Graduate Program

UC Berkeley Demography offers three graduate degree tracks independently and in conjunction with the department of Sociology.

Ph.D. in Demography

The doctoral program is intended to provide advanced training in demography, with particular attention to research and theoretical issues.

Graduate Group in Sociology and Demography (GGSD)

The purpose of this Ph.D. program, administered by the Graduate Group in Sociology and Demography (GGSD), is to foster intellectual exchange between graduate students and faculty in the two disciplines, and to improve the competitiveness of graduate students with interests in both sociology and demography on the academic job market.

Master of Arts in Demography

The terminal Master’s program is intended to provide training for those interested exclusively in the M.A. in Demography and for those who will acquire the degree in addition to a doctoral degree in another subject. Applicants interested in earning a Ph.D. in Demography should apply directly to the Ph.D. program, whether or not they already hold a Master’s degree.

​Occasionally students holding or earning a Master’s degree in another subject may wish to earn an M.A. in Demography as well. They may do so provided that there is no overlap between the courses used to satisfy the requirements for the two degrees. Individuals holding a Master’s degree in Demography from another institution (even if under a different title, like Population Studies) cannot earn an M.A. in Demography at UC Berkeley.

Common First-Year Curriculum

The first-year curriculum is designed to introduce all graduate students to the essentials of demographic theory and methods. Therefore, students on all three degree tracks begin by completing a set of required courses in the first year as outlined below. Students in the doctoral program take the same curriculum in the first year as Master’s students and sit for the same written examinations, which they must pass at a level commensurate with the requirements of the doctoral program. All first-year courses, with the exception of DEMOG 213, must be taken on a letter-grade basis.

Fall semester

DEMOG 110Demographic Methods: Introduction to Population Analysis
Sex, Death, and Data
Social Demography: Population, Culture, and Society
DEMOG 210Demographic Methods: Rates, Structures, and Models
DEMOG 213Computer Applications for Demographic Analysis: Introduction to Computing for Demographers
2 (taken for S/U)

Spring semester

DEMOG C175Economic Demography4
DEMOG 260Special Topics in Demography (topics vary)4
ElectivesGraduate-level courses in Demography or other disciplines relevant to the student’s research interests
Min. 7 (taken for letter grades)
TOTALMin. 24 units

Toward the end of the Spring semester of the first year, students take an M.A. Qualifying/Ph.D. Preliminary Exam. This M.A. exam is a written test of fluency in demographic theory, methods, and substance. The exam consists of two 3-hour long sessions, one devoted to methods and the other to substance and theory. Although all of the content included on the M.A. exam is covered in the required courses, the exam is not a simple repetition of course exams. Instead, students are required to demonstrate the ability to synthesize forms of knowledge acquired in different courses and to think critically about the assumptions and implications of demographic models. Non-circulating copies of old exams are available in the Sharlin Library and are now also available on-line to Demography students. 

​Upon the successful completion of the first-year coursework and the M.A. exam, students earn their Master’s degrees in Demography. Students in the doctoral programs continue on their respective tracks, fulfilling the requirements for advancement to candidacy and submitting their dissertations. 

Demography Ph.D. Degree Requirements

Those working for a doctoral degree are expected to enter with, or obtain concurrently at Berkeley, a Master’s degree in a different but related subject (e.g., Sociology, Economics, Anthropology, Statistics, Public Policy, Public Health, Biostatistics, Regional Planning, Geography). This ancillary Master’s degree must be earned before the dissertation stage. We recognize that some students may enter the doctoral program with a Master’s degree in Demography, or with a one in a subject not clearly related to their demographic work. The applicability of such degrees to the doctoral program is determined on an individual basis.

Students in the Ph.D. program must pass an oral qualifying examination before they can be advanced to candidacy. Students are responsible for making all arrangements for the exam including: 1) filling out the necessary paperwork with help from the Graduate Services Advisor at least 3 weeks in advance of your expected exam date, 2) forming an examination committee (see below) with the advice and consent of the Graduate Advisor and/or other faculty members, 3) scheduling a date and time for the exam that is agreeable to all committee members, and 4) preparing reading lists for the two specialized sections of the exam (see below), which must be approved by the Graduate Advisor; 5) providing copies of the final reading lists, plus the two designated “showpiece” articles, to all committee members at least two weeks before the exam.


