Career Pathways

Outside view of a hall window in the sociology buildingA graduate degree in Sociology provides extensive skills and knowledge valuable for a number of rewarding careers. Individuals with advanced degrees in sociology stand out from other job candidates for their high-level skills in data analysis and their knowledge of social patterns. For some, careers might draw directly on the topics that they study in courses and pursue in thesis work. For all, graduate work develops advanced skills in analytical and critical thinking, problem solving, data analysis, written and oral communication, and teamwork.

Resources for Career Planning as a Sociology Graduate Student

Some people start a graduate program knowing the career that they hope to attain after graduation. Many others commit to a career path while they are in graduate school or even after they graduate. Advanced studies in sociology can prepare students for a variety of meaningful and rewarding careers including work in academic, government, business and nonprofit sectors. Check our PhD alumni page to see the range of careers that our PhD graduates have pursued.

The University has career counsellors and programs to help graduate students explore their options. While the School of Graduate Studies offers programs useful for all graduate students, the Faculty of Arts & Science' Milestones and Pathways program focusing specifically on helping doctoral candidates in the social sciences, sciences and humanities explore career options through a series of professional development workshops and alumni networking events.

Students can also find useful advice in The Chronicle of Higher Education and University Affairs, both of which have careers advice columns. These programs and resources not only provide an overview of the types of careers that graduates can pursue, they also help students with developing the skills to prepare themselves for the job market.

Students interested in non-academic work can draw on the expertise offered through the University of Toronto Career Centre and from networks among our alumni. The Career Centre offers online “job shadowing” opportunities (posted 3 times a year) that can be useful for exploring options. The University also has a "Ten Thousand Coffees" network where students can connect with alumni in various fields and arrange informational interviews.

Students should also explore the opportunities available through MITACS. MITACS funds internships for graduate students (partially funded by the business or not-for-profit hiring organization) and postdoctoral opportunities. The following discusses a few of the more common career paths.

Universities and Colleges

Teaching and Research Positions

About 76%* of our PhD graduates find careers conducting research and teaching in universities or colleges. Some graduates find tenure-stream positions immediately upon graduation. Others find a postdoctoral fellowship and spend a few years focused on research, or start with positions teaching in short-term contracts.The department trains students for academic careers through a variety of mechanisms aimed at promoting scholarly publications and the development of teaching skills. The School of Graduate Studies offers resources and events to help students prepare for the academic job market. Faculty supervisors and the Graduate Chair are also available to provide mentoring for this career path.

Research and Academic Administration

In addition to faculty positions, universities also hire MA and PhD graduates into research and academic administration careers. Such positions include jobs supporting grant writing, research ethics, data analysis and positions related to academic governance and services. Professionals at the University of Toronto are often happy to provide informational interviews to help guide graduate students who are considering career paths in university or college administration.

The Public Sector

Federal, Provincial and Municipal governments are all employers who frequently hire people with advanced degrees in sociology. One avenue of entry to a civil service career is through the MITACS Canadian Science Policy Fellowship.  Graduating students can apply through MITACS and be matched with a federal or provincial government agency for a 12-month placement. The federal civil service targets advanced degree holders for its Recruitment of Policy Leaders program and divisions within the government, such as Statistics Canada, also have targeted recruitment programs seeking employees with data analysis skills. Although provincial and municipal governments do not have recruitment programs that specifically target people with advanced degrees, they also often have positions that draw on data analysis and other skills attained in graduate school. Opportunities are often posted on government-hosted web boards and professionals in the jobs of interest are also often happy to provide informational interviews.

Private Consulting, Research and Survey Firms

Many employers in the private sector value people with advanced degrees in Sociology. Market research firms, like Synqrinus, are eager to recruit sociology graduates who understand research methodologies. Consulting firms also often the insights that advanced degree holders bring to their companies. While Bain Consulting has an internship program designed particularly for candidates with advanced degrees, many others have opportunities that are more sporadic. Here, too, an informational interview with an alumnus currently working for a consulting firm could be helpful for understanding the field. Finally, some of our PhD graduates find meaningful employment conducting freelance research and consulting on topics related to their expertise. This career path requires an entrepreneurial spirit and a commitment to developing the networks needed to build a client base.

Think Tanks and Research Institutes

Think tanks and non-academic research institutes are attractive career options for sociologists with advanced degrees because they offer an opportunity to conduct research and have an impact on public policy. There are almost 100 think tanks operating in Canada. There are many more located outside of Canada. As some institutes are focused on niche issues and some are heavily partisan, it is worthwhile to research the specific think tank before querying about opportunities. Faculty members who conduct policy-relevant research often have contacts in Canadian and international think tanks and can provide advice for students pursuing careers in this area. Many think tanks and research institutes offer paid internships that can be help launch a career. The following is a list of currently active Think Tanks in Canada.

