PhD in Sociology

Established in 2008, this doctoral program is the first to be offered in public and applied sociology. The program was specifically conceived to address an unmet need throughout the region for sociologists with advanced training in substantive and methodological fields to directly engage problems confronting decision makers and the public.

In our public and applied Sociology Program we teach and support students in: 

  • designing research and programs to address diverse questions raised by scholars, partners, and/or clients;  
  • using a broad range of methods and techniques including comparative, qualitative, quantitative, and engaged research methodologies, as well as techniques for outreach and engagement and skills for applied research settings; and, 

  • producing a variety of outcomes, including publication in academic and popular journals and media, public events and other interventions, and program development and implementation.   

Sociology at Mason relies on what we learn from our engaged research to ensure that we perform highly relevant and reliable work. For us, practice and theory are bound together. Upon completing our program, our students have the theoretical, analytical, and professional skills and connections that allow them to transition into teaching, research, and diverse public and applied settings.  

Students in the PhD program choose from among two general areas of concentration, both central to public sociologists, and at least one additional area of specialization.


Institutions and Inequality

The Institutions and Inequality track is focused on identifying disparities in the distribution of opportunities and resources within various social institutions, including work, family, health, nutrition, and education. This track is useful to students pursuing careers within applied organizational settings in a variety of sectors, including for-profit corporations and governmental or human service organizations at municipal, county, or federal levels.


The Sociology of Globalization track offers study of transnational social structures and processes. We recognize that business, government, nongovernmental, and academic careers today require individuals with theoretical understanding of globalization, deep knowledge of real-world global issues and debates, strong empirical and methodological skills to investigate particular transnational processes, as well as innovative and contextually appropriate analytical strategies for assessing the implications and impacts of changing relations and practices operating on a variety of scales, from local to global. In addition to preparing PhD students for academic careers, this track provides a strong foundation for students electing to pursue nonacademic U.S. and international careers, whether in human rights, environmental, or other social movement organizations, international nongovernmental organizations, financial organizations promoting public transparency, social responsibility, and entrepreneurship, or government entities engaged in social and institutional development.