Sociology explores almost every aspect of social life by drawing on theoretical ideas that help us to understand societies and the forms they take, as well as studying real world social problems and the ethical dilemmas faced by our contemporary world. Our degree provides students with a critical understanding of society and expertise in researching social processes.

LSE Sociology is one of the premier sociology departments in the world, providing cutting-edge research-led teaching delivered by international experts in their field. Ours was the first sociology department in the United Kingdom and has played a unique role in defining and developing the discipline – nationally and internationally – since 1904. We have an international student body and a global perspective.

The QS World University Rankings 2015 puts the Department second in the UK and Europe and fifth in the world for sociology.

Features of LSE courses

As a student of LSE you will be taught by some of the world’s leading sociologists, introduced to the classical traditions of the discipline, and brought into direct contact with the most advanced contemporary research and scholarship. LSE aims to be both a guardian of the discipline of sociology, and a leader in the development of the social sciences into new intellectual areas, addressing the social problems and ethical dilemmas that a globalised post-modern society faces.

At LSE you will explore specific examples of social action, social processes and institutions; compare different types of social life and societies; examine theories about the nature of social existence and change; study different methods of social research and undertake some research of your own.

LSE Sociology embraces a theoretically and methodologically diverse range of approaches and the teaching and research in the Department concentrates on perennial issues of concern to sociology with a focus on the following key areas:

  • Economies, risk and technology: the sociology of economic life; science, technology and society; the sociology of money and finance; risk regulation. Key topics include markets, cultures and institutions; risk governance, knowledge and technology; money, finance and banking; work, families and migration; work and employment; labour markets and economic immigration; households, families and inequality.
  • Human rights, violence and injustice: ideologies of human rights, transitional justice and post-conflict reconciliation, law and western power; war, warfare and militarism; political, civil, religious, nationalist and communal violence; genocide; violence and political ideologies; the sociology of violence and conflict; social, economic and political injustice and discrimination; justice and accountability; race, racism and modern societies, xenophobia; post colonialism, postcolonial ideologies and societies; political religion; ethnicity and nationalism; identity and difference.
  • Politics, states and movements: social bases of parties and movements, especially the origins, development and contemporary fortunes of social democratic parties and labour movements, and different forms of party and cleavage formation in the democratic world; state transitions and democratisation, especially transitions from authoritarian rule in the wake of political violence; the colonial and post-colonial state, and the development of political and economic democracy; political ideologies, especially the evolution and impact of liberalism and conservatism, neo-liberalism and nationalism in the developing world; contemporary developments in major traditions of British political thought.
  • Urban change, space and connection: urban change and resilience: looking at how spatial and social forms intersect with changing conditions over time; urban divisions and connections: looking at how inequalities and inclusions are constructed; segregation and participation in stratified and increasingly diverse urban contexts, including their cultural manifestations; urban politics, governance and institutions: the forms of power at different spatial scales; policy regulation and social order in relation to modes of formal and informal organisation.

Our teaching is informed by these central areas of engagement and by our own active research in these areas.

LSE Sociology provides a learning environment in which students develop a firm grasp of the key dimensions of contemporary sociology, and are encouraged to think critically and independently. Many of the key issues in the discipline worldwide are contested and our teaching enables students to understand and evaluate these disputes and adopt a position in relation to them. Rigorous, critical, and independent thought is the most transferable skill of all, and is the overarching objective of the learning experience we provide to our students.

The Department of Sociology at LSE welcomes and values the racial, ethnic, religious, national and cultural diversity of all its students, staff, alumni and visitors. The Department believes in equal treatment based on merit and encourages a learning environment based on mutual respect and dialogue.

Degree structure

You can take a single honours degree in sociology or study it as a joint subject with social policy.

The degree has twelve modules – six compulsory and six optional. The first year focuses on the key concepts in sociology, introducing sociological theories and important issues in contemporary society – for example, class, power and inequality; money, markets and work; gender, sexuality and the body; race and ethnicity; punishment, illness and deviance; identity, nationalism and religion. Students also take an introductory course on statistics for sociologists and a course of their own choice. This can include a language.

The interdisciplinary environment at LSE means students can take modules offered by any department within the School (up to a maximum of three for sociology students across their degree). Every LSE student also takes the LSE100 course that is designed to bring together students from across the School to introduce the fundamental elements of thinking as a social scientist.

In the second and third years, sociology students have fewer compulsory courses and have the space to explore a number of specialist areas within sociology in more depth including crime, deviance and control; gender and society; sociology of health and medicine; political sociology; race and ethnicity; work, management and globalisation. Students can also take two modules in other departments within the School. 

What the selectors are looking for in an application

The selectors are looking for students who have a deep and genuine interest in studying the social sciences generally, and sociology in particular. There is no one 'ideal' subject combination, although successful Sociology applicants in the past have tended to study mainly social science subjects. As with all degree programmes at LSE, at least two traditional academic subjects are preferred.

Your personal statement should outline your enthusiasm and motivation for studying sociology and explain your interest in relationships between peoples and society in general. You should mention whether there are any aspects of particular interest to you, how your interests relate to your current academic programme and what additional reading or relevant experiences you have had which have led you to apply. You may also like to include information on your extra-curricular activities and any relevant work experience.

Personal characteristics and skills that will be useful to students in their study of sociology at LSE include the abilities to ask incisive questions; work independently; read widely; communicate with clarity and adopt a creative and flexible approach to their studies. In addition you should possess intellectual curiosity and have the motivation and capacity for hard work.

Please visit for further information on admissions criteria.

Teaching and assessment

We encourage our students to think critically and independently and the teaching techniques we employ are designed to encourage this. Most courses include both lectures (where an overview of the week's topic and the key issues are outlined) and small seminars where you have the opportunity to discuss your reading, explore issues in more depth and exchange and discuss ideas with your fellow students. Most of our teaching is interactive and requires active student participation and engagement. Some courses have group work, projects and outside visits too.

You will have an examination for most courses at the end of the year. Some courses are examined partially or wholly by essays and/or projects. For coursework that does not contribute to the final degree mark, you will be given feedback throughout the year.

You will also have an academic adviser who will be available to offer general guidance and assistance with both academic and pastoral concerns.

Preliminary reading

  • P Abbot, M Tyler and C Wallace An Introduction to Sociology: feminist perspectives (3rd edition, Routledge, 2005)
  • N Abercrombie et al Contemporary British Society (3rd edition, Polity Press, 2000)
  • P Berger Invitation to Sociology: a humanistic perspective (Penguin, 1988)
  • J Elster Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences (Cambridge University Press, 1989)
  • A Giddens Sociology (6th edition, Polity Press, 2009)
  • S Hall and B Gieben (Eds) Formations of Modernity (Polity Press, 1992)
  • C Jenks (Ed) Core Sociological Dichotomies (Sage, 1998)
  • K Morrison Marx, Durkheim and Weber: foundations of modern social thought (Sage, 1997)
  • C F Seale (ed) Researching Society and Culture (Sage, 2004)

Graduate destinations

We train our undergraduates to the highest standards and the critical thinking skills they develop are valued by employers. Our students go into a wide variety of professions including teaching, research, politics, public administration, the media, social and health services, advertising, journalism, law, publishing, industry, accounting, marketing, personnel and management.