Graduate Studies

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Marshall University offers a supportive environment for Masters level students who wish to pursue training in sociology. Our accomplished faculty place a strong emphasis on teaching and mentoring while also striving to maintain an active research agenda.  The curriculum is designed to provide our students with a wide range of options in pursuit of their academic and professional goals and interests, while also providing solid training in core foundations of  the two disciplines. Students learn both qualitative and quantitative research methods and are exposed to a variety of subfields and theoretical perspectives.

Faculty core strengths include: social movements and social change, inequality, stratification, deviance, cultural diversity, social interaction and group processes, migration, world systems/globalization, social institutions (religion, family, work and occupations, health care, politics and the economy), criminology, gerontology, qualitative and quantitative research methods, and advanced statistical analysis.

Information below regarding the Sociology Graduate Program (MA) reflects current requirements and processes.  Previously admitted students will follow requirements outlined in the Graduate College catalog for the year of their admission to the University.

Masters Program Admissions

Interested students may seek admission to the program for full-time or part-time studies, with preferred entrance in the fall semester of each year. To receive full consideration all application materials must be received by the Graduate Admissions Office by April 15 for the Fall semester and by November 15 for the Spring semester. Students should plan to take the GRE as early in the year as possible.

Applicants should follow the admission process outlined in the Graduate Catalog or at the Graduate College website.

In addition to the materials described in the Catalog and on the website, applicants for regular admission to the Master of Arts in Sociology must submit to the Graduate Admissions Office:

  • A personal statement describing interests in the program and future plans;
  • Standardized test scores (GRE);
  • International students must provide evidence of English language proficiency such as the TOEFL;
  • Evidence of a minimum of 12 credit hours of undergraduate sociology course work;
  • Undergraduate grade point average (GPA), overall and in sociology;
  • A writing sample: a copy of one paper (10-25 pages) from an undergraduate course, preferably a sociology or anthropology course; and
  • Two letters of recommendation from persons familiar with the applicant’s academic or professional competence.

Admission to the program is offered to a limited number of qualified students demonstrating academic excellence and professional promise. There is not a minimum GRE score required for evaluation of your of your application by the committee. Scores are reviewed in the context of the applicant’s entire file. Applicants who have submitted a complete application and fulfill the requirements stated above will be considered for Full Admission. Students who do not fulfill all requirements stated above may be considered for admission on a provisional or conditional basis.

Graduate Minors

Sociology Minor

A minor in sociology is earned by taking at least 6 credit hours in courses at the 500- or 600- level in Sociology as approved by the student’s advisor and the Graduate Program Director in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Anthropology Minor

A minor in anthropology is earned by taking at least 6 credit hours in courses at the 500- or 600- level in Anthropology as approved by the student’s advisor and the Graduate Program Director in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Financial Aid for Graduate Studies

Tuition rates per semester for graduate students are determined by the students residency status as in-state, Metro, or out-of-state. The most current tuition figures are available at the Office of the Bursar.  Note that the quoted rates do not include fees, books, other supplies, or housing and related living expenses. The cost of living in Huntington and the Tri-States area of West Virginia, Kentucky and Ohio, is generally much lower than that of comparable cities, and the climate is milder too. In the past, the vast majority of full-time graduate students received some form of financial support, and we hope to continue that tradition absent any further budget cuts.

The most common forms of financial support are graduate assistantships, federal work/study and student loans. Graduate Assistants are assigned to work with faculty members on research projects or as teaching assistants for undergraduate courses in exchange for a small stipend and tuition waiver. Graduate Assistantships not only provide financial support, but are also a valuable part of the student’s professional training and development. See the Financial Aid Office for application materials, costs of attendance, loan information and scholarship opportunities.

The Department of Sociology and Anthropology accepts applications for Graduate Assistantships in the Spring for the following academic year.

Masters Program Plan of Studies

In addition to regular courses and seminars, students are expected to contribute to their professional growth through interaction with the faculty and other graduate students as well as from independent study and reading. A student must earn at least a 3.0 GPA in all Sociology and Anthropology classes as a requirement for graduation. A student who receives a second grade of C or below while pursuing the MA in Sociology must review her/his academic plans with the department’s Director of Graduate Programs; this review may result in the student being dismissed from the program.

The Sociology Master of Arts degree requires the completion of 33 hours of coursework plus SOC 681 thesis hours for the Thesis Option, or completion of 36 hours of coursework plus SOC 679 for the Non-Thesis Option. The curriculum is structured around a set of core requirements and a set of disciplinary focus areas that together provide a strong foundation in sociological theory, research methods and data analysis. At least half of the minimum required hours for the student’s master’s degree must be earned in classes numbered 600 or above. Students, in consultation with their advisor, must complete an official “Plan of Study” during their first semester or before completion of 12 credit hours. The Plan of Study must be approved by the Director of Graduate Programs in the department before submission for approval to the Office of the Graduate College. All students must successfully pass comprehensive exams to demonstrate broad comprehension and synthesis of sociology (and, in case the Anthropology Area of Emphasis is chosen, also anthropology); the comprehensive exam will be in conjunction with the defense of the thesis for students choosing that option or will be an examination in an appropriate form after the approval of a problem report.

