American Sociological Association

Director of Graduate Studies Preconference

The Future of the PhD in Sociology

DGS Pre-conference Agenda

August 11, 2017 - 1:00pm to 4:30pm, Department Affiliates: $60/Non-Affiliates: $80

The 2017 ASA Director of Graduate Studies Preconference will engage department leaders in an extended conversation about how PhD programs in sociology can best respond to the rapidly changing social and institutional context for doctoral education.

As multi-year funding packages have become the norm, graduate students are often better funded than in the past. Yet there are fewer of them. Under increased financial pressure and concern over the alleged “over production” of PhD’s, many universities have shrunk the size of the doctoral programs. As “time to degree” has become an important measure of program success, there is increasing pressure for students to complete the doctorate within five years. The job market for PhD sociologists is increasingly complex, with a highly competitive academic market, increasing reliance on adjunct faculty in many smaller institutions, and some indications of expanding opportunities in commercial and non-profit sectors for data scientists.

These changes raise critical questions for doctoral programs. What do smaller graduate cohorts mean for the number of doctoral-level classes we run? And how does reducing the number of doctoral classes affect the range and depth of knowledge we expect doctoral students to acquire? Does the pressure to complete a degree in five years lead doctoral programs to admit more students who already hold master’s degrees? Does it affect the kind of research and scholarship doctoral students do, perhaps favoring some subfields and methodological approaches over others? How do we guarantee that students leave graduate school with the methodological sophistication to be viable in today’s job market, while at the same time ensuring they have sufficiently broad knowledge of the discipline and the skills necessary to communicate across disciplines and beyond the academy?

By taking a systematic look at the changing context of doctoral education we hope to begin to think about how sociology as a discipline can most appropriately respond, and what individual departments and doctoral programs can do to effectively educate students in this complex and shifting terrain.


Pearson 2017
University of McGill Department of Sociology 2017
Quebec Research Fund-Society and Culture
Federation for the Humanities
Concordia 2017
UMontreal 2017