Program Requirements

Updated October 2023 


1. Credits: MA: 10 courses, 6 in sociology. PhD: 16 courses, 10 in sociology. 2. Transfer of credit: up to 8 graduate course units may be transferred from other institutions after 1 year at Penn, upon approval of the Graduate Chair and the Dean. Courses in statistical methodology require an additional layer of approval: they must also be approved by the current instructors of the equivalent graduate class at Penn. At least 12 courses must be completed at Penn, with 10 of these in sociology. Forms for transfer credit are available from the Graduate Coordinator. 3. Grading of courses: 16 courses must receive a grade of “B” or better. Up to 4 independent study courses may be taken on a Satisfactory basis.

4. Graduate students will not receive credit for completing undergraduate courses. During the enrollment period students should be mindful of classes that have the same title but different numbers. Graduate students must enroll in graduate classes to receive credit.

5. Students should avoid incompletes (i.e., an “I”). If students fail to complete the work for a class in the term following the granting of the incomplete, the I will administratively become an F. 6. Departmental activity participation: Weekly attendance at the Sociology Colloquium and membership in at least one cluster workshop.

7. At the end of each year all students, including students intending to graduate, will submit a progress report. Students will be provided a form for this report. The reports will be circulated to the faculty in anticipation of the May faculty meeting wherein student progress is evaluated. Students will receive a letter following this meeting, containing information on their progress.

8. Teaching requirement: Graduate students will serve as a Teaching Assistant for two years (4 semesters), typically during the 2nd and 3rd years of the program.

9. Completion of a Second Year Paper (Equivalent to M.A. thesis or a publishable paper)

10. Students are strongly encouraged to submit their thesis, second-year paper, and other work to peer-reviewed journals, as per a faculty advisors’ recommendations.

11. Completion of two qualifying examinations.

12. Graduate students will defend their dissertation proposal at a meeting of their dissertation committee before advancing to candidacy.

13. Ideally, students should meet with their advisors every semester. Students at the dissertation stage must meet with each member of their committee at least once a year.

14. Complete a dissertation and publicly present the dissertation research at a defense, open to the university community. After the dissertation is approved by the dissertation committee, submit a final version to the graduate office.

15. Students are strongly encouraged to submit their pre-defense dissertation in the format required for deposit by the University, including margin requirements. This format requirement sometimes presents challenges for students whose dissertations include numerous large tables or graphics. See the section “Dissertation Format Requirements” in this manual for details.

16. The graduate program in sociology is also governed by all the University of Pennsylvania policies articulated in the PennBook, as well as the policies of the SAS Graduate Division.



Year 1:

Course requirements:

Soc 5550: Proseminar (non-credit; not required for incoming joint students)

Soc 5350/5351: Quantitative Methods

Soc 6020: Classical Sociological Theory

Soc 6040: Research Methods

At least 2 Other Sociology Classes

During the first year, students are assigned preliminary advisers. This procedure was created to help students to get to know the faculty as new students, as well as to provide assistance in making the most of their early years of study. Students are not required to maintain this faculty member as their primary advisor, though they can do so if they wish.


Year 2:

Course requirements:

Soc 7070/7071: Second Year Research Seminar, plus at least 4 electives, of which at least 2 must be in sociology. Additional requirements:

1. Serve as a Teaching Assistant for 2 courses.

2. Second Year Paper (Equivalent to M.A. thesis or a publishable paper), approved in time for the faculty evaluation of student progress in May. The MA Thesis/Second Year Paper must be advised by a committee of three faculty members, including two standing faculty in sociology. The committee chair must be a standing faculty member in sociology. To maintain good standing, the Second Year Paper requirement must be completed to the satisfaction of the committee. Completion of this requirement is necessary for formal entry into the doctoral program.


Year 3:

Course requirements:


Soc 6200: Sociological Research II

Complete all coursework (for a total of 16 CUs) Additional requirements:

1. Complete first comprehensive exam (by May 1).

2. Serve as a Teaching Assistant for 2 courses. 3. Form a dissertation committee consisting of at least three faculty members, including two standing faculty members in sociology (by May 1). The committee chair must be a member of the standing faculty in sociology.


Year 4:


1. Complete second comprehensive exam (by December 15). 2. Defend dissertation proposal (by December 15).

Students will typically begin working on their dissertation immediately after their defense, allowing as much time as possible for its completion during year 5.

Students who have not completed both comprehensive exams and successfully defended their dissertation proposal by the end of their first term of year 4 will be considered not in good standing.


Years 5:


1. Dissertation defense and submission of final version to the graduate office.

2. Complete a public presentation of the dissertation research, open to the university community. The public presentation and dissertation defense can occur during the same meeting, beginning with a public presentation, followed by a defense that may involve only the student and his/her committee.

An ideal course of study will take five years, but there will be cases in which it will take longer to complete all the requirements. Years beyond the fifth are expected to be devoted to the completion of the dissertation. Students are expected to continue to meet with their advisor.

Students who are not in good standing should be working full time on completing their program requirements. They are not eligible for teaching or Teaching Assistant positions, or for any other paid or unpaid positions. The department will not be able to recommend students for fellowships until they are once again in good standing.

For the graduate program in sociology, the dissertation proposal defense fulfills the university’s requirement of a Candidacy Examination. According to the University’s Academic Rules for PhD Programs (, “Upon successful completion of the Candidacy Examination, the student is advanced to candidacy. Normally, a student should advance to candidacy by the end of the third year. The maximum time limit for a student to be advanced to candidacy is five years, after which time the student will be dropped from the program.”