Department of Sociology


Frequently Asked Questions

NOTE: Applications are due February 1.  Applications are considered for Fall admission only. CLICK HERE to apply.

 

THINKING ABOUT SOCIOLOGY AT UNIVERSITY OF TENNESSEE?

We take graduate student recruitment very seriously and we assume you take applying to graduate school equally seriously.

Here are a few questions you might be asking:

What are UT Sociology’s strengths?

Our key strengths at the University of Tennessee include the following:

  • a unique combination of 3 specialty areas – criminology, globalization & political economy, and environmental sociology.  Two of these areas (globalization & political economy and environmental sociology) are only offered at a limited number of Sociology departments in the US, and the combination of all three is not found in any other department.  In addition, our criminology area emphasizes critical issues and perspectives.
  • Social Justice umbrella – our sociological research and teaching is inspired by our understanding of social justice.
  • Small seminars and individualized attention to graduate students – given the size of our graduate program with 15 faculty and about 40-45 graduate students, we are able to offer small seminars of 5 to 15 students and careful attention to our students as they progress through the master’s and PhD program

What are the requirements for the MA?

The MA degree in Sociology with a thesis requires students to complete a minimum of 30 credit hours past the bachelor’s degree. At least 6 of those hours must be in Soc 500 Thesis Hours.

Typically, students take 9 credit hours per semester and 6 credit hours in the summer while completing a thesis.

The MA degree in Sociology requires a minimum of 30 credit hours past the bachelor’s degree. At least 20 total credit hours must be completed in 500- and 600-level courses. MA students may take 9 credit hours in 400-level courses in departments with graduate programs, and they may take 12 credit hours outside the home Department, with the advisor’s consent. Students must complete all requirements within 6 calendar years of enrollment.

What are the requirements for the PhD?

A minimum of 51 credit hours beyond the master’s degree is required for the PhD degree: 27 credit hours in coursework (9 courses) that includes advanced courses in sociological theory, research methods, and Statistics; and 24 credit hours in doctoral research. At least 12 credit hours (4 courses) must be completed at the 600 level. Six credit hours are permitted outside the Sociology Department. As soon as possible, PhD students should complete Comprehensive Examinations in sociological theory and research methods. At the completion of coursework and prior to dissertation work, students must complete one Specialty Examination in their interest areas. The Office of Graduate Studies requires that these examinations be taken within five years of first enrollment in the Ph.D. program. All requirements for the Ph.D. degree must be completed within a period of 8 years from first entry into the doctoral program.

Ok, those were the University requirements, but what classes do I really take?

In May 2012 the Faculty approved the changes to the requirements for graduate students. Beginning in Fall 2013, we will require the following:

  • ALL graduate students must complete
    • Soc 506 Sociology and Social Justice for 2 credits
    • Soc 511 Pedagogy and Graduate Instruction for 1 credit
  • MA students must complete
    • Soc 521 Sociological Theory
    • Soc 531 Research Methods
    • 1 Foundations course +1 additional course in one of our 3 specialty areas
  • PhD students must complete
    • Soc 621 (was Soc 622) Sociological Theory II
    • Soc 631 Advanced Quantitative Methods
    • 1st area: 1 Foundations course + 2 additional course in one of our 3 specialty areas (if you begin at UT at MA level you might complete prior to the MA degree)
    • 2nd area (3-course minimum): another concentration in Sociology, a foreign language, interdisciplinary graduate social theory certificate, statistics minor, or an additional area proposed by the student in consultation with their advisor and approved by the graduate committee

How often are classes offered?

Required classes in theory, methods, social justice, and pedagogy are offered every year. Many other classes are offered every other year.

What other requirements are there at the MA level?

At the MA level, students are expected to complete a thesis. (The non-thesis option, while officially available, is generally frowned upon by the faculty.)

  • The proposal for the thesis must be approved by a thesis committee
  • The thesis committee must be composed of a chair and 2 additional faculty (1 can be outside the department)
  • The thesis defense is the last hurdle to graduate

What other requirements are there at the PhD level?

At the PhD level, students are expected to:

  • pass 2 exams, one each in theory and methods
  • pass a Comprehensive Exam in one of the 3 specialty areas
  • complete a doctoral dissertation research project under faculty supervision, the steps of which are:
    • selecting a dissertation committee (chair, 2 other Sociology faculty members and 1 other faculty member)
    • holding a dissertation proposal hearing
    • completing the dissertation project
    • admission to doctoral candidacy, and
    • the oral defense of the dissertation

What is the best way to make contact and ask questions about the Sociology graduate program at UT?

There are several ways to initiate contact and get information about our program.

  • For general information about the program, email the Director of Graduate Studies (DGS). Currently the DGS is Dr. Paul Gellert at pgellert@utk.edu.
  • For administrative matters, please email the Graduate Assistant, Ms. Shirley Martin at smarti37@utk.edu
  • If you find particular faculty on our website whose work is of interest to you, feel free to contact them directly.

