Students interested in studying how societies interact with the environment may wish to pursue a master's or doctoral degree in sociology and specialize in environmental sociology. These degree programs are usually research-based and cover a wide range of topics in the field, including natural disasters, agrifood systems and human-caused environmental decline. Compare and contrast the degrees in the field at the master's and doctoral levels.
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Master of Science vs. Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Sociology
Master of Science in Environmental Sociology
Some institutions offer a standalone Master of Science (MS) in Sociology with a concentration in environmental sociology, while other schools may primarily accept PhD students in the field, but allow them to end the program after earning their MS. These programs may range from about 24 to 32 credits, which may or may not include research credits for a thesis, and some programs may offer a non-thesis option that requires additional coursework. These degree programs can usually be completed in 2 years, may require a final oral exam and typically offer unique research opportunities, such as interdisciplinary research projects with ecological scientists. Students in these programs are likely to take courses and/or seminars in research methods, statistics, sociological theory and environmental sociology. It is fairly common for graduates of this degree program to pursue further education at the doctoral level, but students may also work in academia, government agencies, non-profit organizations or corporations.
Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Sociology
Students may choose to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Sociology with a concentration or research focus in environmental sociology that may be completed in as little as 4 years. These degree programs may require as much as 91 credit hours beyond a bachelor's degree and around 60 credits beyond a master's degree. Typically, students in these programs need to complete a minor or multiple comprehensive areas of study, preliminary exams and a dissertation and may be able to focus their research in a wide range of areas, like environmental justice, global environmental change, environmental organization networks or environmental inequalities. Coursework for these programs also usually include topics in research methods, statistics, sociological theory and environmental sociology, but may also include specific courses in topics such as environmental justice, international issues in environmental sociology or social problems and population that align with their research interests. It is fairly common for graduates of these PhD programs to conduct research and teach at an advanced level, but graduates may also find careers as program managers, policy analysts and other leadership positions in the government, non-profits or other business organizations.
Common Entrance Requirements
Some graduate programs in sociology may allow admission for students in the fall and/or spring semesters and typically require students to have at least a bachelor's degree. Some programs may also like to see prior coursework in areas such as algebra, research methods, sociological theory and statistics and may have a minimum GPA requirement, which usually falls around a 3.0. Students usually need to take the GRE and may need to fill out a separate application to apply to the institution and one to apply to the sociology department and program. Common application materials for these programs include transcripts, letters of recommendation, a personal statement and/or a resume or CV. Some programs may also ask for a writing sample.
Students may earn an MS or PhD in Sociology and focus their studies in environmental sociology to prepare for careers in academia, the government and more. Usually these programs require a culminating paper and provide interdisciplinary research opportunities.