PhD Program Overview


The PhD program in Sociology aims to prepare students for either an academic career in teaching and research in university settings, or a career in research in the private, public or not-for-profit sectors. The program is designed so that students who already have a strong background in Sociology will deepen their knowledge in sociological theory and in one of the substantive fields offered, and become highly independent sociological thinkers and skilled researchers capable of pushing the boundaries of knowledge in their chosen field.

These objectives will be achieved through course work, seminars and discussions, qualifying examinations, teaching or research assistantships, a dissertation, and public presentations of research findings. Students are expected to conduct independent research, participate in professional and other conferences, and work toward publishing in scholarly journals.

Graduates of the program will be expected to demonstrate theoretical and methodological competence at an advanced level, competence at the cutting edge of knowledge in their chosen field, autonomy in conducting research, mature scholarship and research, and well-developed communication abilities.

Program Duration

A minimum of five semesters of full-time study must be devoted to the PhD program following completion of a recognized master’s degree. Normally, the dissertation must be formally submitted within twelve semesters. The maximum program duration is eighteen semesters.

The PhD program is not offered on a part-time basis. All students are required to register in the program full time until they have completed twelve semesters in the program. Students registered on a part-time basis will not be provided with funding or office space.

Fields of Specialization

The PhD program consists of four fields within the discipline of Sociology:

Environment, Food, and Communities

The field of Environment, Food, and Communities reflects sociological interests in understanding societal-ecological interactions more broadly. The specific focus may include environmental/natural resources/food systems and environmental justice/community sustainability. Students specializing in this field will be encouraged to draw on established methodologies in the field, including the comparative and historical approach. Attention will be given to the ways in which structure/power/culture and class/gender/race and ethnicity play out in at least one of the substantive topics comprising this field.

Work and Organization

The field of Work and Organization reflects sociological interests in changing patterns of work and employment in comparative contexts, labour markets, gender and work, industrial and organizational change, economic restructuring and work, organizations and protest, education for work, and the regulation of work. These trends are located in the broader processes of globalization, economic restructuring and fundamental shifts in public policy. Students specializing in this field will be encouraged to focus on the dialectical relationship between the configurations of gender, class, race and ethnicity, and the transformation and re-organization of work.

Crime and Social Control

The field of Crime and Social Control reflects sociological interests into how crime is defined, measured, explained and reacted to by society. Within this field students will be exposed to scholarly material on a broad range of topics including: cyberbullying, victimization, legal responses to homelessness, intimate partner violence, drug policy, school violence, feminist criminology, critical criminology, restorative justice, sociology of risk, policing, the social construction of crime, inmate re-integration, youth justice, wrongful convictions, and life course criminology.

Identities and Social Inclusion

The field of Identities and Social Inclusion reflects sociological interests in the study of intergroup relations, with special emphasis on struggles over influence and power. Students specializing in this field will acquire a deeper understanding of the complex intersection as well as the overlap of forms of identity and group mobilization based on ethnic, linguistic, regional, class, gender, racial and other forms of social division. The field also provides students with the opportunity to study Indigenous issues and policies related to multiculturalism, equity and local or regional autonomy.

Collaborative Program in International Development Studies

The four fields of specialization can be combined with the collaborative PhD program in International Development Studies. Students receive a PhD degree in their selected discipline with the added International Development Studies designation.

For more information please visit the Collaborative Specialization in International Development Studies page.

Admission Standards

Normally, only applicants with a recognized MA degree in Sociology and with high academic standing (80% or higher) in their graduate-level studies will be admitted into the program.

Students are normally expected to have successfully completed master's-level courses in sociological theory as well as Master’s-level qualitative and quantitative methodology courses in Sociology. It is also expected that students will have taken courses across the breadth of Sociology.

Applicants who do not have a recognized MA degree in Sociology might be considered for entrance into the program. If admitted to the program, they will be expected to complete additional graduate-level courses in sociological theory as well as graduatelevel qualitative and quantitative methodology courses in Sociology. Students without a background in Sociology are expected to develop a solid grounding in the discipline. It is incumbent upon the student and the advisory committee to ensure that this objective is met. 

Application Requirements

Graduate students are admitted into the program in the fall semester only. The application deadline is February 1.

Applications can only be made online through the Ontario Universities' Application Centre website.

Please visit the Graduate Studies website for additional information about the application process and for instructions on how to upload the application documents.

The application package must include:

  • A two to three page well-defined statement of research interest.
  • Official transcripts from all post-secondary institutions attended.
  • Two letters of reference from professors familiar with your most recent academic work. Referees must complete their assessment in confidence.
  • The online application.
  • TOEFL scores or other English-language test results, not more than two years old, from applicants whose first language is not English.

An electronic Referee Assessment Form will be sent directly to the referees listed in your online application. These documents will also be submitted electronically on your behalf.

Applications are not considered complete until all the information has been received.