The Free-Standing Masters curriculum builds around the development of a Masters thesis. We encourage students to begin thinking about a thesis topic before arriving at Columbia. The research focus of the program creates an exceptional, collaborative, hands-on environment, which fosters analytical skills, critical abilities, and enriches oral and written communication. Outstanding theses provide the basis for publishable articles, conference presentations, preliminary dissertation research for students aiming to continue into a PhD program, and contributing to policy discussions.

The required courses accompany students step by step through the process of carrying out research, analyzing data, and manuscript development. Students take five core courses, one in theory, two in methods, and a two semester thesis seminar. Our theory course delves into the discipline’s foundational ideas and prepares students for the more contemporary theories they will encounter in electives and department seminars, work groups, and discussions. The first semester methodology course is a module based introduction to cutting edge perspectives in sociology. Three faculty members teach their own approaches to research, providing students with the tools to think about and begin exploring their ares of interest. The second semester methodology workshop offers a collaborative environment in which students work through the puzzles and challenges that come up in their research and solve problems together. Students also receive credit for time spent in field work, and are expected to check in with their academic advisers as their projects evolve.

In addition to the basic requirements, MA students take elective courses from among graduate course offerings in sociology. Those wishing to take courses in other programs and departments may do so with the approval of the MA advisor.


The Directory of Classes lists most courses available to you as a Masters Student. For courses at Teachers College, please refer to their independent course listing. You may take courses numbered 4000 and above.

Here is a key to the prefix and numbering system that will help you understand which courses are open to you:

Joint undergraduate and graduate courses – UG prefix; 4000s. These are advanced courses geared toward undergraduate students available to graduate students or geared toward both undergraduate and graduate students

Courses for graduate students – GR prefix, or G and another letter.  Courses in the 5000s denote MAO only courses. Courses in the 6000s denote survey/core/graduate level introductory courses. Courses in the 8000s are advanced graduate courses. Finally, courses in the 9000s are Independent Study courses. Independent Study courses are rare among MA students. Students may take Independent Study courses with a faculty member only after getting consent from the faculty member and coming to agreement about the course of study and requirements.