Online PhD Programs in Sociology: Degree Overview

Research online sociology PhD programs. Find out what you can learn in these programs and what you'll need in order to participate in online learning to determine if it's right for you.

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Essential Information

A small number of schools offer online doctoral programs in sociology. These programs focus heavily on research and culminate in a dissertation project. Opportunities to teach undergraduate classes may be available. Some programs may require some on-campus work.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), most sociologists hold Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degrees through traditional sociology degree programs, although individuals who choose to study applied, clinical or professional sociology may only need to earn a master's degree. When choosing an educational program, consider your career goals and whether a doctoral program is required to achieve them.

Ph.D. in Sociology

Individuals can work toward a Ph.D. in Sociology online, although these programs are limited. Candidates are generally required to conduct an intensive amount of original research, and many programs require a focus of interest based on previous undergraduate or master's degree coursework.

Major areas of study include psychology, social work, family relationships and demography. Doctoral degree programs in this field provide students with the opportunity to pursue specialization in their careers as well as opportunities to teach sociology at the university level.

Learning Environment

Many programs require students to receive assignments, participate in discussions and submit their coursework entirely via the Web. However, these programs may include a mix of online and on-campus classes; this is known as a hybrid program. In either case, enrollees should have consistent access to a computer with high-speed Internet access.

Common Coursework

Because online students are able to complete coursework and research at their own pace, the length of doctoral degree programs may vary dramatically, although they may be subject to a cap, such as six or eight years. A doctoral dissertation is required to complete the program and achieve a Ph.D. Below, learn more about some of the courses commonly included in an online sociology doctorate program.

Social Inequality

Lessons cover various aspects of social inequality, such as the competition for power and the effects of class, race and gender on society. Topics include income distributions, ethnic relations and disparities in education.

Urban Sociology

Students are introduced to the geographical, environmental and social factors related to the growth, development and structure of a city. They analyze the relationships between rural and urban communities, as well as the tactics utilized to solve city problems.

Independent Research

In this course, students are given the opportunity to conduct and complete an independent research project on a particular aspect of sociology. They must obtain written consent from their professors before they begin work on the project.


Career Information

Graduates with a Ph.D. in Sociology have various career options, including advanced or senior-level positions in private corporations, government agencies and academia. The BLS projected job growth of 13%, faster than average for all occupations, for postsecondary teachers in general from 2014-2024. As of May 2015, the BLS reported, postsecondary teachers of sociology earned a median annual salary of $69,230.

Although online doctoral programs in sociology are rare, there are schools that offer fully online programs that focus heavily on research and require a dissertation. Admission to a doctoral program usually requires a bachelor's or master's degree in sociology or a related subject.

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