Master of Arts in Sexuality Studies

The Master of Arts program in Sexuality Studies provides an integrative and comprehensive graduate degree for students interested in studying and working with issues related to human sexuality, sexuality education, research and social policy. It offers an interdisciplinary curriculum in the study of sexuality, with particular emphasis on theory, research and application. Sexual and cultural diversity and their relevant historical, social, developmental and biological aspects are considered.

It investigates the assumptions and applications surrounding current methodologies of the major disciplines that are presently concerned with human sexuality. It enables students to understand varied and often contradictory policies around which sexuality has been formulated, generating a perspective through which they will be able to formulate new and improved solutions to these issues.

Interested in a Master of Arts in Sexuality Studies? We are currently recruiting our next cohort. Read below to find more information on the program and how to apply. 


Graduate Coordinator

Clare Sears
Associate Professor and Graduate Coordinator
Sociology, Sexuality Studies

San Francisco State University Application

All applications should be submitted through Cal State Apply. The department does not require a mailed-in hard copy application.

Cohorts will be accepted each year for the Fall semester only.

The application deadlines for Fall 2024 for Cal State Apply and submission of all completed application materials are:

  • Early priority: March 1, 2024
  • Second priority: April 15, 2024
  • Final deadline: June 1, 2024

Components of the Application Process

A Statement of Purpose

The statement of purpose is the first document that the admissions committee will read. It is critical that you write a strong and exciting statement, so you should prepare yourself to write many different drafts. It will be helpful if others can read your statement and be brutally honest in their comments. In the statement you must first of all let us know what you want to accomplish by studying human sexuality in our program. We are interested to read what life experience, including educational experience, compelled you to seek a graduate degree in the field. What do you expect to achieve during your graduate education, and what future goals do your education and degree support? Write a story that tells us how these two years you will spend in our program fit in your life. What history led you to the Department of Sexuality Studies, what will you do here, and where do you plan to go after completing the program? We want to make sure that your goals can be met by the strengths of our program. It will help you if your statement generates excitement about you among the members of the admissions committee. Please write no more than two pages single spaced, using standard margins and font sizes.

Two Letters of Recommendation

When you ask for letters of recommendation, it behooves you to send letters that will be highly favorable. You can ask your referees, politely, if they will write you a strong letter. A weak letter will hurt your chances like few other things. We will read the letters of recommendation after we have read your statement and will make sure that your referees support the impression you have given about yourself. Most importantly, we will try to ascertain that you have the academic potential to be successful in a demanding graduate program and that you will finish what you have started. 

Writing Sample

To help the admissions committee assess your readiness and suitability for our MA program, you should submit an academic writing sample that best showcases your analytic and writing skills. This could be a class assignment, a senior thesis, or a writing sample that you create specifically for your application. The writing sample should be a minimum of 1,500 words, excluding the works cited or reference page. There is no maximum word limit.


Indicating a GPA of 3.0 or higher. Please note for the admissions process you will need to submit two sets of transcripts for all your college course work.

Graduate Record Examination (GRE Requirement)

 The Sexuality Studies MA Program does not require applicants to take the GRE exam.

Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)

Applicants, regardless of citizenship, whose native language is not English and who preparatory education was principally in a language other than English are required to take TOEFL. The minimum score is 550 for the written test or 213 for the computer test.

Western Regional Graduate Program

We are pleased to announce that the Sexuality Studies M.A. program is now part of the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) which enables students in 16 Western states and territories to enroll in participating public graduate programs as nonresidents, yet pay the lower resident tuition rate.

Human Sexuality Studies (M.A.) — Minimum 30 units

Core Requirements (12 units)

Course List
Code Title Units




Sexual Cultures, Sexual Identities

Sexuality in Historical Perspective

SXS 800 Sociocultural Foundations in Human Sexuality 3
SXS 801 Biological and Psychological Foundations of Human Sexuality 3
SXS 890 Professional Development 3

Research Methodology (6 units)

Course List
Code Title Units
SXS 881 Research Methods in Human Sexuality Studies 3

SXS 882


or SXS 884


or other advanced methods course with approval of Graduate Studies Coordinator

Research Design in Human Sexuality Studies

Advanced Methods in Sexuality Studies





Electives (9 units)

Units selected from upper-division/graduate courses upon advisement

Culminating Experience (3 units)

Course List
Code Title Units

Select one of the following:

SXS 894

or SXS 895

or SXS 898


Creative Work Project

Research Project in Human Sexuality Studies

Master's Thesis


Our M.A. program offers graduate students a rigorous curriculum in the academic study of sexuality with a strong focus on interdisciplinary research and theory. Our faculty members conduct research and teach courses in a range of social science and humanities disciplines including sociology, public health, literature, history, criminal justice, gerontology, gender and women’s studies, queer studies, political science and psychology. Our program does not offer sex therapy, or clinical or counseling training, although students can pursue these interests by using their nine units of elective credit and taking courses in a range of departments across the University.

