The Sociology Major


Sociology is an ideal major for students who want to understand the social world, processes of social change, and how social context affects individual behaviors and decisions. Sociology majors learn the quantitative and qualitative tools of social scientific analysis, and how to apply them toward a systematic, evidence-based knowledge of the social world.

The Department of Sociology is a unit of the College of Arts and Sciences. All tenure-line faculty in the Department teach in the undergraduate program, including our most popular lower-division courses.

Students in the undergraduate program have a wide range of courses from which to choose. The flexibility of the major also allows many students to pursue a second major or a minor.

Between 2010 through 2015, the Department graduated an average of 50 seniors per year. This establishes the Sociology Major as one of the largest in the College of Arts and Sciences, particular on a per faculty basis.

In this section of the website, you’ll find more information about major requirements, how to declare the major, academic advising, and the Honors Program in Sociology.

Undergraduate students who are considering the major may contact Professor Cristobal Young, the Director of Undergraduate Studies for Sociology. Professor Young can answer questions about the program, planning your coursework, and opportunities for independent research including the Honors Thesis in Sociology.

Our Undergraduate Program Coordinator, Susan Meyer, can answer many routine questions about the process of declaring the major, transferring credits, and adding and dropping courses.

Learning Outcomes

  • Goal 1 (Breadth). Sociology majors are expected to be familiar with the range of research questions addressed in modern sociology.
  • Goal 2 (Depth). Sociology majors are expected to learn central theoretical concepts and methods used to answer sociological questions (at a level that will prepare them for entry into a PhD program in sociology).
  • Goal 3 (Critical Thinking). Sociology majors are expected to be capable of synthesizing and assessing empirical findings and theoretical claims in written form.
  • Goal 4 (Research). Either through the honors program or an independent study, sociology majors who have an interest in conducting original research are expected to develop the capacity to undertake research projects that aim to contribute new knowledge to sociology as a field of study.

Declaring the Major

If you are student in the College of Arts & Sciences and you want to declare the Sociology Major, it is in your best interest to do so as soon as possible. (See the College’s advice on how to select a major.) If you are not currently in the College of Arts & Sciences, you need to be admitted to the College before you can declare the Sociology Major.

Students are eligible to declare the major after they have completed at least one course in Sociology.

To declare the major, you should complete the Sociology Major Application. This form asks you to list the Sociology courses that you have taken.

You will also be asked to indicate your preference(s) for a Faculty Advisor in the Sociology Department. You may select any member of the Sociology Department Faculty. Your faculty advisor can help you plan your program of study within the Department. If you do not have a preference for your Faculty Advisor, of if your requested advisor is not available, the Director of Undergraduate Studies will assign a Faculty Advisor for you.

You should submit your application to the Undergraduate Coordinator, Susan Meyer, in the Sociology Department Office (3rd floor of Uris Hall).

Your declaration form will be reviewed by the Director of Undergraduate Studies. If it is approved, the Department will notify the College that you have declared the Sociology Major. Please allow two weeks for your major declaration to be processed, approved, and entered into the College’s system.


The Sociology Major combines a solid foundation in sociological theories, perspectives, methods, and analysis, with the opportunity to focus your elective courses around topics that interest you.

The Sociology Major requires just 10 courses – 3 core courses and 7 electives.

The core courses provide an overview of sociological theories and methods that unite us as a discipline. These 3 courses are:

SOC 1101: Introduction to Sociology
SOC 3010: Evaluating Statistical Evidence
SOC 3750: Classical Sociological Theory or SOC 3190: Contemporary Sociological Theory

You can select your 7 elective courses from any 3- or 4-credit courses that have a SOC prefix. The only stipulation is that three of the electives should be at the 3000-level or higher.

For credit toward the major, students must take core and elective courses for a letter grade and earn a grade of C- or higher.

Combining Sociology with other majors and/or minors:
The flexibility of the Sociology Major allows many students to combine it with another major or minor. Sociology can be an excellent complement to majors in other social science disciplines, or majors in humanities and the hard sciences. In fact, about a third of graduating majors in 2015 and 2016 had a second major, and close to 75% of them completed a minor.

Independent Study Courses:
Some Sociology Majors pursue independent study courses. This includes 3- or 4-credit independent study courses registered as SOC 4910 or SOC 4950/4960 (honors thesis research). Up to two of these may be counted toward the elective requirements. Students who are writing an honors thesis may be allowed to count three semesters of independent study work toward the major, at the discretion of the Director of Undergraduate Studies.

Most students find it easy to satisfy the requirements for the major. In fact, a recent graduate said:

 “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I wish I was required to take at least another SOC class or two!”

Academic Advising

As a student at Cornell, you are ultimately responsible for completing your College’s degree requirements and you should be aware of the policies, procedures, and guidelines regarding the fulfillment of the undergraduate degree. If you are in the College of Arts & Sciences, you should consult the current Degree Requirements and the Courses of Study.

College Advisors are available to you by appointment in the Academic Advising Center in KG17 Klarman Hall. These advisors are the best source of guidance on college-level academic requirements for graduation, residency requirements, and academic standing. We strongly encourage you to meet with a College Advisor once a year to discuss your progress toward completion of College requirements.

After reading these pages, you may find that you are still confused or unclear about some of the requirements for the Sociology Major, or you may have questions about your individual situation. Several sources of academic assistance and advice are available to you.

Undergraduate Program Coordinator:
The undergraduate program coordinator in the Sociology Department is Susan Meyer. Sue is located in Uris Hall, Room 316 — inside the Sociology Department Office. She can provide assistance with administrative matters or concerns, including:

  • The process of declaring the sociology major
  • Forms related to transferring course credit from other universities and/or other departments
  • Add/Drop forms and course enrollment permissions
  • Applications to the Sociology Honors Program
  • Completion of Part II: Major Requirements in the Application to Graduate

Sociology Faculty Advisor:
When you are accepted into the Sociology Major, you will be assigned a Sociology Faculty Advisor. You are encouraged to meet with your faculty advisor in Sociology to discuss courses and plan your program of study within the Department. You may also reach out to her or him to discuss any questions you have about the major, as well as career goals and graduate school opportunities.

Director of Undergraduate Studies:
Professor Cristobal Young is the Director of Undergraduate Studies in Sociology. He reviews Sociology Major Declaration Forms and accepts students into the program. He also evaluates sociology classes taken outside Cornell to determine whether they qualify for Cornell credit.

Professor Young is available to meet with majors and prospective majors who wish to learn more about the major or discuss opportunities within the undergraduate program, such as the Honors Program. The Director of Undergraduate Studies also fills in for faculty advisors who are on academic leave.