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Sociologists study human interactions and how human behavior affects and is affected by cultural influences and social structures. Graduate-level sociology students prepare for careers in research, data analysis, government, psychology, policy, and business. Based on 2023 data, sociologists can expect to earn $101,770 annually.

An online master’s in sociology degree is typically completed in 18 months to two years. The course load is typically 30-40 credit hours, but some programs may require as many as 60. The average annual tuition for a master’s degree program is approximately $12,596 at public schools and $28,017 at private schools.

How to Choose an Online Master’s in Sociology Program

Choose your area of study

Master’s degrees in sociology are typically offered as either a Master of Science (MS) or a Master of Arts (MA). The MS degree primarily involves sociology’s technical and scientific aspects, while the MA degree focuses on the humanities.

Many programs also allow you to select a concentration and focus your studies on a particular niche in this field, such as social work, law, criminal justice, public relations, advertising, or public policy. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for programs that closely match these career goals.

Research schools and programs

You should only apply to institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

While online programs should be just as rigorous as in-person programs, there will inevitably be differences. In addition to researching cost, program length, etc., you should also ask about online accessibility, downloadable course materials, and video and audio quality.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. While a bachelor’s degree in sociology is not always required for admission to an online master’s program, an undergraduate degree emphasizing analytical studies and research methods will be advantageous. Most schools will have a 3.0 minimum grade point average, but this requirement may be waived if you have impressive test scores or practical experience in the field.

You’ll likely be required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) or an equivalent standardized exam. These test scores, as well as other materials such as letters of recommendation, undergraduate transcripts, a personal statement, and your resume, will need to be sent along with your application.

Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

Contacting each school’s online student services might be helpful when deciding on where to attend. Even if you do not have the opportunity to visit your campus physically, you can still make yourself familiar with the program’s support services and how accessible they will be should you need some help. Knowing what services are available to online students is always a good idea.

Also, be sure to ask if there are online meetups for students where you can ask questions about the program’s sense of community. Are there any homework or study groups? Are there any mentorship programs or academic advisors available online? Finding the answers to these questions may help solidify your selection.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Your school’s financial aid department should have counselors to discuss your payment options. They can help you research scholarships, grants, and other options for financing your education.

If you are taking out loans, your financial aid counselor will help you understand the difference between the types of federal student loans available to you. You can get a head start on this process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Those who already work in the field should see if their employer offers tuition assistance benefits as well.

Best 50 Accredited Online Master’s in Sociology Programs

Best Online Master's in Sociology Degree Programs

Arizona State University

New Mexico State University

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Sam Houston State University

Virginia Commonwealth University

Texas Woman’s University

Texas A&M University at Commerce

Fayetteville State University

South Dakota State University

Morehead State University

University of West Georgia

Troy University

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How We Rank Schools

This list focuses on master’s degrees in sociology. The two most common graduate degrees in this field are a Master of Arts (MA) and a Master of Science (MS).

To make a list of high-quality programs that are accessible to all students, regardless of availability or geographic location, we concentrated on reviewing programs that are offered entirely or primarily online.

All the schools on our list have regional accreditation, meaning they meet the highest quality standards in postsecondary education. Other schools and employers widely accept degrees and credits from regionally accredited institutions.

We evaluated each program based on cost, course offerings, outcomes, flexibility, faculty, and reputation. We then calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out our ranking methodology.

What Can You Expect from an Online Master’s in Sociology Program?

Depending on the program, you will be expected to complete at least 30 credit hours, with some programs requiring up to 60 credit hours. On average, most programs are designed to be completed within two years.

Sociology encompasses a range of qualitative and quantitative studies. Your classes will cover statistics, research methods, psychology, anthropology, data analysis, and sociological theory.

