Sociology and Education

Welcome to the Sociology & Education program


The sociological examination of education has a long tradition at Teachers College, a graduate school with a strong commitment to social justice. Our Sociology and Education program, one of the oldest and most revered such programs in the nation, provides a curriculum that supports students in developing and fostering their “sociological imagination” – or an understanding of the relationship between micro-level day-to-day experiences and the larger, macro-level structures in which we all live, between our biography and the arc of history. Many students come to our program after having experienced first-hand the impact of inequality in their lives and/or the lives of students they teach. They seek answers to their questions about the larger educational system, the policies that perpetuate inequality, and the disparate impact on students across place, race and gender identity, and socio-economic status.  They want to know how things came to be the way they are today. Through this micro-macro lens, our program enables students to understand educational and social inequality through the careful analysis of evidence. Our coursework and the research opportunities prepare change agents to challenge the inequality within our schools through a deep understanding of its social, political and economic causes.

Our curriculum features a set of Core Requirements in the Foundation of Social Analysis of Education, Education and Social Inequality, Education and Social Organization, and Education and Social Change. The program also requires students to learn both quantitative and qualitative research methods for all of our degree programs. Our students can also opt to complete the Policy Concentration requirements. Our Master’s students choose between taking a Comprehensive Exam or completing an Integrative Project, or a Master’s Thesis, as their Culminating Experience. Doctoral students will complete a Certification Exam and research and write a dissertation.

The curriculum emphasizes the social context of schools in both cities and suburbs; the organization and structure of schooling; and the intersection of race, ethnicity, social class and gender with educational policies and practices. Students are trained in both quantitative and qualitative research methods. Hands-on research opportunities are available on a wide range of projects, including those examining racial segregation, urban gentrification, conditions of New York City Public Schools, suburban demographic change and its impact on schools, and school organization.

The program faculty for the Sociology and Education program includes sociologists from several other programs at the College as well as other nearby academic institutions. Faculty strengths are in sociology of education generally, but also in organizational studies, the sociology of teachers and teaching, stratification, racial inequality, critical race theory and urban sociology. They are actively engaged in the analysis and evaluation of educational policies and programs designed to serve educationally disadvantaged populations.

The program in Sociology and Education also offers an optional Policy Concentration that overlaps with many of our degree requirements. For more information on this concentration, which is open to students throughout Teachers College, please contact Professor Amy Stuart Wells.

Sociology and Education Program's Webinar for Prospective Students

Fall 2021 OPEN HOUSE

If you would like to view a video copy of the webinar for prospectives students that premiered on November 4, please email Katherine Y. Chung at kc2610@tc.columbia.edu to request your copy.

Choose Your Degree

The graduate program in Sociology and Education offers four degree programs: the M.A., the Ed.M., the Ed.D., and the Ph.D. Each program is designed to meet the needs of students with a particular combination of prior experience and career objectives. The M.A., Ed.M., and Ed.D. programs may be completed on a part-time basis, and most of our classes are offered in the evening hours. The Ph.D. program requires full-time study. Although students from all of the degree programs in sociology and education are prepared to assume positions in education institutions, the program does not offer professional certification for teaching or school/district leadership. Certification programs are available in other departments at Teachers College.


M.A. degree in the Program of Sociology and Education - minimum of 33 points.

The Master of Arts program in Sociology and Education provides an introduction to the application of sociological perspectives to contemporary education issues. The program provides coverage of the core principles and methods of sociology as they are applied to research and analysis. An optional Policy Concentration enables students to focus more closely on the design and effects of education policies. Students completing this program are prepared to assume positions as general analysts in a variety of organizations devoted to applied educational research, policy making, advocacy, consulting, and direct educational service.

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Ed.M. Degree in the Program in Sociology and Education – minimum of 60 points

The Master of Education in Sociology and Education is an advanced master’s degree typically pursued by students who already possess a master’s degree in a substantive area of education or by students without a prior master’s degree who want an opportunity to combine study in sociology and education with another area in education. The program involves study of sociological perspectives and methods in the context of contemporary education issues. Through an optional Policy Concentration, students can examine a variety of education policy questions in more depth. Current substantive areas that can be combined with study in sociology and policy include evaluation and institutional analysis, human development, technology, curriculum, administration, and foundations. Students completing this program are prepared to assume positions as specialists in a variety of organizations devoted to applied educational research, policy making, advocacy, consulting, and management of educational activities.

