What is the typical sequence of courses taken by PhD students?

The typical sequence for the first two years of course work for PhD students is outlined here: /files/sociology/docs/typicalprog07.pdf.  

Students seeking a PhD in sociology must take all of the following:

  1. 3 quarters of statistics;
  2. 2 quarters of Proseminar in Sociology;
  3. 1 quarter of Sociology Research Design;
  4. 2 quarters of Sociological Theory;
  5. 1 quarter of advanced sociological methodology; and
  6.  9 sociology seminars

I have taken some of the required courses at my previous university. What are the procedures for requesting a waiver of required courses? Are there forms and deadlines?

Students admitted for a PhD who already have a master’s degree in sociology or some other social science field may be able to waive some of the first-year courses. Normally, sociology seminars outside the core courses are not waived. Students hoping to waive one of the core courses such as statistics or theory must petition the graduate directors and submit a syllabus, prior course work, and proof of a satisfactory grade.  Decisions about whether or not a course may be waived are made on a case by case basis. 

Can I take courses in other departments, other schools, or other UC campuses? Do I need to get approval before I take the course? How do I get credit after I have taken the course?

You can take courses in other departments and schools at UCI. It is recommended that you contact the instructor to obtain permission to take the class. You can enroll and get credit for the class using WebReg:

You can also take courses at any UC campus. Again, it is recommended that you contact the instructor to obtain permission to take the class. You will also need to fill out the following form: The form must be signed by the Chair of the Sociology Department and returned to the Office of Graduate Studies. The form will then be sent to the respective UC campus for additional signatures and approval. Processing the form and obtaining all the required signatures can take up to 4 weeks so it is recommended that you submit the form to the Office of Graduate Studies as soon as possible. The Office of Graduate Studies will send you notification once your request has been approved. Your grade will automatically be sent to the UCI Registrar’s Office.

Is there a limit on the number of Special Topics 269 courses I can take?

No – as long as they are different courses.

Can I take an incomplete grade?

Incomplete grades are used when a portion of the assigned or required course work has not been completed. Incomplete grades are discouraged by the Department and should only be used in cases of serious illness, extreme personal circumstances, or scholarly reasons as determined by the instructor. Accumulating multiple incomplete grades is indicative of unsatisfactory progress in the program, will be noted during the annual student evaluations, and may affect students' funding. Incomplete grades become F's after a year.

Where can I find out about rules for academic leaves of absence?  What about the associated forms?

Refer to the following for guidelines and general instructions for academic leave of absence:



I was assigned a temporary advisor when I entered the program and I would like to switch to another advisor. How should I do that?

Each entering student is assigned a temporary faculty advisor. Students may change advisors if they find another faculty member or members who agree to serve as the new advisor(s). They should inform all relevant parties about any changes. It is imperative that you have an advisor throughout your tenure in the program.

Can I have co-advisors? Can one of my co-advisors be from outside the Department?

Yes. A dissertation committee consists of at least three faculty members, two of whom must be members of the UCI Sociology Department.  See section on Dissertation Writing: /files/sociology/docs/gradreq.pdf



When am I expected to complete the second-year paper?

The second year paper is due toward the end of the spring quarter of the second year.  Submission of the paper is accompanied by a formal oral presentation during the middle of the spring quarter. Refer to the following for further information on the second year paper: /files/sociology/docs/2yrpaperreq.pdf.

I’d like to begin research early for my second-year paper. Is there anything I should know before beginning?

Two things. First, you should talk about your prospective research with a faculty member who may serve as your advisor. Second, you should review the guidelines on research with human subjects. If you plan to use human subjects in your research, you must submit an application to the Institutional Review Board. See the following:



When am I expected to complete the field exams?

Students typically take field exams in their third or fourth year, but must have successfully completed their exams by the end of the fourth year.

There are two field exams, each of which test a student’s knowledge in a particular subfield in sociology.  One field exam consists of six to eight broad essay questions, from which students choose to answer three or four.   Exams are administered on university premises over an eight-hour period including a one-hour break, unless otherwise determined by the cluster coordinator. Students may use hard copies of notes but not books or electronic media. The final product must be presented in a standard word-processed format.

The other field exam requires students to submit past work for three completed courses to a committee of two faculty members.  The work must coalesce around an established cluster in the department or, with the approval of the graduate director(s) and two faculty members, around an alternative recognized field in the discipline.

