Admissions for the PhD Program


Welcome!  We are pleased to learn of your interest in our graduate program in Sociology at Michigan State University. We have an exciting program composed of 24 graduate faculty and approximately 30 graduate students in residence. Although we have a diverse range of teaching and research areas represented in the Department, we have particular strengths in Environment, Health and Medicine, and Migration. Our strength is augmented by outstanding affiliated sociologists in James Madison College, the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, and the College of Education. The Sociology graduate program prepares graduate students for a variety of career options in academic and applied settings by providing a solid basis in foundational sociological knowledge as well as cutting edge research methods and sociological theories.

New full-time students are admitted for the fall semester only. Students may apply for financial assistance in the form of teaching assistantships, research assistantships, or university fellowships. The number of assistantships available to students varies from year to year.  It is highly competitive.

Applicants to the Department of Sociology PhD Program must have all required Sociology application materials submitted and your application fee paid to be considered for admission. We will be using email to communicate with you during the application process. Please check your email regularly. The deadline for submissions of applicant materials is December 15 for the upcoming fall semester. Admission and funding decisions are announced in early April.  Other detailed information regarding the application follows.

Again, thanks for your interest in our program.  Please let me know if additional information is needed about the program, university, the East Lansing community.  I can be contacted via e-mail at


Sandra Marquart-Pyatt.

How to Apply

Go to the Michigan State University Admissions Application and apply to the Department of Sociology PhD Program - Major Code: 4536.

Application Uploads

LETTERS OF RECOMMENDATION - (Graduate Education Portal)

(3) Letters of Recommendation addressing the applicant’s academic and professional potential should also be submitted by your recommenders. Your recommenders will be prompted to fill out an online Rating questionnaire. Instructions on entering the recommender names and contact information are below:

  • Log in to your Admissions Graduate Education Portal. Put in your applicant ID (top right hand corner of page). Your applicant ID is emailed to you when you have submitted your application.
  • Click on “Letters of Recommendation” which is located under the Control Panel.
  • Enter the names and contact information for each recommender.

Recommenders will receive an email immediately after you add their name and email address into the LOR system on your application with instructions on accessing the Online Letter of Recommendation rating questionnaire. Recommenders can upload their letters of recommendation after they answer the questions as a recommender.

If needed, applicant can go into their Graduate Education Portal and resend an email to their recommenders who have not responded. They can also check the status of their LORs.

FILE UPLOADS-APPLICANT - (Graduate Education Portal)

  • An Academic Writing Sample such as a course paper or article from 10-25 pages in length.
  • Resume
  • Personal and Academic statements should be uploaded separately as an attachment to your application.
  • File uploads, Writing Sample, Resume, Academic Statement, LOR requests, and e-messages are all available in the graduate education portal, not in the application. You can access the Admissions Graduate Education Portal under the Miscellaneous tab at the top the Graduate Application, and then under References.

Submitting Transcripts

  • Non-MSU Students/Graduates - The University requires one official transcript from all colleges and universities you have ever attended. Applicant will need to contact all universities/colleges attended and have official transcripts sent directly to the Graduate Program Coordinator, Jackie Leavitt, in the Department of Sociology
  • Current MSU Students/Graduates do not need to order official MSU transcripts. Transcript will be obtained from the MSU Registrar’s Office.
  • Applicants from Chinese Universities, please see the detailed information on the Graduate School website - applications from China.

Test Scores

  • Official GRE scores: we require the verbal, quantitative and analytical sections but not the subject test. Reported scores must be no older than 2 years. Institution code for Michigan State University is 1465.
  • Official TOEFL test scores are required for international students. Reported scores must be no older than 2 years. Institution code for Michigan State University is 1465.

International Students

  • Statement of financial proof (PDF) “International students only”. Financial Proof is needed to request an I-20.
  • We require students to begin their programs in the Fall semester, as our orientation program and course schedule is geared to that, although some international students may wish to use the preceding summer to take English language courses.
  • US Degree Equivalency - Admission to a graduate degree requires completion of a level of education comparable to a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree. High Scholastic standing and suitable preparation for the intended field of study are also considered. Normally, Michigan State University does not accept three-year bachelor’s degrees, diplomas or certificates as comparable to a four-year U.S. bachelor’s degree.
  • Additional Information for International Students can be found here.