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The coursework for the Ed.D., which totals a minimum of 90 points, has seven components: basic social research design and methods, advanced social research design and methods, social theory, core coursework in the sociology of education, seminars and colloquia, coursework in the social context of teaching and learning, and elective courses.

The Doctor of Education (Ed.D.) program in Sociology and Education is designed to provide broad training in the social sciences, education, and education policy. The program prepares students for positions in teaching, research, and policy through interdisciplinary study grounded in the sociological perspective. All coursework is available at Teachers College, and both part-time and full-time study is possible. Students completing this program are prepared to assume positions in college and university programs in education as well as leadership positions in a variety of organizations devoted to applied education research, policy making, advocacy, consulting, and management of educational activities.

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The coursework for the Ph.D., which totals a minimum of 75 points, has seven components: social theory, basic social research design and methods, advanced social research design and methods, foundational coursework in sociology, core coursework in the sociology of education, seminars and colloquia, and elective courses.

The Doctor of Philosophy in Education (Ph.D.) program in Sociology and Education is designed for students with a strong background and interest in the discipline of sociology and its application to education. The Ph.D. is a highly specialized degree that requires full-time study and substantial coursework to be done at Teachers College, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences at Columbia University, or through the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, which provides for cross-registration among member institutions, including NYU, CUNY Graduate Center, and Princeton University. Students completing this program are prepared to assume positions in college and university programs focused on sociological research in the field of education.

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Student Profiles


Yeonsoo Choi
Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Yeonsoo Choi is a Ph.D. student in Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. She earned her B.A. and M.A. in Education from Yonsei University, South Korea. Her research interests include the sociology of elite education, globalization and education policy, school choice, and critical policy analysis. Yeonsoo is interested in better understanding how broader social discourses shape education policies and students’ educational experiences. Prior to coming to Teachers College, she worked as a research assistant for education policy research projects funded by the Ministry of Education, South Korea, and the Seoul Metropolitan Office of Education.

Previous Education:

B.A. in Education, Yonsei University and M.A. in Education with concentration in Curriculum and Instruction, Yonsei University

Ph.D. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Jose Luis Vilson is a doctoral student in Sociology and Education at Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to starting his doctoral program, he was a math teacher in New York City public schools for 15 years. He is the author of the best-selling This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, and executive director of EduColor, an organization dedicated to race and social justice issues in education. He is primarily interested in how the nexus of policy, practice, and research proliferate or inhibit the recruitment and retention of educators of color. He earned a BS in Computer Science from Syracuse University and a MA in Mathematics Education from City College of New York. 

Previous Education:

Syracuse University, B.S. in Computer Science

City College of New York, M.A. in Mathematics Education

M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program

Alicia is an M.A. candidate in the Sociology and Education program at Teachers College, Columbia University. She is a Paraguayan sociologist, educator, activist, and dancer; serving as Sociology and Education program representative at Student Advisory Council for the EPSA department. Alicia is currently a Fulbright International grantee and part of the research team of the Network for the Right to Education (Paraguay). Alicia has been related to education from various roles. She has worked as a dance, kindergarten, and high school teacher; and as a non-formal educator with activists and teachers from peri-urban communities in Asunción, Paraguay. Alicia also approached education as a research assistant, in qualitative studies related to teaching experiences in emergency situations, and gender relations in educational settings. As an undergraduate student, she was part of a student movement that advocated for student representation and democratic government in national and local education policies. Her work as a non-formal community educator brought her close to adaptable pedagogical experiences in low-income communities that despite adversities achieve important learning outcomes which go beyond the curriculum. These educational experiences are models of community pedagogy that inform her teaching philosophy and notion of education for democracy. Her academic interests include critical pedagogy, Educacion Popular, and understanding the emergent experiences of communities innovating in education and its potential to inform education policy. Her professional goal is to contribute to the consolidation of a theoretical framework and practice for a Paraguayan education with the capacity to creatively adapt to the pressing needs and interests of its protagonists and their communities.

Previous Education:

B.A. in Sociology from Universidad Catolica Nuestra Senora de la Asuncion

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