We expect and encourage our students to complete their PhDs within six years. The 3-6-9 Plan provides program guidelines which we expect our students to follow.  However, the plan also stipulates deadlines our students must comply with in order to complete the program, even when they have to deal with unexpected personal or family issues, or time-demanding methodological approaches and research projects.  These guidelines and deadlines apply to all students who started the program in 2019 or later, who must follow the plan for completion set forth here.  [Students who started the program earlier may opt to follow the 3-6-9 plan, and in fact must do so if they choose to complete QP2 in a way other than the traditional “Research Paper Option.” Pre-2018 students should consult with the Graduate Program Director and/or the Graduate Program Coordinator for any questions pertaining to degree completion.]  

A. Expected Guidelines and Required Deadlines for Program Completion in List and Table Format

Expected Program GUIDELINES 

First Qualifying Paper sign on – by November 15th of Year 2 (facilitated by Second-Year Seminar) 
First Qualifying Paper sign off – by August 15th towards the end of Year 2  

Second Qualifying Paper sign on – by November 15th of Year 3 
Second Qualifying Paper sign off – by November 15th of Year 4 

Dissertation Proposal Defense – by November 15th of Year 5
Dissertation Defense – by August 15th towards the end of Year 6 

Program Continuation DEADLINES

Although we want students to meet these guidelines and remain on track to finish the program by the end of year 6, to remain in good standing in our program, each student must meet each continuation deadline or the student will face program discontinuation:     

Year 3 Deadline – To continue in the program, each student must sign off of the First Qualifying Paper (QP1) by the end of academic year 3, specifically no later than June 15th.

Year 6 Deadline – To continue in the program, the student must defend their dissertation proposal no later than June 15th of academic year 6.  This plan provides students with considerable flexibility in the timing of their Second Qualifying Paper (QP2), but the QP1 deadline and dissertation proposal defense deadline are firm.  

Year 9 Deadline – To receive their degree, the student must complete all requirements of the program, including a successful dissertation defense, no later than August 15th of academic year 9.  

Note: The School of Graduate Studies strongly urges all Ph.D. students to complete their program in seven years as a matter of common expectation, and within a maximumof ten years.  Students beyond seven years are required to fill out yearly “Extension of Time” forms that the GPD must approve, along with the Dean of SGS.  For more information, see also the SGS Graduate Student Handbook. 

Summary of Guidelines and Deadlines

  Guideline Dates       Deadlines Dates  
First Qualifying Paper sign on                      11/15/Y2  
First Qualifying Paper sign off  08/15/Y2  6/15/Y3 
Second Qualifying Paper sign on 11/15/Y3  
Second Qualifying Paper sign off 11/15/Y4  
Dissertation Proposal Defense 11/15/Y5       6/15/Y6       
Dissertation Defense 08/15/Y6 8/15/Y9


B. M.A. Requirements (see Appendix A for an M.A.–Ph.D. timeline)

a. 5 required courses with a grade of B or above

    • Soc. 501 - Sociological Research Methods
    • Soc. 503/504 – Second Year Paper (Master’s Paper) Seminar
    • Soc. 515 - Classical Sociological Theory
    • Soc. 516 - Contemporary Sociological Theory
    • Soc. 541 - Statistical Methods in Sociology

b. Five elective courses: 1 may be an Independent Study, and up to 2 may be outside the department. Note: Information on the specific mix of courses that may be taken at the Master’s level and across the entirety of one’s program of study can be found in Section V, subsection D below, specifically under the headings “Independent Studies” and “Courses Outside of the Sociology Department.” To foreshadow those instructions, please note that no more than three courses from outside the department may be taken for credit over the course of the student’s entire career in the department, including methods or substantive courses in other departments at Rutgers—New Brunswick, courses at other Rutgers campuses (for example, at Newark), and courses offered at other universities through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium.

c. First-year and second-year student Proseminar (register with the Graduate Program Director for one research credit each semester)

d. Attendance at all or close to all departmental Colloquium events.

e. QP1 (also sometimes known as the Second Year Paper or Master’s Thesis)

C. Ph.D. Requirements (see Appendix A for an M.A.–Ph.D. timeline)

a.    All requirements for the M.A. degree

b.    Two additional required courses with a grade of B or above

i. Soc. 542 - Statistical Methods in Sociology II

ii. One other methods/statistics course from the following list (or newly approved methods courses in Sociology as they arise). These currently include:

    1. 520 – Comparative Historical Methods
    2. 573 – Ethnographic Methods
    3. 615 – Qualitative Research Methods
    4. 616 – Social Network Analysis
    5. 617 – Computational Sociology
    6. 6xx – Multilevel and Longitudinal Data Analysis
    7. Students may request to use an intermediate/advanced statistics courses at RUNewark in the Criminal Justice program to fulfill this requirement
    8. An approved methods course offered in one of the other Social Science departments at Rutgers—New Brunswick

c.    Four additional elective courses; 1 may be an Independent Study, and up to 2 may be outside the department. As noted above, and discussed below in Section V. subsection D, no more than three courses from outside the department may be taken for credit over the course of the student’s entire career in the department.  

d.    One semester of a Writing Seminar (503/504 or 703) (see section V, subsection E below for more details on the Writing Seminar).

e.    24 research credits (these do not substitute for course or Independent Study credits. See section V. 4 below for more details.)

f.     QP2 (also sometimes called the Second Qualifying Paper (see section VI on Qualifying Papers for details)

g. Dissertation proposal defense

h.    Dissertation with successful defense

D. Course Information: Independent Studies, and Courses Outside the Department

This section contains information on some of the various courses one can take, and restrictions concerning them.

a. Independent Studies

Independent Studies are based on arrangements made between a professor and one or more graduate students to study a mutually-agreed-upon subject for one semester.  In order to register for an Independent Study, the student (in consultation with the professor) must compile a syllabus that specifies the required reading and writing requirements as well as the meeting schedule. This syllabus must be submitted to the Graduate Program Director for approval.  Independent studies are considered as equivalent to seminars in workload and hence they count as elective courses for your degree requirements. They are not meant to give structure to or substitute for an ongoing collaborative project between faculty member and student.  Students may take no more than two Independent Studies during their time in the graduate program, one counted toward the M.A. requirements and one toward the Ph.D. requirements.  [Also please note that Independent Study courses do not count as part of the faculty member’s normal teaching load.]

b. Courses Outside of the Sociology Department

i. Number of outside courses - Students may take up to three courses in total outside of the Sociology Department (in other Rutgers departments, at other Rutgers campuses, or at Inter-University Consortium schools) that count toward their overall elective requirements.  Specifically, that is to say that they may take 1-2 for the M.A. degree requirements and 1-2 for the Ph.D. degree requirements, but totaling no more than three overall.  These “outside” courses include methods or substantive courses in other departments at Rutgers—New Brunswick, courses at other Rutgers campuses (for example, at Newark), and courses offered at other universities through the InterUniversity Doctoral Consortium.  Some certificate programs at Rutgers may require students to take non-Sociology courses; please be attentive to those requirements as you consider your overall program of study, including how you will make use of the InterUniversity Doctoral Consortium.  Please consult the Graduate Program Director at any time if you have questions.  Our goal is to permit each student to pursue a program of study that maximally serves their intellectual needs while also ensuring that a sufficient portion of each student’s curriculum is responsibly delivered by our own department.

ii. Inter-University Doctoral Consortium Courses - Graduate students at Rutgers may take graduate courses at several other universities in the region (e.g., Columbia University, CUNY-Graduate Center, the New School, New York University, Princeton University) at no extra cost.  Many students find these courses to be significantly important in their intellectual development, and we encourage you to seek out stimulating opportunities. Enrollment in courses at other institutions through this program requires the permission of the student’s advisor, the Sociology Graduate Director, and the instructor of the course at the host institution. Students in their first year may not be eligible.  The form required to register for courses in the consortium is available on the Graduate School webpage.  As noted before, these classes count as courses taken outside the department.  

c. Grades and Incompletes

i. Grades - You must receive grades of A, B+, or B in 14 of the 16 required and elective courses to receive a Ph.D. All required courses must have a B or higher. [Note: Rutgers does not have A+ or any minus grades.]

ii. Incompletes - We strongly discourage students from taking an Incomplete in a course. Having an Incomplete frequently impairs a student’s ability to complete subsequent work on time. If a student is unable to complete all the requirements for a course, the instructor may assign a grade of Incomplete if they think the circumstances are warranted. The Graduate School requires that a student make up the work for an Incomplete within twelve months of the end of semester in which the incomplete grade was assigned (e.g., an Incomplete in a course from the fall semester 2023 must be completed and the grade turned in by the end of the grading period for the fall semester 2024).  Excessive Incompletes: Any student with more than two Incompletes in any given semester will face discontinuation from the program. SGS requires that a student with 2 incompletes has only one semester to reduce the Incompletes to one. Any student who has not made-up their final Incomplete within one year will face discontinuation from the program. 