Decision Dates

  • You can inquire about the status of your application using the Admissions Graduate Education Portal. Admissions offers will be sent out by early April. A few offers may be made after mid-April.
  • The cost to apply online is $65 for domestic and $75 for international applicants.
  • If you have further questions after studying these materials, please do not hesitate to contact the Graduate Office by email at or fax at (517) 432-2856.

Pre-Admissions FAQ

Where can students access the online application?

Applications are submitted electronically through the Office of Admissions.

How many students apply to the program? How many are admitted?

We typically receive 65-75 applications in any give year. The quality of the applicant pool determines the number of students we admit.

What are you looking for in a student?

We are looking for students with strong analytical skills and who are critical thinkers.

Where can I find information about tuition rates?

Visit the Office of Financial Aid for information about financial aid as well as a link to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form.

Students are often eligible for certain loans if they take at least 6 credits. Loans are also available for computer equipment required in the program. Information may be obtained by contacting the financial aid office at 517-353-5940, e-mail, or by visiting the Office of Financial Aidwebsite.

Since this is a degree-granting program veteran benefits may be applicable. Students eligible for veterans benefits must submit the required certificate to the VA office on campus. Information may be obtained by contacting the Veteran Certification Office at 517-355-5032.

Do you admit for a Masters in Sociology?

No. We only admit candidates for the PhD program.

Is financial aid available?

There are a limited number of assistantships available for Sociology PhD students. We strive to fund as many students as possible with competitive financial packages. In recent years most admitted students have been guaranteed 4-5 years of financial support including a tuition credit, monthly stipend, and health insurance. Students typically find that the stipend is sufficient to cover their living expenses. You may also check the Michigan State University Office of Financial Aid for further assistance.

Where can I find information about housing?

You can find information about on-campus graduate dorms and university apartments at

If I want to pursue a PhD program in Sociology, do I need a master's degree first?

No. A Master's degree is not required.

Can I study part-time?

No. The sociology PhD program is an extremely intense program requiring a large time investment.

Can coursework be completed online?

We do not offer an online program. All PhD level Sociology courses (SOC) are taught in classroom settings.

Do we accept applications for Spring Semester?

No. We accept new applications only in the Fall Semester of each academic year.

How long does it generally take to complete the program?

The program is designed to be completed in five years to give students the best chance at completing research projects prior to the job market to increase their odds of finding an elite research position. Occasionally, students with advanced research portfolios can graduate in four years.

What types of jobs do your graduates receive?

We train students for research and teaching careers. Most graduates have secured positions at U.S. or international universities. A small number of students have chosen to pursue careers in consulting or industry. Click here for a listing of recent doctoral placements.

I earned my undergraduate degree at MSU. Do you need those transcripts?

No. We will have access to them and any other transcripts you have sent to MSU in the past.

I attended more than one college or university. How is my overall undergraduate GPA calculated?

All credits and quality points earned throughout your undergraduate studies are combined to determine your overall undergraduate GPA.

I will be taking the GRE close to the application deadline. What if official scores do not reach you in time?

After completing the GRE, the Verbal and Quantitative scores should be displayed on the screen. Please take a screen shot and e-mail the scores to the graduate office ( While we will need matching official scores on file if you are offered admission, self-reported scores will suffice for review or your application.

International Application FAQ

How can I find more information for international students?

Many questions regarding international programs at MSU can be found at, the Office for International Students and Scholars

The Graduate School also has information on applying to Graduate School.

If I have a degree from a U.S. University, am I required to take the TOEFL test?

No. A degree from a U.S. school will exempt you from the TOEFL requirement.

Do you accept the IELTS language test for admission to the Department of Sociology?

Yes. A TOEFL or IELTS is accepted.

What if my TOEFL scores are below the required score of 80 or if any of the individual scores are below the requirement? Can I be admitted into the program?

No. Not typically and not without special conditions. Click here for English Language Proficiency requirements.

If admitted, will I be required to take an English test when I arrive at MSU?

Yes. This is standard university procedure.