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PhD Admissions FAQ


The Ph.D. program is designed to be completed in five to six years of full-time study. Actual time depends on students' prior background, progress, and research requirements. The minimum residency requirement for the Ph.D. degree is 135 units of completed coursework, which takes approximately three years. The fourth through sixth years are typically spent working on the dissertation.

Program requirements are listed here.

  • Economic Sociology
  • Gender
  • Historical and Comparative Sociology
  • Organizations
  • Political Sociology
  • Population, Family, Demography, and Marriage
  • Race, Ethnicity, and Immigration
  • Social Inequality
  • Social Psychology

Students must complete three quarters of teaching apprenticeship, working as either a teaching assistant (TA) under the supervision of a faculty member or as a teaching fellow. Students are required to take a TA training workshop in their first year. In addition, students are encouraged to take advantage of department and University teacher training programs. Students for whom English is a second language are expected to acquire sufficient facility in English to be an effective teacher.

No, we do not offer a terminal Master’s degree in Sociology. Current doctoral students from within the Department or in another Stanford graduate program may apply for a Master of Arts in Sociology during the course of their Ph.D. program. Master's candidates must take 45 units of course work, and 25 of those units must be in graduate seminars. There is no examination or thesis requirement.

Sociology seeks to understand all aspects of human social behavior, including the behavior of individuals as well as the social dynamics of small groups, large organizations, communities, institutions, and entire societies. Sociologists are typically motivated both by the desire to better understand the principles of social life and by the conviction that understanding these principles may aid in the formulation of enlightened and effective social policy.

Sociology provides an intellectual background for students considering careers in the professions or business. Students may pursue degrees in sociology at the bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral levels. The department organizes its courses by areas of study to assist students in tailoring their education and research to their academic interests and career goals.

Most students who receive a Ph.D. in Sociology from Stanford go on to do research and teach at colleges or universities. In recent years, graduates have obtained positions at Carnegie Mellon, Harvard, Columbia, University of Chicago, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology, INSEAD, Tsinghua University. Other graduates have found positions at research organizations, private firms or in government. For a list of recent placements, click here.

Financial Support

The Knight-Hennessy Scholars program develops a community of future global leaders. Each year, up to 100 students are awarded with funding to pursue any graduate degree at Stanford and participate in an experiential leadership development program that emphasizes collaboration and innovation. Citizens of any country may apply. Two applications must be submitted separately; one to Knight-Hennessy Scholars by Wednesday, October 14, 2020, at 1:00pm Pacific Time, and separately apply to the Sociology Ph.D. program by December 2, 2020 for consideration. Visit to learn more.

Additional information on sources of graduate funding can be found here.

Tuition for the 2021-22 academic year can be found here.

The department offers a standard package, consisting of a stipend and the payment of tuition and fees, to incoming students. Both domestic and international students are eligible for this standard package. Although the Department cannot formally guarantee support beyond the first year, it expects to continue to provide an additional five years of support, including summer quarters, to students making satisfactory academic progress. This assistance normally covers the full cost of tuition and an additional amount for living expenses during the academic year. The latter amount is usually in the form of a stipend, teaching assistantship, or research assistantship. Students are encouraged to pursue prestigious fellowships offered by the University and by national organizations such as the National Science Foundation.

The department currently offers financial support for all five summers during a student's tenure in the form of research assistantships with department faculty. The terms of research assistantship appointments may vary from case to case but usually provide a stipend that covers summer living expenses.

In addition to providing the standard package described above, the Department will provide each student with an stipend that can be used to fund professional development expenses, faculty guided research and field work.


The department faculty and their research interests are listed online at Sociology Faculty while current graduate students’ interests can be found under Sociology Doctoral Students.

All of our faculty members are able to take on newly admitted students. However, an offer of admission is neither dependent upon nor a promise of a match between the admitted student and a particular faculty member. Students are encouraged to work with and take classes from a range of faculty members before selecting a primary advisor and forming their dissertation committee.

Preparing for Admission

GRE general test is required for admission to the Sociology PhD degree program.  GRE scores from ETS are valid for five years. For questions about the validity of GRE scores, please contact ETS. If ETS is able to send your GRE/TOEFL scores, Stanford University will accept them.  Applicants should have the Educational Testing Service (ETS) send scores electronically to Stanford. Our university code is 4704. It does not matter what department code is specified. You will either self-report your scores or indicate the date you will take the test(s) in the online application. Self-reported scores will not be considered official until Stanford receives the electronic record.


No, we do not accept the GMAT.

The TOEFL score requirement is waived for international students who have received a Bachelors or Master’s degree at a U.S. institution.

Yes, as long as your application and unofficial transcripts (uploaded) are submitted by the application deadline, letters of recommendation and official transcripts can be sent at a later time (but no later than the second week in January).

After at least one quarter of enrollment in the first year, students pursuing a Ph.D. may apply for transfer credit for up to 45 units of graduate work done at another institution.

Admission to our program is highly competitive. About 10-12 students, chosen from a pool of approximately 200 applicants, enter the program each year. These students are chosen on the basis of a strong academic background as evidenced by previous study, writing sample, and letters of recommendation.  Please be assured that the department reviews each application very carefully and makes decisions on an individual basis.

The application deadline for the 2020-21 academic year is December 2, 2020, 11:59pm PST. Applications will NOT be accepted after this date.  Please be aware that you must submit the online application by the application deadline. Incomplete applications will not be able to be completed or submitted after the application deadline.

Application Procedures

No, the department only reviews applications for students that will be entering our program during the fall quarter.

Instructions on how to apply to the Sociology Ph.D. Program, along with the link to the online application, can be found here.

The fee to apply for graduate study at Stanford is $125.  You may submit only one application per year (unless one of the applications is to one of the professional schools (Law, Medicine or Business). Acceptable form of payment is by credit/debit card (Visa or MasterCard only.) We do not accept electronic check payments or checks by mail. The fee is non-refundable and must be received by the application deadline.  If you believe you qualify for a fee waiver, please review the Graduate Admissions Web site.


In order to ensure that the application process is fair to all applicants, our facutly do not meet with prospective applicants. We therefore discourage applicants from contacting faculty individaully.  The department website contains most of the information about our faculty and PhD programs an applicant would need to decide whether to apply. Inquiries about the program can be directed to the Graduate Student Services Manager, Natasha Newson.

Yes. The department organizes a special event in late March/early April to invite admitted students to campus. This event is an excellent opportunity to meet and speak with faculty and current students about specific concerns or questions that a prospective student may have.


The first qualifying exam is given at the beginning of Year 2, in Autumn quarter; the second qualifying exam is due at the end of Year 2, in Spring quarter; the third qualifying exam is due at the end of Year 3, in Spring quarter.

Over summer, students are assigned a research assistantship with department faculty. In addition, students spend the first summer reviewing literature for the first qualifying exam.

If the course material is relevant to Sociology, or your area of research, it is acceptable to take courses in other departments or schools, and those course may be counted toward the Sociology requirements with Department approval.

Our department offers a statistics bootcamp to prepare incoming PhD students for the Sociology statistics sequence. More information about the bootcamp is available here.