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Online Master’s in Sociology Degree Programs

Sociology is the study of societies related to social life, social relationships, social change, social inequality, and the consequences of human behavior on societies. A society is defined as a group of people who live in a geographical area, share customs, values, and beliefs, and develop relationships. Even the culture of a work environment or the demographics of a church organization can be the subject of study for sociologists.

Graduates of master’s in sociology degree programs may work in the areas of public policy, research, social services, counseling, law, criminology, conflict resolution, education, social media, marketing, and business. Career paths may include jobs with government agencies, social service and non-profit organizations, consulting firms, human resources, advocacy groups, and educational organizations. Sociology graduates may seek certification as a Certified Applied Sociologist (C.A.S) or a Certified Clinical Sociologist (C.C.S) through the Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology (AACS).

What is a Master’s in Sociology Degree Program?

A master’s degree in sociology focuses on research and data analysis to answer complex social questions regarding social life, change, relationships, inequalities, and behaviors. Students in graduate sociology programs study major sociological theories as well as sociological research, social statistics, quantitative and qualitative research methods, data analysis, demographics, social change, justice, and diversity. Sociologists gain skills in problem-solving, effective communication, working with individuals and groups, critical thinking, data analysis, and research.

Online Master’s in Sociology Programs

Online master’s in sociology programs offer the same curriculum as their campus-based equivalents. Distance learning programs use learning management systems (LMS) to deliver lectures, recorded videos, assignments, and other instructional activities in an online environment. Through a program’s LMS, students can access course materials, participate in discussion boards, and contact instructors and classmates. Online master’s in sociology programs can be beneficial to students who prefer not to travel to campus for weekly lectures and for students who do not live near a college campus. Online programs also provide students with greater flexibility, as they are typically able to access their course materials from any location where they have access to the Internet.

While many online master’s in sociology programs are offered fully online, students should note that some programs may require a limited number of campus visits while completing the program. classifies a program as online if it requires two or fewer campus visits per calendar year. Programs that require more than two visits per year are classified as hybrid or on-campus programs.

How Identifies and Classifies Online Master’s in Sociology Degree Programs

Master’s in sociology programs are typically offered as Master of Science (M.S.) or Master of Arts (M.A.) degrees. While these programs may have significant similarities, M.S. programs may focus more on research, data analysis, statistics, and the science behind sociological behaviors, while M.A. in Sociology programs may focus more on cultural awareness, communication, and relationship studies. Master’s in sociology programs may be offered by Colleges of Arts and Sciences, Schools of Education, and Colleges of Liberal Arts, in departments such as Sociology, Sociology and Anthropology, and Education. Common program names include:

  • Master of Arts in Sociology
  • Master of Science in Sociology
  • Master of Sociology

Through independent research of master’s programs, identifies master’s programs in sociology that are offered online. To be included on the site, programs must offer all or most of their instruction online. Programs that require students to attend more than two campus-based sessions per year are considered hybrid programs and are not currently listed on the site. In addition, programs on the site must be offered by regionally accredited, non-profit colleges and universities.

What Students Learn in Online Master’s in Sociology Programs

Sociology graduate students study classical and contemporary sociological theories about how individuals, people groups, organizations, communities, cultures, and institutions interact and the consequences or benefits of human behaviors. Master’s in sociology programs typically delve more deeply into theory and practice compared to bachelor’s programs in the field. In addition, master’s in sociology students typically study societies and cultures at a given period in time. Certain programs may focus more heavily on research, data analysis, statistics, and solving complex societal problems, while others may focus more closely on contemporary topics. These may include:

  • Contemporary social movements
  • Media and society
  • Health and aging
  • Marriage and family relationships
  • Communication patterns
  • Social networks
  • Diversity and society
  • Societal leadership
  • Fertility and reproduction
  • Social epidemiology
  • Population data
  • Race and gender issues
  • Finance
  • Education
  • Sexuality
  • Inequality
  • Mental health
  • Religion
  • Political sociology
  • Environmental change
  • Urban sociology
  • Rural society

Some programs also require students to complete foundational coursework if they do not have a bachelor’s degree in sociology or a closely related field. These may include courses in statistics, research, and other applicable undergraduate concepts. As such, these courses may need to be completed before students begin master’s level courses in their degree program.

Common Courses in Online Master’s in Sociology Programs

The table below provides an overview of coursework that is typical of a master’s in sociology curriculum. The courses and their descriptions are drawn from actual graduate online programs in sociology.

