While the department offers an M.A. degree on the way to the Ph.D., its central focus is on training Ph.D. students. The program begins with five required courses (out of nine) in the first year, followed by a comprehensive prelim exam the following September. The first, comprehensive training, year equips the young scholar to recognize the major approaches in sociology and many of the most frequently cited core works in the field. Later years emphasize specialized training, particularly in two special field areas, helping prepare students for graduate scholarship and, later, their initial job placement.

Students not yet ready to make a commitment to the Sociology Ph.D. may explore several more specialized M.A. programs, which allow one to take courses across the social sciences, strengthening a future application to a Chicago Ph.D. program. For example, see the Master of Arts Program in the Social Sciences.

The Ph.D. program receives over 200 applications each year, out of which it gets an entering class of about 6-8 students.

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