We’ve developed this top 20 list in order to help students pursuing degrees in sociology choose the best program for their needs. All of the schools on this list will provide an excellent education in sociology.
When choosing the schools to apply to, don’t always assume that the higher ranked school will fit your needs better than a lower ranked school. Often times, it is the intangible things that make or break a college experience. For that reason, we encourage you to consider more than just academic rankings and focus on other quality of life features of each school like A) student body population size B) school setting C) the specializations of the professors in your department, etc. For some, going to school in a big city is just too chaotic so choosing a smaller school with a more relaxed atmosphere might be important. For others, it might be especially important to find a school where the professors give you lots of one-on-one time and encourage conversation.
With those qualifications, we present you with our list of the top sociology programs with the best schools listed first.
1. University of California at Berkeley
The Department of Sociology at UCB is held in high regard in the United States and around the world. Undergraduates at the University of California majoring in sociology will benefit enormously from the top ranked research center, the award winning faculty, and the comprehensive course offerings. The University studies and analyzes every corner of society from one end of the globe to the other and endeavors to impart the knowledge gained to their undergraduate and graduate students. Concentrations include gender, culture, poverty, states, stratification, women’s movements, sexuality, urban gangs, prisons, churches, poverty, and institutions.
Sociology majors are required to complete an introductory course, statistics course and a research methods course. Additionally, students must complete two semesters in theory, three sociology core courses in various specializations, three upper level sociology electives and a seminar course. Students have the opportunity to achieve honors status through the completion of an honors thesis or by maintaining a 3.0 GPA and being invited to join the University of California chapter of Alpha Kappa Delta. The curriculum is designed to ensure undergraduate students achieve a firm command of sociological concepts and an in depth understanding of the field.
2. Harvard University
Students are afforded a wide range of flexibility in developing a curriculum geared towards their specific areas of interests and concentrations. Students majoring in Sociology at Harvard are required to complete only six specific courses in the subject. Students have the opportunity to study a multitude of sociological specializations. The University boasts a faculty with expertise in many areas. The curriculum is designed to provide both theoretical foundations and practical applications of the learned material.
Harvard requires sociology majors to complete certain requirements as well as offering optional electives to ensure undergraduates attain the skills and knowledge needed for the degree. The junior tutorial is a class centered on a research project to be completed by up to twelve students. The students learn research principals and study important social topics. The elective Community Based Research course allows students to engage in research projects within the community. The Honors thesis, if completed, permits students to graduate with honors. The thesis is completed under the supervision of an advisor and is an exploration of an area of sociological interest to the individual student.
The courses are offered in many areas of specialization. Students choose to concentrate in work, organizations, and management. Or they can study law, criminal justice and the community. Other areas include health medicine and society; inequality and social policy; and culture and social history. Numerous courses are offered under each section and provide substantial opportunity for the exploration of the social issues impacting the world.
3. New York University
The Department of Sociology at NYU offers their students a multifaceted program with limitless opportunities. The curriculum is designed to encourage students to engage in theoretical study, to become immersed in practical analysis, and to gain a deeper understanding of the pressing issues of the world in which they live. The faculty members are proclaimed experts in the diverse disciplines taught.
A comprehensive curriculum has been developed for Sociology majors. Students majoring in the program will be required to complete an introductory course, a research methods course, statistics for social research, sociological theory, two advanced seminars, and three electives. In order for the courses to count towards the degree, a C or better must be earned in the classes.
4. The University of Chicago
The University of Chicago’s Department of Sociology, founded in 1892, was the first sociology department in the United States and continues to be a pioneer in the field. The University studies cover the wide breadth of the field employing cutting edge methodologies and thorough examination of the discipline. The curriculum has been created in such a way to encourage the development of an integrated program; with the University supporting interdisciplinary study within the social science departments.
The completion of an introductory course in sociology is required prior to declaring a major in sociology. In order to successfully complete a degree in sociology, students must complete at least one course each in social theory, methodology and statistics. Seven additional courses in the social sciences fields are required; four of the seven must be in sociology. A senior seminar course must also be completed. Any student aspiring to graduate with honors must prepare an honors paper which requires registration in the BA honors paper course.