Please note that admissions decisions are made by a committee, not by individual faculty. General emails to multiple faculty tend to be forwarded to the DGS.


APPLYING

How competitive is Sociology at UT? How hard is it to get in?

In the last three years, we have received between 50 and 75 applications per year. Of those we have accepted 12 to 20. Our enrolled cohorts have been 7 to 12 students each fall.

Is there a minimum GRE score necessary for admission?

No. We consider each applicant holistically, including their statement of interest, academic record, letters of reference, etc. However, you should be aware that the average GRE score has been increasing in recent years. In the last two years, our entering cohorts had average GRE scores over 1100 (converted from new scale).

If your GRE is below 1000 or below 300 on the new scale it will likely not receive as full consideration by the graduate admissions committee. (Only in extremely rare cases have we accepted applicants whose GRE falls below 900.) .

What GPA do I need to apply?

As the UT Graduate School states: The minimum GPA is 2.7 out of a possible 4.0 on undergraduate coursework or a 3.0 on a 4-point scale for any graduate work. We are looking for a GPA that is considerably higher than this minimum, especially in sociology major (and classes).

When should I apply?

By February 1st.

The UT Graduate School continues to accept applications after that, but we cannot guarantee full consideration of your application after February 1.

When will I be informed if I have been admitted?

We are usually able to notify applicants of admission by the end of March, but wait-listed applicants may not be informed of admission until the end of April. Offers of financial support to new students occasionally take more time due to multiple factors, including but not limited to current students obtaining other funding.

What is the deadline for accepting an offer of admission?

April 15, although we would appreciate hearing from you sooner if you have made your decision.

How do I apply to Sociology at UT?

Electronically. You will need to complete application forms both for the Graduate School and for the Department of Sociology. When you complete the generic graduate school application, you will be directed to submit materials for the Department of Sociology, too.

Please go to this website to apply: https://www.applyweb.com/apply/utg/index.html

What do I need to include in my application?

  • Completed application form, including Supplemental Questions on career goals and graduate study in sociology (i.e. Statement of Purpose) and on research and teaching experience
  • 3 letters of recommendation (including UT’s rating form)
    • Even if you have been out of school for some time, we strongly recommend that you include letters from academic references along with your professional ones.
  • Writing samples
    • applicants at MA level should submit 1 representative sample of writing
    • applicants at PhD level should submit their thesis or, if not finished, their thesis proposal AND 1 representative paper (at least 25 pages in length)
  • CV (resume) is optional

What would the admissions committee like in the Statement of Purpose (Supplemental Question 1 on “reasons for graduate study”)?

The most important element is a strong statement about WHY you want to go to graduate school in sociology. What interests you and what are your career goals?

  • For master’s (only) level applicants we would like a brief statement of a maximum of 500 words.
  • For Ph.D. level applicants we expect a stronger, more developed statement of a minimum of 500 words.

What kind of funding is available for graduate students? Who gets priority for funding?

Currently about two-thirds of our students are funded, and the majority of our funded students are working as Graduate Teaching Associates (GTAs) with full responsibility for teaching 1 section of introductory level undergraduate sociology classes. Others are working as research assistants (RAs). Some experienced GTAs are teaching other undergraduate classes. First year MA students are only eligible to be TAs for other instructors.

Are there any fellowships or scholarships available?

Yes, there are limited number of very competitive fellowships available from UT’s Graduate School. See http://gradschool.utk.edu/fellowships.shtml for details.

In addition, there are competitive fellowships that you can apply for with NSF, NIH, etc. The Graduate lists some of these external fellowships here: http://gradschool.utk.edu/otherfunds.shtml . In addition, the Center for the Study of Social Justice lists opportunities here: http://cssj.utk.edu/funding/.

Can I be a non-degree student first?

The UT Graduate School does allow non-degree students to take up to 15 credits in Sociology as follows:

A maximum of 15 graduate hours may be taken in graduate non-degree status. If admitted into a degree program, no more than 15 graduate hours may be applied toward a graduate degree, if approved by the student’s committee.” (Source: http://graduateadmissions.utk.edu/requirements.shtml )

There may be advantages to this path, particularly if you live in the area and are unsure about returning to graduate school. Please note, however, that non-degree students are not guaranteed admission nor even an easier path to admission. If a non-degree student decides to apply for admission, his/her application will be considered for admission side-by-side with that year’s pool of applicants.


ACCEPTANCE AND ARRIVAL

NOTE: In addition to the FAQs answered here, you can refer to the UT Graduate School FAQs page http://gradschool.utk.edu/orientation/oFAQs.shtml

I’ve been accepted by the department and received an acceptance letter from the UT Graduate School. What should I do?

First of all, please confirm with the DGS (Paul Gellert) and the Graduate Assistant (Shirley Martin) whether or not you will accept our admission offer.

If you are offered funding, we expect you to confirm no later than April 15.

