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Frequently Asked Questions: MA/MS

Learning about the Program

The Application Process

Living in Portland

Learning about the Program

I am considering applying for the Master's degree in Sociology. What do you look for in a candidate?
We look for well-rounded students who have strong academic abilities and who we feel have a high probability of successfully completing the program. We want students who can demonstrate a passion for, and understanding of, sociological thought, research, and writing. Our program is research-based, so a desire to develop your research skills is imperative. As you will note in our application packet, we evaluate students based on five criteria: G.P.A., GRE, letters of recommendations,writing sample, and fit between student's and faculty's interests. |back to top


If I did not get my Bachelor's in Sociology, can I still apply for the Master's in sociology?
Yes. Although many of our applicants have a Bachelor's degree in sociology, we have had successful students in the Master's program who have a degree in another discipline. Applicants are expected to have extensive experience in sociological studies, especially in theory and quantitative methods research. If you do not already have a bachelor’s degree in Sociology, we expect you to have taken the following core courses and have passed with a grade of B or better, so that you come into the program with a basic knowledge of sociological theory, social science statistical research and advanced critical analysis in upper division coursework:
  • SOC 301: Foundations of Sociology I (Emergence to mid twentieth century).
  • SOC 302: Foundations of Sociology II (Mid twentieth century to the present).
  • SOC 397: Social Research methods (Requires STAT 243 if taken at PSU, or equivalent).
  • SOC 398: Social Research Projects (Requires STAT 243 if taken at PSU, or equivalent).
  • Two 400-level sociology courses (electives).
    Please note that Soc 301 and 397/397L are only offered during the fall and winter terms at PSU. However, it is not necessary to take these courses at PSU. |back to top


What funding opportunities are available?
Students who are funded by the department receive tuition remission (12 credits for first-year masters students, and nine credits for second year masters and Ph.D. students) and a monthly stipend of approximately $650, in exchange for up to 15 hours per week as a research or teaching assistant. Although we would like to provide funding to all students, we are not able to do so. Many of our students who do not receive departmental funding are are able to secure scholarships or university funding from outside the department. We maintain a list of potential funding sources to which you are encouraged to apply. |back to top


The idea of writing a thesis is intimidating, can I do it?
We have a series of graduate courses to help you write your thesis proposal. The topic should be a combination of your research interests and the specialties of the faculty. The best thing to do is find out about the types of research the faculty is engaged in and talk to them about research opportunities. It is best to pick a thesis advisor fairly early in the program. |back to top


Will a Master's degree help me enter the Ph.D. program?
Having a Master's is a requirement for applying to our Ph.D. program however completing our Master's program does not guarantee acceptance into our Ph.D. program. Other Ph.D. programs have different policies about requiring a Master's degree. |back to top


What is the typical class size for a graduate class? Are classes restricted to graduate students or are undergraduates common in the classes?
Cohort sizes vary from year to year, but they average between 10 and 15 students. Required core courses (Soc 590, 591, 592, 593) are for first-year sociology Master's students, though a few graduate students from other disciplines enroll. Elective courses may include undergraduate students, but academic rigor is maintained with additional requirements and higher expectations for graduate students. |back to top


What is the average time of completion for the masters degree?
Although ultimately it depends upon the students, our program is designed to be completed within two years.|back to top


What do students do after graduating with a Master's in Sociology from PSU?
Our graduates teach at community colleges, enroll in Ph.D. programs in sociology and related fields, or work as researchers in the private and public sectors. Please see "Where are they now?" |back to top


What are some of the thesis topics of past graduates?
Our students have written theses on a wide range of topics, including criminology, stratification, globalization, medical sociology, neighborhoods (including gentrification), education, religion, and gender and race relations. Many of these theses are related to the faculty's ongoing research projects. Please look through our "Recent Theses." |back to top


Who can I contact to find out more abut the program?
Please look carefully at all of the information on our web site. Then, if you still have questions, contact the Graduate Director whose name appears in our "Contact" page. |back to top


Learning about the Program

Do you require GRE scores?
Yes, GRE scores are required. However, please note that we evaluate students based on five criteria: GRE scores, G.P.A., letters of recommendation, writing sample, and fit between student's academic interests and faculty's. The scoring for GRE exams have changed.  We do not have recent statistics for average scores to share at this point. |back to top


What if I cannot take the GRE before the application deadline?
GRE scores are required for the application process. Please ensure that you take it the test early enough for us to receive your scores on time. However, if you have taken the GRE but suspect that we may not receive your results by our January deadline (January 15 in 2016), please inform Bahar Jaberi, the Department Coordinator.|back to top


