2023 Best Online PhD in Sociology Programs

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If you want to make a positive impact on society, you may want to research PhD in Sociology programs. Earning a doctoral degree in sociology can help prepare you for an advanced career in this rewarding field.

Best Online PhD in Sociology Programs

Sociologists study the relationships between people and organizations to help reduce conflict and strengthen collaboration. They design research studies, conduct interviews and surveys, analyze data, and present their research to the public.

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Sociology doctoral programs also offer excellent preparation for a wide range of positions with different types of employers.

PhD in Sociology Programs Online

Man taking PhD in Sociology online

PhD programs in sociology have a heavy focus on applied research. In other words, students learn research methods and use them to find solutions to some of society’s most pressing problems.

Over the course of a doctoral degree program, you can discover applications of sociology in areas like policy development, public health, and the justice system. You’ll likely use methods like interviews, observations, and surveys to better understand these critical issues.

Some of the subjects that you can expect to study while earning a sociology PhD include:

  • Data analysis
  • Research strategies
  • Ethnography
  • History
  • Theory
  • Urban planning
  • Diversity and inequality

In addition to completing courses in these topics, you can also choose a special area of interest as the focus of your final project or dissertation. For a dissertation, you’ll complete original research and share your findings through a paper that you’ll then present to department faculty.

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While pursuing an advanced degree in sociology, you can develop expertise in leadership, communication, and data collection and analysis. These skills transfer to a number of potential career paths. Many sociology PhD graduates become postsecondary educators who work for colleges and universities. Others take on roles as sociologists, working for employers like:

  • Private businesses
  • Health organizations
  • Law firms
  • Criminal justice organizations
  • Research firms
  • Survey and polling organizations
  • Government agencies
  • International agencies

All of these organizations look for sociology professionals who excel at studying and understanding group interactions, analyzing context, and offering suggestions for improvement.

Sociology graduates may also opt for other career opportunities that draw on their highly developed skills. For example, professionals with a PhD in Sociology may be well-suited to positions as administrators in business, higher education, healthcare, or government.

Sociology Careers and Salaries

Sociology Careers and Salaries

When students pursue a doctoral degree in sociology, they typically plan to go into academic or research careers. Their extensive knowledge in the field makes them uniquely qualified to conduct studies and offer knowledge and insight to incoming students.

While many sociology professionals earn higher than average salaries, the type of employer has a significant effect on earning potential. For example, sociologists working for state government tend to earn substantially more than those in educational services. Many sociology graduates also find success in other fields, including human resources, management, and writing.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some potential career paths related to the advanced study of sociology.

Careers Annual Median Salaries
Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Managers $133,380
Human Resources Managers $126,230
Public Relations Managers $125,780
Training and Development Managers $120,130
Postsecondary Education Administrators $96,910
Sociologists $92,910
Technical Writers $78,060
Postsecondary Sociology Teachers $77,980
Survey Researchers $59,740
Social Workers $50,390

Working as a sociology professional has the potential for above-average earnings. The Bureau of Labor Statistics also projects that most of these areas of employment will experience steady job growth over the next several years.

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Sociologists, training and development managers, and postsecondary education administrators are all expected to experience growth that is as fast as average. This may offer assurance that job opportunities will continue to be available for the foreseeable future.

Doctor of Sociology Curriculum & Courses

People taking PhD in Sociology, discussing a group work

Each sociology doctoral program is unique in its requirements, but the curriculum for most of these programs will focus heavily on theory and research. These are some common courses that you may encounter when pursuing a PhD in Sociology:

  • Principles of Sociological Research: This class provides an overview of research methods in sociology, including interviewing, surveying, evaluation, and observation.
  • Ethnography: Students in this course learn how to collect, analyze, and compile ethnographic materials that help describe and understand individual and cultural practices.
  • Sociology of Health and Illness: The focus of this class is medical sociology and the examination of medical organizations and institutions.
  • Advanced Quantitative Research Methods: In this class, you’ll learn about quantitative methods through clinical trials and experimental designs.
  • Statistical Reasoning: You’ll learn about subjects including sampling, inference, hypothesis testing, correlation, and regression.
  • Social Inequality: This class centers on the ways that characteristics like class, race, and gender affect power dynamics and create systems of inequality.
  • Urban Sociology: Students in this class discuss how urban development relates to and affects social groups.
  • Contemporary Sociological Theory: In this course, you’ll learn about contemporary theories of sociology, including structural-functionalism, symbolic interactionism, and humanist sociology.
  • Classic Sociological Theory: This class focuses on theories of sociology dating up to the early 1900s, including major voices like Marx and Weber.
  • Methods in Anthropology: In this class, you’ll explore anthropological research methods, particularly those related to ethnographic studies.

