Frequently Asked Questions

Why should I choose UB Sociology?
The Department offers well-rounded advanced training in research methods (qualitative & quantitative), sociological theory, and substantive areas such as health & illness, family & the life course, crime, law & social policy, social inequalities, and urban sociology. Whether pursuing an MA or PhD, students learn to become independent researchers. Students are mentored closely by nationally-recognized, award-winning faculty, from the time they enter the graduate program. We assign each incoming student an initial faculty mentor who provides advice and guidance throughout the course of study until the student selects an MA or PhD advisor. Students also benefit from regular, department-wide proseminars and hearing about the latest research by renowned visiting speakers. There are many opportunities for mutual support and socializing. We actively train students for careers both within and outside of academia.

Graduate students in Sociology also benefit from access to and close ties with the Baldy Center for Law & Social Policy, the Humanities Institute, Asian Studies, the Gender Institute, and RENEW (UB’s environmental research institute). 

UB is the premier public research university in the northeastern United States and the largest and most comprehensive campus in the 64-campus SUNY system. We’re an established leader and are consistently recognized by top university guides and publications for our excellent value and high-quality academics.

How do I know if this department is a good fit?
We are a collegial department and faculty actively mentor students for a range of teaching and research careers. The department offers training in most major subfields of sociology, organized around five broad areas of concentration — Crime, Law, & Social Policy; Family & the Life Course; Health & Illness; Social Inequalities; and Urban & Environmental Sociology. If you wish to specialize in one of these areas, we encourage you to apply. Once you have gained admission to the program, we encourage you to come visit our campus and meet our faculty and students. Meeting professors who have research records in the areas of scholarship that interest you is a smart way to start your program, since it will give you a feel for the kinds of mentoring and intellectual guidance you will receive in your graduate journey. Past and current students say that this familiarization visit was key to giving them a sense of the advantages that UB has to offer.

What’s it like to live in Buffalo, New York?
Buffalo, New York is a great place to live! With a lower cost of living than the national average (and substantially lower than other major cities), you can enjoy the perks of city living without the hefty price tag. Often called “America’s best planned city,” Buffalo is full of natural and developed wonders, and has something for everyone, whether you like art, nature, music, food, or urban landscapes. Situated on Lake Erie on the border with Canada, we are a short drive to Niagara Falls, a 90-minute drive to Toronto, and only a one-hour flight to New York City.

If you have seen Buffalo on the Weather Channel, you might think we’re beset by blizzards much of the year. Though we usually do get plenty of snow in the winter, the truth is, the most severe winter weather you hear about typically occurs in areas well south of the city, creating great opportunities to pursue winter sports at several nearby ski resorts. When storms hit, Buffalo digs out with amazing efficiency. Winter weather that brings less-prepared cities to a halt doesn’t slow us down or disrupt business as usual in Buffalo. We have a four-season climate that features the sunniest and driest summers of any major city in the Northeast, and crisp, comfortable autumns that produce some of the Northeast’s most vibrant foliage. Spring is breathtaking, and summers are sunny and mild.

What programs do you offer? How do I know which one is right for me?
The Department of Sociology offers a PhD program and a terminal MA program. Our PhD program is targeted toward students who want to hone their research skills and engage in independent and collaborative research in order to prepare for careers in academia or in applied research settings. You do not need a master’s degree to apply for the PhD program. If your end goal is a PhD, you enjoy doing and reading sociological research in our specialization areas, and you are committed to rigorous study for the next 5 years, we encourage you to apply to the PhD program. Our terminal MA program is targeted toward students who desire an additional 3 or 4 semesters of higher education to better their position on the nonacademic job market and for those who are uncertain about earning a PhD. The MA program offers many of the same courses as the PhD program, but there is no funding for MA students, and the program carries fewer course requirements and reduced expectations for independent research.  

Who gets accepted to the program? Do I have the necessary background and skills?
We look for applicants ready for graduate-level study study, who are excited to learn and ready to take advantage of the opportunities we have to offer at UB Sociology. Our students come from a wide range of academic backgrounds and from all over the U.S. and around the world. 

The admissions committee considers a variety of factors in deciding whom to admit including, but not limited to: the applicant’s undergraduate GPA, test scores, letters of recommendation, the writing skills and sociological imagination evident in the applicant’s statement of purpose, and applicant’s fit with the department’s areas of strength. If you are weak in one area, it may well be balanced by your strength in other areas. We do not require an undergraduate degree in sociology, but you should have a basic understanding of the discipline and of the research process. Our Department is committed to supporting a diverse student body, and UB is an Equal Opportunity/Affirmative Action institution and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, gender, religion, national origin, age, disability, or veteran status in its programs or activities.

What are you looking for in the personal statement?
Your statement of purpose provides an opportunity to describe your academic background, intellectual interests, and career goals. We recommend that applicants limit themselves to 500-1000 words, and note that a shorter statement is often better received. We look for information on what kinds of sociological topics and approaches interest you, why you want to be a sociologist, and the specific reasons why you are applying to our particular department. You will want to do some research about the Department, since it may help you specify whether there are particular faculty members, clusters of research, or even specific research problems that are of special interest to you. We do not expect applicants to have a fully formed plan of research before beginning the PhD program, but we do think it is always a good idea to start out with an understanding of what the Department has to offer, given your interests and goals.

