MD-PhD Sociology Programs

A joint MD/PhD Sociology program allows students to earn these two complementary degrees simultaneously. Graduates are prepared to use sociological theory and social science research skills to advance their medical practice.

How to Earn a Joint MD/Ph.D. in Sociology

A 5-8 year joint MD/Ph.D. Sociology program aims to train the next generation of doctors with advanced social science research skills and sociological theory that they can integrate into their medical practice. Students will complement medical school courses and clerkship experiences with courses in sociological theory, research methods, and statistical analysis. Admitted students choose to culminate their studies with either an original research thesis or comprehensive exam.

Introduction to Sociological Theory

In the early stages of the PhD program, many schools offer classes to introduce PhD candidates to the language, history, and academic literature of sociology. Within these introductory courses, students learn about methodical approaches in the social sciences. They may practice debating complex sociological issues with their classmates. This course may also include a survey of the history of sociological thought, including an introduction to the contributions of Karl Marx, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, Georg Simmel, George Mead, John Dewey, and Pierre Bourdiue.

Research Methods

Studying population data lies at the core of sociology research. In this course, students are introduced to basic techniques and models fundamental to demographic (population) research. Students learn how to determine the source and quality of demographic data. The course may also include topics in rate construction, standardization, the life table, stable population models, migration models, population estimation and projection, measures of concentration and dispersion, and measures of family formation and dissolution.

Quantitative Techniques In Sociology

Within the PhD section of the program, students must learn the mathematical tools that social scientists use to conduct research. To that end, statistical methods and quantitative techniques classes introduce PhD candidates to helpful math concepts that candidates can put to use in their own research projects. Topics may include analysis of variance, inference, multiple regression, linear regression, graphical and numerical summaries of data, estimation, confidence intervals, linear models, significance tests and other statistics tools researchers can use to make sense of large amounts of data.

PhD Thesis

To complete the PhD facet of the joint MD/PhD Sociology course, students choose to (1) take a comprehensive exam or (2) conduct an original research project and write a thesis to analyze their results. Students conduct their research independently, but receive mentorship from their advisor (an academic expert in their topic). The thesis project allows students to connect their growing social science research skill-set with their medical school coursework. Students can choose a topic related to patient-care, medicine, or other health-related sociological issues. At the end of the course, students must defend their research (oftentimes for about two-hours) before a panel of experts.

Scientific Foundation for Medicine

In the first stage of medical school students take academic classes to learn about the function of human organs and the interaction of biological systems. Common topics in these classes include physiology, microbiology, immunology, and neuroscience. Students may participate in dissections to better understand the human body. The goal of these courses is to prepare medical students with a deep understanding of the complex factors that make up a human body, so that they can properly diagnose abnormalities and diseases.

Basics of Clinical Medicine

Alongside scientific classes on human anatomy and disease, medical students must also develop an understanding of quality patient-care, professionalism, ethics and other important skills for clinical practice. In these courses, students may practice conducting interviews with patients, providing physical exams, and practice making diagnoses.


Perhaps the most critical component of the medical school curriculum are clerkships, hands-on learning experiences wherein students practice applying their knowledge in real-world clinical settings. Medical students complete a series of clerkships throughout the second half of their program, and thus have the opportunity to work with patients of all ages and demographics. Typical MD curriculum plans include clerkships in pediatrics, surgery, psychiatry, gynecology, family medicine, emergency medicine, intensive-care medicine, radiology and neurology.

Admissions Requirements for a Joint MD/PhD Sociology Degree

To be accepted, applicants must complete the admission requirements for both the Sociology Ph.D. program (GRE test score) and medical school (MCAT test score). Students also submit their past transcripts and letters of recommendation from previous professors. Applicants are expected to have previous experience studying the sciences (biology, organic chemistry and physics) and sociology. They must write a statement of purpose explaining their unique qualifications for the program and career goals.

Would-be doctors who seek to become healthcare leaders and change-makers should consider a joint MD/Phd Sociology program. The unique blend of coursework prepares graduates to integrate social science research and medical practice.