Sociology and Anthropology

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Master of Arts - Sociology

The M.A. in Sociology qualifies individuals for jobs in government, human service agencies, and businesses which specifically call for a social science or behavioral science master’s degree. Community colleges employ M.A. graduates as teachers, and some universities employ them as entry level, temporary teachers. The M.A. also serves as a preliminary to further study for a Ph.D. degree in sociology.

The ongoing programs of applied and basic research, combined with a commitment to teaching excellence, provide the opportunity for sociology graduate students to work side-by-side with award winning faculty in an environment which reinforces the philosophy of “learning by doing.”

Program Highlights

The mission of the graduate program in Sociology is to provide students with:

  • the skills that make them highly desirable employees for human services organizations
  • the knowledge, training, and pedagogical tools to pursue careers at community colleges (teaching and administration)
  • a rigorous foundation to pursue further advanced study in Ph.D. and professional programs.

To achieve these goals, the graduate program is structured to provide students with a critical foundation in social science research techniques, an in-depth understanding of sociological theories, and exposure to and familiarity with various teaching philosophies and strategies. Students also have the opportunity to gain broader substantive knowledge in areas supported by faculty research and specialization, including deviance and criminology, health and illness, organizations and institutions, social inequalities, and social psychology.

Our graduate students find success in professional writing and publishing, community college teaching, continuing education requirements in secondary education, and scholarly accomplishments leading to admission in top doctoral programs around the nation

View the Graduate Catalog for a listing of Graduate Professors, degree requirments, and course descriptions.

Download the Sociology Graduate Handbook (pdf)

  • Excellent chance for assistantship funding
  • Small classes
  • Work closely with professors
  • Teaching opportunities for advanced students
  • Thesis or nonthesis option
  • Increased job options and preparation for doctoral studies
Integrated Baccalaureate and Master of Arts Degree Program (IBMP) in Sociology

The IBMP in Sociology provides an opportunity for outstanding undergraduate Sociology majors to complete both Bachelor and Master of Arts (BA and MA) degrees in five years. Typically, the baccalaureate degree requires four years to complete and a master’s degree requires an additional minimum of two years. The goals of the program are to teach students discipline specific history, theory, and methods as well as to develop critical thinking and technical skills in utilizing the sociological perspective for understanding the social world and affecting positive change.

View program requirements in the Graduate Catalog.

Career Opportunities

Western’s Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology is a solid foundation for a career in social research or service. Skilled public opinion analyses, survey database managers, and human service specialists are in demand. In business and industry, our graduates typically work in personnel management, market research, and sales. Those who focus on statistics and research methodology frequently become junior analysts in research forms or government agencies.

Students with a master’s degree in sociology have an abundant choice of job possibilities. Some of our graduates teach in universities and community colleges across the country. Others hold governmental administrative positions such as those in the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. Some of our graduates work with teens and adults in group homes. Some graduates use their degrees to advance in rank and pay in jobs they held while taking classes.

Sociologists are employed in a wide variety of fields. Please note that employment in some of these areas requires additional education.

  • Admissions counselor
  • Advertising staffer
  • Alumni relations worker
  • Career planning & placement director
  • Caseworker
  • Clinical sociologist
  • College placement worker
  • Community or urban planner
  • Community service agency worker
  • Consumer relations worker
  • Cooperative extension agent
  • Corrections officer
  • Correctional counselor
  • Cottage parent
  • Demographer
  • Elderly social service aide
  • Family development specialist
  • Human resource manager
  • Human rights officer
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Juvenile court/corrections worker
  • Legislative aide
  • Marketing analyst
  • Minority groups & race relations researcher
  • Peace Corps/VISTA worker
  • Penologist
  • Population studies researcher
  • Probation/parole officer
  • Public health statistician
  • Public relations employee
  • Publishing staffer
  • Recruiter
  • Rehabilitation counselor
  • Sales supervisor
  • Social problems analyst
  • Social research assistant
  • Substance abuse counselor
  • Youth outreach worker

Degree Requirements

View the Graduate Catalog for program details and course descriptions.

The Master of Arts degree in sociology, 30 s.h., may be earned by satisfying the requirements of the thesis, general sociology (non‑thesis), or internship exit options.

