Best Online Sociology Master's Degree Programs

Explore the top schools that offer sociology master's degree programs completely online. Learn what courses are included, how long programs take, and what jobs you might qualify for after graduation. Schools offering Sociology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Top Online Schools for Sociology Master's Degree Programs

Learn.org's school ranking methodology categorizes and assesses data from schools and other reliable sources, such as the U.S. Department of Education, and weighs the information based on quality, cost, value and other factors critical to students' academic decisions. Some of the best schools that offer online sociology master's programs are listed below.

1. University of Alabama at Birmingham

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Birmingham, AL $8,100

The University of Alabama at Birmingham officially took its name in 1966 but was formed by colleges dating back to 1859. The school has maintained accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) since 1970 and offers a completely online Master of Arts in Applied Sociology program. The program consists of nine courses and a capstone project (30 credits total), rather than a thesis, and does not require incoming students to submit a graduate entrance exam. Online students had a tuition rate of $534 per semester hour for the 2019-2020 school year and can select four electives from courses such as public sociology and practical sociology.

2. South Dakota State University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Brookings, SD $8,875

South Dakota State University offers an online Master of Science in Sociology - Community Development program that allows students to choose from a thesis track, capstone track, or coursework track. All tracks consist of 36 credit hours and include courses in community change, analysis of community, and community development foundations. Students of the program had a tuition rate of $466 per credit hour for the 2019-2020 school year, regardless of residency, and have the chance to get instruction from faculty across the Great Plains Interactive Distance Education Alliance, an organization encompassing top state schools in Kansas, Iowa, Nebraska, and the Dakotas.

3. Virginia Commonwealth University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Richmond, VA $14,496

Virginia Commonwealth University is considered one of the leading research universities in Virginia and boasts an 18:1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school has been accredited by the SACSCOC since 1953 and offers a unique online program -- a Master of Science in Sociology with a focus in digital sociology. The program consists of 36 credit hours and includes courses in sociological theory, research methods, social statistics, and sociological research in practice. Full-time online students taking nine to 15 credits per semester had a tuition rate of $12,618 per semester, while part-time online students have a tuition rate of $701 per credit hour (in-state rates for 2019-2020).

4. Sam Houston State University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Huntsville, TX $7,791

Sam Houston State University has maintained accreditation from SACSCOC since 1925, and 58% of the faculty here are tenure or tenure track, which is higher than the national average. The school offers a Master of Arts in Sociology program online that had a tuition rate of $503 per credit hour for all online students for the 2018-2019 academic year. The program is designed to help students develop skills for analyzing issues in society and utilizing research to improve communities. Courses required for the program include those in sociological theory and research, social statistics, and six elective classes in sociology topics.

5. Morehead State University

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Morehead, KY $10,512

Morehead State University has been accredited by the SACSCOC since 1930 and offers a 30-credit online Master of Arts in Sociology program. Students can choose one of four concentrations within their curriculum: criminology, interdisciplinary social sciences, general sociology, and chemical dependency. For the 2019-2020 academic year, all students had a tuition rate of $570 per credit and take courses in sociological theory and quantitative research. Morehead also has four different student organizations for sociology majors, including the Student Association of Social Work (SASW).

6. Arizona State University - Skysong

Location Graduate Tuition & Fees (in-state)
Scottsdale, AZ $6,462

Arizona State University's Skysong campus offers an online Master of Art in Sociology program that consists of 30 credit hours and includes courses in social statistics, diversity, leadership, and relationships. Students are not required to submit a graduate entrance exam for admission and had a tuition rate of $532 per credit hour for 2019-2020, regardless of their state of residence.

All table statistics provided by the National Center for Education Statistics; tuition based on 2018-2019 school year

Overview of Online Sociology Master's Degree Programs

Online sociology master's degree programs can usually be completed online without the need to attend any on-site events. Within these programs, students develop a deeper understanding of sociological theories, processes, and practices. Depending on their school, students may take standard 16-week courses or accelerated courses (eight weeks).

Common Courses in Online Sociology Programs

Some programs offer areas of emphasis (concentrations) to students, such as community development, which allow students to learn more about their selected topic through a select course sequence. Most online sociology master's programs, with or without a concentration, include some of the courses listed below.

  • Sociological Theory - This course examines the origins of sociological theories and their ramifications. Topics may include critical theory, conflict theory, and functionalism.
  • Sociological Research - Students analyze different sociological research approaches and related topics, such as ethical implications, data collection methods, and research design.
  • Social Statistics - This class introduces students to statistics as they relate to sociological functions. Topics covered can include data description, t-tests, interpretation, and regression.
  • Sociological Research in Practice - Students get experience developing theoretical frameworks and research designs for problems based on chosen and/or directed topics.
  • Community Change - Students explore the characteristics of community, such as economic and social factors, as well as various methods and implications for improving communities.

Length of Online Sociology Programs

Graduate students are considered full-time if they are taking nine credit hours per semester. Full-time students of online sociology programs usually finish their programs in two years or less. The table below shows an example of how long it would take to earn an online sociology master's degree, based on the number of courses taken per semester or term.

