Sociology Masters program handbook



Note: These guidelines are subject to change; Graduate School rules always supersede these guidelines.

Graduate School forms

All Graduate School forms may be found on the Graduate School website


Program overview

The Department of Sociology offers a graduate program leading to the Master of Arts (M.A.) degree in Sociology and participates in a graduate program leading to the Ph.D. degree in Social Psychology. The M.A. program in Sociology is designed to prepare students for careers in a wide variety of areas, such as research in the public or private sectors, non-profit work and teaching; it can also serve as a springboard into doctoral education in sociology and related disciplines. The foundations of both theory and research are emphasized as valuable tools in the study of modern society and social relations in comparative and historical perspective.

All sociology graduate students should be familiar with the general requirements of the Graduate School and specific requirements of the Sociology Department for the successful completion of the M.A. degree in Sociology. Students should consult the University’s catalog  which provides details on these requirements and regulations, and important calendar dates governing the academic year.

Program student learning outcomes 

  1. Students should be able to discuss the concepts and theories that allow the integration of knowledge attained in various subfields of sociology.
  2. Students should be able to apply successfully to doctoral programs in sociology in any university in the United States or elsewhere.
  3. Students should be able to find employment in their area of specialization in public or private settings (such as in government, a research institute, or a non-profit organization).
  4. Students who graduate with an M.A. degree in Sociology will have skills and experience in conducting original research.

Degree requirements

Program tracks

The M.A. in Sociology degree has a thesis track (Plan A) and a non-thesis track that requires successful completion of a comprehensive examination (Plan B).

Required credits

Students who opt for Plan A (Thesis Option) complete a minimum of 30 credits, whereas students who opt for Plan B (Comprehensive Examination Option) complete a minimum of 31 credits.

Required coursework

Students pursuing graduate studies to obtain the M.A. degree in Sociology who opt for Plan A (Thesis Option) or Plan B (Comprehensive Examination Option) must complete each of the following courses:
• SOC 703 Proseminar (1 credit)
• SOC 705 Seminar in Social Theory (3 credits)
• SRJS 725 Research Methods in the Social Sciences (3 credits) or SOC 719 Research Methods in Sociology (3 credits)
• SOC 706 Intermediate Statistics I (3 credits)

Plan A students take an additional 14-15 elective course credits at the 600- or 700-level, plus six or more thesis credits for a minimum total of 30 credits.

Plan B students take an additional 20 elective units of coursework at the 600- or 700-level, and they must enroll in the one-unit comprehensive exam (SOC 795).

Elective courses

To view an acceptable list of elective courses, please visit the catalog. Students who wish to apply other University courses towards their degree require written approval from the Director of Graduate Studies.

Transfer credits

Students may transfer up to 12 credits from another institution towards their Sociology M.A. degree, if approved. Transfer credit can be requested on the Graduate Credit Transfer Evaluation Request Form (graduate school forms for students) that must be signed by the student, the student’s major advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. Students may also apply up to 12 credits earned in another graduate program at the University, or under ‘graduate special’ status at the University, with permission of their advisor and the Director of Graduate Studies. All coursework that applies towards the Sociology M.A. degree must fall within the six-year time frame consistent with the Graduate School time limitation policy on completing M.A. degrees (six years).

Graduate School academic standing and dismissal policy

The Department of Sociology follows the same guidelines as the University of Nevada, Reno Graduate School. Each candidate for the M.A. degree must have a “B” average or above on all graduate coursework taken, including transfer credit. In addition, a “B” average or above must be obtained throughout a student’s Program of Study. Students with a grade point average of less than a “B” would be placed on probation, as per Graduate School regulations.


Timelines for degree completion

Length of completion

Students should plan to complete the Sociology M.A. degree over the course of four semesters.

Residency requirement

All students in the Sociology M.A. program must meet the Graduate School’s residency requirements, including completion of at least 18 course and/or thesis credits at UNR.


Students should complete the required 10 credits of course work in the first two semesters. SOC 703, SOC 705, and SRJS 725 are typically offered in the fall semester, and SOC 706 is typically offered in the spring semester. Students should spread the remaining required elective course and thesis credits over their four-semester sequence in consultation with the Director of Graduate Studies and with their advisor.

Selection of an advisor

Students who do not have a designated advisor upon entry to the program will temporarily be advised by the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Students pursuing the Plan A thesis option should work with the DGS to determine who will be their thesis advisor no later than the end of their second semester. Upon determining who is their advisor, they should submit a Declaration of Advisor form. Students pursuing the Plan B comprehensive exam option will be advised by the DGS.

Apply for graduation

Students should apply to graduate by the Graduate School deadline for the term in which they plan to graduate.


Timeline for Plan A (Thesis)

Formation of a Thesis Committee

By the beginning of their third semester, students should be writing a thesis proposal and be forming their thesis committee.

Thesis proposal meeting

By the end of their third semester, students should hold a formal meeting with their thesis committee to discuss and refine their thesis proposal. Thesis proposals should be submitted to the entire committee two weeks prior to the thesis proposal meeting, which may last from 1-2 hours, as needed. Students should also prepare a Program of Study form to be signed by the committee no later than the date of their thesis proposal meeting.