d. Transfer of Credits

Students may apply to transfer up to 12 credits towards the MA degree requirements at Rutgers. Students may apply to transfer an additional 12 credits towards the PhD degree requirements. Often the number allowed is somewhat less, to ensure you are sufficiently engaged with the curriculum we offer.  These credits may be used for required or elective courses in the degree program upon approval of the Graduate Director.  All transfer courses must be regular numerically graded or letter-graded classes (not courses graded satisfactory/unsatisfactory or pass/fail).  Courses with grades below B cannot be transferred for credit in our program.  Individually arranged reading courses are also not accepted for transfer credit.  Please note: The transfer of credit can only be made after completion of 12 graduate credits at Rutgers.  However, speak with the Graduate Program Director in advance to start making plans for the transfer of credits to take place once it can be effected.  Also please note that the School of Graduate Studies generally does not approve any credits to be transferred for the degree at Rutgers for courses that were taken more than 6 years before the transfer request.

E. Second Year Paper Seminar (503/504) and Writing Seminar (703)

Starting in fall semester 2020, second-year students are required to the take the Second Year Paper Seminar which fulfills the Writing Seminar requirement.  Second-year students will register for the Second Year Paper Seminar for course credit (503 fall semester/504 spring semester – each for 1.5 credits).  After the Second Year Paper Seminar, students are encouraged to enroll in the Writing Seminar (703), as interested, but will do so for research credit.  The Writing Seminar for research credits (703) will be offered every spring semester for all students, contingent on demand.  The Second Year Paper Seminar (503/504) is expressly designed to assist students in the process of researching and writing their QP1 (i.e., M.A. thesis). Students on fellowship will normally take three courses in addition to the Second Year Paper Seminar. Students on TAship in their second year may elect to take only two courses plus the Second Year Paper seminar.  The Writing Seminar (703) supports the development of writing skills for completing and polishing a piece of sociological work (e.g., second qualifying paper, dissertation proposal, manuscript for submission for journal review).  Because it is taken for research credit, this course is graded Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory. 

F. Research Credits

Students must complete 24 research credits to graduate with the PhD degree. Research credits can seem a bit mysterious.  They apply more readily in lab science settings when students are being supervised in lab research.  For us, they signify that you are working on independent research stretched over a significant chunk of time, monitored and guided by your faculty advisor.  You might say they are a way of ‘expressing’ or accounting for your independent scholarly work until the point of degree completion.  The department advises that students complete approximately 20 research credits by the end of their 5th year in the program, although the exact number for each student depends on his or her pace to completion of the Ph.D. Subsequently, students should register for one research credit per semester while completing their dissertations. Since these credits have to be paid for—possibly by the department, sometimes by SAS, but usually by the student, it is important to try not to exceed 24 total research credits through the completion of the Ph.D.

Below is the suggested timeline for an incoming student in the program who does not transfer any course credits and who plans to complete the Ph.D. at the end of the 6th year.  Note that this timeline will vary based on a number of individual circumstances that students can discuss with the Graduate Director or Program Coordinator.

Year in Program Fall Semester Spring Semester
1 1 1
2 1 1
3 3 3
4 3 3
5 1-2 1-2
6 1 1


Beyond years one and two, when students register for research credits in conjunction with the Proseminar, students should register for research credits with one of their advisors—that is, with either their primary advisor or the lead reader for their final qualifying paper (except when taking the Writing Seminar for research credits). Students should inform faculty that they are signing up for research credits with them and should agree upon the level of communication and work expected in order to earn an S grade. This generally involves making tangible progress on research and producing some piece of writing (e.g., a draft of a final qualifying paper, dissertation proposal, dissertation chapter, or article for submission). The student and advisor should stay in regular contact about the student's progress over the course of the semester.

ABD students are required to register for a minimum of one research credit per semester, even if they are on a TA line, and should plan research credits accordingly. Once a student is no longer receiving a fellowship or TAship from the University, research credits must be paid for by the student (or external funders, if such arrangements are in place).  Note: Under no circumstances will SAS provide financial support beyond 75 total credits.   

Any unapproved lapse in registration will be considered a voluntary withdrawal from the program and the student will be terminated. In extenuating circumstances, students may request a formal leave of absence or register as Matriculation Continued (maximum 2 semesters, which must be taken consecutively) with the permission of the Graduate Program Director.  More about the Matriculation Continued option is described below in section under section XI, subsection B.

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