5. University of Pennsylvania
Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania is centered on the inequity in treatment and access to resources between certain groups of people. The study is not limited to small groups; but examines the relationships between small groups and larger populations. The investigation is carried out using theory and empirical study. Through successful and consistent study performed by the students and faculty members, theories are tested, proven, and disproven. And through this process, new theories emerge.
The University offers both an undergraduate and graduate program. Undergraduate students have the option of selecting sociology as either a major or minor course of study. Those who major in sociology will be expected to complete an introductory course in sociology, one in sociological theory, both statistical and research methodology. Courses must be completed in specific areas of concentrations and several sociology courses in areas other than the chosen specialization. Students are required to develop an initial education plan for their major with an advisor to help guide their program.
6. University of California Los Angeles
The UCLA sociology department is known for their work in ethnicity, nationalism, and international migration among several other areas of particular strength. Undergraduate students attending the school will benefit enormously from the extensive program opportunities offered at the University; one of the country’s foremost authorities in the field of sociology. In addition to the rewarding program, students will be taught by faculty members boasting receipt of some of the most prestigious awards in the field of sociology. Alumni of the University have earned PhD’s in the field and gone on to become professors at many of the Ivy League schools located in the United States.
Undergraduate students are required to complete certain courses prior to declaring a major in sociology. Students must earn a C or better in an introductory sociology class, a statistics course, a research methods class, and one of the three math courses designated as prerequisites to the program. After successful completion of these designated classes prior to the start of the junior year, students have the opportunity to commence their study in the field of sociology. Once in the major, undergraduates will need to complete eleven upper level sociology courses and four courses in related fields. Students also have the opportunity to participate in an internship as part of their curriculum.
7. University of Virginia
Sociology at the University of Virginia is focused on the universal principals who guide the study. These large-scale theories are the foundation of the field and are the driving factors behind sociological study. The University embraces the classical components of sociological theory; applying these principals to aid in their research. Both the proven classical theories and empirical methods are employed to uncover and to ascertain new answers to evolving societal issues. The University of Virginia is committed to an interdisciplinary approach to the study of sociology and the benefits associated with this collaboration.
In order to declare a major in sociology, students must first complete an introductory sociology class along with one other course in the field. Once accepted into the sociology major, undergraduate students will be required to take four upper level sociology courses. As a condition of the major, students will need to complete a social statistics class, a social theory course, and a research workshop. Students with a minor in sociology will need to successfully complete nine courses as prescribed by the University.
8. University of Notre Dame
The University of Notre Dame is dedicated to the research and study of sociology. The faculty members are authors of a number of renowned published books and journal articles of sociological importance. The published works are recorded in the top sociology journals. Due to the regularity with which these articles are published, Notre Dame has earned a fifth place ranking among the nations universities in terms of articles placed in the fields most renowned journals. Undergraduates majoring in sociology have also been published in these journals due to their participation and work in the field while at Notre Dame.
Undergraduate students majoring in sociology at Notre Dame will benefit greatly from the faculty members. Students will have the opportunity to become research assistants and participate in ground breaking research. The faculty members do not focus solely on the research, though. The faculty members have won awards for their teaching. In addition to the usual requirements expected of sociology majors, Notre Dame offers their students the opportunity to gain valuable practical experience by engaging in their service learning opportunities offered at the school’s center for social concerns. The University has many other opportunities for students to enhance their educational experience through their interdisciplinary programs involving peace studies and education.
9. Northwestern University
At Northwestern University, the sociology program is focused on inequality among groups and various social organizations on both large scale and smaller scale basis. The program is grounded in four specific processes; comparative and historical methods, quantitative survey, ethnographic method, and cultural analysis. Northwestern believes sociology is based in both scientific approaches and the human relationships being studied. As such, both elements are employed to develop a curriculum preparing students for a future in the field.
Undergraduates majoring in sociology are expected to complete specific courses as designated in the curriculum. One course must be completed from the lower level classes. The school requires students to complete three courses on methodology and statistics. A social theory course is required along with four upper level courses. Students must also complete a senior research seminar. Students also have the opportunity to minor in either sociological studies or sociological research. The curriculum varies depending on which minor the student elects to pursue.
