Ph.D. Requirements

The requirements listed below are special to this department and must be read in conjunction with the general requirements of the Graduate School. In addition, students are urged to consult either the department’s or the University’s website directly for further information and course descriptions.

Ph.D. revised 11-12-2013

The Ph.D. requirements reflect what students need to do after they leave the department and become academic sociologists. Assistant professors of sociology need to be well-grounded in the discipline of sociology, fully knowledgeable about the critical debates in at least one field so that their  work will have strategic impactcapable of designing and carrying out research projects, able to present research results in written and oral form, and ready to teach courses. In short, students completing a Ph.D. in our program will need to apply for grants; to publish articles and/or books; and to present their work in professional meetings.

The typical trajectory through Columbia's Ph.D. program includes the awarding of the M.A. (usually after the second year) and M.Phil. degrees (usually after the third year). "All but dissertation" (ABD) status usually is achieved in the student's fourth year. Some students receive “Advanced Standing” equivalent to the awarding of an M.A. degree, and therefore proceed somewhat more quickly through the program. GSAS Advanced Standing policy is  discussed at


Requirements of the M.A., M.phil. degrees,

To receive the M.A. degree, students must complete:

1.    2 Residence Units

2.    24 points of credit: These should include at least 18 points of courses taken for a letter grade or Pass/Fail, and up to 6 points of R credit, all taken within the department. Courses may be taken outside the department but only with prior authorization from the DGS. Per the departmental guidelines for formal admission to the doctoral program, 18 points of courses taken for a letter grade (or pass/fail) are to be completed in the first year.

3.    Satisfactory completion of, or exemption from, required courses: Generally these courses are taken in the first year. They are generally offered for Pass/Fail only. They are:

a.    SOCI G4050 Sociological Theory

b.    SOCI G4074-G4075 Introductory Social Data Analysis (or equivalent, such as SOCI 84013-84014 Quantitative Analysis Techniques). This is a two-semester sequence. Students with sufficient prior statistical training should petition the DGS for exemption from these courses.

c.    SOCI G4097 Designs of Social Research

4.    A weekly, noncredit professional seminar (see DGS for further information): This is to be completed in the first and second semesters. Attendance is compulsory, but registration is not required.

5.    Students must also satisfy the requirements of the Graduate School. It is the student's responsibility to apply for the M.A. degree in a timely fashion, upon completion of all necessary requirements. Ph.D. students are expected to apply for the M.A. degree before the end of semester four.

To earn the M.Phil. degree, students must complete all requirements for the M.A. degree, six Residence Units,  required coursework, and four essential tasks that the department has deemed essential to students’ professional development as sociologists. Timely completion of the M.Phil. ensures that students retain full eligibility for departmental, GSAS, and outside fellowships, as well as for other forms of support. As with the M.A., it is the student's responsibility to observe all departmental and GSAS deadlines when applying for the M.Phil. degree.

M.Phil. requirements:  Students must

1.    Complete 6 Residence Units. These include the 2 earned for the M.A. degree, or those received for Advanced standing (see below).

2.    Complete a total of 48 points of credit: At least 36 points taken for a letter grade (or Pass/Fail ), plus as many as 12 points of R-credit courses. These must include those courses required for the M.A. degree.

3.    Pass 3 additional courses:

·         An advanced theory course (to be approved by the DGS)

·         An advanced methods course (to be approved by the DGS)

·         The Graduate Research Practicum, generally taken in semester five (for R credit only)

4.    The 4 essential tasks are:

·         Write and submit a grant/fellowship application for a research project. The application need not be accepted to be considered a fulfillment of the requirement. The advisor, however, must approve the application.

·         Write a field statement on a topic of their choice. The topic must be approved by both the advisor and the DGS, the completed paper must be approved by the advisor only.

·         Write and submit a paper to be presented at a professional conference. To fulfill the requirement, the paper must be presented at a forum, though not necessarily at the professional conference to which it was submitted. For example, it can be presented at a departmental, institute, or center workshop at Columbia. The choice of forum must be approved the advisor.

·         Write and submit a paper to a scholarly journal. The journal submission requirement counts as the M.Phil. paper. To fulfill the requirement the paper need not be accepted by the journal.. If the paper is co-authored, the student must be first author.  It should not be a paper published before the student joined the department, unless the DGS approves it as an exception. To fulfill the requirement, the paper must be approved by a two-member committee (he advisor and one other faculty member who can be the DGS). That committee makes one of the following decisions (1) approve the paper and recommend continuation in the Ph.D. program; (2) approve the paper but not recommend continuation in the Ph.D.program.  If course requirements have been fulfilled the student earns the M.Phil. and is dismissed from the program; or (3) reject the paper, in which case the student leaves with the M.A. degree if those requirements have been met.

