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Course length

1 year full-time, 2 years part-time


Durham City

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Course details

The MSc in Sociology equips you with an advanced and critical understanding of sociological theories and perspectives, and how they are applied  to contemporary issues and social transformations. It paves the way into careers in a range of fields, from government and NGOs to charitable organisations, social research and teaching. The analytical focus of the MSc also offers a route into academic research.

Through a range of engaging learning approaches, you will begin to view the world in a different way. You will explore the interrelationships of power, social divisions, social diversity and social inequality and their application to social action and public sociology. Course content draws directly on the research specialisms of internationally renowned experts in the Department. These areas of specialism link to many important issues in contemporary society, from gender, violence and abuse to health and social theory, education and inequalities to communities and social justice.

Core modules such as 'Public Sociology: Theory and Practice' develop your understanding of the use of sociological inquiry to inform social change in the contemporary world, while 'Researching Society, Policy and Practice' provides a thorough grounding in the main approaches and methods of social research, and how it is used to inform social welfare policy and practice. The wide selection of optional modules on offer allows you to tailor your learning to your interests and career aspirations, and the MSc dissertation is a further opportunity to explore a particular area of sociology in greater depth.

As the course progresses you will develop your own approaches to research, taking into consideration the methodological, epistemological and ethical issues inherent in sociological research, activism and public engagement in contemporary societies.

Course structure

Core modules:

Public Sociology: Theory and Practice examines contemporary sociological theories and how they apply to real-world issues and social transformations in modern society. This module places sociological theories in historical contexts, exploring different theories of social divisions, examining the concepts of self and identity, and assessing how theorists have sought to account for recent social changes. 

Researching Society, Policy and Practice develops  your critical understanding of main approaches and methods of social research, and the skills used in this area. The module makes  particular reference to the use of research in social welfare practice settings within an ethical framework, exploring areas such as research questions, sampling, methods of data collection and analysis, and interpretation. 

The 15,000-word Dissertation gives you the opportunity to explore and write about a suitable subject of your choice under the guidance of a supervisor, and to use the techniques developed in the research modules. It enables you to demonstrate your capacity for independent thought, critical thinking and analysis.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Gender, Violence and Abuse
  • Social Policy and Society
  • Communities, Civil Society and Social Justice
  • Education and Social Inequality
  • Sociology of Health and Illness
  • Policy-Related and Evaluation Research
  • Participatory Action Research
  • Analysing Causal Relations in Social Science Research
  • Computational Social Science
  • Interdisciplinary Perspectives and Practices Across Social Research
  • Quantitative Methods and Analysis
  • Qualitative Methods and Analysis
  • Prisons, Crime and Justice
  • Placement
  • A language module 


Most teaching involves a combination of lectures, seminars, and workshops. Lectures introduce key concepts, theories and current debates. Seminars involve opportunities to discuss lecture content, share experience of conducting research and consider your own and other students' work. Modules that teach the use of computer software packages include practical sessions in computer rooms, enabling you to carry out hands-on exercises with support. 

This teaching will be supplemented by independent learning, including further reading and research. To support this, you will have access to a variety of learning resources, including learning spaces in libraries and teaching rooms, computers, databases, journals and a wide range of textbooks. In addition, every member of teaching staff is available for two allocated hours each week so you can access additional support.

You will also be assigned a named supervisor for your dissertation. Your supervisor will provide support through a series of individual tutoring meetings, dissertation workshops and forums.


The majority of the MSc is assessed through coursework, and this takes a variety of forms depending on the modules studied. Assessment methods include written assignments, statistical/computer-based projects, presentations, portfolios, reflective journals and research proposals. The statistics modules may require you to complete specific analyses with more structured instructions.

The 15,000-word MSc dissertation, carried out under the guidance of a supervisor, makes up one-third of your credits.

Entry requirements

Normally an upper second class honours degree (2:1) or equivalent.

An undergraduate degree in social sciences is desirable but not compulsory and we welcome students with degrees in arts, humanities and science subjects. You should demonstrate clearly why you are interested in the MSc Sociology in your personal statement. Explaining how your interests align to the teaching and research done in the Sociology Department will assist in assessing your application. This is particularly useful if you are coming from a different discipline.

Additional requirements

When submitting your online application, you will also need to provide:

  1. Current Transcript and Certificate (if possible)

English language requirements

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £11,100 per year
EU students £25,900 per year
Island students £11,100 per year
International students £25,900 per year

Part Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £6,200 per year
EU students £14,300 per year
Island students £6,200 per year
International students £14,300 per year

The tuition fees shown are for one complete academic year of study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities


Teaching and research in sociology develops the skills and knowledge required to carry out further research at a high level.

It also provides an excellent foundation for careers in a wide range of sectors by enhancing skills that are appropriate for the workplace and are highly sought after by employers. These range from interpreting and evaluating information to analysing situations and constructing a persuasive argument.

Previous postgraduates have progressed to stimulating and rewarding roles in health and welfare, local and central government, the Civil Service, the police, the voluntary sector, banking and the media as well as business, with high-profile employers such as M&S, Mencap, Accenture and Unilever.

Department information


The Department of Sociology carries out significant research and teaching that considers the world from a social perspective. We use the knowledge gained from our research into human behaviour to contribute to vital policy and practice that addresses contemporary social challenges.

These ever-present challenges range from social inequality and its implications for social mobility, education and health as well as violence, abuse, and the role of responses from bodies such as governments and agencies.

We offer postgraduate taught masters courses in Sociology, Social Work and Social Research Methods. We also offer masters by research and doctorates by research in the areas of Communities and Social Justice, Higher Education and Inequality, Violence and Abuse, and Health.

Our academic staff have a vast pool of expertise in innovative and socially conscious research in areas ranging from Criminology and Sociology through Social Policy to Social Work and Community and Youth Work.

We are also home to prestigious research centres that are respected for the contribution they make to the field of sociology including the Centre for Social Justice and Community Action and the Centre for Research into Violence and Abuse.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 15 in the QS World University Subject Rankings for Sociology 2023
  • 1st for Criminology in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2024
  • 3rd for Sociology in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2024 
  • 8th for Sociology in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 3rd for Criminology in The Guardian University Guide 2024


For a current list of staff, please see the Department of Sociology pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • We are 4th in the UK for research impact (REF 2021)


The Department is located in the centre of Durham. Our main building is 32 Old Elvet and is within walking distance of the Students’ Union, University Colleges and the city’s castle and cathedral.

The buildings include a student common space, networked computer access and our main teaching and learning offices.

Our University library is one of the best in northern Britain and offers a wide range of books, ebooks and journals that support all of our areas of study. We also make extensive use of Learn Ultra, the University’s virtual learning environment.


Find out more:

Apply for a postgraduate course (including PGCE International) via our online portal.  

Visit Us

The best way to find out what Durham is really like is to come and see for yourself!

Join a Postgraduate Open Day
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 17:00
Find out more
Self-Guided Tours
  • Date: 01/09/2023 - 31/08/2024
  • Time: 09:00 - 16:00
Find out more

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