What undergraduate GPA do I need to have to be considered?
Again we want to emphasize that students are evaluated based on five criteria: GRE scores, G.P.A., letters of recommendation, writing sample, and fit between student's academic interests and faculty's. The average undergraduate GPA for our recent students has been 3.7. |back to top


Who should write my letters of recommendations?
At least two of the three letters must be written by professors or instructors. We highly recommend asking those who know you, your academic ability, and your skills well. If you have been out of school for a while, and do not feel that you can obtain strong academic letters, you should consider taking one or more university courses (e.g., auditing). The instructors of those courses could then write you letters. |back to top


Can a sociology professor at PSU write a letter of recommendation for me?
Yes, but it is up to the individual professor to decide whether it is appropriate to write a letter of recommendation for a student. |back to top


What are you looking for in the letters of recommendation?
Letters of recommendation are used to help us gain a better picture of an applicant's potential to successfully complete the program. Two of the three letters of recommendation should come from persons familiar with your academic performance. Letters should be a candid appraisal of your abilities and why they recommend you as a candidate. |back to top


How do I get letters of recommendation?
Letters of recommendation are an important part of the application process, so you should choose whom you ask carefully. Ideally, the letters are written by those who know you, your academic ability, and your skills well. Professors who you have worked with closely are ideal candidates; in fact we ask that at least two of the three letters come from professors or instructors of courses that you have taken. A word of caution is warranted: asking a professor who only knows you as a grade in a class will most likely write you a luke-warm letter.|back to top


A couple of words of advice: do not wait until the last minute to ask for a letter of recommendation (you run the risk of irritating the person); give the person a copy of your statement of purpose so that they can review it; also reiterate that you will not be reading the letter. |back to top

 What if letters of recommendation arrive late?

As you know, our application deadline on ApplyWeb is usually due on the 15th of January of each year for the following fall.  This means that all applicants must submit their applications by that date in order for their applications to be accepted by the department/university.  We like to leave a window of two weeks for recommendations to trickle in.  It's important to contact your reviewers and let them know that our system will prompt them to submit a letter of recommendation, so that it will be easy for them to upload the letter.  Typically, most reviewers upload their letters shortly after being prompted, especially if they've been notified, but be aware that the department begins reviewing applications two weeks after the deadline. |back to top

What should I include in my statement of purpose?
The statement of purpose is your opportunity to demonstrate why you should be accepted into the program. Be sure that you explain (a) how you are qualified (e.g., academic achievement, relevant work/internship experience) and (b) why you want to get your Master's degree in Sociology at PSU. Be sure that you mention your academic interests and with which PSU faculty you are interested in working. Remember that the statement of purpose also demonstrates how well and concisely you write. |back to top


I am currently a Portland State student, and I am considering applying for the Master's degree in Sociology. Do I need to submit a PSU transcript?
If you received your degree from PSU and did not attend any other post-secondary institutions, you may submit an unofficial copy of your PSU transcript to ApplyWeb. If you attended PSU and also attended other colleges and universities, you will need to submit an official transcript from each of the other institutions you attended, once you are admitted to the university. |back to top


When applying to the Department of Sociology, what major code do I use for the PSU Graduate School application?
The major code for sociology is SOC for Master's, SOCD for Ph.D. |back to top


I attended a different university for my Bachelor's. My undergraduate courses were a little different than the coursework required for admission. Will my undergraduate courses count?
Unfortunately, the answer to that is "it depends." It is up to the admissions committee to decide if your courses are equivalent, but they may ask you to supply them with additional information about the courses (such as syllabus and coursework). |back to top


Living in Portland

What is the availability of housing around PSU?
Portland is known for its many funky, diverse neighborhoods that are close to downtown and served well by mass transit. If you want to live on campus, you can look at the various choices with PSU Housing, an organization which runs the apartments, studios, and dorms on campus--some may have long waiting lists. Otherwise, there are the usual sources such as Portland's Craigslist, and the Oregonian newspaper. |back to top


How do I qualify for in-state tuition?
Students with residency status are assessed in-state instructional fees, which are subsidized by funds from the State of Oregon's Higher Education budget. Non-resident students are assessed a higher level of instructional fees that more closely approximates the actual cost of instruction. In order to determine your residency status please refer to the Residency Requirements at the Admissions office website. |back to top


Where is PSU located in Portland?
PSU is located at the south end of downtown, making it a true urban university integrated into the city. PSU is conveniently located on the bus, the street car, and the MAX train routes. We are also bike friendly, as many of our faculty and students get their exercise by riding to campus. The South Park Blocks, twelve city blocks of green oasis, run through PSU. The Park Blocks do more than just provide a peaceful break from city life, they offer a place for students to socialize and study, a weekly farmers' market (April to mid December), and various art exhibits and events. It also provides a pleasant walk through town to campus. |back to top