Sociology Graduate Overview

The U.S. - Mexico Border

The U.S. – Mexico Border

 For instructions on how to apply click here.  If you have any questions about our Graduate Program, please contact Dr. Sandra Way at

The Department of Sociology at New Mexico State University has a mission to serve the University, state, United States/Mexico border region, and beyond through: 1) courses and curricula based on a core value of theoretical and social diversity, 2) scholarship and creative activity that advances knowledge and promotes a more just society, 3) service to the university, the discipline, and the community, and 4) outreach activities focused on social, economic, and cultural issues of concern to people locally, nationally, and globally.

The department offers a diverse curriculum covering a wide range of topics, and all graduate students receive a thorough grounding in theoretical and methodological aspects of sociology. NMSU’s unique location attracts faculty and students who are interested in peoples of the southwest, particularly Hispanics/Latinos and American Indians. In addition, the University’s proximity to the U.S./Mexico border provides an ideal context for the examination of such issues as globalization, transnational migration, and the consequences of border development. Faculty routinely examine the intersections of race, class, gender, and sexuality in both research and teaching. Based on current course offerings, research endeavors, and faculty specializations, the department has five main areas of focus: Inequality; Race/Ethnicity; US/Mexico Borderland; Institutions and Organizations; Sexualities and Gender; Comparative Social Change

The Graduate Program in Sociology offers a terminal Master’s Degree that can be pursued either in an on-campus context or an online format. There are two tracks possible for the on-campus program: thesis or comprehensive exam. Online students are only able to participate in the comprehensive exam track at this time. The Department has about 65 graduate students enrolled in on-campus or online cohorts. There are currently nine full-time tenure-track or college-track faculty, as well as several emeritus and adjunct faculty who together work with students to foster a high level of interaction, learning, and mentoring. The graduate program’s goal is to prepare students both professionally and personally to pursue further study in a doctoral program or a future career using sociological tools. We have a low student-to-faculty ratio, which allows for maximum student-faculty interaction, smaller seminar classes, and quality mentorship for those students who wish to complete a Master’s Thesis.

Sociology graduate students are valued, active participants in intellectual discussions and research pursuits. Students routinely have the opportunity to work as research assistants on faculty grants, collaborate with faculty members to co-author publications, and present papers at professional meetings.

The department awards 8-10 Graduate Assistantships (GAs) each year to new and current students. Graduate Assistants can be funded for up to four semesters, and are employed as either 10-hour or 20-hour assistants. Graduate Assistants are assigned an office within the Department, and have access to computers equipped with MS Office, Internet, SPSS, and printers. General graduate students are also invited to use graduate student-designated office space, and also have access to computers and printers.

Policies, Procedures, and Degree Requirements

The Master of Arts degree in sociology is a 36-credit hour program designed through tracks that require students to work toward either a thesis or a written comprehensive exam. Further, the MA program is structured through two different options: an on-campus MA cohort or an entirely online MA cohort. On-campus MA students may choose from either the thesis track or comprehensive exam track. The thesis track is typically selected by students who intend to pursue a doctoral degree, while the comprehensive exam track is commonly pursued by students desiring immediate employment. Online MA students are only able to pursue the comprehensive exam track at this time.

Current Graduate Handbook:
“Both the thesis and comprehensive exam tracks require core courses (SOC 501, SOC 551, SOC 552, SOC 553) that must be taken within the first 27 hours of graduate credit.”

The thesis track also has six required master’s thesis credits (SOC 599) that should be taken after successful defense of the master’s thesis proposal. A student may take more than six thesis credits, however only six may be used to satisfy departmental graduation requirements.

Current Graduate handbook:
Both the thesis and comprehensive exam tracks require additional graduate elective courses (18 credits for on-campus thesis track; 24 credits for on-campus comprehensive exam track; 24 credits for online comprehensive exam track) for completion of the degree.

Thesis track students must successfully defend a master’s thesis in their final semester in the program. Comprehensive exam track students must successfully pass a final master’s written examination on required coursework once all core classes have been completed with a grade of B or better earned in each course.


On-Campus Program vs. Online Program

The on-campus and online MA programs are distinct, and have separate cohorts that begin in the fall of each academic year. Once a student is admitted into the on-campus or online program, the student is expected to remain in that program through degree completion. Students cannot switch between programs; if a student wishes to switch, the student must reapply to the desired program in order to be considered for admission. Online courses are usually reserved for online program students, and on-campus courses are intended for on-campus students. On occasion, online students may wish to take an on-campus course, or on-campus students may wish to take an online course. The student must make a formal request, in writing, to enroll in such course to the Director of Graduate Studies AND the instructor teaching the class.

Admission Requirements

While an undergraduate degree in sociology is ideal for M.A. work, many of our students come into the program with backgrounds in other fields.

 The Graduate Committee in the Department of Sociology competitively selects applicants based on the following criteria.

  • An undergraduate cumulative GPA of at least 3.0 on a 4.0 scale.
  • A record of professional, ethical, and collegial behavior.
  • A well-written statement of purpose
  • Three letters of recommendation describing personal qualities and achievements that suggest the applicant will be successful in the program. We prefer that letters of recommendation come from faculty members familiar with the academic work and professional conduct of the applicant.

Failure to meet any of the above criteria may result in the student not being accepted into our program.

However, in the case when an otherwise outstanding student does not meet the GPA requirements, the student may be accepted provisionally to the program.

The GRE is not required for admission. Students may be required to take prerequisites prior to gaining  admission.

