will depend on department needs and on student skills and interests;
  • should attend workshops offered by the Academy for Teaching and Learning Excellence (;
  • are expected to be active members of the Sociology department graduate student community;

    Note: Assistantships awarded to students entering the Ph.D. program from outside the state of Florida require that students apply at the Office of the Registrar for Florida residency immediately after entering the program.


    Applying for an assistantship

    Send with the application for admission a description of:
            formal teaching experience (as instructor of record for a class)
            informal or formal teaching assistant experience
            informal or formal teaching training
            particular teaching skills/talents

    Attach to the application:
            curriculum vita
            copies of syllabi for any courses taught previously
            any other documentation of teacher training and/or teaching abilities

    Criteria for awarding continuing assistantships

    Decisions about renewing Ph.D. assistantships for a second and third year will be made by the Graduate Committee the end of March. Barring budgetary shortfalls, continuing assistantships will be awarded providing there is:

      •         adequate progress being made through the program, and
      •         evidence of responsibility in the current year of assistantship

Other Funding Opportunities

Applicants are strongly encouraged to apply for the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship program which is designed to address the under-representation of African American and Hispanic faculty. Each award provides annual tuition up to $5,000 for three academic years plus an annual stipend of $12,000 (an additional two years of support is provided by USF.) Please note that applications for the McKnight Doctoral Fellowship are due on the same day as the Ph.D. program application so you will need to collect supporting documentation concurrently. Click here for additional information.

The Office of Graduate Studies offers funding to academically talented individuals who contribute diversity in graduate programs through the USF Graduate Student Success program. Doctoral students receive $12,000/year for up to three years in addition a tuition waiver. Both newly admitted and continuing students are eligible to apply. Click here for additional information.

Ph.D. Program Requirements

Find the current Graduate Programs Guide here.

To review frequently asked admissions questions, click here.

  • Develop a plan of study including all elective courses (disciplinary, interdisciplinary, specialty methods) that will lead to a coherent program of study and research. Courses should be chosen in consultation with faculty advisors. Appropriate courses (1) are listed at the 6000 or 7000 level; (2) have solely or at least primarily a graduate student, rather than an undergraduate student, enrollment; and (3) cover a content relevant to interests and research plans.
  • During the second semester of the second year constitute a dissertation committee consisting of at least four faculty members: (1) At least one committee member must hold a Ph.D. in a field other than Sociology. (2) At least three members, including the committee chair, must be Ph.D. Sociologists. (3) The committee chair also must be a member of the Department of Sociology.
  • Compile a portfolio demonstrating competencies in : (1) Being a participant in the ongoing scholarly dialogue; (2) reviewing and evaluating the work of others; (3) teaching. The portfolio must be evaluated by the members of the dissertation committee as adequately demonstrating: (1) Professional level proficiency; (2) substantive knowledge not limited to the particular topic of the dissertation; (3) theoretical and methodological knowledge sufficient to understand the inter-disciplinary nature of the Sociology Ph.D.
  • Pass a dissertation proposal defense.
  • Complete and defend a dissertation approved by the dissertation committee.
  • To remain in good standing, students must (a) adhere to the requirements of the Graduate Division and meet their deadlines. The compete requirements are found at These include, but are not limited to 1) maintain a GPA of at least a 3.0; (2) successfully complete at least 6 credit hours of coursework per year; (3) successfully complete at least 2 credit hours per semester while working on dissertation research after coursework is completed; (4) Students with assistantships must successfully complete 9 credit hours per semester; should attend workshops and trainings suggested by the department; are expected to be active members of the Sociology department graduate student community; (5) all requirements must be completed within the university-mandated seven-year time frame after admission to the Ph.D. program.

Course requirements (60 credit hours minimum beyond the M.A. degree)

Credits Requirement

3 Interdisciplinary Professional Seminar (PROSEM).
6 Disciplinary Core Requirements
12 Disciplinary Electives
6 Specialty Methods course
6 Interdisciplinary Electives (in at least two disciplines)
3 Interdisciplinary Capstone Seminar.
6 Dissertation Proposal Preparation
18 Dissertation
60 Total

Coursework toward the Ph.D. in Sociology

Required courses:

Interdisciplinary Core (6 credit hours):
Interdisciplinary Professional Seminar (PROSEM). Required as the first course for all students
An introduction to the interdisciplinary study of sustainable communities. Examination of relevant epistemologies, methodologies and theories that will inform studies. Taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty members from participating departments.