Both examinations will be evaluated normally within two weeks of the exam date.

Refer to the following for further information on field exams: /files/sociology/docs/gradreqfexam07.pdf.

How will I be notified that I passed the field exam(s)?

Please ask the cluster coordinator to send an e-mail to you, the Graduate Directors, and your advisor, informing everyone of the outcome of the exam.  You should do this whether you fulfill the requirement by taking an exam or whether you submit three papers in lieu of the exam.

I would like to take a field exam in a subfield of sociology for which there is not currently an exam. Can I do that?

Yes, provided that you can find two faculty members who are willing to work with you in developing a reading list and are willing to write and administer the exam.

What if I don’t pass the field exam?

Students who fail the field exam may petition the cluster coordinator for permission to retake the exam a second and final time. Decisions are made on a case by case basis.



How are TA assignments made?

When making TA assignments, the Social Science Graduate Affairs Office takes into account students' choices for placement as well as faculty requests. Students' class schedule is also considered when making placements. Students should be aware that, given the complexities of scheduling, there is no guarantee that they will be placed in the course(s) they have requested. If there are special circumstances that make it important to know your TA assignment before the beginning of term, such as needing to make child care arrangements, you should let John Sommerhauser know that.

I have been assigned to TA a course for which I’m not well-prepared. What should I do?

TAs are required to participate in the Fall TA Professional Development Program (TAPDP). This two-day training program will help you understand your role as a new TA and help you acquire essential teaching skills in preparation for your TA duties.  Beyond that, the professor for the course should provide you the information you need to conduct discussion groups and/or evaluate students’ coursework. Again, given the complexity of scheduling, it is not possible to switch TA assignments.

A professor asked me to work with him/her as a graduate research assistant (GSR) this quarter. Can I TA too?

No, a graduate student cannot be a TA and a GSR at the same time. There is a 50% FTE limit for students and a TA-ship automatically covers the entire 50%.

Can I teach summer school classes?

Yes, graduate students are allowed to teach and/or TA during the summer.  A call goes out in the Winter Quarter asking all Sociology faculty and graduate students to indicate which classes they would like to teach in the summer.  Graduate students can teach lower-division undergraduate courses.  Special approval is required to teach upper-division courses, with a minimum requirement of advancement to candidacy. Summer sessions are handled through University Extension. Normally, about half of the classes proposed by the department are approved.

How many quarters can I TA while I am in the program?

A student is permitted to TA for a total of 18 quarters during enrollment in the program (this does not mean that he or she is guaranteed to be offered 18 quarters worth of TA spots). Students are not permitted to TA for more than 12 quarters before advancing to candidacy. Students who have not advanced to candidacy will not be offered a 13th quarter of teaching.



When am I expected to have completed my field exams, my dissertation prospectus, and my dissertation? What happens if I miss a deadline?

Students will normally complete their field exams during the third and fourth year, advance to candidacy during the fourth year, and complete the program by the end of the sixth year.  Students must advance to candidacy by the end of their fourth year in the program in order to continue to receive funding.   Students may petition the graduate directors to modify these requirements.

How is my performance assessed in the program?

The Department reviews the performance of students at the end of every academic year, taking into account students’ performance in classes, teaching, and research activities. A more formal evaluation is conducted at the end of the second year in the program. The evaluation is made by the Department on the basis of 1) the first and second years’ course work; 2) the research paper completed in the second year; 3) the oral presentation of the research; and 4) evaluation of teaching or research experience.  Unsatisfactory performance may result in the student’s discharge from the program.

I would like to get a Master's Degree, even though I plan to continue on to the PhD. What are the requirements and how should I do that?
The requirements for the MA include the coursework that is required for the PhD and a second year paper that meets departmental standards. You must also complete an MA petition and have it signed by one of the grad directors.  The petition is available here.



What are clusters and what do they do?

The Department is organized into nine clusters of expertise, which include:

  • Culture
  • Family, Life Course, and Sexualities
  • Global Inequality and Change
  • Immigration
  • Organizations, Occupations, and Labor (OOL)
  • Political Sociology and Social Movements
  • Population
  • Social Inequality: Race/Ethnicity, Gender, and Class and Stratification
  • Social Networks

Refer to the following for descriptions of each cluster: /soc_research_clusters.