You may have the opportunity to pursue elective courses—such as feminist research or health policy—to further explore your interests. Most PhD programs in sociology also include independent research and dissertation requirements.

How to Choose an Online PhD in Sociology Program

Colleagues at work, checking online for Sociology PhD programs

Selecting an online PhD in Sociology program is a major decision. When you research schools offering an online sociology degree, it may be helpful to keep these factors in mind:

  • Format. Working professionals and students with other obligations can benefit from enrolling in a fully online PhD sociology program. You can make note of whether a program has any limitations on the number of credit hours you have to complete each semester or if it requires students to attend any on-campus meetings or lectures.
  • Accreditation. Attending an accredited program is critical because it ensures that you are receiving a reputable degree that will be recognized by potential employers.
  • Admission requirements. Some schools require you to have completed a master’s degree in sociology, while others offer combined master’s and PhD programs.
  • Specializations. If you hope to pursue a particular area of focus when completing your degree, you can investigate any specializations that a sociology PhD program may provide.
  • Quality. Researching a program’s graduation rate, job placement rate, and faculty can help determine whether it’s a good fit for your needs.
  • Cost. Public and private universities often charge very different tuition rates, so it’s helpful to look into the cost and any financial aid opportunities that may be available.
  • Resources. Many online programs offer student support resources that are equivalent to on-campus experiences. You can look for offerings like career counseling, library facilities, and alumni networks.

If you’re struggling to find information for any of these program elements, you can speak directly to a school’s admissions office to learn more.

Admissions Requirements

Woman preparing requirements for PhD in Sociology

Sociology PhD programs admit students based on several factors. These are some common admissions criteria:

  • Test scores. Some programs require students to submit GRE scores for admission.
  • Resume. Identify your relevant work, publishing, and volunteer experience.
  • Transcripts. Submit your official undergraduate and graduate transcripts.
  • Personal statement. Many programs require a writing sample that explains your goals and interest in the program.
  • Recommendation letters. You can ask former instructors and supervisors to describe your strengths in the field.

When applying for admission, you may be required to submit separate applications to the graduate school and the sociology doctoral program.

Accreditation

University offering PhD in Sociology

When researching your options for a sociology PhD, it’s helpful to keep in mind that accredited programs are preferable. Academic departments can apply for national or regional accreditation status and must undergo a thorough evaluation process.

Regional accreditation is widely regarded as the gold standard because the requirements are so high. This helps ensure that you receive a quality education for your investment. In most cases, it is easier to transfer credits from a regionally accredited program.

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Potential employers are also likely to look more favorably at a degree from an accredited PhD program, which may help strengthen your candidacy for a future position.

Financial Aid and Scholarships

PhD in Sociology financial aid

Earning a doctoral degree requires a financial investment. To help reduce your out-of-pocket expense, you can explore financial aid opportunities from multiple sources.

Many students begin their search for financial aid by filing a FAFSA, which determines whether you are eligible for federal aid. Your state may also have available aid programs, such as grants, for certain students and programs.

Scholarships offer another avenue for financial aid. You can consult an online database, professional organizations, and the financial aid office at your prospective school to find scholarships tailored to your field and background.

If you are currently working in a job related to sociology, your employer may offer a tuition assistance or reimbursement program to help you develop your professional skills. You could inquire about available options with your supervisor or the human resources department.

What Can I Do with a PhD in Sociology?

Sociologists in a meeting

After graduating with a PhD in Sociology, many students go on to become professional researchers or academics. Government agencies, private businesses, and universities hire sociologists to offer their insights into human behavior, culture, and group interactions.

Graduates of sociology PhD programs often make above-average salaries, with some earning more than six figures each year. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, postsecondary sociology teachers and sociologists earn median salaries of $77,980 and $92,910, respectively. Other possible career opportunities for sociology professionals include writing, human resources, market research, and management.

Some students feel there is really no limit as to what you can do with a sociology degree.

Do You Need a Masters to Get a PhD in Sociology?

