Online Ph.D. in Sociology

A doctoral degree in sociology prepares its graduates for a career in research and teaching. Sociology itself is very broadly defined as the study of human behavior, and how society and relationships impact this behavior. At the Ph.D. level, students may further their areas of specialization in the field. Common emphases include culture and cognition, gender inequality, sociopolitical forces, or health and population studies, among others. Ph.D. candidates are groomed to contribute to the field with original research and data analysis.

Why a Ph.D.?

Online Ph.D. in sociology programs are rigorous scholarly endeavors designed to prepare students to publish original research in a chosen specialty. New areas of relevant research are constantly emerging; for example, criminal justice, social networking, and enviro-technology study are all currently gaining traction in the field. Graduates of a doctoral program hold the most sway in the job market, and may also function as lobbyists, corporate advisors, policy-makers, or private clinicians. A Ph.D. grants the knowledge necessary for counselors to obtain state licensure, as well.

The Association of Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS) offers professional credentialing to practicing sociologists. Professionals who hold a master’s degree or Ph.D. in sociology may apply for the Certified Sociological Practitioner (C.S.P.) credential. The certification process, which is flexible and designed to accommodate areas of specialty, sends the message to colleagues and patients that your work meets the highest professional standards. Certification is granted to applicants who submit an exemplary work portfolio and letters of reference, followed by a presentation to the admissions panel.

Inside a Sociology Ph.D. Program

A typical online Ph.D. program is comprised of coursework, a teaching practicum, original research, and a written dissertation. Full-time students can finish in two years, while part-time applicants generally complete the program in three to four years. Since the main goal of these programs is to prepare the next generation of research and scholars, course work is heavily focused on research methods. Typical classes required for the doctorate might be:

  • Social Work Theory and Practice
  • Family and Group Dynamics Seminar
  • Race and Poverty
  • Social Policy and the Disenfranchised
  • Observation and Assessment
  • Experimental Design
  • Qualitative Research and Analysis
  • Advanced Statistics

Ph.D. candidates who choose to specialize may opt or advanced seminars in their chosen field of interest. In addition to class work, all candidates must spend at least one semester in a teaching practicum; these semesters will be coordinated with your academic institution’s bachelor’s or master’s degree programs in sociology.

Finally, Ph.D. candidates must propose an original research project, conduct and analyze the research, and present it to an advisory committee within three years of the proposal’s acceptance. A successful oral defense of a dissertation is the final component on the path to a Ph.D. in Sociology.

What's Next for Sociology Ph.D. Holders?

The majority of graduates of these Ph.D. programs become teachers and researchers within academia. Some, however, may also go on to positions in business, politics, or social services. The American Sociological Association reports that while the field suffered from the recession, job opportunities for sociologists are again on the upswing. Some job titles that sociologists might acquire include:

  • Statistical Analyst
  • Program Developer
  • Corporate Restructuring Director
  • Corporate Planning Manager
  • Organizational Consultant
  • Director of Research

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), research and development in the humanities and social sciences accounts for over 40% of all positions available to Ph.Ds in sociology. Nearly a third are employed in academic environments, and the rest consult or perform research in the business or government sectors.