Is a master’s degree required to apply to the PhD program?
No, you are not required to have a master’s degree to apply to the PhD program.

When are decisions made?
We make every attempt to notify applicants about admission and financial support in early- to mid-February for individuals who have applied by the January 15 official deadline. MA applications are considered on a rolling basis until June 1.

Can I begin the program in the Spring semester?
No. Courses that are offered only in the Fall semester are typically prerequisites for Spring semester courses, and funding and office space would not be available to students who want to start the program in the Spring. 

How many students apply each year? How many are admitted?
Application volumes can vary substantially from year to year. Lately, we are seeing about 50 PhD applications per year and incoming cohorts are generally 3-5 PhD students and 7-10 terminal Master’s students. The number of PhD admittees depends on the availability of funding to support the students.

Will there be an interview?
We do not routinely interview applicants as part of the admissions process, although if the graduate committee wants to clarify any portion of your application, there might be a conversation. Prospective students are welcome to visit the campus and the Department of Sociology at any time. Prospective students are also welcome to contact faculty and/or graduate students directly, before or after applying to the Department’s graduate program. Accepted students are encouraged to visit during our prospective student visit in the spring semester. We will provide accommodations and meals and will help offset transportation costs for domestic applicants (unfortunately, because of the expense involved in bringing applicants to campus, we are unable to invite overseas applicants for the visit). The prospective student visit is a valuable opportunity to meet faculty and current students, learn about the program, and visit the area in an informal and fun atmosphere. Normally, the prospective student visit is scheduled in early or mid-March.

Do I need to find an advisor before I complete my application?
No. We will assign you an initial advisor when you arrive, and give you a chance to meet and interact with all of our faculty so you can make an informed decision about which faculty member’s advising style, substantive scholarly interests, and mentorship best fit your needs.

What proportion of PhD students receive funding?
Starting with the 2021 cohort, all PhD students admitted to our program will be offered $20,000 academic year stipends for 5 years of work as a teaching assistant. More information about funding can be found on our page about funding

Is funding available for students who are not U.S. citizens?
Yes. Students who are not U.S. citizens are eligible to be considered for teaching assistantships, so long as they meet minimum standards for English language proficiency. International students are also eligible for Presidential Fellowships. 

How do I apply for a Presidential or Schomburg fellowship?
Applicants do not nominate themselves for Presidential Fellowships. The Department will decide if a student should be nominated for a Presidential Fellowship and, if so, will submit the nomination to the Graduate College.

If you meet the criteria for a Schomburg fellowship, you should include an essay (approximately 500 words) that explains how you would contribute to the diversity of the Department and University, and how you have overcome a disadvantage or impediment to success in higher education. The Department will then consider each eligible applicant for nomination. 

What are the minimum GRE scores required?
We do not have a required minimum for the GRE scores. The Department prefers GRE scores on the verbal and quantitative portions of the test of at least 300 and, preferably, a 4.0 or better analytic writing score. These are not requirements, and lower scores do not necessarily disqualify potential PhD students, since the graduate committee reviews admission materials holistically. Those scores reflect the range achieved for earlier students who tend to be successful in our programs. 

The Graduate Committee reads the prospective students’ entire application files. Consequently, what a student may perceive as a deficiency in one component of the application (say, a low quantitative GRE score) can be compensated with exceptional strengths in others (say high grades in quantitative college courses like mathematics that are reflected on a transcript, or an especially thoughtful statement of purpose that makes it clear why the Department is a good fit for your intellectual interests). If you think your GRE scores do not accurately reflect your ability, then it is a good idea to explain that in your personal statement, or ask your letter writers to discuss this in their recommendation.

How recent must my GRE scores be?
GRE scores are only valid for five years. If your scores are five years or older, you must re-take the GRE.

I already have an MA. If I am accepted to the PhD program, will I receive any credit for the coursework I have already done?
Maybe. If your MA degree is in Sociology, then you may be able to transfer in course credits or waive some required courses, in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies. The Graduate Committee will also review your MA thesis and determine whether you will need to complete an additional MA or not. If your MA degree is not in Sociology, we generally do not transfer in credits.

I’m interested, but I’d like to find out more about the program, department, and university before I apply. What should I do?
If you have browsed the department’s website and have more specific questions about the program and its requirements, you can email our Graduate Coordinator, Susie Sheron, at hsheron2@buffalo.edu.

If you have a question about a particular faculty member’s research, teaching, or work with graduate students, feel free to contact that person directly.

If you would like to find out more about what it is like to be a graduate student in the program, contact the Sociology Graduate Student Association at SGSA@buffalo.edu, and they can put you in touch with the current graduate students who will be most helpful to you.

If you have questions about the College of Arts & Sciences or questions about the graduate programs generally, including questions about housing, financial aid, teaching, and so on, go to https://grad.buffalo.edu/.

What is the deadline for accepting an offer of admission?
April 15, although we would appreciate hearing from you as soon as possible once you have made a decision so that we can notify those on the waiting list.

What kinds of jobs do UB graduates obtain after graduating? 
Our graduates are employed in a wide variety of settings. You can see recent PhD placements here, and career and PhD program placements of recent MA graduates here.