Course TitleCourse Description
Media and SocietyThe effects of the explosion of new media and technology on social life; debates about the effects of media on violence; the effects of a visual culture on social life; race, gender and sexuality issues; and reality TV.
Society and IndividualThe examination of current theory and research in sociological social psychology. 
Readings in Sociological TheoryThe reading and study of valued contemporary sociology works.
Comparative Studies of FamiliesAn examination of the institution of marriage and family as it relates to different societal cultures, races, and ethnicity with an emphasis on family life in the U.S.
Quantitative and Survey Research MethodsA study of quantitative research methods, including skills in developing and conducting surveys.
Qualitative Research MethodsA study of qualitative research methods; students gain practical experience in qualitative research proposal writing.
Urban SociologyAn examination of how urban spaces shape social life and how social life affects urban spaces; study of society and culture of urban areas; topics such as urbanization, industrialization, suburbia, ethnic segregation, spatial inequality, urban subcultures, and gentrification may be covered.
Sociology of OrganizationThe study of the structure and processes of formal organizations such as nonprofits and bureaucracies; theoretical perspectives on organizational functioning; the impact of organizations on personal autonomy and identity.
Sociology of WorkAn examination of how people work in the U.S. and the effects on their lives; topics include work structure, unemployment, work and family balance, earnings and promotions, working environment inequalities, and pay.
Data AnalysisStudents gain the ability to analyze social science research data including measurements, statistics, and data interpretation.

Admissions to Online Master’s in Sociology Programs

While admissions requirements for online master’s in sociology programs vary by program, students are typically required to have earned a bachelor’s degree, to fill out an admissions application and pay any applicable application fee (for school’s that have an application fee), and to submit official transcripts from all institutions of higher education which they have attended. Other admissions requirements may include a minimum undergraduate GPA, an up-to-date resume or CV, a written personal statement, letters of recommendation, one or more years of work experience in the field of sociology, and standardized test scores from the GRE exam.

In addition, some programs may require or give preference to students who have completed an undergraduate degree in sociology or a closely related field. Students who did not complete a bachelor’s degree in sociology may have to take several prerequisite courses designed to prepare them for graduate-level courses before starting their master’s curriculum.

Online Master’s in Sociology Format Options

Online master’s programs are typically designed to provide more flexibility to students who may work and/or have family obligations while completing a graduate degree. Outlined below are structural and instructional variables that students should consider as they explore online programs. These variables include: online instructional methods; enrollment options; and required campus visits.

Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Instruction: Online coursework may be delivered through synchronous instruction, which involves live, real-time lectures and discussions often conducted using video conferencing software, and via asynchronous instruction, which does not incorporate live sessions. For synchronous instruction, students must log into the designated LMS to participate in online lectures, discussions, and breakout groups. This type of online instruction is most similar to a traditional classroom setting, as students are typically in attendance when the course meets. One benefit of this type of instruction is the face-to-face interactions and real-time teaching that is absent from programs that only use asynchronous instruction. In addition, should students miss a live class, they are typically recorded for later viewing or review.

In contrast, asynchronous instruction is not real-time, and students can log in at their convenience to access lectures and course materials, and to complete assignments by set due dates. Self-motivated, highly organized students may prefer asynchronous instruction as it provides online students with the most flexibility, which may also be needed for professionals completing their degrees while working full-time. Conversely, students who prefer a more structured learning environment may prefer programs that have synchronous sessions to help keep them on track and motivated.

Part-Time vs. Full-Time Enrollment: Many online master’s programs offer students the option of part-time or full-time enrollment, which can be helpful for students who have full-time work or family commitments outside of school. Full-time enrollment allows students to finish their degree in a shorter period of time, but requires a greater time commitment per week as full-time students often take multiple courses per term. Full-time students can typically graduate in 12 to 24 months.

Part-time enrollment may work better for students who do not have as much time each week to dedicate to their studies, as it allows students to earn their degree over a longer period of time. Part-time students typically take one or two courses at a time and may take two to four years to graduate. Different programs have different completion plans, some of which are more flexible than others. Those considering a graduate degree in sociology should research likely programs carefully to determine which ones best suit their needs.

Campus Visits: Most online master’s in sociology programs can be completed fully online; however, some schools do require a minimal number of campus visits while enrolled. These visits may be “intensives” or “immersions” designed to further learning and understanding of key concepts, create opportunities for in-person interaction between faculty and peers, and provide opportunities for skills practice. If a program includes campus visits, they are typically required in order to complete the program.

Students who prefer in-person interactions to solidify online relationships may choose programs incorporating campus visits. Those who cannot or would prefer not to travel to a campus or another designated location should look for programs that can be completed fully online. does not currently include online master’s in sociology programs that require more than two campus visits per year.

Directory of Online Master’s in Sociology Programs

School NameProgram
Arizona State University Online Master of Arts in Sociology
Fayetteville State University Online Master of Arts in Sociology
Morehead State University Online Master of Arts in Sociology
New Mexico State University Online Master of Arts in Sociology
Sam Houston State University Online Master of Arts in Sociology
South Dakota State University Online M.S. in Sociology with a Specialization in Community Development
Texas A&M University Commerce Online Master of Science in Sociology
Texas Woman's University Online Master of Arts in Sociology
The University of Alabama at Birmingham Online Master of Arts in Applied Sociology
Virginia Commonwealth University Online Master of Science in Sociology with a Concentration in Digital Sociology