                     5.    After students complete the requirements for the M.Phil. degree the Department submits the M.Phil. forms to GSAS. 

Post M.phil Requirements.

Workshop participation. When students receive their Mphil, they no longer take courses and thus generally register either under the category of "Extended Residence" or of "Matriculation and Facilities." To ensure that they nonetheless remain a part of the departmental community, Post-Mphil students are expected to participate (when possible) in at least one of the department's approved workshops. They are also expected to present some aspect of their work in such a workshop at least once annually. These workshops are relatively low-key small-group discussions that are designed to provide students with "horizontal" interaction with peers around their research and writing. They may include "pre-Mphil" students, faculty, and be interdisciplinary. The population of workshop is fluid, as it will reflect the interests and abilities of existing cohorts. Students who would like an additional workshop approved should contact the Director of Graduate studies

ABD (All but Dissertation) status. The department recommends that students continue in the Ph.D. program if and only if a faculty member approved to sponsor dissertations in Sociology has indicated willingness to advise that student on the dissertation. The student must submit the dissertation proposal for approval to a committee of three faculty, chaired by the advisor. It should be submitted by Feb 1 of the student's fourth year. The proposal is defended before the committee (which, due to scheduling concerns, may extend past Feb 1 but should not extend past May 31st). The committee may include at most one member external to the department. As per GSAS policy, the student cannot receive his/her 5th year of funding—the so-called “DF year”—unless they have defended their proposal. The student also cannot be allowed to serve as a departmental lecturer (i.e. in the summer term) unless s/he has achieved ABD status.

Receiving the Ph.D.:Students must successfully conduct research for, write, defend, and deposit their doctoral dissertation according to the rules of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at

Standards for goodacademic standing

The formal requirements for the maintenance of good academic standing are defined in terms of the completion of required coursework and steady progress towards the aforementioned "4 essential tasks." Exceptions may be granted by agreement of the faculty during the Graduate Student Reviews (which are held annually in the spring semester).

To ensure that they are in good academic standing, students must:

1.    Complete 24 credits of coursework by the end of their second year and a total of 48 credits by the end of the third year. Incomplete coursework may lead to dismissal from the program

2.    Complete the 4 essential tasks in a steady progression. This means:

  1. 1 requirement must be completed by the end of the Fall semester of the second year (note that this means also that the student must have found their faculty advisor approved to sponsor dissertations by this time, as it is this advisor who must approve all studies for the Ph.D.).
  2. 2 requirements must be completed by the end of the Spring semester of the second year.
  3. All 4 requirements must be completed by the end of the third year.

3.    The dissertation proposal should be approved by the three-member committee by February 1st of the student's fourth year.

4.    Students who have completed their Mphil should participate when feasible, and present at least once annually, in an approved departmental workshop barring special dispensation from the Director of Graduate Studies.

If students do not complete all requirements as stipulated below by the end of a given year, or if the work is deemed inadequate, they will receive feedback in writing, a deadline for completing the work, and a written warning that if the work is not corrected as stipulated, they will  be asked to leave the program. Generally such feedback is reported after the Graduate Student Reviews and delivered in April

Additional considerations

Ph.D. Teaching requirement: Students are expected to participate in the instructional activities of the department. Students generally do this in the second, third, and fourth years of study by serving as assistants to professors in introductory undergraduate courses or other types of assignments. Students interested in broadening their teaching apprenticeships are eligible to lecture courses in the summer, or apply to teach in the Columbia College Core Program after they earn the M.Phil. Students may only apply to be a Core preceptor if they have or expect to have the M.Phil. by the May prior to being appointed as a preceptor, and if they are not past their sixth year of registration during the first year of the Core preceptorship. Students may not hold instructional appointments after year seven, but may serve as lecturers.

Language requirement: Students are not required to demonstrate proficiency in any language with the following exception. International students for whom English is not their native language and who have not previously earned an undergraduate degree at an English-speaking college or university must pass the ALP (American Language Program) two-part examination with a grade of 10 before the end of semester two. This is a requirement of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. Instructors of the first-year required courses assess the language skills of all students. Students deemed inadequately prepared in English are required to take a language course approved by the DGS.

Advanced Standing: The standard route to a doctoral degree in the Department of Sociology is for students to first earn the M.A., typically at the end of the second year, then the M.Phil., typically at the end of the third year, and finally the Ph.D. Some students, however, are granted advanced standing. This means that the M.A. requirement is waived, the student is granted up to 27 course credits and up to 2 Residence Units, and is moved one year ahead in the program, and typically the M.Phil. requirements are fulfilled by the end of the second year. Students receiving Advanced Standing for the M.A. degree are not eligible to receive an M.A. from Columbia University. Students who obtain Advanced Standing are not exempted, by virtue of that standing from any of the required courses or from the Department's "4 essential tasks."  .  The GSAS Advanced Standing policy can be found at