To apply, see:

Graduate Coursework

A typical graduate student course load is 9-credit hours (usually three 3-credit courses). On occasion, students may wish to enroll in more credit hours, however the academic and personal demands of graduate school can often be overwhelming if students take more than three classes in a semester. The department has a typical plan of study for on-campus students. This plan with a two year course rotation will be available online beginning in September 2013.

Graduate Minor

NMSU allows for a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree to select up to two approved minors. A minimum of 9 credits of graduate work is necessary for a minor at the master’s level. Please access the most current graduate catalogue for a list of approved minors. To record a minor on a student’s permanent record, the minor must be listed on the “Application for Admission to Candidacy” and this form must be signed by the head of the department offering the minor program. For sociology graduate students pursuing a thesis, either the Dean’s Representative or additional committee member must come from the minor department in forming the thesis committee. Minors are suggested only for those students who demonstrate a clear academic and/or career need that can be met with a particular minor.

Leave of Absence / Readmission Policy


The Graduate School has specific policies regarding leaves of absence and readmission. Usually, students who have extenuating circumstances are able to apply for up to one year of absence, provided the student requests the leave of absence in writing. A graduate student who fails to register for one calendar year without obtaining a leave of absence from the Graduate School will be considered withdrawn from the university.

The Department of Sociology requires that any student who wishes to remain in the program but who does not intend on registering for classes for one or more semesters must write a formal letter (email will not be accepted) to the Director of Graduate Studies or Department Head requesting a leave of absence from a beginning date to an anticipated end date, and include the reasons for the period of absence. Departmental policy allows for leaves of absence up to two consecutive semesters. After two semesters, the student must formally reapply to the program based on current application procedures and deadlines.

Students who have not formally requested a leave of absence but have not been registered in classes for over two semesters must reapply to both the Graduate School as well as the Department of Sociology. Readmission into the Graduate School does not guarantee readmission into the Department of Sociology. If more than two semesters have passed since a student has enrolled in sociology courses, the student must reapply to the sociology graduate program based on current departmental application procedures and deadlines.

The graduate program leading to the master’s degree must be completed within seven years (or eight successive summers) including completion of the master’s thesis or comprehensive exam. Any coursework more than seven years old at the time of the thesis defense or comprehensive exam will not be used toward the degree.


General Policies for Graduate Students


The NMSU Graduate Catalogue has detailed policies regarding adding/dropping courses, auditing courses, substitutions and waivers, challenging graduate courses, changes in registration, residency requirements, leaves of absence, appeals, student behavior, and general requirements for all graduate students enrolled at New Mexico State University. Please access the most current graduate catalogue for general policies on graduate students online at:

Transfer of Credit

A student may transfer up to 9 total graduate credits taken at NMSU and/or graduate credits from another university to New Mexico State University (which the Department of Sociology recognizes), provided the credits were earned on the campus of an accredited institution and not used to obtain another degree. “Request for Transfer of Credit” forms are available at Graduate Student Services or online at:

Funding Opportunities

The Graduate School offers awards, assistantships, and fellowships to qualified graduate students. All awards require faculty nominations. For more information, please visit the Graduate School website: The College of Arts and Sciences offers travel funds for graduate student research, conferences, etc. For more information, please visit the College of Arts and Sciences website:

Graduate Assistantships

The Department awards 6-8 Graduate Assistantships (GAs) each year to new and current on-campus students. Graduate Assistants can be funded for up to four semesters, and are employed as either 10-hour or 20-hour assistants. Certain fellowships and tuition waivers are available through the Graduate School that are associated with GAships in the department. Please access the Graduate School webpage for a detailed list of opportunities.

Prospective students interested in a GAship should fill out a “Graduate Assistant Application Form” when applying to the Department of Sociology for admission. Current students interested in being considered for a GAship should also fill out a “Graduate Assistant Application Form” by March 10th. While current Graduate Assistants do not need to reapply for future GAships, please note that renewal of a GAship is not guaranteed.

The Department considers a number of factors in awarding and renewing GAships, such as a graduate student’s overall GPA, graduate coursework, professional conduct, progress toward degree completion, faculty evaluations of GA work and effort, number of outstanding incompletes, thesis proposal approval, and comprehensive exam timeline.

The Director of Graduate Studies works with the Department Head to award GAships, allocate hours, and assign GAs to faculty within the department each semester. GA assignments may stay the same from semester to semester, or they may change based on the needs of the department, faculty, or GA.


Professional Communication Expectations

The department expects all graduate students to behave professionally in the classroom (on-campus and virtual), around departmental offices, and at department and university-sponsored events. Thanks to a technologically savvy, social media-centered culture, students should also be aware that they are representatives of NMSU and the Department of Sociology even when they are not in classes, on university property, or engaging in graduate program duties. Online photos, discussions, comments, and the like reflect on both the student as well as the university. Students should actively engage in professional communication on the telephone, in person, and over email between faculty, staff, and fellow students. Graduate students are advised to report any issues, concerns, or any experiences with hostility, harassment, or inappropriate interactions within the department directly to the Department Head.

What Sociology Students Are Saying

Day of the Dead musician

“One of the best things about Sociology at NMSU is that it’s a small department. This allows for a great deal of individual attention from the professors. They make you feel like an individual, not just a number.”

“I came here because they allow me to pursue the research I am interested in. There is no pressure to follow any one paradigm or continue anyone’s research…”

“There are plenty of opportunities to work firsthand with professors. Almost all the Sociology students have the chance to be an assistant to a professor. This gives great firsthand research and classroom experience, plus the professors make our job challenging and fun.”

“For someone who is looking for diversity, NMSU is a really great place to study. It is situated in a region where lots of different cultures can be studied, such as American Indians and Mexican Americans.”


Images on this page are courtesy of Jon Williams.