M.S. in Rural Sociology

Graduate study in rural sociology is available at the master’s level through the Interdepartmental Graduate Program in Sociology. The Rural Sociology master’s degree focuses on equipping students with the scientific and technical skills necessary to assess and to evaluate both the challenges and the opportunities found within and among rural communities.

Our graduates have pursued a wide range of careers (see Placement Profiles here). Many have gone on to Ph.D. programs in sociology or related fields such as environmental studies and social forestry, or to professional programs in law and medicine. Others have chosen careers in state and local government, as well as positions in associated agencies and non-governmental organizations. We also have graduates who pursued work in the private sector including corporate and consulting positions, as well as entrepreneurship.

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We offer both thesis and non-thesis options in Rural Sociology. Both M.S. degree options share a common core of three courses at the graduate level: social theory, research methods, and statistics (see Auburn Bulletin here). The thesis option requires a minimum of 24 hours of graduate-level course work and six hours of graduate credit for the thesis (see Completed Theses in Rural Sociology here). Financial support in the form of a Graduate Research Assistantship, which comes with a stipend and tuition waiver, is often available for students pursuing the thesis option. The non-thesis option requires a total of 36 hours of graduate course work and a capstone paper. Additional information can be found in the Program handbook (see Guide to Graduate Study here).

The Program faculty includes rural sociologists from DAERS in the College of Agriculture in conjunction with social scientists from the Department of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work in the College of Liberal Arts. We also work with faculty in departments such as Geosciences in the College of Sciences and Mathematics to offer Ph.D. in Earth Systems Sciences, Curriculum and Teaching in the College of Education to offer a Ph.D. in Career and Technical Education, and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to offer a Ph.D. in Career and Technical Education, and the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences to offer a Ph.D. in Social Forestry. Our students may also apply to the NSF Research Traineeship program, which focuses on climate resilience communication.

Our faculty have been widely recognized for teaching and research excellence including the Rural Sociological Society, the Southern Rural Sociological Association, and Auburn University; scholarly recognition from out flagship journal Rural Sociology; and election to senior leadership positions in the discipline including two past presidents of the Rural Sociology Society.

Moreover, our faculty are committed to diversity and inclusion (see statement here)


Rural Sociology faculty have successfully competed for research grants from a range of organizations including, but not limited to, the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Geological Survey, USAID, and the International Institute of Social Studies; as well as the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industry, the Illinois Institute for Rural Affairs, and the Alabama AARP. Faculty have also served as consultants for governmental and non-governmental organizations including World Fish, the Norwegian University of Life Sciences, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund.

Our Substantive areas of research, and associated student theses (see Completed Theses in Rural Sociology here), have included the following:

  • Governance and Legal Studies of Agrifood Systems: rules and habits governing production systems with an emphasis on food safety statutes and regulations, and limited liability and Right-to-Farm laws.
  • Local Food Studies: food security, farm-to-school and -institution programs, and consumer attitudes and willingness to pay for local foods in the South.
  • Studies in Environmental Justice and Natural Resource Dependency: social and economic issues related to race, extraction, resource dependency, and structure of land and resource ownership including land loss and absentee ownership in the rural context.
  • Climate Studies: communication about climate extremes, change, and resilience; and the co-development of knowledge about mitigation strategies in the Southeastern U.S.
  • Internation Development: adoption, impacts, and productivity use of agricultural technology; augmenting institutional capacity in higher education; and mobile-based systems for facilitating access to market information and technical assistance in is Central Africa and Haiti.

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Joseph J. Molnar
Professor & Coordinator
301 Comer Hall
Auburn Univ, AL 36849