Graduate Program

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.


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) Political Economies and Political Ecologies, (2) New Studies of Inequality, and (3) Culture, Knowledge, 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.


The Sociology Ph.D program offers concentration in the below areas.

Students are not required to choose among the three areas to the exclusion of the others as we recognize the overlap and important cross-fertilization of these themes. Most faculty research cuts across these thematics and faculty identify with multiple areas of interest. Moreover, a broader thematic concern with World-Building, Political Imaginaries, Alternative Futures weaves through each of these areas directing attention to processes and practices of social change and social reproduction, the making and unmaking of political collectivities, the affective dimensions of political life, and utopian/dystopian thought and practice.

  • Political Economies and Political Ecologies: This area of concentration focuses on longstanding sociological concerns surrounding the emergence of capitalism, modernity and new socio-natural relations. Faculty and graduate students in the department are pushing forward these concerns particularly in relation to:  the historic and geographic dimensions of capitalism, social movements and social change; political economies and ecologies of industrialization and development, colonialism and post-colonialism, migration and globalization; critical sustainabilities, environmental justice and urban political ecology; poverty, capability deprivation and critical development studies; labor precarity, emerging solidarities and changing conceptions of work; and area studies at multiple scales – from the local to regional to international – entailing analysis of global flows and mobilities as well as comparative research within and between global north and south.
  • New Studies of Inequality: This thematic area addresses questions about the persistence of inequality emphasizing social difference – race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, ability, and so on - as axes of resource distribution and as the basis for attachment, belonging, identification, subjecthood, temporality, affect, and the felt experience of inequalities.  Emphasis is placed on racialization, sexualization, gendering, and so on as dynamic historical forces and processes.  Contemporary global transformations, including economic precarity, ecological changes, large scale migration, shifting practices of kinship and sexuality, and global cultural production are rapidly shaping and creating new human subjects and subjectivities.  Bridging the study of large­ scale structural transformations with the inner lives of individuals, new structures of feeling, new kinds of embodiment, and new kinds of political engagement, those who work in this area enrich sociology’s longstanding concern with the intersection of history and biography with innovative and critical interdisciplinary approaches to the topic.
  • 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, science and technology studies, critical race and ethnic studies, postcolonial and decolonial studies, feminist studies, anthropology, and media studies, faculty and graduate students who work in this area critically examine the ways in which culture, knowledge, and power intersect, overlap, and are mutually constituted in the production and organization of social life.  We explore conceptualizations of knowledge and power in their diverse cultural forms, and culture and knowledge as specific expressions of power and sites of political struggle.


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
  • Emotion/Affect
  • Environmental Sociology
  • Ethnography
  • Globalization  
  • Historical Methodology
  • Identity and Subjectivity
  • Inequality
  • International Development
  • International Law
  • Intersection of Class, Race, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Immigrant Incorporation
  • Labor Studies
  • 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 Knowledge
  • Urban Sociology
  • Visual Sociology


View faculty profiles


Many faculty in the Sociology Department have affiliations with other departments and programs on campus where students participate in research projects under the auspices of interdisciplinary research groups. The graduate program consequently encourages interdisciplinary work. Refer to our list of affiliated working groups, research clusters, centers, and initiatives.


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 Fellowships.

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.

For detailed information on funding, see the Funding Opportunities page.


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.


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.