At the master’s degree level, you can narrow the scope of your studies toward a specialization. You may choose more quantitative or qualitative research and will likely be able to perform an original research study. If you are using your master’s program as a stepping stone toward a doctorate, you can focus on your academic scholarship and leadership and teaching skills.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online program to earn a master’s degree in sociology

  • Sociological Theory. Students examine the evolution of contemporary and classical sociological theory, including an overview of the most influential ideas from the founding of sociology to the present day.
  • Social Statistics. Students learn various statistical models, including the general linear model and multiple regression analysis. This course also covers disruptive statistics, probability theory, and nonparametric statistics. These models are then applied to statistical research.
  • Seminar on Occupations and Professions. This course covers the hierarchies of occupational status and how social identities are tied to work roles. Students examine questions about cultural norms and balances of power and evaluate problems in measurement.
  • Intersectionality. Students explore the methods, theories, and epistemologies of intersectionality. This course tracks the origin of intersectional thought from its development to contemporary works.
  • Sociology of Gender. Students examine how gender is reproduced in identity, interactions, discourse, organizations, and institutions. This course covers foundational theories and contemporary debates in the sociology of gender. Students also examine how gender is reconfigured at the individual and collective levels.

What Can You Do With an Online Master’s in Sociology?

Career paths

Growth in the sociology field is driven by the increasing need for sociologists to study and address complex societal issues, such as healthcare disparities, crime, and social justice. Graduates often find employment in roles that require data analysis, research design, and the ability to understand and address complex social dynamics. The adaptability of this degree allows individuals to pursue careers that align with their interests and specialization. Here are some common career paths for individuals with a master’s degree in sociology:

  • Sociologist — Design research projects, collect data, and publish studies about social issues and institutions.
    • Median annual salary: $101,770
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 5%
    • New job openings projected: 300 annually
  • Probation officer or correctional treatment specialist — Assist criminal offenders through the rehabilitation process while they are on probation or parole.
    • Median annual salary: $61,800
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 3%
    • New job openings projected: 7,400 annually
  • Social worker — Help individuals and families deal with problems in their everyday lives, such as health, financial, and legal issues.
    • Median annual salary: $58,380
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New job openings projected: 63,800 annually

Online Master’s Degree in Sociology Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online program for a master’s degree in sociology?

Admissions counselors can provide individualized advice on what you’ll need to meet your chosen program’s requirements. Typical graduate admissions will require the following documents:

  • Official transcripts. These inform the admissions team of your grade point average, the amount of coursework you’ve completed, and the rigor of your undergraduate work.
  • Letters of recommendation. These should come from your professors or supervisors of any field work you have done. Colleges typically ask for two or three letters attesting to your readiness for graduate school.
  • GRE scores. Not all schools require standardized testing scores, but some scholarships and fellowships may ask for them.
  • Resume or curriculum vitae. Include any professional memberships, volunteer experience, educational research, or publications.

How much does an online master’s degree in sociology cost?

Every program will vary in cost depending on its policies and course load. Some schools offer in-state student discounts and fee waivers, while others require more out-of-pocket expenses due to specific technology requirements (e.g., lab fees, software, and computer specifications). Your financial aid counselor can help explain and itemize all your potential costs.

However, according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the average annual graduate tuition cost is $28,017 at private schools and $12,596 at public universities.

How long does it take to earn a master’s degree in sociology online?

On average, completing an online master’s in sociology degree program takes 18 months to two years. Some schools will offer summer classes or accelerated programs that can shorten the duration of your program, but this may be difficult for students who work full-time or have family responsibilities.

Is an online master’s in sociology worth it?

Earning an online master’s degree in sociology can be highly worthwhile for individuals seeking versatile career opportunities and a deep understanding of societal dynamics. This degree equips graduates with valuable research, analysis, and critical thinking skills, which are essential in a wide range of professions.

Moreover, online programs offer flexibility, allowing students to balance their studies with work and personal commitments. For those passionate about addressing social issues and making a positive impact on society, a master’s in sociology provides a strong foundation for a rewarding career.

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