Degree Requirements

Credits and Courses

The program requires 36 graduate credits of course work at the post-master’s level. Entering students are expected to have completed the following courses or their equivalents in the process of earning a master’s degree:

  • Sociol 715–Systematic Sociological Theory
  • Sociol 750–Research Methods in Sociology
  • Sociol 760–Advanced Statistical Methods in Sociology

Students who have not taken these courses prior to admission to the PhD program will be required to complete them in the first year of their pursuit of a doctoral degree. Credits earned in these courses will not count as part of the 36 credits required at the post-master’s level.

At the PhD level, students must complete the following coursework:

  • Sociol 910–The Sociology of Inequality
  • Sociol 911–The Sociology of Institutions
  • Sociol 982–Advanced Quantitative Analysis
  • One additional elective course in social science methodology
  • Beyond the core requirements, students must choose to specialize in either social inequalities or social institutions and complete 9 credits (usually this would be 3 courses) designated in that specialty area
  • Electives (9 or more credits) and dissertation (up to 6 credits)
  • Required for Students with Teaching Assistant positions: Sociol 794–The Teaching of Undergraduate Sociology. This one credit course will be offered each spring semester.

Doctoral students may not accumulate more than 6 credits in U/G courses without the approval of the Sociology Director of Graduate Studies. Of the 60 required credits, no more than 12 credits outside of Sociology may be counted toward the doctoral degree without the approval of the Sociology Director of Graduate Studies.

Foreign Language or Specialized Skill
This Graduate School requirement may be satisfied by demonstrating one of the following:

  • Proficiency in a foreign language useful in the student’s career, indicated by the completion of two courses at the upper division level (numbered 300 and above or requiring junior standing) with at least a B average. Credits satisfying this requirement will not count toward the credits required for the PhD degree.
  • Proficiency in mathematical, statistical, or computer skills. Completion of the required methods and statistics sequence (Sociol 750, 760, 982 or their equivalents) and an additional 3 credits of graduate coursework in statistics related to social sciences with at least a B average will satisfy this requirement.

Preliminary Examination

All doctoral students are required to complete preliminary examinations in two specialty areas after completing 27 credits at the post-master’s level. The areas are selected by the doctoral candidates in consultation with their advisor and other members of the graduate faculty. Examination areas are limited to those subfields or subdisciplines that are within the student’s area of specialization and widely recognized areas within sociology. For example, they might be recognized sections of the American Sociological Association or other subfields with similar scope. The disciplinary subfields must be broader than, but related to, the focus of the student’s dissertation and must be approved by the Department’s Graduate Studies Committee.

An empirical paper may be substituted for one preliminary examination. The empirical paper is read and evaluated by two members of the graduate faculty in sociology. The length and quality of the paper should be similar to that of a journal article.

Students who do not pass an examination on the first attempt will be provided feedback on their performance and be allowed to take the exam a second time but must do so within 9 months of the administration of the first exam. Students who do not successfully complete the examination upon the second attempt will not be allowed to continue in the program.


The dissertation is a major piece of original research representing a substantial contribution to sociological scholarship. In order to become eligible for dissertation status, the student must complete a successful oral defense of a dissertation proposal before the student’s doctoral committee.

The dissertation itself, under the supervision of the major professor and in collaboration with a dissertation committee, must demonstrate the ability of the candidate to formulate a research topic and pursue an independent and original research representing a substantial contribution to sociological scholarship. The practices necessary for completion of the dissertation will conform to the guidelines established by the UWM Graduate School. The dissertation committee shall be composed of the major professor and four additional graduate faculty members (at least three of whom must be from the UWM Department of Sociology graduate faculty). The dissertation committee is responsible for assessing the dissertation project, which involves approving the dissertation proposal, reviewing working drafts of research in progress, and, finally, evaluating the candidate’s ability to defend decisions made during the course of research and the results of the research. After submission of a reading copy of the dissertation to the faculty dissertation committee, the candidate and the major professor will schedule a committee meeting for the purpose of undertaking an oral defense of the dissertation work by the candidate. At the conclusion of the candidate’s oral remarks, the dissertation committee will vote on passing the candidate’s dissertation work. A majority of the committee must vote to approve the dissertation and recommend granting of the Doctor of Philosophy degree.

Graduate Grievance Procedures

Federal law and UWM policy require programs and departments to have procedures for graduate students to appeal academic decisions such as grades or scholastic standing. These procedures ensure the protection of students’ rights. These pages serve as a reference on procedures for graduate student academic appeals.