Students often affiliate with one or more clusters. In addition to offering courses and administering field exams, affiliated faculty members often participate in brown bag seminars and workshops on cluster topics. These are open to all students, and students are strongly encouraged to participate in the workshops.  For more information on a cluster, see the cluster webpage, and/or contact the cluster coordinator.



How do I find out about additional sources of funding?

The Department of Sociology and the School of Social Sciences strongly encourage students to seek external funding for their graduate studies.  Being awarded an external fellowship or grant for one’s research is not only highly prestigious, but it may also free the student from TA responsibilities and allow him/her to focus on research. Please see following for information on funding opportunities:

I plan to present a paper at a conference this summer. Can the department do anything to defray some of my expenses?

First, you should seek support from the School of Social Sciences, which offers each student funding for travel to conferences.

When departmental funding is available, the Directors of Graduate Studies issue a call to all graduate students in the spring for proposals to support research and travel expenses during the summer. You should submit a proposal with a budget at that point. Ad hoc requests for travel funding are not considered. However, if funding was not available the year that you traveled to present a paper, you may apply for funding retroactively when funds do become available. 

I missed the deadline for applying for a departmental fellowship or a travel grant. Is there anything I can do?

Unfortunately not. There are limited funds and they are allocated immediately after the deadline. If you have not sought fudning from the School of Social Sciences, you should do so.

What awards are grad students eligible for? How can I be considered for an award?

The department sponsors the Robin M. Williams Jr. Student Paper Competition. This award honors the late Professor Robin M. Williams Jr., who served as a Distinguished Visiting Professor in our department for more than 15 years. One or more awards of $100-$250 are given to the best empirical research paper(s) on a topic of sociological interest by a graduate student in the sociology program. Look for the call for papers in the spring quarter.

Other departmental awards are periodically advertised to graduate students.  These awards include the Department Service Award, Outstanding Teaching Assistant Award, and Outstanding Research Award. Look for calls for nominations for these awards, as well as for university awards, which are advertised via email.



I have a topic for a dissertation. What should I do next?

Submit a dissertation research prospectus, contextualized in the appropriate scholarly literature, and including a discussion of data collection and methods of analysis. After the student’s advisor has approved the prospectus, an oral examination will focus on the student's defense of the prospectus, which then must be approved by the student’s Advancement to Candidacy Committee. 

Who should be on the Advancement to Candidacy Committee?

The Advancement to Candidacy Committee is composed of five faculty members, including at least three members of the Sociology faculty, and at least one faculty member from another department.  The outside member can be from another department within UCI, from another UC campus, or from another university.

My dissertation prospectus has been approved. Now what?

Having advanced to candidacy, the student must form a Dissertation Committee of at least three faculty members, at least two of whom must be members of the Sociology Department.  At this point, the student should work very closely with his/her advisor (who is also the Chair of the student’s dissertation committee).

Can I include on my dissertation committee professors from other departments? What about from other universities? 

Yes, you can include professors from other departments and universities, depending on their appointment. However, a professor from another department or university cannot chair your dissertation committee.  The Chair of your dissertation committee must be a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at UCI.

Can I include on my dissertation committee professors from other departments? What about from other universities? 
Yes, you can include professors from other departments and universities, depending on their appointment. However, a professor from another department or university cannot chair your dissertation committee.  The Chair of your dissertation committee must be a faculty member in the Department of Sociology at UCI.



I am about the complete the final draft of my dissertation. What do I do now?

When you and your advisor believe that you are ready to defend your dissertation, you should contact the Department Manager, Maryann Zovak-Wieder at to schedule a dissertation defense. Make sure to allow enough time for members of your Committee to review the dissertation before the defense (generally 4-6 weeks). After a final oral defense of the dissertation, Committee members will approve a satisfactory dissertation, or they may require revisions before the student may formally submit the dissertation.



There are many questions related to graduate student life that are better addressed to people other than the Graduate Directors in Sociology. The following may be helpful:

If you have questions that are not answered here or want to share information with the department, use the graduate program email:   You will receive a quicker answer to your question than by contacting the grad directors directly.

If you need a signature from one of the co-grad directors, either visit one of them during her office hours, or put the form in one of their mailboxes, with an explanatory note. The co-grad director will review and sign it, if appropriate, and return it to your mailbox.

If you have a specific question that is not answered here, contact one of the grad directors by email, at or, or visit them during office hours.

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