If you are not offered funding, we still expect you to confirm whether you will join us or not. Please respond no later than April 30. (If you are still unsure at that point, at least keep us informed.)

What if I am admitted and then want to delay entering the program?

Please contact the DGS.

When should I arrive in Knoxville?

Plan on arriving at least one week before classes start to settle in and attend orientations.

  • New graduate assistants and associates (GTAs) are required to attend an orientation that is usually the Thursday before classes begin.

Do I need to do anything special if I am a foreign student?

  • Foreign students must go to the Center for International Education (CIE) to “check in”
  • Foreign students who have been appointed as classroom instructors (GTAs) must take the SPEAK test. See http://gradschool.utk.edu/speaktest.shtml for details. A score of 40 is required in order to be allowed to TA and 45 or 50 to teach your own class.
  • Foreign students must take a written placement

Who can help me find my way around, find housing, etc?

Other graduate students are your best resource for this kind of information. Please contact the Sociology Graduate Student Association.

When should I register for fall classes?

Right away. After you are accepted and registration for fall opens (e.g. as soon as May). In fact, if we have students registered for classes, it enables us to obtain our classroom assignments from the University

How do I register for classes?

Register for classes in MyUTK.  You should already have a nine-digit UT identification number (beginning 000) from the application process.  You may need to set up a password for a NetID here: https://oit.utk.edu/accounts/passwords/netid/Pages/default.aspx.  Then go into the MyUTK website, https://myutk.utk.edu/ and register for classes.

Which classes should I register for?

ALL new graduate students should register for the following classes in fall:

  • Soc 506 Sociology and Social Justice – 2 credits
  • Soc 511 Pedagogy and Sociology Instruction – 1 credit
  • Soc 521 Theory – 3 credits

If you are an entering PhD level student and have sufficient methodological and statistical background, you should also register for:

  • Soc 631 Advanced Quantitative Methods — 3 credits

Entering MA level students will take Soc 531 Research Methods in spring semester.

Additional courses are up to your preferences.

What advice can you provide on deciding what classes to take?

Full-time graduate students in Sociology are expected to complete a minimum of 9 credit hours per semester of graduate-level coursework. Since Soci 506 and Soci 511 are somewhat lighter classes, you might even consider enrolling in 12 credits in your first semester.

If you have questions about what to take, you can contact your Advisor. All new graduate students will be assigned an incoming faculty advisor who you can consult for advice.

You can also contact either the specific course professor or the concentration area professors in criminology, environmental sociology or globalization & political economy for advice. Many professors are willing to share reading lists/syllabi in advance of the fall.

All past course syllabi are kept in the Sociology department office. You can contact Shirley Martin if you would like to see any of them.

Finally, the Sociology Graduate Student Association (SGSA) arranges graduate student mentors for incoming students.

When should I arrive on campus?

If you are on an assistantship, you need to arrive before August 15 to complete payroll forms. While some paperwork can be completed in advice (contact Nancy Loftis for assistance), you are required to offer identification in person for the last step. If your paper work is not complete by August 15, your first paycheck will be end of September instead of end of August. In addition, there is a half-day required UT orientation for new GTAs. see http://gradschool.utk.edu/orient.shtml

If you are not on an assistantship, you need to arrive in time to settle in before the first day of classes.

How can I prepare for arrival and beginning graduate school at UT?

This website of the UT Graduate School offers an online orientation to UT, information on Orientation for new GTAs, etc.http://gradschool.utk.edu/FutureStudents.shtml

Is there a departmental orientation?

Yes, at the beginning of the semester, usually within a few days before classes begin.

Where do I learn about Student Health Insurance?

You can find a Full Plan Brochure and other information at http://studenthealth.utk.insrec_studentinsurance.php or call 865-974-3135 for questions not covered.


LIFE IN THE DEPARTMENT

How will I know what is going on in the Department?

CHECK YOUR UT EMAIL!

There are multiple electronic means of communication that are your primary way to keep up:

  • departmental website – http://sociology.utk.edu/ — events will be posted on the Calendar there
  • Shirley Martin’s email list – make sure that you are on this for many graduate student related emails
  • The Blackboard website for “Social Justice and Sociology”. Graduate students are enrolled in this each year and many announcements are sent over this to your UT email.

Who are the staff and what do they do?

Shirley Martin is responsible for graduate student affairs.

Nancy Loftis is responsible for financial affairs, including GTA compensation, as well as class scheduling

How should I interact with the staff?

Politely. At least if you like to keep all your fingers and toes.

More seriously, if you receive an email from Shirley or Nancy that requires an answer, please reply within 24 hours.

When I’m going away (e.g. to a conference), I just have to pack and get on the plane, right?

NO. You must complete a UT Travel Form before you go.

If you are fortunate enough to obtain funding from the Department or any other part of the university for the trip, you will also need to keep receipts and turn them in to the staff in the office upon your return.



 

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