PhD Sociology: Application Requirements

Applicants are encouraged to perform advance preparation before beginning the application, to avoid uncertainty or roadblocks as you move through the process.

Prior Degree

Applicants are accepted from candidates with either a bachelor's or master's degree in sociology or a related social science or professional field.


Interest in Pursuing a Doctoral Degree

The UCSF Doctoral Sociology Program is a doctoral-level (PhD) program. Applications are not accepted from candidates interested in pursuing a master's degree. The program has four areas of special emphasis – aging, chronic illness, and disability; health policy, economics, and institutions; science, technology and medicine studies; and gender, race, class and health/health disparities. Additional substantive research areas include violence as a health issue, HIV/AIDS, and global health.

Statement of Purpose

The Statement of Purpose (three to five pages) should discuss your background, interests, research, goals, purpose in applying for graduate study, and your plans for the future. Please indicate what you hope to gain from being a doctoral student in Sociology, how your interests fit with those of Sociology faculty, and any other pertinent information supportive of your application and qualifications.

Personal History 

Personal History (three to five pages): The University of California, San Francisco is committed to a diverse and inclusive graduate student population. Diversity refers to the variety of experiences and perspectives that arise from differences in race, culture, religion, mental or physical capabilities, heritage, age, gender, sexual orientation, and other characteristics. UCSF values diversity because it enhances the educational experience, the workplace, and services to the public provided by this campus. Discuss how your personal background informs your decision to pursue a graduate degree. Please include any educational, cultural, economic, family or social experiences, challenges, or opportunities relevant to your academic journey.


Transcripts from all colleges and universities attended can be uploaded directly to the online application or can be sent directly from the institution to the UCSF Graduate Sociology Program at our mailing address (below). Your application cannot be reviewed without these documents. Please be sure to have all transcripts uploaded/forwarded in ample time for consideration. Transcripts do not need to be official for the application process; should you be offered admission, we will request official transcripts be sent.  The UCSF Graduate Division requires a minimum 3.0 grade point average (GPA). Admission of a student who does not have a 3.0 GPA is sometimes possible, if ample evidence exists that s/he is capable of performing at the graduate level. Non-English and/or non-US transcripts must be translated and evaluated for comparison to US educational standards, e.g., GPA. If you opt to upload your transcripts online, please note that if accepted into the program you will be required to provide official transcripts.


Applicants are NOT required to have taken the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and will not be able to submit scores during our application process.

Letters of Recommendation

The program requires at least two letters of recommendation, preferably from social scientists with whom you have studied and/or worked. No more than four letters will be accepted. These letters will also be used as recommendation letters for fellowships. As part of completing your application, you will need to identify these individuals including their names, email addresses, and affiliations. The application system will send your designated recommenders an email requesting a letter of support from them for your graduate application. If your recommender does not have the capability to upload a pdf letter of support, you can provide the recommender with a hardcopy of the form (PDF requires AdobeAcrobat). The pre-printed form should be returned with their reference/recommendation letter before the deadline date, and addressed to:

UCSF Graduate Program in Sociology
Attn: Graduate Program Administrator
490 Illinois St., Floor 12, Box 0612
San Francisco, CA 94143

Single-Authored Example of Scholarly Writing

A single-authored example of Scholarly Writing (master's thesis, undergraduate term paper, published or presented paper, etc.) must be submitted for inclusion in your file.

CV or Resume

A recent CV or Résumé is required.

Additional Information for Applicants from Foreign Countries

Admission requirements for students from foreign countries are the same as for U.S. citizens and permanent residents. International/Foreign applicants, however, must fulfill two additional conditions:

  • Demonstrate proficiency in English by obtaining a minimum score on the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language, see the TOEFL website). Minimum scores are 92 on the internet-based TOEFL. Minimum scores are 24 for the writing and speaking sections. TOEFL scores are valid for two years after the test date.  OR International English Language Testing System (IELTS) – minimum score of 7
  • Provide evidence of sufficient financial resources, by personal resources and/or definite commitments of support from other sources, for round-trip travel and all educational and living expenses for the entire period of study at UCSF.

Further information regarding these requirements and other requirements for foreign students may be found at the UCSF International Students and Scholars Office website.

Annual fees for residents of California and for non-California residents can be found at the UCSF Registrar's web site under student fees/tuition for the School of Nursing PhD students (the Dept. of Social and Behavioral Sciences is affiliated with the UCSF School of Nursing). Note: these web pages at the Registrar's site do NOT include costs of housing, food, and other living expenses.

Nonresidents are advised to familiarize themselves with the requirements to establish California residency and to take the necessary steps immediately upon arrival in the state. Details of California residency requirements can be found at the Registrar's web site.

Briefly, students must be physically present in California for one year and be able to establish --through demonstrated acts-- their intent to make California their permanent residence. Physical presence in California solely for educational purposes does not constitute establishment of residence, regardless of length of stay.

Foreign students without prior education in the United States must pay Non-California residence tuition.  More information on residency may be found at the UCSF Registrar residency website.

Because many foreign students are unfamiliar with the educational system in the United States and with the stringent requirements of the University of California, the selection of applicants is made with great care.

It is a disservice to bring an applicant to the United States if there is any doubt as to the adequacy of the student's preparation for graduate work, including a command of written and spoken English sufficient to enable him or her to successfully pursue graduate study. Some students overestimate their knowledge of English and underestimate the time it will take and the amount of money needed to complete their graduate education here.

The Graduate Division reviews the credentials of students from foreign countries as carefully as possible. However, evaluation of foreign credentials is often quite difficult. In some countries, detailed transcripts are not customary or are not particularly revealing. Graduate admissions committees make every effort to determine that a foreign student is academically qualified before offering admission.

The Foreign Student Adviser is the University official responsible for issuing visa forms and interpreting U.S. immigration regulations concerning visiting students and scholars at UCSF. Although a foreign student may be approved for admission based on academic criteria, the Foreign Student Adviser will not issue an I-20 or other student visa form until evidence of financial resources sufficient to provide for the student's support in the United States is provided by the applicant.

Applicants are asked to complete a form called “Confirmation of Financial Resources” (requires Adobe/Acrobat).

If the financial statement indicates that the student has sufficient resources to attend the University, a visa form is mailed. We encourage applicants from other countries to go to the Office of International Students and Scholars.

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