Year 1

First Semester

Course Number Course Description Units
SXS 800 Sociological Foundations 3
SXS 799 Contagion, Surveillance and Emergent Strategies of Care 3
Elective   3

Total Semester Units: 9

Second Semester

Course Number Course Description Units
SXS 801 Biological and Psychological Foundations 3
SXS 881 Developing the Culminating Experience* 3
SXS 702 Sexuality in Historical Perspective 3

Total Semester Units: 9

Year 2

Third Semester

Course Number Course Description Units
SXS 882 Designing the Culminating Experience* 3
Electives   6

Total Semester Units: 9

Fourth Semester

Course Number Course Description Units
SXS 894/SXS 898 Culminating Experience 3
SXS 884 Capstone Preparation 1

Total Semester Units: 4

30 Units required for graduation

*Listed as Research Methods (881) and Research Design (882).

**Students may choose to enroll in additional electives to maintain full-time status for financial aid.

Choose an Advisor

Your relationships with Sexuality Studies students and faculty will be central to your experience at SF State. Seminars, workshops and informal gatherings will provide opportunities to get to know other students and to meet and work with faculty members. Faculty members are also available during office hours and by appointment to meet with you. We encourage you to meet with all members of faculty to introduce yourself and to learn more about their interests.

Faculty Mentors and Culminating Experience Readers

Faculty Mentors

Students will be assigned a faculty mentor upon arrival their first semester. The mentor assignments reflect the availability of faculty mentors and our initial understanding, gleaned from your applications for admission, of your research interests. You will meet them at the Fall orientation in late August. Make a point of contacting your faculty mentors early in your first semester.

The faculty mentor is available to provide information about the program, guide you in choosing electives and other professional guidance.

This mentor assignment may be only an initial one. We encourage students to get to know many faculty members, core and affiliated; and students are free to choose any available member of the faculty to be your mentor (instead of the faculty mentor assigned to you) and/or to be your Culminating Experience first or second reader (see Culminating Experience Readers below). Meet with your assigned mentor, visit with other faculty, and discuss with them their availability to act as your mentor. Once you decide whom you would like to mentor you — even if it is the initially assigned mentor — approach them to confirm their availability and discuss how you can best work together.

Culminating Experience Readers

The culminating experience will be a written thesis or creative project — an original contribution to existing understandings about sexuality. The contribution may take the form of, for example, an original review of the research literature, analysis of a relevant body of existing data, or an analysis of data — fieldnotes, interviews, focus groups, or survey responses — the student collects.

Students will select a Culminating Experience first reader from among the Sexuality Studies core OR affiliated faculty. Typically this selection is made during the second semester of the first year. The Culminating Experience reader does not have to be the same person the student selects to serve as faculty mentor. University and Department regulations require that the first reader of the Culminating Experience be a tenured or tenure-track faculty member of the SF State Sexuality Studies MA core or affiliated faculty.

Your Culminating Experience committee will also include a second reader who must also be a tenure or tenure-track faculty member at SF State. Students may choose as their second readers faculty members from other departments in consultation with their culminating experience readers. Core or affiliated faculty members may serve as second readers – students may also seek out faculty on campus who are not affiliated with Sexuality Studies and ask them to serve as a mentor or on their committee.

Faculty Availability

Faculty members are eager to get to know you and support your work. However, due to shifting faculty workloads, developing research programs, and sabbaticals, faculty members — core members as well as affiliates — will not always be available to serve as mentors and Culminating Experience readers. In addition, faculty members work on a nine-month academic year and are likely not available to meet and work with you during the summer. Talk with your mentors and advisors about their availability.

Advancement to Candidacy (ATC)

The ATC form lists all courses the student took or intends to take to complete the M.A. degree. Students must submit the Graduate Approved Program (GAP) form after completing 9 units, but before completing the last 6 units. See Graduate Calendar for Deadline. Students should submit the ATC form to the Graduate Division during the third semester of our 2-year program. Submitting the form early is not useful, as students may discover the University will not offer certain courses. Hence, we ask you to wait until the third semester.