The examination committee must have four members. Students should choose committee members to achieve an appropriate balance in light of their chosen areas of specialization (see below). Two members of the examination committee must be chosen from the regular faculty and/or emeriti of the Department of Demography (Feehan, Goldstein, Hammel, Johnson-Hanks, Lee, Wachter, and Wilmoth). One of these individuals should be designated as chair of the orals committee, although note that the chair of the orals committee cannot also serve as chair of the student´s dissertation committee.

The third “inside member” can be either a regular or an affiliated faculty of the Department. (For a current list of affiliated faculty, please refer to the list of all Faculty members.) Professors from other departments on the Berkeley campus who are not formally designated as affiliates of the Department may serve as the third inside member with approval from the Graduate Advisor. Visiting professors or faculty from other campuses may serve as an inside member with an approval of the Graduate Dean.

One member of the committee must be from outside the Department. Graduate Division guidelines require that the designated “outside member” must belong to the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. In other words, the outside member must be regular faculty in another department on the Berkeley campus. Exceptions to this rule are not possible.

Affiliated faculty of the Department of Demography may serve as either the third inside member, or as the sole outside member of the examination committee. Sociology/Demography students should refer to the program description for further details on selection of oral exam committees specific to their program.


Students are tested in three subject areas, which must include General Demography plus two specialized fields chosen by the student in consultation with the Graduate Advisor. There can be considerable flexibility in the choice of the areas of specialization, but they must not duplicate field exams or other requirements for degrees being earned in other departments. Typical choices include: Fertility, Mortality, Mathematical Demography, Economic Demography, Anthropological Demography, Migration, Historical Demography, Family/Kinship, etc.


Reading lists should be prepared by the student for the specialized areas. These lists should be comparable in scope and length to a one-semester course syllabus on the topic. If the student has attended a specialized course on the topic, s/he may wish to use the syllabus for that course as the basis for assembling the reading list, though usually with some modifications to reflect his/her own interests. Each reading list should be organized into sections based on thematic content. Students should consult with the exam committee members who are most knowledgeable in each specialized area and then obtain final approval of their reading lists from the Graduate Advisor at least one month prior to the exam.

Each of the two specialized reading lists must contain one article (or chapter, if appropriate) that is designated as a “showpiece.” The article chosen for this purpose should have analytical depth and be regarded as a major contribution to the broader subject area. Students should be familiar with all aspects (theory, data, methods, policy implications, etc.) of these articles and be prepared to discuss them in detail.


Students should think about three aspects of preparation for this examination. First, the General Demography section is a test of “what every young demographer should know and be able to explain clearly.” Sample questions include: “What is a synthetic cohort?,” “What is the range of TFRs observed for national populations in the world today?,” “What is the demographic transition?,” “What are stable and stationary populations?,” etc. Clarity of presentation is especially important in this section of the exam.

Second, the two specialized sections of the exam are a test of whether the student could prepare to teach a graduate-level semester course on either of these topics. Students will be asked to demonstrate a broad and detailed knowledge of their chosen areas, although they are not expected to prepare full lectures on specific subjects for sake of the orals exam. Students may also be asked to comment on possibilities for further research in their specialized areas; for example, they could be asked to respond to a question like, “What open questions remain in this area?”

Third, the two showpiece articles are a test of whether the student can give an in-depth evaluation of a specific piece of scholarly research. The student should demonstrate not only a thorough knowledge of the author´s methods, arguments, and findings, but also an ability to analyze the general problem considered in the article and to propose alternative approaches.

The dissertation prospectus is an important step toward completing a doctoral degree in Demography. It is generally the final requirement that a student must complete before being approved for “advancement to candidacy” for the Ph.D. (see also “Guidelines for Advancement to Candidacy, Normative Time, and Filing Fee”). This document describes procedures and suggests a format for the prospectus.