Capstone Interdisciplinary Seminar- Taken as a final course
Exploration of how innovative multidisciplinary strategies can produce communities that are environmentally sound, economically prosperous and socially equitable. Issues will be addressed in a multidisciplinary environment of inquiry where communication across disciplines is promoted. Taught by an interdisciplinary team of faculty members from participating departments.

Disciplinary Core (6 credit hours):
Advanced Sociological Theory and Practice I & II (SYA 7939)
This is a two-semester, Ph.D. level course. The topics and organization of this course reflect the foundational belief that sociological theory and sociological methods should be inseparable: Theory is important only to the extent that it is useful in understanding social life; because understanding is best based upon evidence rather than abstract philosophical pondering, it requires research; research not informed by theory yields data that do not have meaning. This two-semester class is organized around typologies of the philosophy of science and sociological theories commonly practiced today. This first semester our focus will be on the naturalist/positivist and constructionist philosophies of science and middle range variable testing and interpretive theories. Semester two will focus on how critical and post-modern theoretical frameworks challenge existing philosophies of science.

Disciplinary Electives (12 credit hours):
Any 6000-level Sociology course might be approved.

Specialty Methods course (6 credit hours): courses include, but are not limited to:
Africana Studies: African American Community Research
Anthropology: Field Methods;Advanced Statistics
Communications: Qualitative Methods
History: Analysis of Historical Knowledge
Political Science: Logic and Method of Social Inquiry; Political Research Methods
Sociology: Ethnography; Social Network Analysis
Women’s Studies: Feminist Research Methods

Interdisciplinary Electives (6 credit hours in at least two disciplines):courses include, but are not limited to:
Africana Studies: African Historiography
Anthropology: Contemporary Applied Anthropology; Reproductive Health
Communication: Communication of Grief, Loss and Illness; Performance Theory; Performing Social Resistence
Education: Poststructural Theory and Identity
Environmental Science and Policy: Seminar in National Environments; Environmental
Geography: Weather, Climate, and Society
Gerontology: Health and Aging; Ethnic Health and Aging
Philosophy: Philosophy of Culture; History of Philosophy; Continental Philosophy
Political Science: Seminar in Comparative Politics, Seminar in International
Relations; Globalization, Democracy and Citizenship in Latin America

Coursework for the Ph.D.: Developing a Plan of Study

The Ph.D. in Sociology requires students to develop a plan of study that will lead to a coherent program of academic exploration and research. Upon entry to the program, each student will be assigned a Sociology faculty advisor who will work with the student to develop the initial program of study. Students can change their advisors after the first semester with the approval of the new advisor and the Sociology Graduate committee.

I. Coursework

  • Interdisciplinary:

            Electives (6 credit hours in at least two disciplines outside Sociology)

  • Discipline:

            SYA 7939: Advanced Sociological Theory and Practice I & II
            Electives (12 credit hours)

  • Specialty Methods Classes (6 credit hours)
  • Dissertation proposal preparation (6 credit hours)
  • Dissertation research (18 credit hours spread over two semesters)

II. Order for taking courses:

  1. It is expected that the following courses will be taken in specific semesters:

            First semester, first year: Interdisciplinary Pro-seminar
            Second semester, second year: Interdisciplinary Capstone

  1. The timing for taking the following course will depend upon how it is scheduled:

            SYA 7939: Advanced Sociological Theory and Practice I & II

  1. Students may take sociology electives (12 credit hours), interdisciplinary electives (6 credit hours) and the specialty methods courses (6 credit hours) in any combination, in any order.

III. Choosing appropriate courses:

An appropriate course:

  • includes content that is important to develop the students’ interests. This determination should be made by students in consultation with faculty advisors;
  • is listed at the 6000 or 7000 level. Courses under 6000 are not appropriate for Ph.D. students;
  • has an enrollment completely or primarily limited to graduate students. Courses that are “cross-listed” at both graduate and undergraduate levels are not appropriate.

IV. Resources to find appropriate courses:

  • Faculty advisors can be of tremendous assistance;
  • USF requires departments to schedule courses one year in advance. Any person can view these proposed class schedules through the OASIS website. Go to the public site—you do not need to sign in.

Note: Be aware that schedules are not written in stone. Expect changes—especially for the semester that is a full year in the future.

