Program Requirements

A detailed description of requirements can to be found in the Graduate Student Handbook. Below is an overview of the Major Requirements, Satisfactory Academic Progress and the recommended timetable.

I. Requirements for the Ph.D. (Overview)

  1. Course Requirements: 5 core courses and 44 additional credits in elective courses as specified in the Handbook.*
  2. Qualifying Requirements (Critical Essay, Research Paper or  Comprehensive Oral Examinations): Before submission of their Dissertation Prospectus, candidates must demonstrate mastery of two existing subfields in the discipline by meet two qualifying requirements.  Students may choose from one of the following options for each subfield: a Critical Essay which demonstrates intellectual mastery of the ideas and existing research in one subfield, a Take-Home Exam which demonstrates intellectual mastery of the ideas and existing research in one subfield, or a Research Paper which demonstrates the ability to conduct an original research project in a subfield and write up the results in a paper suitable for submission to a scholarly journal. Subfields and an Examining Committee of three faculty members will be identified in consultation with the student’s advisor and with the approval of the Graduate Programs Committee. After the Examining Committee has approved evidence of completion of each qualifying requirement, a date is set for the comprehensive oral exam. The oral examination will primarily cover the fields in the two qualifying requirements, but it may also cover other substantive, methodological, or theoretical material from the student’s coursework. After the Oral Examination, students should arrange to present their Research Paper in a formal academic setting, as approved by the reader for that subfield. Students should see the Handbook for more information.
  3. Dissertation Prospectus: The prospectus should identify the question to be addressed and the relevant theoretical and research literature from which the dissertation will build. It should then outline the research methods and plan for the study (including an estimated timetable) and provide a focused bibliography.
  4. Dissertation and Oral Defense: With the prospectus approved, the student may engage fully upon the dissertation research. The dissertation is to be a scholarly and original contribution, written entirely by the student, and advancing knowledge in the field. The completed Dissertation must be defended in an oral examination.

*Transfer Credits: Students may petition the Graduate Programs Committee to transfer credits for any of the above, but whether the credits are accepted is up to the GPC. Only up to 32 credits may be transferred. Credits used towards undergraduate degrees are not accepted.

All students must maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress in order to remain in the program. The following achievements are required to maintain Satisfactory Academic Progress:

  • Maintain a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
  • Have no more than 2 failing grades (lower than B- or an incomplete grade older than 12 months).
  • Adherence to timetable given below.

All requirements for the doctorate, including dissertation, must be completed within seven years (exceptions require a petition to GRS). A leave of absence of up to two semesters is permitted for appropriate cause, but the leave period counts towards the seven-year time limit. The following is the timetable for completion of requirements (deviation from this timetable must be approved by the Graduate Programs Committee).

  • By End of Second Year: Completion of all course requirements (a)
  • By End of Third Year: Completion of Qualifying Requirements, Oral Defense, and Dissertation Prospectus (b)

(a) the exception is if students wish to register for Directed Study over the summer before their Third Year and fall during their Third Year as part of their Qualifying Requirements: then they should finish all but 8 credits of their course requirements by the end of their second year

(b) students should work on their Qualifying Requirements as part of their second year coursework; they should complete one of them (Research paper or Critical Essay) by or over the summer before their third year; they should complete the other in the fall of their third year and complete their dissertation prospectus over the winter and summer semesters of their third year


II. Requirements for the Master of Arts (Overview)

A detailed description of requirements can to be found in the Graduate Student Handbook. The objective of the Master’s Program at Boston University is to prepare the student broadly in the basic skills used by a sociologist. Our goal is to provide training for work as an applied social scientist outside of academic life, as in government administrative jobs or research departments or community programs. There is also room for some specialization or areas of concentration. Usually 8 courses are required (5 core courses and 3  elective courses) in addition to a Master’s Thesis.