10. University of Texas at Austin
The Department of Sociology at the University of Texas boasts one of the largest departments in the nation. The school offers a large faculty with expertise in many of the sociological specializations. The research at the University is often funded by government grants and the findings presented at national and international conferences. The importance of the work completed at the University is evident by the much sought after advice afforded to policy makers from the faculty and students alike. The University is dedicated to the study of the core areas and the development of the field.
The curriculum of the sociology major at the University of Texas encompasses the vast breadth of the field. Specializations offered at the University include areas like criminology and deviance, gender, family, religion, ethnicity and race, and social stratification. Students have the opportunity to participate in research projects and to aspire to the Alpha Kappa Delta honors society. In addition to the sociology courses students must complete, the degree program requires students to complete courses in foundational areas such as English, history, foreign language, science and writing so that a solid, well rounded foundation is achieved.
11. Duke University
Duke University views the field of sociology in terms of how the shaping of foundational human values are forged through and impacted by social structures. The department examines the impact of evolving technological and social advancements on the human condition and contentment or discontentment. The University considers sociology to be the core discipline of the social sciences and the key to a successful career and a comprehensive understanding in any of the related fields.
The curriculum for the sociology major at Duke is designed with an emphasis on the foundations of the field. Students have the choice of completing either an introduction to sociology course or contemporary social problems class. Undergraduates will need to complete the research methods course and a class in social theory. A quantitative analysis course is also required and participation in a research seminar in the junior/senior year. Students can then choose from six higher level courses in the fields of their choice.
12. University of California at Southern California
USC possesses a lengthy pioneering history in the field of sociology. USC was the founding university of the Alpha Kappa Delta honor society, three influential sociology journals, and developed the first PhD program in the Western United States. The strength of the department still lies in programs of specialization which began with the onset of the department; race relations, immigration, and community studies of civic engagement. The program has evolved over the years to include strengths in areas which have been of developing interest over time such as gerontology.
The University offers both the masters’ and doctorate graduate programs. Students are taught the basic concepts of theory, research methods and statistical analysis. Additionally, students are expected to concentrate in two areas of specialization to develop a more comprehensive understanding of the field. Students are encouraged and expected to participate in research projects and the presentation of the results. Publication opportunities are available. Teaching opportunities are also offered.
13. Georgetown University
The sociology department at Georgetown offers students an innovative program. The University is focused on developing new and creative ideas and approaches through research and scholarship. The school is not constrained by accepted theory, but strives to discover new areas of thinking from the current schools of thought. The complexities of the field are examined and established methodologies employed to further the development of new understandings of the human social connections. Georgetown is committed to the realization of a more just society built from the skills and knowledge gained from the study and research in the field of sociology.
Undergraduates can elect to pursue either a major or a minor in the field of sociology. A concentration in the field of Social Justice Analysis is offered to students studying sociology. Students are expected to complete five core sociology courses as well as five electives in the field. The core classes include a research methods class, social theory, statistics, introductory course and a senior seminar. Students have the opportunity to study abroad. The social justice concentration is centered on inequalities and social change and employs community based learning techniques.
14. University of Michigan Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan’s department of sociology offers a broad, relevant and modern program based in theory and research. Students are afforded the opportunity to tailor their program to their interests and career goals. The University embraces an interdisciplinary approach and offers six sub-concentrations in the field of sociology. The program teaches the foundational principals and provides an academic advisor to help students select a curriculum suited to their needs and interests.
Students at the University of Michigan can choose from six sub-concentrations. The areas offered include: economy, business and society; health and aging; international social change; law, criminology and deviance; social inequality: race, class and gender; social welfare and social services. In order to successfully complete an area of concentration, a minimum of four courses must be completed in the chosen area. Students can elect to participate in the honors program and can choose a concentration in social anthropology.
15. Cornell University
Cornell ascribes to the idea that sociology is the investigation of human behavior within the structure of varies social groups; both on a large and small scale. The development and study of the theories, both old and new, which define sociology, assist in understanding the world in which we live. Cornell understands sociology to be the largest field of study encompassing every type of human relationship and the effects of the relationships to the development of society. Areas of study include race, social class, gender, crime and culture.
Undergraduate students are expected to fulfill the established requirements for the sociology major. Students must complete the introductory course, either classical or contemporary theory course, a statistical evidence course, and seven elective courses in sociology. A total of ten courses are required for the major. An honors thesis requirement is being added to the program beginning in the year 2011. Research opportunities are offered to undergraduate students. The opportunity to study abroad is also offered.
16. Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University is committed to continued contributions to the field of sociology. Though the University encourages and offers substantial freedom in the academic development of each student, the school is dedicated to ensuring students are equipped with a strong foundation in the field. The faculty members possess expertise in a substantial number of areas specific to the field of sociology. These areas include arts, culture, religion; cities, states, and political economy; deviant behavior and social control; work, labor and occupations; race, ethnicity and immigration; social movements, politics, and power.
The undergraduate program for sociology majors is challenging and comprehensive. Students must complete the introductory course, two research skills courses and a statistics course. Students then have the choice of three courses in any of the areas of specialization and an additional three courses in sociology of the student’s choice. A minor in sociology can be completed. Students minoring in the field must complete two courses as designated by the University and four elective courses. A total of six classes must be completed to earn a minor in sociology.
17. Washington University
Washington University is credited with pioneering the scientific study of sociology. The University was among the first schools to develop a sociology program versed in scientific study and has had five faculty members serve as the president of the American Sociological Association. The propensity for innovation in sociological study has continued throughout the years. The department has created a leading center for causal inference and quantitative methodology. And the faculty members continue to explore the causal relationships and elemental theories of the field through research.
Washington University offers undergraduate and graduate programs in sociology. Students can participate in internships, research projects, and have the option of study abroad. Students majoring in sociology must complete certain requirements prior to applying to major in sociology. Many of the lower level and introductory courses are required prior to the application. Once in the program, sociology majors will need to complete a research methods course, a theory course, ten elective courses in sociology, an independent study course, and twenty credits in upper level sociology classes.
18. Boston University
At Boston University, sociology questions the many why’s of our global societies and examines the answers which define our many cultures. The Department of Sociology endeavors to ask the unanswered questions and explore the multitude of probable answers; including the reason the questions weren’t asked in the first place. The research at the University is focused on the factors and relationships which influence our quality of life and the automatic acceptance of the conditions which shape our existence. Through the answers to these complex, multifaceted questions, Boston University strives to understand and improve the world in which we live.
The undergraduate sociology program at Boston University instills in their students the analytical skills and knowledge needed to succeed in any number of fields with a concentration in understanding social systems and processes. Many specializations are offered including medical sociology, urban sociology, global and transnational social relations and gender inequality and organizational forms. Students are expected to complete the introductory course, theory and methods, two seminars, and six upper level sociology courses. Statistical analysis must also be completed for the major.
19. University of Minnesota
The Department of Sociology at the University of Minnesota explores the significance of understanding daily life. Many specializations are available for study; criminology and law, social inequality, social movements, life course. The University is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the field while utilizing new technology and employing evolving methodology in their pursuit of new knowledge. Learning opportunities are regularly offered to students outside of the classroom. Students can attend lectures and forums, enjoy lunch with the faculty, become members of the undergraduate sociological association, and engaging in research opportunities.
Sociology majors have the option of choosing a curriculum emphasizing general sociology or law, criminology and deviance. Both disciplines would require courses in research methods, sociological theory and sociological principals. Statistics and a senior project are also requirements of the major. Five classes can be selected from the upper level courses as sociology electives in the field. Students can select these elects that would tailor their program towards the area in which they are most interested in studying. The senior paper is intended to provide an outlet to utilize the students culminated skills from the courses completed.
20. George Washington University
The Department of Sociology at George Washington University offers students the wide breadth of sociological study. The University doesn’t limit their study to a specific focus, but studies the range of specialized areas. The courses include deviant behavior, sociology of sex and gender, contemporary theory, criminology, race and ethnic relations and urban sociology. The University trains students for careers in both academic and non-academic realms. Because the University is located in Washington DC, many opportunities arise to participate in activities for organizations within the capitol.
The students choosing to major in sociology have the opportunity to select a specialization in the major. Degrees are offered in sociology, criminal justice or human services. The course requirements will vary depending on which specialization the student wishes to pursue. Students will need to complete the introductory courses, the research methods, and statistics classes. Sociology specific majors will complete seven elective courses in the sociology field. Minors can also be declared in the field.