Credits Needed Number of Classes Term Length Courses Taken (per term) Number of Terms Time to Complete
36 12 16-week 3 4 1.5 to 2 years (depending on summer enrollment)
36 12 16-week 4 3 1 to 1.5 years (depending on summer enrollment)
36 12 8-week 1.5 (alternating 1 then 2) 8 1.3 years (based on 6 terms each year)
36 12 8-week 2 6 1 year

As you can see from the table, 8-week and other shortened terms often enable students to take more courses during the academic year. The more courses that students take each semester, the less time it will take to complete their degree. Students should ask their schools if there are any stipulations or restrictions on the number of courses (or order of courses) within their program.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online Sociology Master's Programs

Accreditation shows that a school has met quality standards set by a third party. Schools can be accredited by several different accrediting agencies. At schools with institutional accreditation, students are more likely to have a quality educational experience than at schools without. In addition, students are required to attend an accredited institution in order to qualify for federal student aid (such as federal loans). Some private organizations can also require students to attend accredited schools to qualify for their scholarships or other types of aid.

Financial Aid and Scholarships for Online Sociology Master's Programs

Students of online sociology master's degree programs can obtain several types of financial aid. Students should first complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) online. They can send their FAFSA results to their candidate schools directly from the application page and are able to view some of the types of federal aid that they can qualify for after submission.

Scholarships

Students can find scholarships for their program through several different sources, including their schools, state department of education websites, and the U.S. Department of Labor's CareerOneStop. Here are a few that might apply to sociology students.

  • The Virtuous Prom Peace Scholarship - $250 is awarded to female students pursuing a degree in sociology and related fields based on an essay submission.
  • Wayne F. Placek Grants - Behavioral sciences graduate students interested in researching LGBT concerns can submit an essay (7-page maximum) to be considered for this $10,000 scholarship.
  • NFRW National Pathfinder Scholarship - In honor of Nancy Reagan (former first lady), this scholarship awards three female students with $2,500 towards their degree program.
  • Lee Student Support Fund - Students who are members of the Society for the Study of Social Problems can apply for this $500 scholarship.

Work-Study

Work-study programs are offered by some employers and a wide range of schools that participate in this federal program. Students who utilize work-study are able to work part time during their degree program and earn money that can be applied to their program costs and out-of-pocket costs (such as living expenses).

Student Loans

Student loans are offered by private and government lenders, but students should only use private loans after all other options have been exhausted. Federal loans have interest rates that are set by the federal government and offer flexible, income-based repayment plans.

Loan Forgiveness

Individuals who work in qualifying public service positions and make regular payments on their student loans for ten years (120 payments) can have the balances of their loans forgiven by the government.

What Can You Do with a Master's Degree in Sociology?

Graduates of online sociology master's degree programs are equally as prepared and qualified as graduates of on-campus sociology programs. Depending on their work experience and selected concentration (when available), sociology master's degree graduates may be qualified to work in various positions, including those listed below.

Postsecondary Sociology Teacher

Postsecondary teachers instruct students in universities, colleges, and other post-secondary settings. Their duties usually include developing and carrying out lessons, grading students, and preparing course syllabi. Educators who have a master's degree are usually only qualified to teach classes from their degree field at community colleges, but some 4-year institutions may hire master's degree graduates for part-time and entry-level positions.

Survey Researcher

Survey researchers conduct, design, and assess surveys for various types of research. Their duties can include selecting survey methods, accounting for variables, analyzing data, and conducting research applicable to proposed surveys. Survey researchers have varying backgrounds but typically need familiarity with topics such as statistics, research methods, and social sciences. Candidates typically need to have a graduate degree, and some employers offer internship experiences that can help improved candidates' job prospects.

Sociologist

Sociologists analyze behaviors in society through various methods. They often develop research projects, collect and analyze data through interviews and surveys, and prepare reports based on the findings of their research. Many employers require candidates to have at least a master's degree in sociology and knowledge of topics such as statistics, sociological theories, and research methods. Although not required, candidates may want to seek out volunteer work or an internship in sociology and related fields to gain experience.

Political Scientists

Political scientists review political systems and study how they develop and operate. Their duties can include researching various political topics, analyzing data, and forecasting political and social trends. Political scientists usually need a graduate degree in political science or a related field. Candidates typically need to have an understanding of topics such as statistics, research methods, and public policy. Sociology graduates who do not have experience in a related role may need to first gain experience through an entry-level position.

Job Title Median Salary (2018) Estimated Job Growth (2018-2028)
Postsecondary Sociology Teachers $74,140 6%
Survey Researchers $57,700 1%
Sociologists $82,050 9%
Political Scientists $117,570 5%

All salary and income data provided by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professional Resources for Online Sociology Master's Degree Graduates

There are many organizations that sociology master's degree graduates can join for networking and other resources. Some of the organizations that are catered specifically to sociology professionals are listed below.

  • Eastern Sociological Society - The largest sociologist professional group in the Northeast, Eastern Sociological Society offers several types of membership (including departmental and student). Members have access to networking opportunities, forums, employment services, and meetings.
  • American Sociological Association - ASA offers various memberships that have rates based on income. Benefits of ASA membership include online teaching resources, subscription to the ASA journal and other publications, professional development, and events.
  • International Sociological Association - ISA offers sociology professionals connections with peers around the world. Members of ISA enjoy benefits such as discounts on publications, online resources, and invitations to international conferences.
  • Association for Applied and Clinical Sociology - AACS offers membership to students, professionals, retirees, and organizations. Membership benefits include a journal subscription, networking opportunities, discounts, and other resources.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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