Core Requirements

All students are required to complete 15 hours of core courses:

  • SOC 600 Classical Sociological Theory
  • SOC 601 Contemporary Sociological Theory
  • SOC 605 Qualitative Research Methods and Analysis
  • SOC 606 Quantitative Research Methods and Analysis
  • SOC 609 Professional Development
  • SOC 605 and SOC 606, is a two-course research methods sequence that should be completed by all students during the first academic year in the graduate program if possible (or within the first 12 graduate credit hours for part-time students). Exceptions are made for students who must take prerequisite courses before enrolling in this sequence.

Thesis Committee Form

Electives–18 hours for thesis option and 21 hours for non-thesis option

The department offers a variety of electives which are bundled in four disciplinary focus areas and an area of emphasis in anthropology.Graduate level courses from other departments may be taken with approval from the Director of Graduate Studies and the course instructor.

To guarantee breadth of education, courses from more than one focus area have to be taken. Note that some classes contribute to more than one focus area; a student can count such classes in more than one focus area for this requirement, but must of course still meet the requirement for the total number of credit hours. To guarantee depth, students also have to take more courses of a particular focus area, declare a minor, or opt for the area of emphasis in anthropology as described below:


Non-thesis option: One course from each focus area 1 thru 4 (12hrs)

Thesis option: Thesis related to one focus, one course from each of the three remaining focus areas (9hrs)


Additional courses from one focus area or a Minor (9hrs).

Focus Area 1: Organizations and Institutions

SOC 508 The Family
SOC 533 Sociology of Work
SOC 550 Sociology of Religion
SOC 564 Complex Organizations
SOC 580 Special Topic (dependent on content)
SOC 668 Seminar (dependent on content)

Focus Area 2: Stratification and diversity

SOC 523 Social Class, Power and Conflict
SOC 525 Race and Ethnicity
SOC 532 Sociology of Appalachia
SOC 555 Sociology of Sex and Gender
SOC 655 Feminist Social Theory
SOC 580 Special Topic (dependent on content)
SOC 668 Seminar (dependent on content)

Focus Area 3: Demography, health, and human environments

SOC 501 Population and Human Ecology
SOC 528 Medical Sociology
SOC 532 Sociology of Appalachia
SOC 540 Introduction to Sociology of Aging
SOC 542 Urban Sociology
SOC 552 Sociology of Death and Dying
SOC 640 Problems and Prospects for an Aging Society
SOC 580 Special Topic (dependent on content)
SOC 668 Seminar (dependent on content)

Focus Area 4: Social problems and collective behavior

SOC 513 Social Movements and Social Change
SOC 520 Criminology
SOC 535 Juvenile Delinquency
SOC 560 The Holocaust and Genocide
SOC 602 Contemporary Social Change
SOC 620 Criminology
SOC 640 Problems and Prospects for an Aging Society
SOC 580 Special Topic (dependent on content)
SOC 668 Seminar (dependent on content)

Comprehensive Exams

All students must successfully pass comprehensive exams to demonstrate broad comprehension and synthesis. The comprehensive exam will be scheduled twice a year, once in the fall and once in the spring; the dates of the exam will be posted in advance. The exam will be made available on-line at 12 noon on the Friday of the posted date and must be completed by the following Monday no later than 12 noon. Current academic year due dates are posted on the Sociology MA Comprehensive Exam page.

The format of the exam will consist of four (4) questions: a) one (1) drawn from Sociological Theory; b) two (2) drawn from Quantitative and Qualitative Research Methods respectively; and c) one (1) drawn from the student’s Focus Area (or Anthropology if the student elects to pursue an Anthropology Area of Emphasis). A list of possible questions that might appear on the exam for a) and b) will be available in advance. The question most pertinent to the student’s Focus Area (c) will not be available until the exam is posted but the student will be permitted to select a specific area of interest in consultation with his/her advisor that will form the basis for the final question.

Students must notify the Graduate Program Director of their intent to take the comprehensive exam at least three weeks prior to its scheduled date. Students who fail the comprehensive exam may re-take the exam upon approval from the Graduate Program Director. No student who fails the comprehensive exam twice will be permitted to continue in the program.

Please follow this link to be taken to the exam files.


All students, prior to graduation, must submit a portfolio to the Graduate Program Director. No student will be permitted to graduate until the portfolio is submitted. The portfolio will consist of the following items:

  • A statement of how the portfolio material demonstrates your status as a Sociologist
  • CV
  • An application letter to a PhD program or for employment (if a PhD is not your goal)
  • Teaching Materials (e.g., syllabus)
  • Paper on Sociological Theory
  • Paper on Research Methods


For more information on course offerings see the latest Graduate Catalog available in PDF format here.

Information on graduation requirements can be found in the Graduate Handbook.


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Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Smith Hall 727
One John Marshall Drive
Huntington, WV 25755-2678
Tel: (304)-696-6700

Jami Smith, Department Administrative Assistant