Thesis Plan

Given the fact that one can earn a Master's degree in this program without writing a thesis, the question arises "Why should I write a thesis?". There are several reasons, including the time honored tradition of writing a thesis, and the fact that some - but certainly not all - Ph.D. programs require a Master's thesis as a prerequisite. Perhaps the soundest reason of all for writing a thesis is having a sociological question that you really want to answer. Do your future plans, particularly Ph.D. programs, require a thesis? Examine what those before you have done - theses of former students are in our department chair's office, and the library.

General Sociology Non-Thesis Plan

A person may obtain the Master of Arts degree in sociology by taking 30 hours of course credit, and presenting a non-thesis paper. The extra courses represented in the non-thesis option are recommended for students who were not undergraduate majors in sociology. Extra courses may also benefit those interested in teaching at the junior college level. There is also the practical consideration that the non-thesis option is more likely to be completed in a timely manner than the thesis option. Finally, students who find writing difficult, or students who have received two or more grades of B or a grade of C in their graduate courses may wish to do the non-thesis option. By pursuing the non-thesis option, a student can still opt for the thesis option as late as their last semester without taking extra courses. On the other hand, those taking thesis writing courses in their third semester may have to take extra courses to complete the non-thesis option.

General Sociology Internship Plan

This Option is a natural extension of our “non-thesis” program as it focuses on students who do not intend to continue their education or work in an academic setting. An internship will allow these students to 1) gain job related experience that may help in post-degree employment and 2) see firsthand how sociology can be utilized/applied to these types of settings.

Students will take knowledge gained in coursework and apply it to their internship site. This will involve applying sociological theories, concepts, and methodological tools to "real-world" situations and organizations. This may include: assessment/evaluation of organization or program(s) within the organization, development and implementation of program(s), or applying sociological principles to organizational setting, goals, or interactions/structure.

This Option will be available to graduate students only and requires additional assignment of relevant readings related to internship site (not required of our undergraduate interns).


Not surprisingly, graduate programs in sociology seek to admit sociology majors with high undergraduate grade point averages, high Graduate Record Exam scores, and strong letters of recommendation. The implementation of this policy can vary from program to program.

The Sociology master's program admits most applicants who have a bachelor's degree in sociology with an overall GPA of 2.75 or higher. Sociology majors are most likely to be well prepared for graduate work in sociology. They have taken courses in theory, statistics, and research methods which are prerequisites to required graduate courses in these areas. Sociology majors have taken courses in several substantive areas as well, and may already have developed clear, or specialized sociological interests.

We often admit students with undergraduate majors in history, political science, law enforcement, and social work. Through the years, we have also admitted students with degrees in journalism, biology, business, theology, philosophy, psychology, English, mathematics, and nursing. Probably at any one time, about one third to one half of the graduate students in our program have undergraduate majors in sociology. The rest have undergraduate degrees in other areas.

Grade Point Average

Sociology graduate programs look for students with good grades. Even though many graduate schools will admit students on a probationary basis who had undergraduate GPAs of less than 2.5, sociology graduate programs can, and often do, require substantially higher GPAs for admission. The Sociology master's program seldom admits students with an undergraduate GPA below 2.7. Exceptions have been made for students who have strong grades in sociology and who show marked improvement in their academic performance during the last three semesters of undergraduate work. Probationary students with strong letters of recommendation may also be admitted. Students admitted on probationary status must achieve at least a 3.0 grade point their first semester of graduate work.

The Graduate Record Exam

Many graduate programs in sociology require high scores on both the general and sociology components of the Graduate Record Exam. In order to keep our admission process as simple as possible, we do not require, but strongly suggest that students submit Graduate Record Exam scores. Obtaining current GRE scores can seriously delay admission decisions for those who have been out of school for years, applicants having majors other than sociology, and international applications. If GRE scores are submitted with applications, we take them into account in our decision to admit the student.

As an undergraduate applying to a new graduate program, you will probably be unaware of the particular admission policies of the program to which you are applying. Your best course of action is, therefore, to work hard to get the best grades you can, and score high on the Graduate Record Exam. You should also get to know your teachers and academic advisors. These people can provide you with accurate information regarding graduate education and they can write good letters of recommendation for you.


Application deadlines are clearly stated in the Graduate Catalog . Attend to these deadlines with care! In general, people seeking admission for fall semester should plan to have all application materials in by late March or early April, particularly if you are applying for a graduate assistantship. Remember to allow time for the U.S. Postal Service to operate, and you should avoid faxing materials. Check with the graduate admission offices to see if letters of recommendation have arrived. Be prepared to remind faculty and others to write your letters of reference.


