Graduate Program Overview


Graduate training is central to the Department of Sociology at the University of Washington. Our graduate program has a long and distinguished tradition of producing leading scholars and teachers who make important contributions to the discipline of sociology and to our collective understanding of social processes. Our graduate training emphasizes:

  • Understanding and critically evaluating social theory and empirical research
  • Conducting theoretically guided research that explores, assesses, and further develops explanatory theories
  • Developing communication skills (with emphasis on scholarly writing and teaching) that transmit sociological knowledge.

Together, our graduate students and faculty form a vibrant and collaborative scholarly community. We interact regularly in courses, colloquia, departmental seminars, and in joint research projects. Sociology graduate students are actively involved in all aspects of academic life: teaching, conducting research, presenting their findings at national conferences and publishing in the field's leading journals. They also write fascinating dissertations. We pride ourselves on placing our students in tenure-track jobs at well-respected peer institutions. You can learn more about our current students on the job market.

Coursework and Training

We admit students to a Ph.D. degree program, and do not offer a terminal M.A. degree. Students complete an MA degree before beginning Ph.D. level work. 

After successfully completing the MA degree, students advance to the Ph.D. portion of the graduate program. At the Ph.D. level, training is less structured and increasingly focused on dissertation research.

MA Work

For students arriving with a bachelor's degree, the first two years of the program is relatively structured. Students work on completing their course requirements and a master's thesis. The master's program is designed primarily as preparation for Ph.D. work; it is not a terminal degree, but may serve as good training for non-academic research. The MA program consists of three elements:

  • Substantive training: coursework in substantive areas and social theory
  • Methodological training: work in social statistics and general social science methodologies
  • Master's Thesis: independent empirical research conducted under the supervision of the MA Committee.

Ph.D. Work

The Ph.D. program focuses on the development of research skills and sociological knowledge. These are the milestones: 

  • Completion of 4 graded elective courses in Sociology beyond the theory and methods courses required for the MA
  • Completion of a Ph.D. Training Plan, which is a program of additional courses approved by the Supervisory Committee
  • Successful completion of a Comprehensive Exam
  • Successful completion of a General Exam/Dissertation Prospectus
  • Completion of dissertation research project
  • Final exam/dissertation defense dissertation 


Sarah Quinn serves as the graduate program Director. In this role, she provides guidance and support to students and serves as chair of the departmental Graduate Program Committee (GPC). The GPC reviews students as they progress through the program and advises the department on graduate program policy.

Tess McShane is the graduate program advisor (GPA). She helps students navigate the administrative side of the program.

Mark Igra is the graduate program committee student representative.

Diversity Statement

The Department of Sociology has a long-standing commitment to a diverse student population. Our efforts toward this goal are aided by the Hubert M. Blalock Endowment, which provides financial support during the first year of study to a graduate student from an underrepresented group. Further, we endorse the University's statements on diversity and work with the Graduate Student Equity and Excellence Program (GSEE) to enhance the climate of diversity in our graduate program. Click here to read the full Sociology department diversity statement.