The form requires the signature of the student’s thesis advisor, the graduate advisor, and/or director of the program. Once the Graduate Division approves the GAP, the student advances to “candidacy.” GAP program forms remain valid as long as the student maintains continuous enrollment.

The following minimum standards apply to all master's degree Graduate Approved Programs.

  • A minimum of 30 semester units, or more if required by your program.
  • A 3.0 GPA is required for course work listed on the ATC and in all post-baccalaureate work taken at SF State.
  • No lower division course work (100-299).
  • No prerequisite course work.
  • Only courses with grades of C or better (grades of C- and lower may not be included).
  • A minimum of one-half of the units at the 700-899 level.
  • No more than 12 semester units of work taken before you obtained classified status.
  • The ATC/GAP may not have more than 30% of the work with CR grades.
  • A maximum of 6 semester units of credit in special study courses (699, 899) or experimental courses (674, 677, 874, 877).
  • A maximum of 4 student teaching units.
  • A maximum of 6 semester units of any combination of extension work, credit by examination, and/or transfer work, in a 30-unit program.
  • The ATC/GAP must specify how the student has met the two-level written English proficiency requirement.
  • The ATC/GAP must specify a final demonstration of competence such as a thesis, a field research project, a comprehensive examination, or an approved culminating experience.
  • Complete your Graduate Program within a seven-year limit as specified by The California Code of Regulations, Title 5, Education.

ATC Human Sexuality Studies (PDF)

Culminating Experience (CE)

Culminating Experience Procedures

In accordance with Title 5 of the California Code of Regulations, the culminating experience must be met by the satisfactory completion of a thesis, special project, comprehensive examination, or a combination of more than one of these. An oral defense of the work is normally required. Students must file a Proposal for Culminating Experience Form during the third semester subsequent to or simultaneous with the GAP form. Students are not permitted to enroll in a culminating experience course (SXS 894, 895 or 898) until the Division of Graduate Studies approves the GAP and Culminating Experience Form. Please go to the Grad Stop Counter Graduate Advising in the One Stop Buidling to get this form. You can also access these forms below.

CE Courses

SXS 894 Creative Work Project

SXS 894 Creative Work Project form: This culminating experience is an orginal creative work. Projects must be described in a written document that summarizes the project's relation to other work in the area, its rational, its signifcance, and its creative methodologies. Graduate Approved Program and Proposal for Culminating Experience Requirement foms must be approved by the Graduat Division before registration.

Culminating Experience 894 (PDF)

SXS 895 Field Study or Applied Research

SXS 895 Field Study or Applied Research form: This culminating experience is a field study or research project. It must incorporate the application of knowledge and techniques acquired in the student's program of study. The field study or research project must be described in a written document that includes the project's significance, objectives, methodology, and a conclusion. An oral defense of the project may be required. Graduate Approved Program and Proposal for Culminating Experience Requirement forms must be approved by the Graduate Division before registration.

Culminating Experience 895 (PDF)

SXS 898 Thesis without human subjects or Thesis with human subjects

SXS 898 Thesis form: A thesis is the written product of an original study. It demonstrates clarity of purpose, critical and independent thinking, and accurate and thorough documentation. Normally an oral defense of the thesis will be required. Students completing a thesis should review and follow the Guidelines for the Preparation and Submission of Theses and Written Creative Works found on-line through the Division of Graduate Studies web site or at the Rapid Copy Center. Graduate Approved Program and Proposal for Culminating Experience Requirement forms must be approved by the Graduate Division before registration.

Culminating Experience 898 (PDF)

Graduation Requirements

There are three forms one has to complete in order to graduate:

Application for Award of Degree: This must be filed with the Division of Graduate Studies. This form is only available at the GradStop Counter for students who have an approved GAP on file by the deadline. Please pay university fees by cash or check at the Cashier's Office prior to submitting your form to the Division of Graduate Studies. For students who mail in their forms, please attach a check made out to SF State prior to mailing in application. To have an application mailed to you, please call the Grad Hotline at (415) 338-2234 for assistance.

Report of Completion: Report of completion form requires all the signatures of your thesis committee and the director. You will not be approved for graduation without this form.

Receipt for Master’s Thesis or Written Creative Work: Obtained in the Division of Graduate Studies (ADM 254) when you bring your thesis or written creative work in for a formatting check. The Receipt must be verified at the Campus Copy Center when you submit your document and pay the binding fees.

NOTE: If you did not complete your thesis at the semester of graduation and you received an "RP" (Report in Progress) grade, you must complete a Petition for Grade Change. Your application for an M.A. will be denied if your grade is not changed to a letter grade or CR (Credit).