The prospectus must be approved by the faculty member who will serve as chair of the student’s dissertation committee. Signed approval of the prospectus by the dissertation chair is needed before the Graduate Advisor can sign the forms for advancement to candidacy. All decisions about the appropriate form, length, and content of a dissertation prospectus lie with the dissertation chair, not the Graduate Advisor. Thus, the guidelines provided here are merely suggestions, which may serve as a starting point for discussion with the dissertation chair about directions and requirements for a successful prospectus. In making plans for the dissertation prospectus, the student and her/his chair should keep in mind the deadline for advancement to candidacy that will qualify the student for the normative time fee reduction.

As a suggestion, the form and content of the dissertation prospectus should follow (roughly) the specifications for a standard NIH grant application (i.e., an R01 award). The Research Plan in such an application has four essential parts, which are intended to answer the following questions: (1) What do you intend to do? (2) Why is this work important? (3) What has already been done? (4) How are you going to do the work? Thus, the four sections of an NIH grant application, modified as appropriate for a dissertation prospectus, are as follows:

a) Specific Aims. List the research objectives and specific goals of the dissertation research project. State the hypotheses to be tested (1 page is recommended).

b) Background and Significance. Briefly sketch the background leading to the proposed dissertation, critically evaluate existing knowledge, and specifically identify the gaps which the project is intended to fill (2-3 pages are recommended).

c) Preliminary Studies. Describe previous studies by the student that are relevant to the proposed project. This could include a summary of a class paper, other preliminary data analyses, results of a pilot survey, etc. (6-8 pages are recommended).

d) Research design and methods. Describe the research design and procedures to be used to accomplish the specific aims of the project. Include how the data will be collected, analyzed, and interpreted. Describe any new methodology and its advantage over existing methodologies. Discuss the potential difficulties and limitations of the proposed procedures and alternative approaches to achieve the aims. Provide also a tentative sequence or time-table for completing the research and writing the dissertation (14-16 pages are recommended).

The research plan for an NIH grant application may not exceed 25 single-spaced pages, although the distribution of pages within these four section may vary. A dissertation prospectus should be no longer than this, although it could be somewhat shorter (25 double-spaced pages, for example). In any event, the proportional distribution between the four sections should be maintained at least approximately. In particular, it is very important for the fourth section to be the most prominent.

Upon successful completion of the foreign language requirement, the oral qualifying exam, and the prospectus, students enter into the final phase of the program, doctoral candidacy. During this period, students are expected to take another research seminar, Demography 296, every semester until the completion of the dissertation. This phase should last two or three academic years.

Sociology and Demography Ph.D. (GGSD) Requirements

Advanced Demographic Analysis
Intermediate Quantitative Methods
SOCIOL 200Proseminar1
SOCIOL 201ASociological Theory3
SOCIOL 201BSociological Theory3
SOCIOL 271AMethods of Sociological Research4
Two (2) courses from SOCIOL 280 series
ElectivesGraduate-level courses in Sociology or Demography or other disciplines relevant to the student’s research interests

[Note: Students may not count elective courses that were used for the first year MA degree toward this elective requirement.]
3 or 4
TOTALMin. 23 additional units

The Demography preliminary examination must be passed at a level commensurate with the usual requirements for the doctoral program in the Department of Demography in order for a student to continue toward the Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography.

Consistent with the standard practice in the Department of Sociology, students in the joint program are required to write an M.A. research paper. This paper is written with the supervision and approval of a personal M.A. committee comprising two Sociology faculty members. The student’s M.A. committee must approve in advance all details regarding the design, research, content, length, and timetable for the research paper project. Each candidate for the M.A. selects a faculty member as the Chair of her/his M.A. committee (with that professor’s approval) and a second reader. The student may ask the Graduate Advisor of the GGSD to assist in finding a second reader. The M.A. research paper requirement is fulfilled when both members of the M.A. committee have signed and dated the cover page.

