Fall 2014 Cohort

How to Apply

Every year the Sociology Department enrolls between six and ten new doctoral students on the basis of the following:

  1. Application form
  2. Personal statement (no more than 3 single-spaced pages)
  3. At least three letters of recommendation
  4. A writing sample (in English, preferably 25-30 double-spaced pages)
  5. Transcripts of all previous academic study (where you earned more than 9 credits)
  6. TOEFL scores for international students

The Graduate Records Examination (GRE) is not required for admission, but applicants are welcome to submit scores with their application.

We accept students with a Bachelor's or Master’s degree in a field other than Sociology, as long as they indicate how their current interests led them to apply. However, we do expect candidates to have some coursework in Sociology or evidence of familiarity with sociological theories and methods.

Please note: Though our students may earn a Master’s degree on the way to the PhD, we do not accept applications from those only interested in pursuing a Master’s degree in Sociology. (The department does have a Master’s Program in Labor Studies, with a separate application process.) Those entering the doctoral program with a Master's degree may be required to take additional courses if their training and course work do not correspond to the requirements for the Master's degree in this department.

Also note: It is not necessary to establish a relationship with a potential mentor before applying to our program. Mentors are selected in the course of graduate studies.

Application Forms

Application forms are available online. The application deadline is December 31. We do not accept applications that come in after that date.

It takes our Admissions Committee five to six weeks to process applications, so the earliest you should expect to hear from us is the end of February.

Personal Statement

Your statement should be no more than three single-spaced pages. In your statement, discuss why you want to earn a doctorate in Sociology, your research interests and experiences, and why this department would be a good fit for you. You may also spend a paragraph discussing any special skills or background (e.g., graduate-level methods course, first generation status, etc.) that may relate to your teaching and research interests. You may describe a research project you would like to undertake, or simply discuss what motivates you to pursue a Ph.D. in Sociology. If you feel there are aspects of your record that do not reflect your potential, such as your GRE scores or GPA, please explain.

Letters of Recommendation

We require at least three letters of recommendation, though you are welcome to submit more. These letters should be from people who can evaluate your potential as a scholar; they should include faculty who have taught you in college or graduate courses.

Writing Sample

Please submit an example of your written work, such as a research paper, undergraduate honors thesis, or master’s thesis. This need not be a sociological analysis, but should represent your scholarly interests and writing ability. All writing samples must be in English. Please do not send more than one writing sample. One 25-30 page paper is sufficient.

TOEFL Scores

Applicants from countries whose native language is not English must submit scores of the Test of English as a Foreign Language. See the FAQs on the UMass Amherst Graduate School’s Admissions website for details of this requirement and whether it is applicable to you.

Please see the UMass Amherst Graduate School’s Admissions website and the current UMass Amherst Graduate School Bulletin for additional requirements. Applications for admission are not reviewed until all credentials have been received and the fee is paid. According to UMass Amherst Graduate School policy, the application fee is waived only for U.S. applicants who qualify to receive a GRE fee waiver or are McNair Scholars and submit appropriate documentation. The fee or waiver documentation must accompany the application; otherwise the application will not be processed or considered.


We receive hundreds of inquiries each year. For this reason, we may not always be able to respond to individual emails, though we try our best and appreciate your patience. Please read through the following information carefully and visit the UMass Graduate School admissions page and Department of Sociology admissions page for further information.

If you have specific questions about the program that are not answered here, please email Graduate Program Manager (GPM).

Are you admitting applicants this year? 

We are currently accepting applications for fall 2024. All applicants must submit materials through the Graduate School application portal by December 31, 2023. There is no early decision/priority decision deadline. All applications are reviewed after December 31st. 

What standardized tests are required?

Due to the pandemic’s impact on accessing testing, submission of GRE scores is optional. Scores will not be considered by the admissions committee. Please see the Graduate School's guidelines for English Language Proficiency Testing including waiver conditions. In general, proficiency tests are required by the Graduate School if English is not your first language and you are not a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Do you waive application fees?

The Department of Sociology offers a limited number of application fee waivers for students applying from the Global South. Please contact the GPM for more details. 

What kind of funding can I expect?

All admitted doctoral students are guaranteed ten semesters (five years) of funding in the form of teaching and research assistantships, upon maintaining good standing. Currently, the assistantships carry a tuition waiver and 95% health fee reduction. The annual salary for our graduate students is $23,000. Upon exhausting the ten semesters of funding, students may seek opportunities in other departments, apply for fellowships, and/or seek teaching opportunities off-campus.

Do you accept transfer credits?

The Department of Sociology accepts transfer credits for non-required courses under limited circumstances. Admitted students may submit the syllabus for a course from an external institution for review by the GPD. For credits that would be counted toward department-required courses, please visit the Graduate School website for more information. 

What is the admissions committee looking for?

The makeup of the admissions committee differs every year. In general, the committee considers applications holistically with attention to unique components such as personal statement, writing sample, transcripts, and letters of recommendation. Applicants should prioritize writing a clear statement of purpose and objectives as part of their personal statement to highlight their clear interest in sociological research. We encourage applicants to gather information about department faculty as well as various institutional entities associated with the department (e.g., ISSR, CRF, CEE, RSI). Among the many factors we look at, aside from prior academic record, are: a passion and commitment to the discipline; skills and preparation that an applicant might bring; an idea of the work that the applicant is hoping to accomplish (knowing that this may change with time and experience); and fit with the department, such that research interests connect with different faculty who can in turn support students in their intellectual work. We also aim for a balanced cohort, with different theoretical, methodological, and substantive interests.

What kind of mentorship can I expect early on?

Admitted students are assigned two faculty advisors in their areas of interest in their first year. It is the responsibility of each student to build working relationships with faculty as they progress through the program in order to form comprehensive exam and dissertation committees. While we endeavor to place first year students with their preferred faculty mentors, however, it is dependent on faculty schedules. 

Should I contact faculty advisors before applying?

You are welcome to contact faculty prior to applying if you are wishing to ask specific questions about their research agenda. With some exceptions, it is not generally recommended that you ask faculty to review application materials. 

Do you offer MA degrees?

The department does not have a terminal master's program to which you can apply, just a PhD. In the natural course of their studies, students have the option of obtaining a master's degree along the way. The application requirements can be found here.