Masters Program

Program Overview

The Free-Standing Master's degree in sociology is an intensive, one-year program that combines academic training with independent research. We encourage students to think beyond the traditional divisions between qualitative and quantitative methods, and to challenge the boundaries of sociology as a discipline. While our training specializes in ethnographic methods applied to urban environments, the program is expansive and diverse, accommodating students interested in quantitative approaches, international research, topics in education, and historical projects, among others.

Our year-long curriculum builds analytical and critical skills in sociology while supporting students through fieldwork and discovery, whether in New York's urban environment, in historical archives, in industrial settings, or other fields. Our courses build a solid foundation in sociological theory and methods, while one-on-one advising supports students as they access data sources,

select field sites, and make their way through their own research process. Our faculty works closely with students to apply concepts, develop expertise and build individual projects based on research and experiences in a variety of communities and settings. Our methods courses encourage diverse and innovative approaches to research and engagement at every step of the process, from the elaboration of projects to the final thesis draft.

For students headed toward academic careers, the year at Columbia offers an opportunity to join in the scholarly conversation by participating in our department and carrying out an independent research project. For those aiming beyond sociology, to careers in the non-profit sector or with international organizations, our program opens a space for developing, discussing and presenting sociological work relevant to the public good. The skills developed in our program support careers that rely on analytical and research skills in the corporate world, in education, and in public policy, among others.


The requirements listed below are special to this department and must be read in conjunction with the general requirements of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

The courses and points are distributed as follows:

Fall semester:

  • Classical Theory (4 points)
  • Qualitative methods (3 points)
  • Thesis seminar (3 points)
  • Field work (1 point)
  • One elective in sociology (3 points)
  • Pro-seminar (meets bi-weekly) (1 point)

Spring semester:

  • Methods workshop (4 points)
  • Thesis seminar (3 points)
  • Field work (1 point)
  • Two electives in sociology (6 points)
  • Pro-seminar (meets bi-weekly) (1 point)

Students submit the MA thesis proposal by the end of the first semester and the MA thesis by the end of the second semester.

Students are required to register for two Residence Units and to complete courses totaling at least 30 points with a grade point average of 3.00 or above. The required courses must be taken for a letter grade (20 points total) while other courses may be taken for a letter grade, R or P/F credit.

Students wishing to take courses outside of the department will need advance approval from the Masters Program Advisor, Denise Milstein (

NOTE:  Students who enrolled in the Masters Program in 2012 or earlier should discuss the details of their program requirements with the MA Advisor.