  • Students always should contact the course instructor before registering for a class. Instructors can inform students if (a) they will be allowed to register – some departments limit course enrollment to their majors; (b) they meet the formal and/or informal pre-requisites; and (c) the actual course content (topics, readings, requirements) is suitable.
  • Course instructors and/or Department chairs sometimes can estimate the likelihood that a particular course will be taught in the following year.

Comprehensive Portfolio of Competencies

Advancement to candidacy requires Ph.D. students in Sociology to successfully pass formal coursework with a grade of B or higher. Before proceeding to the dissertation proposal defense, committee members also must approve a portfolio demonstrating the practical skills necessary to be a professional Sociologist. This portfolio must contain evidence of competence in each of the following:

  1. be a participant in the ongoing scholarly dialogue;
  2. review and evaluate the academic work of others;
  3. teach at the undergraduate and graduate college level.

Each portfolio must demonstrate:

  1. professional level proficiency;
  2. substantive knowledge not limited to the particular topic of the dissertation;
  3. theoretical and methodological knowledge necessary to understand the inter-disciplinary nature of the Sociology Ph.D.


  1. While it is recommended that faculty advisors review portfolio contents as they are being created by the student, the formal evaluation will not be made until the portfolio is complete which typically will occur in the semester after formal coursework is concluded.
  2. The portfolio must demonstrate competence in a primary as well as a secondary substantive area. This includes demonstrating not only knowledge of the substantive content of each specialty area chosen but also understanding of the theory and methods associated with the area.
  3. It is expected that the contents of portfolios will contain the items listed in each category (below). Any substitutions must be approved by the committee chair, in consultation with the other members of the committee.
  4. Completed portfolios must be made available to Sociology Department members for at least two weeks prior to their final approval.
  5. Faculty members evaluating a portfolio element as insufficient must give the student specific grounds for this evaluation as well guidelines for what must be done for the element to be judged sufficient. If a re-submitted portfolio is again judged as insufficient the student will be asked to withdraw from the program.
  6. The portfolio will be finished when committee members approve all portfolio elements and sign the portfolio approval form.
  7. Upon approval of the portfolio the student will proceed to the dissertation proposal.


Competencies to be Demonstrated

I. Being a participant in the ongoing scholarly dialogue:

Professional Sociologists are a community of scholars engaged in a dialogue. While taking many forms, a primary site of this dialogue is in professional publications. To demonstrate this competence the portfolio must contain:

  1. A 2-3 page statement of research interests.
  2. Evidence of a professional presentation at a regional or national conference.
  3. A review of the literature in the primary specialty area. This review should demonstrate understanding of the entire scholarly literature in that area. It also should serve as the theoretical backdrop for the dissertation. Use the model of articles from the Annual Review of Sociology.
  4. A research paper of publishable quality. The student must be the sole author or the first author.

II. Reviewing and evaluating the work of others

Being a member of the community of scholars requires reviewing the work of others and giving advice for how this work could be made better. To demonstrate this competence, the portfolio must contain:

  1. A review of the key books in the second specialty area (chosen in consultation with committee members). While the review should contain a brief synopsis of the theoretical, methodological and substantive content of each of these books it should focus on comparing and contrasting them as well as discussing the types of theoretical, methodological and substantive issues they raise. Use the model of “Review Essays” in the Journal of Contemporary Sociology.

III. Teaching

Scholars most often also are teachers. Effective teachers have knowledge of the subject matter as well as an understanding of how this knowledge can be effectively transmitted. To this end the portfolio must contain:

  1. A 2-3 page statement of teaching specialties and pedagogical approach.
  2. A detailed and annotated syllabus for a seminar-style graduate course in the primary specialty area. Include a brief justification for why each article would be assigned, a description of student assignments with justifications for their pedagogical value, and lecture notes for at least three class sessions.
  3. A detailed and annotated syllabus for an upper-division undergraduate course in the secondary specialty area. Use journal articles, rather than a textbook. Include a brief justification for why each article would be assigned, a description of student assignments with justifications for their pedagogical value, and lecture notes for at least three class sessions.
  4. The syllabus, teaching evaluations and a 1-2 page reflection on an undergraduate course actually taught.

Note: Students who have not yet taught their own course must include elements 1-3 in their portfolio. It is expected that all students will teach at least one course before receiving their Ph.D. degree.