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Research Skills to Improve Society

The Master of Arts in Sociology Research and Practice will prepare you for a doctoral program or a career in social advocacy, research, teaching, human services, or policy-making. In this program, you will learn methods of doing research on health and society; engage in a research project focused on issues in Washington, DC; build your qualitative and quantitative data analysis capacity; and hone your ability to present results of research to various audiences.

Our students immerse themselves in research focusing on the social determinants of health—particularly related to social inequities of race/ethnicity, social class, gender and sexuality—in connection to other sociological subfields, such as urban development, migration, education, and social movements.

AU’s program is set apart by its practicum experience, in which you will work with faculty over four semesters to complete a professional-quality research project. The practicum provides a unique opportunity to learn the practical skills necessary to conduct research and communicate your findings. You will gain practical, hands-on experience working side-by-side with faculty on cutting-edge research to improve society’s health and well-being.

The American University Sociology Master's Program has been ranked 15th in the nation as "Best Pracitum Experience" on its recently published "The Best Master's Program in Sociology Degree Programs."

Research-Based Learning

Half of the credits in this 30-credit program are devoted to the five-course practicum experience, in which you conduct a research project from start to finish. In these courses, you will learn research design, develop and implement a research plan, develop cutting-edge skills to analyze the gathered data, and present your results. The remaining credits include sociological theory and electives to broaden your substantive or methodological expertise.

The majority of classes meet at night, making this program an excellent fit for part-time students and working professionals.

See all admissions and course requirements.

Make a Difference in Your Career and the World

The vast array of intellectual and professional opportunities afforded by the DC area make AU the ideal place to study sociology. In the capital, you can attend seminars, talks, and policy briefings at important government institutions and NGOs, such as congress, the Brookings Institute, the Urban Institute, and the National Institutes of Health, creating opportunities to network and meet policy leaders. The department also brings the experts to you with weekly seminars hosted by the Center on Health, Risk, and Society. The DC area is one of the largest markets for research positions in the world, and many of our graduates go on to work with the area’s research and policy institutions or the federal government.

Distinguished Faculty Dedicated to Your Success

In this program, you will work closely with the renowned faculty members of the AU sociology department, who are widely published leaders of sociological, social science, and interdisciplinary organizations. Known for their work on how social conditions cause health inequality, they are national leaders in the study of social determinants of AIDS, obesity, and chronic disease in old age.

You will have a variety of research options due to our faculty’s broad range of expertise, including gender and globalization, language and inequality, social policy, development, the environment, social advocacy, migration, gender/sexuality, media, religion, and race/ethnicity.

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Center on Health, Risk, and Society

An interdisciplinary community of scholars conducting research on the social dimensions of health and health-related risks, especially on their roots in social inequality, and on structural interventions aimed at addressing them.


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Emma Vetter, AU sociology.

Emma Vetter MA Candidate, Sociology Research and Practice

Emma Vetter has made the most of her time at American University. While earning her MA in Sociology Research and Practice, she’s worked as research assistant for three professors, learning new skills along the way.

It’s all prepared her for the next big step in her academic career: Emma is in the process of applying to three PhD programs, and she’s already been accepted to one.

My combined research experiences with the Department of Sociology have allowed me to better understand how research moves from ideas to theory, research questions, and hypotheses. These opportunities have shown me how sociological methods can capture the lived experiences of overlooked communities. I am very grateful for my time at AU and with the sociology department for helping me grow academically.

As a research assistant, Emma’s work has ranged greatly. Working with Professor Nicole Angotti, she executed independent, in-person observations and interviews to pilot research methods. She also composed field notes and created observation protocol instructions. Working in Professor Ernesto Castañeda’s Immigration Lab, Emma researched social determinants of health and worked as the third author on a peer-reviewed journal article about health disparities (Journal of Migration and Health). For Professor Gay Young, Emma is examining the role of collective emotions in the 2020 presidential election.

Rebekah Israel Cross

Rebekah Israel CrossSociology MA '13

At AU Rebekah led Alternative Break trips to South Africa and Haiti. She worked as a research assistant, a TA, and the research project coordinator for a study on perceptions of HIV and HIV testing among African American and East African-born women in DC.

My main research interests include race, class, and gender disparities in health.

After graduation, she worked for the Black AIDS Institute and as Assistant Director of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. She is pursuing a PhD at UCLA, studying the impact of racism on public health.