Graduate Program

We encourage you to browse our website to learn more about our program and our nationally and internationally recognized faculty. If UCSC seems like a good fit for your interests, please apply. The application for admission fall 2016 is expected to open October 1, 2015. We hope to have your creative and intellectual energy here as a graduate student in the Sociology Department!


The Sociology Department at UCSC is intellectually innovative, both in its interdisciplinary nature and in its commitment to inquiry that is engaged with the world beyond the university. The Ph.D. program leads to both academic and non-academic careers. The program is designed to educate students in sociological theory and methods and in the discipline’s major substantive areas, while simultaneously exposing students to other arenas of intellectual inquiry that will aid them as they pursue their research questions and interests. After completing a group of required courses, students work closely with individual faculty members to design their course of study. The program leads to a Ph.D. in Sociology. The Sociology program at UCSC is a Ph.D. program, not an MA program. Students have the option of applying for a non-terminal Master’s degree en route to the Ph.D.


The Sociology Ph.D program offers concentration in the following areas:

  • Globalization, Political Economy, and Environment: Great global challenges and accelerating social change are analyzed in this cluster.  Researchers intervene in a range of debates and issues, including critical development studies, poverty and livelihoods, food and agriculture, energy and environment, international law and comparative legal systems, labor and labor markets, migration, alternative economies, social movements, and sustainable transformations and modes of governance. They apply a wide range of methods, including political economy, ethnography, institutional analysis, and comparative and historical analysis in their work.
  • Inequality and Identity: Race, Class, Gender, Sexuality: This area focuses on theoretical and empirical studies of social inequality and identity in and outside of Sociology. Recognizing the significance of work in Sociology that highlights structure and process, we seek to enrich this perspective with innovative and critical interdisciplinary approaches to the topic. With a perspective that insists that everyday life and inequality are inextricably bound together in social and cultural practices, we encourage analytic thinking and empirical studies that tie key axes of inequality and identity—e.g., race, class, gender, sexuality, nationality, ability—to a broad set of pressing topics including affect, belonging, attachment, subjecthood, normativity, and temporality.
  • Culture, Knowledge, and Power: Culture, Knowledge Power arises from the lively interdisciplinary ferment in contemporary social and cultural theory.  Drawing on the sociology of culture and knowledge, as well as cultural history, cultural studies, critical race and ethnic studies, feminist studies, anthropology, media studies and science studies, CKP critically examines the ways in which culture, knowledge, and power intersect, overlap, and are mutually implicated in the production and organization of social life.  It explores conceptualizations of knowledge and power in their diverse cultural forms, and culture and knowledge as specific expressions of power and sites of political struggle. 


There are two parts to the core curriculum. The first part of the curriculum is a basic grounding in sociological theory and methods. The second part of the curriculum is exposure to research in three areas of concentration. These areas are: (1) globalization, political economy, and environment, (2) inequality and identity, and (3) culture, knowledge, and power. In addition, students are trained in multiple methods in preparation for conducting their own research. View the course requirements.

Seminars in the anthropology, environmental studies, history, history of consciousness, politics, psychology, and feminist studies programs are open to sociology students.


Students are able to do more advanced work through independent study with particular faculty members who have similar research interests. Generally such studies follow preparatory course work with the faculty members. Sociology faculty at the University of California, Santa Cruz specialize in the following areas:

  • Black Cultural Politics
  • Civic Engagement
  • Comparative Methodology
  • Construction of Deviance
  • Criminology
  • Discourse/Conversation Analysis
  • Emotion/Affect
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Ethnography
  • Globalization  
  • Historical Methodology
  • Identity and Identity Changes
  • Inequality
  • International Development
  • International Law
  • Intersection of Class, Race, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Immigrant Incorporation
  • Labor Studies
  • Language and Social Interaction
  • Law and Society
  • Legal Institutions
  • Media
  • Medical Sociology
  • Nature
  • Political Economy 
  • Popular Culture and Cultural Studies
  • Qualitative Methodology
  • Queer Studies
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • Sexuality and Erotic Labor
  • Social Movements
  • Sociology of Drugs
  • Sociology of Knowledge
  • Urban Sociology
  • Visual Sociology


Many of the faculty in the Sociology Department have affiliations with other departments and programs on campus, and the graduate program consequently encourages interdisciplinary work.

Working groups and research clusters:

Research Centers:

Students also participate in research projects under the auspices of seven interdisciplinary social science research centers. In addition, research opportunities also are available in the areas of environmental studies, feminist studies, and lesbian/gay/queer studies.


The department offers a colloquium series to enhance scholarship, practice, and collegial networks. The series range from speakers to professionalization workshops. The overarching goal of the colloquia series is to build intellectual engagement and community in our department for faculty and graduate students. Learn more about the colloquia series.



Graduate students are funded through teaching assistantships, teaching fellowships, research fellowships, and other grants or fellowships. A number of faculty receive research grants that support graduate student research assistantships, which include the National Science Foundation and Science and Justice Fellowhips.

Sociology graduate students at UCSC appreciate their fellow students' and faculty's activism and commitment to social change, alongside their dedication to teaching, scholarly research, and understanding of the social forces of our society. The diversity in age, ethnicity, and work experience of the student body creates a vibrant atmosphere for learning.


Graduate students in sociology may obtain a Designated Emphasis on their Ph.D. diploma indicating that they have specialized in a specific field in addition to Sociology. Designated Emphases are available in many departments, including Feminist Studies, Latin American and Latino Studies, Environmental Studies, Philosophy, or Education. Learn more about Designated Emphasis (link coming soon).


Many of our graduate students present papers at professional conferences and publish articles during the course of their graduate studies. The sociology master’s paper is designed to prepare students to write for professional journals. Ongoing faculty seminars focusing on concrete research topics and problems are available for advanced graduate students working on papers and dissertations in related areas.


The Sociology Department provides graduate students with various teaching opportunities. Through these teaching opportunities, students gain or hone their skills in articulating ideas, organizing and presenting materials in a logical sequence, listening attentively, and discerning student comprehension.

Teaching opportunities are offered in the form of teaching assistantships and teaching fellowships. Teaching assistants teach course sections, and students who have advanced to candidacy can apply to teach their own course as a teaching fellow.

Graduate students are typically required to serve as teaching assistants for at least three quarters for the Sociology undergraduate program, whether or not they plan on academic careers.

Teaching assistant training is provided by the Sociology Department and by Graduate Division. The Sociology Department training takes place prior to the beginning of fall quarter.


Contact the Graduate Coordinator at, or call (831) 459-3168.