Report of Completion.doc

Change of Grade (PDF)

The career outlook for undergraduates and graduates with specialized knowledge of human sexuality has never been better in our society, due to the changing positive attitudes regarding the role of sexuality in the universities and colleges, high schools, local and state government, research and training, clinical and mental health training, and private sector positions that call for expertise of human reproduction, sexuality, sexual identity and diversity, sexual orientation, gender, and human resources.

The M.A. in Sexuality Studies prepares students for the following next career steps: 

  • Ph.D. programs and professional schools in, for example, psychology, sociology, anthropology, history, women and gender studies, ethnic studies, cultural studies, social work, public health, medicine, and communication studies
  • Public health workers in HIV/AIDS education, treatment, and care centers
  • Reproductive health education, research, training and prevention
  • Sexuality education at regional community colleges and in local school boards
  • Work in policy or research public policy institutes
  • Service provision in, for example, hospitals, clinics, nursing homes and others
  • Education and training for service providers and human resource providers
  • Research, policy and education providers


There are no prerequisites to the M.A

The program requires that you have a 3.0 GPA or higher for the last two years of your college education. There are several things we take into consideration when we look at your record. If your grades show a clear progression, we are interested to learn from you how you improved your grades. Sometimes grades suffer because of unanticipated circumstances, including illness, accident or care for a loved one. You can address this issue in your statement of purpose. Those who write letters for you should comment specifically on your academic potential if they feel that your grades are not a clear indication of your ability.

We prefer to evaluate your candidacy from the materials we have requested. If you feel for some reason that such a paper provides significant information that we would not have otherwise, you may include it in your application file. However, we cannot guarantee we will give it significant weight in our deliberations.

Yes. Please keep in mind that we do not have rolling admissions, so your application will not be reviewed early. Submitting early does assure that you will have time to complete all parts of the application.

You can find more information at San Francisco State University's Testing Center at (415) 338-2271 or online at the Testing Center Website.

Please contact Clare Sears, Ph.D., Graduate Coordinator, Sexuality Studies, HSS 370.

Credit for previously taken classes is not automatic and will never exceed 6 units of course work. You can petition the graduate studies committee with a request for substitution of a previously-taken class for a required class in the program. The graduate studies committee will decide whether you will be awarded credit. Please note that if you applied credit earned for this coursework toward your undergraduate degree, you cannot receive credit again in the Sexuality Studies M.A. program.

No. We only admit students for the fall semester.

No. Your previous application is not considered as part of a new application, except in providing us with evidence of your interest in the program. Several students who are currently in the program were admitted when they applied a second time. It is very much worth your effort if you want to pursue this degree. Each application has its own merit and one does not influence another. Of course, you can speak with the graduate coordinator or other faculty members to inquire how you can improve your application.

No. We are a fully in-person program. During the 2020-21 academic year, we offered our courses online due to COVID-19 restrictions. We anticipate returning to in-person instruction in Spring 2022 and being fully in-person by Fall 2022, although this will depend on advice and guidelines issued by state and local health professionals.

Please go to our scholarship page. You can also view numerous scholarships offered through the university via our Financial Aid Office.

Research assistantships are offered but not guaranteed. The availability of research assistantships depends on faculty research projects, their need for assistance and your own sexuality research interests. In the past, there have been both paid RAships and RAships for which you can get course credit (though not both). We suggest further discuss this upon admissions to the M.A. program with our graduate coordinator, Dr. Clare Sears.

No, our program will not qualify you to become a sex therapist. An M.A. in Sexuality Studies from SF State will provide you with broad interdisciplinary training in sexuality with an emphasis on research and theory. Additionally, the Sexuality Studies program is committed to addressing social justice issues in the area of human sexuality. We encourage you to go elsewhere if your primary interest is to become a sex therapist.

Our program offers a comprehensive research and training program that will enable you to become a sex educator. However, we do not offer a certificate in sexuality education.

Our program is ideally suited to equip graduates with the theory and methodology necessary to qualify for a Ph.D. program in a relevant field.

You are permitted to do a creative project, an empirical research project, or a library research project for your M.A. thesis. You are encouraged to discuss this decision with your advisor and other faculty.

The Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP) is a tuition-discounting program that enables students from Western states and territories (Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming) to enroll in participating graduate programs and pay the enrolling institution’s resident tuition rate, instead of the higher nonresident rate that an out-of-state student would normally pay. For more information, visit the WRGP website.

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