Current Students

Joint PhD in Social Policy/Sociology

The PhD in Social Policy and Sociology is a joint degree of the Sociology Department and The Heller School for Social Policy and Management. Students are encouraged to apply during the first year of study in either department. The application deadline is April 1 for the following September.  Students are responsible for obtaining a letter of recommendation from their program director. If the student is accepted by the complementary department (admission is not guaranteed) the following procedures apply. 

Joint degree students are funded by the program in which they first matriculate. Therefore, should any student accept an offer of admission for the joint degree with Sociology their funding will continue through the Heller School. All Heller PhD students receive full tuition, mandatory fees, Brandeis individual health insurance and annual stipend ($21,000 for 2020/21) for the first two years of full-time study. A third and fourth year of funding is provided contingent upon meeting certain Fellowship requirements.

Given that the joint degree program adds additional coursework and an additional qualifying exam, we have modified the fourth year fellowship requirements for joint degree students. The general Heller requirement for fourth year funding is proof of progress toward the degree by the completion of a dissertation proposal. In the case of joint degree students we will consider the successful completion of Qualifying Portfolio Defense (QPD) for the Department of Sociology as an equivalent proof of progress. The timing and terms of fourth year funding are unchanged, only the proof of progress is being modified to meet the circumstances of the dual degree.

Program of Study

Students entering the joint PhD program in social policy and sociology are expected to complete a total of eighteen courses. At least eight of these courses must be offered by the Brandeis Department of Sociology including at least four graduate seminars plus the Approaches to Social Research Proseminar (required during each semester of coursework following matriculation into the joint program).  At least one of these sociology courses must be in theory.

A minimum of nine courses must be taken within the Heller School including the following requirements:

  • HS401b, Research Methods
  • HS403b, Qualitative Methods
  • HS404b, Stats/Regression Analysis (including applications lab)
  • HS508a, Theory of Social Policy and Change
  • HS510a, Applied Design and Analysis

The remaining four courses may be a combination of Heller concentration and methods courses.  Students are also required to take a noncredit doctoral seminar at the Heller School for six semesters.

Students are assigned advisers from the sociology department and from the Heller School. Advisers in both departments work together with students to assure appropriate coherency in their program of courses. An interdepartmental meeting between advisers and students should take place at least once a year.

Residence Requirement

The minimum residence for the joint PhD degree is three years.

Teaching Requirement

All joint PhD students must participate in undergraduate teaching. This typically means leading discussion sections or otherwise working in collaboration with individual professors. PhD students also have an opportunity to develop the craft of teaching through teaching workshops within the Sociology department and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

Language Requirement

There is no foreign language requirement for the joint PhD degree.

Comprehensive/Qualifying Examinations

Each student must complete a comprehensive paper as required in the Heller School curriculum. Students must also show competence in two areas of sociology, as certified through the Qualifying Portfolio and Defense (QPD) process. Students elect two areas of interest and develop a contractual set of requirements with a faculty member of each area. When both QPDs are completed, there is a meeting (typically one to two hours) to discuss the student's interests, directions in the field, and the upcoming dissertation.

QPD membership and chair must be approved by the Sociology Graduate Committee by the end of the semester prior to completion of coursework. Accreditation in the two QPD areas must be completed by the end of the semester following completion of coursework following a full QPD meeting. Chair’s report to the Sociology Graduate Committee must be approved. 

Dissertation and Defense/Final Oral Examination

A dissertation proposal should be submitted soon after the comprehensive examination and QPDs are completed. The dissertation committee should consist of five members—two faculty members each from the Department of Sociology and the Heller School and one member from outside Brandeis University.  Students must submit paperwork for committee, proposal hearing and defense approvals to both departments. The joint PhD dissertation may be accepted by the sociology department and the Heller School upon the recommendation of the dissertation committee. To be granted the degree, the student is required to defend the dissertation in a public final oral examination.