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While a master’s degree might strengthen your application to a sociology PhD program, it is not necessarily a requirement. Some programs only admit students who have already earned a master’s degree and can provide official transcripts.

Other schools admit students who have only earned a bachelor’s degree, allowing them to immediately begin a PhD program. Students generally receive a master’s degree midway through the doctoral program. If you earned a bachelor’s or master’s degree in a field other than sociology, that doesn’t mean you can’t pursue a PhD. Many sociology PhD programs admit students from different academic backgrounds.

Are Sociology PhD Programs Hard?

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Whether a PhD program in sociology will be challenging for you depends on your strengths, background, and interests. Some of the subjects you can expect to study include:

  • Statistics
  • Research methods
  • Theories of sociology
  • Anthropology

Sociology students explore interactions between human populations and their environments. They use advanced forms of research, quantitative and qualitative analysis, and critical reasoning to do so. While completing your degree, you can expect to read extensively, debate theoretical frameworks, and examine historical sociological contexts.

You will have the opportunity to learn about the ways that social groups, organizations, and institutions affect one another.

Can I Get a PhD in Sociology Online?

Woman taking online PhD in Sociology

For students in the workforce or with busy schedules, committing to an on-campus PhD program may seem impossible. Earning a sociology PhD fully online offers flexibility that can make an advanced degree a reality for students in these circumstances.

Many colleges and universities offer PhD programs in sociology or closely related fields. During these programs, you will complete your coursework virtually and communicate with professors and classmates through email, chats, discussion boards, and video sessions.

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Accredited online programs offer the same level of academic rigor as their traditional counterparts, allowing you to gain knowledge on your own schedule.

How Much Money Can You Make with a PhD in Sociology?

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A PhD in Sociology can help you develop the skills necessary to succeed in research, teaching, and leadership positions. These jobs often offer competitive pay with opportunities for growth and advancement.

As a sociology PhD graduate, you may be well-qualified to pursue a career as a sociologist with a research and development organization. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for this role is $99,640. Most sociologists make between $60,770 and $135,420 each year, depending on their level of experience and chosen industry.

The knowledge you earn may also help you become a public relations or human resources manager. Both of these positions have median salaries above $120,000 a year.

How Long Is an Online Sociology PhD Program?

Man pursuing his PhD in Sociology online

It generally takes students between 3 and 5 years to graduate with a PhD, depending on the number of required credit hours and the length of the dissertation.

Most students complete the classwork component of their PhDs within 3 years and spend the remainder of their program conducting research and completing a dissertation. Students who attend part-time can anticipate a longer period of study and research prior to graduation.

Full-time students may be able to complete an accelerated doctoral program within 3 years if there is no dissertation requirement.

Is a Doctorate in Sociology Worth It?

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Yes, a doctorate in sociology is worth it for many professionals. Sociology is a critical area of study for all types of organizations, including the criminal justice system, healthcare facilities, private businesses, academic institutions, and government agencies.

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, careers for sociology professionals are projected to grow at average or faster-than-average rates over the next ten years. This includes the most popular career paths, such as sociologists (5% job growth) and sociology postsecondary teachers (8%). Management positions in human resources, public relations, and marketing are expected to see positive growth as well.

Universities Offering Online PhD in Sociology Degree Programs

Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.

Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University

Oklahoma State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University

Sacred Heart University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.

University of Iowa

University of Iowa

The University of Iowa is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Wayne State University

Wayne State University

Wayne State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.

Earning Your PhD in Sociology Online

Woman completing her PhD in Sociology online

Sociologists help ensure that society can function and flourish. With a PhD in Sociology, you may help contribute to this important field of study as a researcher, teacher, administrator, or consultant.

While earning your sociology degree, you can learn how to conduct in-depth research and use the results to best guide the decision-making process. These skill-sets could enable you to influence an organization’s future success. If you enjoy examining data, exploring human interactions, and helping groups interact more peacefully, a doctoral degree in sociology may be a good fit.

You can begin your doctoral journey today by researching accredited schools that offer online sociology PhD programs.

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Kama Offenberger
WRITTEN BY
Kama Offenberger
Kama has a master's degree in English from Virginia Tech and a bachelor's in English from Concord University. She previously taught college-level English composition, literature, and English as a second language courses. She is now a full-time writer in the education field, with a particular focus on educational technology and pedagogical best practices for English language learners.