The School of Graduate Studies processes graduate admissions materials and can answer application questions. Review package materials should be sent by email to This includes students who wish to update their existing package with new materials (e.g., updated transcript, new writing sample, etc., updated resume, etc.)


Graduate assistantships provide a number of benefits for students, the most obvious and immediate of which is financial. Graduate assistantships consist of a waiver of tuition and some fees and a cash stipend paid during awarded semesters. Few graduate assistantships are available for the summer, although regular assistantships may include a tuition and fee waiver for classes taken during the summer.

Graduate assistantships also provide interpersonal benefits. Assistants work more closely with faculty than other graduate students. The university provides assistants with an office where they can congregate. Graduate assistants often compose the most active cohort in graduate student associations. Finally, graduate assistants work closely with faculty establishing both personal and professional bonds that may last for years.

Recipients of graduate assistantships are expected to;

  • perform between 13 and 20 hours per week
  • carry an academic load of nine hours, or three courses, per semester
  • remain in academic good standing
  • accept no additional employment at the university

Assuming the recipient meets his/her assistantship obligations and maintains good academic standing, assistantships can be awarded for a maximum of four semesters, the duration of the program.

Types of Assistantships

Assistantships support faculty in their teaching and research. Students holding teaching assistantships proctor and score exams in undergraduate classes, keep class attendance records, tutor undergraduate students, locate library materials for faculty, and many other tasks deemed relevant to the support of undergraduate teaching. In turn, faculty are expected to view assigned tasks as furthering the sociological education and skills of the assistant. Therefore, these tasks entail the graduate student practicing basic teaching skills, learning to use educational software, and learning the general expectations and professional standards of sociologists. Faculty are encouraged to allow assistants to prepare and deliver lectures, and to assist in the construction and evaluation of syllabi, handouts, and tests. Busy work is kept to a minimum.

Students holding research assistantships administer research questionnaires, do literature searches, enter research data into data bases, and many other tasks that support ongoing research. Again, faculty are expected to view the tasks they assign as furthering the education and professional development of the graduate student.

At Western, selected graduate assistants are given the responsibility for teaching a small section of introductory sociology. Different methods of selecting these students have been used including competitive auditions. Presently, students are selected for this responsibility on the basis of faculty recommendation and evaluation by the graduate committee. Under faculty supervision, the graduate student has responsibility for selecting a course text and preparing a syllabus, tests, and assigning grades. Teaching their own small course is a tremendous responsibility for the student, and actually consumes more than the fifteen hours of work per week allotted to graduate assistants. On the other hand, most of the graduate students selected report that they greatly enjoyed the classroom. While not common in Master's degree programs, teaching under the supervision of a faculty member is excellent preparation for community college teaching.

Funding Sources

A specified number of assistantships are allocated annually to each department by the university. The number of these assistantships remains fairly constant and depends on the overall funding of the university and the size and vigor of the individual graduate programs. University offices, such as Academic Services, may also be allocated assistantships by the university. In turn, these offices may award assistantships by way of academic departments. Thus, for several years Academic Services has awarded an assistantship to a sociology graduate student who provides tutoring to undergraduates enrolled in sociology courses.

Research assistantships are often funded by grants from agencies, corporations, and individuals outside the university. Many of these grants provide funding for only one year. A few are renewable and provide funding year by year on a contingency basis.

Assistantship Availability

Graduate assistantships are awarded on a competitive basis. To be competitive, the applicant needs at least a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and strong letters of recommendation. Graduate assistantships are not awarded to probationary students. Assistantships are generally awarded to incoming students, but individual departments may reserve one or two assistantship to be awarded to students already in the program. The intensity of competition varies from year to year, but usually there are five applicants for every three graduate assistantships.

Learn more about Graduate Assistantships at WIU.


After you have been accepted to the program, you should make an appointment to speak to Sociology Graduate Program Director/Advisor. Try to schedule this meeting via email during the first week of the semester. The Director will help you understand program requirements and help you develop choices of courses and options that will most help meet your goals for the degree. Throughout your time in the program, the Director is a resource to help you understand any aspect of your program. Feel free to email anytime, or to drop by the office as you have questions and concerns.

View the Graduate Catalog for a listing of Graduate Professors, degree requirments, and course descriptions.

Download the Sociology Graduate Handbook (pdf)

Gordon Chang


Gordon Change, Ph.D.
Associate Professor of Sociology