Thesis defense

Students should schedule the oral defense of their final thesis in their fourth semester, leaving time to make revisions and to file a Notice of Completion form by the Graduate School deadline. The complete thesis should be submitted to the thesis committee two weeks prior to the scheduled defense. The thesis oral defense may last between 1-2 hours, as needed, and shall consist of a brief presentation by the student, followed by a question-and-answer period. The student will temporarily leave the meeting while the committee deliberates and decides if the student has passed or failed, and what revisions may be required before the thesis is considered complete.


Timelines for Plan B (Comprehensive Exam)

Students should schedule their plan to take the comprehensive exam by the middle of their fourth semester and must sign up for one credit of SOC 795 that semester. 

M.A. thesis committee selection guidelines

The thesis committee will consist of the student’s advisor (the thesis chair) and two other members, one of whom may be another faculty member in sociology. The third committee member serves as the graduate school representative and may not be a faculty member in sociology. All members of the thesis committee must be members of the Graduate Faculty. Students should consult with their thesis advisor regarding who should serve on their committee and how to approach potential committee members.

Plan B (Comprehensive Examination)

The M.A. Comprehensive Examination will consist of three parts:

  • Theory
  • Substantive Area in Sociology
  • Methods

The theory exam and the exam on a substantive area within sociology are to be taken in the department on two different days (4 hours each exam) within one week. The methods exam is a take-home exam that must be completed over the course of the following week. The exam on a substantive area in sociology may be based on a course the student has taken in the department or an area the student has studied under the supervision of a sociology faculty member through independent readings or research. The substantive areas in sociology include, but are not limited to: class structure/stratification; sociology of gender; race and ethnic relations; sociology of the family; the community; religion; social movements and collective behavior; social psychology; political sociology; bureaucracy and large-scale organizations; industrial sociology; social change; socio-economic development; sociology of law; political economy; Third World studies; and other areas within sociology, as determined by the department.

All three exams are comprehensive and can cover a wide range of topics and issues. They will be graded based on the following scale: High Pass; Pass; Fail. Students who fail to pass a particular exam may schedule to re-take that exam one more time during the same exam period, but no later than the following semester. All exams are administered by the Director of Graduate Studies, graded by the faculty member(s) submitting the question(s), and reviewed by the Department Chair, for a final decision.


Masters guidelines

Thesis guidelines

Although M.A. Thesis projects have typically involved conducting a traditional research project (with appropriate methodologies—e.g., qualitative and/or quantitative), there are other possibilities, such as community-based research and other applied research projects. Regardless of the type of thesis research pursued, it is important to work closely with one’s thesis chair and committee members to ensure that the M.A. Thesis is satisfactory and meets the standard of quality required for a Master’s-level project. Students must adhere to the Graduate School M.A. thesis filing guidelines.

Graduate assistantships

Students admitted to the program with graduate assistantship funding typically receive, at minimum, a 10-hour (.25) GTA for four semesters, although students may also be admitted without funding. Students with GTA funding are required to register for a minimum of six credits each semester and maintain an overall 3.0 GPA. All students with GTA funding are considered residents of Nevada for tuition purposes visit graduate tuition and fees for more information. 

Health insurance

All domestic degree-seeking graduate students, who are enrolled in six or more credits (regardless of the course level) in a semester, will be automatically enrolled and billed for the University-sponsored health insurance for each term they are eligible (fall & spring/summer). If a student has other comparable coverage and would like to waive out of the student health insurance, it is the student’s responsibility to complete the University online waiver form prior to the deadline. If approved, a health insurance waiver is good for the current academic year only. A new waiver must be submitted each academic year. All international graduate students are required to carry student health insurance, and the cost will be automatically added to your student account. Any international graduate students with insurance questions must contact the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) directly


Leave of Absence

Continuous enrollment

To maintain “good standing” all graduate students are required to enroll in a minimum of three (3) graduate credits each fall and spring semester until they graduate. International students may be required to enroll in nine graduate credits each fall and spring semester depending on the requirements of their visa. All students holding assistantships (whether teaching or research assistantships) are required to enroll in a minimum of six (6) graduate credits each semester they hold the assistantship.

Leave of absence

Students in good standing may request a leave of absence by completing a Leave of Absence form during which time they are not required to maintain continuous registration. Usually, a leave of absence is approved for one or two semesters. The leave of absence request may be extended by the student filing an additional leave of absence form. Students applying for a leave of absence should not have any “incomplete” grades which could be changed to “F” and have a detrimental impact on their cumulative GPA. Requests for leave of absences must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the leave is to begin.


When a student has been absent for one semester or more without an approved leave of absence, he or she may request reinstatement via the Reinstatement form. This form allows the program the option to recommend the student be re-admitted to their graduate program based on their previous admission OR require the student to re-apply for admission which would require students to submit a new application for admission and pay the application fee. The Notice of Reinstatement to Graduate Standing must be received by the Graduate School no later than the last day of enrollment for the semester the reinstatement is to begin.


Graduate Student Association

The Graduate Student Association represents all graduate students and promotes the welfare and interests of the graduate students at the University of Nevada, Reno. The GSA works closely with appropriate university administrative offices, including the Graduate School and Student Services and reports to the President of the University. The GSA government functions through the Council of Representatives, Executive Council and established committees.


Contact information

To obtain additional information about the M.A. Program in Sociology at the University of Nevada, Reno, you may contact the Director of Graduate Studies in Sociology:

Dr. Clayton Peoples, Ph.D.
Department of Sociology
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557