Our Sociology Programs


Sociology can be broadly defined as the systematic study of human society. From local food trends to global migration patterns, sociologists use a variety of theoretical and analytical tools to investigate a wide array of topics. What connects this research is a shared interest in understanding how human action and consciousness both shape and are shaped by surrounding cultural and social forces. Sociology explores how families, socio-economic class, sexual orientation, gender, race and ethnicity, the law, and the state shape us as individuals and, in turn, how we as individuals shape these social institutions and structures. The methods and concepts of sociology allow us to shed light on the social processes shaping lives, problems, and possibilities in contemporary society. Sociologists aim to produce research that has relevance to solving current social problems such as poverty and inequality, racism, and population and environmental issues. The results of sociological investigations help to develop new theories and inform social policy, programs, and laws.

Why Sociology?

Sociology is for students who may be curious about how society works, how and why certain communities come to be the way they are and why they change, why different people have such different lives, and how people can work together to make a more just and sustainable world. Students in sociology learn to analyze social issues and think critically about the world around them. By developing what C. Wright Mills called the ‘sociological imagination’, you will be able to connect your personal experiences with the way society is organized. Indeed, many choose to study sociology for the personal enrichment it brings them and the way it enables them to see their world in new and interesting ways. At the same time, sociology provides valuable preparation for advanced study in the social sciences, as well as careers in policy, management, education, law, medicine, social work, and communications in both the public and private sectors.

Sociology at Carleton

The sociology programs at Carleton University offer an exciting set of opportunities to pursue a wide range of topics relevant to social life locally, nationally, and globally. The study of issues of power, inequality, gender and ethnic relations, consumption, sexuality, and the operation of social institutions, among others, stimulate student curiosity and offer a rich preparation for employment and more advanced study. Our graduates are to be found within a diversity of fields, from the arts to industry, from development agencies in many countries to government think tanks. We offer degrees at the Bachelor, Master and Doctoral levels.

The sociology undergraduate program at Carleton is one of the oldest and most highly regarded in Canada. The Bachelor of Arts programs offer courses and supervision in a wide range of areas that encompass sociological theory and methods, applied research training, community engagement, and critical analysis. We have recently added a fourth-year Honours Thesis Seminar (SOCI 4900) to the curriculum. One of the aims of this course is to give qualified students the opportunity to undertake their own independent research under the close supervision of a faculty member. The Honours Thesis also provides students a ‘capstone’ experience by having them use and build upon the knowledge they have gained throughout their undergraduate degree to carry out their projects.

Students wishing to gain practical work experience while completing their undergraduate degree can enroll in the University’s Co-Operative Education Program.

Carleton’s graduate programs in sociology have been of national significance since the inception of the Masters program in the early 1960s and the Doctoral program in 1969. Established by well-known founders of Canadian sociology, John Porter, Bruce McFarlane, Muni Frumhartz and Frank Vallee, our graduate programs have been known from the outset for excellence in theory, methodology, social stratification, work, education and ethnicity. Joining these areas over the past three decades are a diverse range of strengths pursued by our 27 sociology graduate faculty. These include studies in governmentality, political economy, criminology, feminist and intersectional theory, citizenship, migration and diaspora studies, critical race theory, and social movements.

The Master of Arts degree by thesis or research essay offers students the opportunity to develop an independent stand-alone research project in a wide array of fields of study. Expertise developed in this way may lead to employment or may serve as preparation for study at the doctoral level.

The Doctoral program is student-centered and encourages the pursuit of an independent research interest under faculty supervision. The department promotes research that cuts across disciplinary boundaries and offers opportunities to work with scholars in other programs at Carleton and beyond.

What Do Sociologists Do?

Explore our research blog to see examples of what sociologists do.