Environmental Sociology PhD Programs

Environmental sociology is concerned with the connection between society and the natural world. Ph.D. students take courses in sociological theory, research, and environmental studies to prepare them for potential careers in sociology, education, and the environment. Schools offering Energy Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Environmental Sociology Ph.D. Program Requirements

To enter a doctoral program in environmental sociology, students need a strong collegiate background in sociology and related subfields with good academic standing and the ability to demonstrate their eligibility, research interests, writing skills, and prospective career plans. The program may take 5-8 years to complete, and includes sociological theory, research, social systems, and environmental studies courses, as well as a thesis, dissertation, or teaching seminar.

Sociological Theory Courses

Sociology is an intricate field with many interdisciplinary connections. Therefore, a strong foundation in sociological theory and subfields is necessary for all sociology doctoral students. These courses may go over specific sociology studies, classic sociological theory, social sciences, demography, and related subfields such as social psychology, ethics, and social reform.

Social Systems Courses

Social systems make up society, and the study of various social systems makes up a crucial part of the environmental sociology doctoral curriculum. Social systems studies divide the population into specific groups, and courses may focus on culture, class, race, ethnicity, family, gender, religious affiliation, and more. Understanding the role of the individual in such groups and the groups within society as a whole can guide the student's research and career interests.

Applied Sociology Courses

As sociology is used to examine relationships and address social programs, aspiring sociologists will need practical experience applying what they have learned. Analysis and inquiry are intellectual tools by which sociology students can utilize theories and critical concepts in their studies and fieldwork. Courses in research methodology and guided research projects related to their fields of interest will help students understand sociology in context.

Sociological Networks

Because sociology concerns large groups, learning how to gather and process information about how these groups communicate is essential for the doctoral student. These courses might cover statistics, economics, organizational methods, data management, and computational sociology. All of these courses provide the student with useful tools with which to conduct their own research.

Environmental Studies Courses

The impact of human progress on the environment is a major focal point of environmental sociology, and as such, graduate students must study the complexities of natural and man-made environments. These courses may cover ecology, natural resources, food systems, and agricultural studies as well as community and environmental sociology. Depending on students' personal interests, they may have the freedom to choose among these courses while still fulfilling their degree requirements.

Potential Careers for the Environmental Sociology Ph.D. Student


As a sociologist, you'll study society, social groups, social systems, and social behavior. With a background in environmental sociology, you might be able to focus on human ecological connections, agricultural relationships, and how humans interact with the natural world. This is a popular, growing field that is considered competitive due to a low number of positions.

Postsecondary Teacher

Your academic background in rigorous study and research methods might make you an ideal candidate for a position at a college, university, or other post-high school institution. You will instruct students in subjects like sociology and its many interconnected subfields, conduct research, and perform advisement and administrative tasks. In addition to your Ph.D., you may need relevant work experience for this rapidly growing position.

Environmental Scientists and Specialists

In this position, you will apply your knowledge of the environment to help conserve it and safeguard human health. A background in environmental sociology with a strong scientific focus, including an understanding of natural sciences, research, data collection, and human-environment interactions, will be necessary for this position. Demand for the environmental scientist or specialist is expected to continue growing as the public becomes more interested in environmental issues.

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

The conservation scientist/forester helps maintain the integrity of the environment, specifically woodlands, parks, and other natural resources sensitive to human impact. They usually work for the government or social advocacy organizations. Students with a passion for maintaining a healthy relationship between humans and the environment may find this position ideal, and their coursework in ecology, environmental studies, and social systems and networks will serve them well.

Arbitrators, Mediators, and Conciliators

These positions all concern the resolution of disputes and conflicts outside the court system by means of negotiation and communication. Environmental sociologists can offer their academic background in social systems, social science, and environmental studies. Individuals in this position may work for organizations dedicated to conflict resolution in environmental, agricultural, and related settings, helping protect the environment itself and foster responsible, ethical, and sustainable usage of natural resources.

Job Title Median Salary (2018)* Job Growth (2016-26)*
Sociologist $82,050 9%
Postsecondary Sociology Teacher $74,140 6%
Environmental Scientist or Specialist $71,130 8%
Conservation Scientist or Forester $61,340 3%
Arbitrator, Mediator, or Conciliator $62,270 8%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Environmental sociology Ph.D. programs emphasize research and coursework in sociological theory, methods, subfields, and environmental studies. A Ph.D. in Environmental Sociology may take 5-8 years to complete and may prepare students for work as sociologists, educators, and environmentalists.

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