Ph.D. Program

Program Overview

The requirements listed 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.

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 impact capable 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

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

1.    2 Residence Units

2.    30 points of credit: These should include at least 24 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 G6051 Sociological Theory

b.    SOCI G6074-G6075 Introductory Social Data Analysis. This is a two-semester sequence. Students with sufficient prior statistical training should petition the DGS for exemption from these courses.

c.    SOCI G6097 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 by 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 the 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 (the 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.