After all the coursework, methods, and paper requirements in Sociology are met, each student in the program is required to have an M.A. Advising Conference, organized by GGSD in conjunction with the Department of Sociology (and following the rules prevailing in that department), where it is decided whether the student satisfies doctoral requirements or not. Thus, in addition to the aforementioned requirements in the Department of Demography a student must satisfy the usual doctoral requirements in the Department of Sociology in order to continue toward the Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography.

This program includes one oral Qualifying Examination, to be taken when all pre-qualifying requirements have been met, including the language examination. The orals committee consists of five members, all of whom must be members of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate. At least three but not more than four of the committee members must be core faculty in the GGSD, with at least one committee member representing the Department of Demography and another representing the Department of Sociology. One of these “inside” members will serve as chair of the Orals Committee. That person may not also serve as Chair of the student’s dissertation committee. At least one and not more than two members must be outside of the core faculty of the GGSD. The Graduate Adviser of the GGSD recommends the membership of the Qualifying Exam committee and the topics of examination to the Graduate Dean.

The student prepares four fields of study for the oral Qualifying Examination, including Sociological Theory, General Demography, and two specialized fields in sociology and/or demography. Preparation for the exam is supervised by the Chair of the orals committee, who may separate and delegate the task of supervision to other committee members with expertise in one of the student’s fields of examination. The oral Qualifying Examination itself consists of questions on each of the four topics, in an order chosen by the student. For a successful outcome, the committee must vote unanimously for a “pass.” The jurisdiction for ruling on split votes rests with the Administrative Committee.

After passing the oral Qualifying Examination, the student assembles a provisional dissertation committee. This provisional committee will become the permanent dissertation committee once the student is advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. This committee will consist of three members, including two core faculty member in the GGSD and one outside member who does not belong to core faculty of the GGSD. All committee members must be members of the Berkeley Division of the Academic Senate.

With the guidance of the Chair of the provisional committee, the student prepares a dissertation prospectus. Once the provisional committee approves the dissertation prospectus, the student will be advanced to candidacy for the Ph.D. Once the dissertation committee members have accepted the dissertation, they sign and date the cover page. A public dissertation defense is not required although students are strongly encouraged to give a final presentation to the Graduate Group.

As with the oral Qualifying Examination, dissertation committee members are chosen by the Graduate Adviser of the GGSD in consultation with the student. The dissertation committee is approved formally by the Graduate Dean.

The graduate program in Sociology and Demography does not allow students to earn a joint M.A. degree since the goal of the program is doctoral studies only. If there is no overlap between required courses and other requirements, students can earn both an M.A. in Sociology and an M.A. in Demography at the discretion of the two Departments. These degrees are not the end goal, but rather milestones en route towards the Ph.D. However, in those cases where a student’s progress is not deemed sufficient for advancement to candidacy for the Ph.D. in Sociology and Demography, terminal M.A. degrees may be granted by one or both departments.

Graduate Group in Sociology and Demography Core Faculty

Daniel Aldana Cohen, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Irene Bloemraad, Professor of Sociology

William Dow, Professor of Public Health

Dennis Feehan, Assistant Professor of Demography

Neil Fligstein, Professor of Sociology

Marion Fourcade, Professor of Sociology

Joshua Goldstein, Professor of Demography

David Harding, Associate Professor of Sociology

Heather Haveman, Professor of Sociology

Jennifer Johnson-Hanks, Professor of Demography and Sociology

Rucker Johnson, Associate Professor of Public Policy

Danya Lagos, Assistant Professor of Sociology

Mara Loveman, Professor of Sociology

Samuel Lucas, Professor of Sociology

Ayesha Mahmud, Assistant Professor of Demography

Jane Mauldon, Associate Teaching Professor of Public Policy

Trond Petersen, Professor of Sociology

Sandra Smith, Professor of Sociology

Comprehensive list of Sociology and Demography Ph.D. Program requirements 2023

Berkeley Demography