Thank you for considering the PhD program in Sociology at the University of Colorado Boulder!

Our program offers extensive training in the foundational theories and methods of the discipline and allows you the flexibility to pursue interests in a variety of specialty areas. The Department of Sociology at the University of Colorado is a well-respected center for teaching and research. Here you can work with award-winning faculty members who have been recognized for their research, teaching and service.

The Department of Sociology strives to maintain a diverse mix of graduate students, promote respect for and opportunities to learn from others with a broad range of backgrounds and experiences, and otherwise promote inclusive excellence. By providing a variety of perspectives, a diverse student body enhances students' educational experiences and strengthens our research and outreach endeavors.

Visit the University of Colorado's Diversity, Inclusion, and Academic Excellence Plan to learn more.

The department's strengths include:

  • Criminology
  • Cultural Sociology
  • Environment, Hazards and Disasters
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Health and Medicine
  • Life Course, Aging and Youth
  • Political Economy
  • Population
  • Qualitative Methodology
  • Race and Ethnicity
  • Social Psychology and Emotions

Application Process

The PhD Application Instructions and helpful hints are below. Please read this document thoroughly before beginning an application.

PhD program application deadlines can be found here  

In order to apply, you must meet the following admission criteria:

  1. Hold a baccalaureate degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university(or complete by the first day of classes for the term applied).
  2. GRE not required
  3. Undergraduate GPA should be 3.25 or higher for best consideration, but exceptions are made, for example for International students.

To complete an application the following materials are required:

  • CU graduate student online application
  • University application fee:  $60 for domestic; $80 for international
  • Three (3) letters of recommendation
  • One unofficial transcript from every college or university attended (official transcripts required upon acceptance).
  •  Statement of purpose in essay form (700 to 1000 words)
  • (Recommended but not required) Writing sample (3000-6000 words)


Most students receive financial support by working as teaching assistants. In general, this funding covers tuition and a portion of the cost of health insurance and includes a monthly stipend. As teaching assistants, students are responsible for a variety of duties including grading papers and exams, helping to design assignments, holding office hours, and leading recitation sections. More advanced students can receive funding as research assistants or graduate part-time instructors.

The Graduate Teacher Program supports graduate students in teaching endeavors by offering college teacher training, supporting research skill development, and providing career preparation opportunities.

The Office of Financial Aid also offers financial support for graduate students.

Students receive the PhD degree after fulfilling the following requirements. Students should aim to fulfill these requirements within five to six years. Course requirements and full course descriptions can also be viewed in the University of Colorado Catalog. 

Requirements for the PhD Degree

1.    Minimum Course Hours: Students must complete a total of 45 hours of course work credit hours. At least 24 hours must be in the Department of Sociology on the Boulder campus. All courses taken within the Department of Sociology must be numbered 5000 or above to qualify for graduate credit.

2.    Successful Completion of Required Seminars: These include: Research Design, Data 1/Quantitative Methods 1, Data 2/Quantitative Methods 2, Logics of Qualitative Research, Classical Sociological Theory, and Contemporary Theory. 

3.    Third Year Paper: During their third year in the program, students must submit a journal article length paper based on independent research and analysis. Research for this paper is typically conducted over the course of the first two years, and students spend the 3rd year focusing on writing, submitting the paper for faculty review early in the spring semester. 

4.    Faculty Reviews: At the end of each year, faculty members teaching required courses, faculty mentor/advisors, and faculty supervising teaching assistants conduct a review of students’ progress.

5.    Successful Completion of Specialty Area Comprehensive Exam: Students must complete the required 45 hours of course work before taking the specialty area comprehensive exam.

6.    Successful Defense of Dissertation Proposal: Students should prepare a written dissertation proposal and orally defend it before the Dissertation Committee.

7.    Completion and Successful Defense of the Dissertation: Students should complete dissertation research and defend by the end of their sixth program year.

Typical Sequence Through the Program

When you enter the program, you will be in a cohort of approximately 6-12 students. Students typically focus on required courses during the first year. Graduate students are expected to take two or three seminars each semester. We encourage students to work with their faculty advisors to determine the course load for the first year based on prior course work, etc. Beyond the first year, we recommend that students take three courses each semester.

Each incoming student will be assigned an individual faculty advisor who will help guide the student through the first year of the program. Under the first-year advising system, students are encouraged to work with the first-year advisor to explore the program, the research specialties of the department, and their own developing research interests while getting to know faculty members. Once a student has had an opportunity to meet and work with a variety of faculty, decisions regarding long-term advisors should be made. Beginning in Year Two of the program, graduate students are expected to seek their own faculty advisors.

Students in their first year are required to attend the Sociology Forum. Students meet bimonthly throughout the academic year with the forum leader. The primary purposes of the forum are to introduce practice issues related to the discipline of sociology, as well as department faculty and their research to the first-year cohort. and to provide a communal forum for the cohort to discuss issues of concern with the forum leader.

The Graduate School offers an ongoing Interdisciplinary Professionalization Seminar led by a faculty member. Sociology graduate students are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity to develop their knowledge and meet faculty and students from other social science disciplines. 

During your first two years, the course work will focus on theory and methods. Then, you will work with your advisor to develop your specialty area in your third and fourth years. Upon successful completion of your specialty comprehensive exam, you will be admitted to candidacy and begin your dissertation research.



As a student, you are encouraged to become involved in the United Government of Graduate  Students (UGGS) at the University of Colorado Boulder. UGGS is committed to enhancing the graduate student experience by interacting with the university administration on matters such as financial aid, etc. UGGS has worked with the Graduate School to develop the Graduate Student Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.

Nestled at the foothills of the majestic Rocky Mountains in scenic Boulder, Colorado, the University of Colorado is the premier teaching and research university in the Rocky Mountain West.