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At a certain moment, sociologists are like stand-up comedians, both comedians and sociologists take a look at the world around them and ask, “what’s up with that”? While comedians transform their observations into hilarious acts, sociologists use their observations and queries as the starting point for critical investigations of the social world. In this way both sociologists and stand-up comedians attempt to find the “strange in the familiar” (Peter Berger, 1963). The familiar could be: people ignoring each other in elevators, the education system demanding certain conformity, women wearing high-heeled shoes, the geographical distribution of crime, our obsessive love of consumer products.  Unlike comedians, sociologists pursue their queries using well-developed sociological research methods and social theory.

What is Sociology?

The term sociology was coined by the French thinker Auguste Comte in 1838. Living just after the French Revolution, Comte was concerned with what he saw as a devastatingly painful transition from a traditional to a modern society. He believed that this transition could be made more easily if social scientists dedicated themselves to understanding how society works. From the beginning of the discipline, sociologists have been dedicated to understanding society better so that people could come up with solutions for social problems.

Sociology involves developing a specific way of thinking about the social world, the development of what C. Wright Mills (1959) termed “the sociological imagination”. For Mills, being able to thinking sociologically requires being able to see the relationship between “private troubles” and “public issues”. Sociologists can understand an individual’s unemployment within the context of an economic recession or an individual act of crime within broader crime rates.

The object of analysis for sociologists is society. Sociologists are interested in social institutions like: religion, education, the family, the government, the media, the health care system. Sociologists are also interested in social identities; how we understand ourselves and others based on social ideas about gender, race, class, age, ability and sexual orientation. Sociologists are also interested in social phenomenon like crime, globalization, the human use of the environment, urbanization, and culture.

What does a Sociologist Do?

The modern world is constantly changing, and is moving at a faster pace than ever before. Sociologists are in high demand by the private, public and community sectors, because they have the necessary practical, creative and analytical skills that are portable across diverse fields of employment. They have a competitive advantage in today's information and high tech society. Sociologists are found working in many fields in Canadian society like social world, business, law, education, government, and health care.

They are the people who ask the WHY and HOW questions of the world, and seek to provide answers and explanations for why the world works differently for different groups of people. Sociologists alert the world to the very real social barriers that continue to exist and that prevent people from reaching equality in all aspects of their daily lives. Sociologists observe the social world, describe its structures and organizations, and seek explanations for human and societal actions and interactions.

You can learn more about what sociologists do on our careers page and on our alumni page.

Ralph Benmergui

Journalist, Broadcaster

"If there is one lesson that reverberates from my time in Sociology class it would be this one: for every social structure there is a code and format. Sociology opened my eyes to that deconstruction almost twenty years ago. Applying that truth to countless stories and interviews I have been able to burrow deeper than I would have. As though with X-Ray vision, I have been able to see what others were oblivious to. Hearing code in the way people spoke and seeing format in the physical layout of a Production studio breathes life into my journalism and informs my decisions to this day. Sociology taught me how to see and imagine the world differently."

Benmergui Photo

Cathy Crowe

Street Nurse,
Director, Sherbourne Health Centre

"I turned to Sociology when I needed to explore the issues of gender, class and economic policies such as free trade that impact on health care and nursing. I'm so glad I did! Who would have expected that years later I would come to face with a social welfare disaster such as homelessness? My Sociology background combined with my nursing has helped me face this issue to developresponses and solutions."

Crowe Photo

Donna Dasko, PhD

Senior Vice-President
Environics Research Group

"My introductory Sociology course in first year university introduced me to an entirely new and absolutely fascinating subject matter: culture, norms, roles, statuses, social institutions, socialization, and social inequality. Although I took many other courses in my undergraduate years, I majored in Sociology and went on to complete a Masters degree and then a Doctorate. Studying Sociology taught me the importance of social and economic forces in understanding human behavior and social change. I can honestly say that my Sociology education has helped me every day of my career."

Dasko Photo