Organization Location Research and Policy Focus
Arctic Institute of North America Calgary, AB Environment, Natural resources, Energy
ArcticNet Quebec, QC Climate change in the coastal Canadian Arctic; environment, natural resources, energy
Asia Pacific Foundation Vancouver, BC / Toronto, ON Canada-Asia relations
Atlantic Institute for Market Studies Halifax, NS Economic and public policy in Atlantic Canada
Atlantic Provinces Economic Council Halifax, NS Atlantic Canadian economy
Broadbent Institute Ottawa, ON Income inequality, green economy, democratic renewal, social democracy
Brookfield Institute Toronto, ON Innovation policy
Business Council of Alberta Calgary, AB Alberta's policy environment, government investments and institutions; skills, training & education; role of business in society; diversity, inclusion & access to opportunity; prosperity amplifiers; health
Business Council of Canada Ottawa, ON Economic and social policy
C.D. Howe Institute Toronto, ON Public economic policy; education; environment, natural resources, energy; gender; governance, transparency; health; private sector development; social policy; technology, innovation; trade, economics, finance
Canada 2020 Ottawa, ON Canadian government
Canada West Foundation Calgary, AB Public policy in Western Canada; environment, natural resources, energy; governance, transparency; law, justice, human rights; social policy; technology, innovation; trade, economics, finance
Canada's Ecofiscal Commission Montreal, QC Economic and environmental policy
Canada's Public Policy Forum Ottawa, ON Governance and public policy
Canadian Agri-Food Policy Institute Ottawa, ON Agri-food public policy; Environment, Natural resources, Energy; Food, agriculture
Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies Toronto, ON Canadian refugee and forced migration; law, justice, human rights; social policy
Canadian Centre for Economic Analysis Toronto, ON private sector development, social policy, trade, economics, finance, transport, infrastructure, urban
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Ottawa, ON / Offices across Canada Social, economic, environmental policy; education; environment, natural resources, energy; gender; law, justice, human rights; social policy; technology, innovation; trade, economics, finance
Canadian Constitution Foundation Calgary, AB Defending constitutional rights and freedoms; governance, transparency; health; law, justice, human rights
Canadian Council on Social Development Kanata, ON Social development; governance, transparency, social policy
Canadian Economics Association Ottawa, ON / Vancouver, BC Academic economics
Canadian Energy Research Institute Calgary, AB / Ottawa, ON Economic and environmental policy (Energy production, transportation, consumption sectors)
Canadian Foundation Ottawa, ON Canadian Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean; Education; Gender; International affairs, development; law, justice, human rights; private sector development; social policy
Canadian Global Affairs Institute Calgary, AB / Ottawa, ON Global affairs (defence, diplomacy, trade, resources, development)
Canadian Institute for Climate Choices Ottawa, ON environment, Natural resources, Energy
Canadian Institute for Identities and Migration Montreal, QC Defense, Peace, Security ; Health; International affairs, development; Law, justice, human rights; Social policy
Canadian Institute of Advanced Research Toronto, ON Life & Health; Earth & Space; Individuals & Society; Information & Matter
Canadian International Council Toronto, ON International affairs; defense, peace, security; governance, transparency; international affairs, development; social policy
Canadian Research Data Centre Network Hamilton, ON Social, economic, and health confidential microdata
Canadian Tax Foundation Toronto, ON / Montreal, QC Taxation, public finance, fiscal policy
Cardus (formerly: Work Research Foundation) Hamilton, ON / Offices across Canada Education, Family, Health, Religious Freedom, Social Cities, Work & Economics, Spirited Citizenship
Centre d'Étude et de Cooperation International Montreal, QC Economic development, gender equality, food security, human safety and emergency response
Centre d'études et de recherches internationales Montreal, QC International affairs
Centre de Recherche en économie de l'Environnement, de l'Agroalimentaire, des Transports et de l'Énergie Quebec, QC Energy and environment, food, transport, economic development
Centre for International and Defence Policy Kingston, ON international security and defence policy
Centre for International Governance Innovation Waterloo, ON Technology and international governance; defence, peace, security; international affairs, development; law, justice, human rights; trade, economics, finance
Centre for International Sustainable Development Law Montreal, QC International sustainable development law; environment, natural resource, energy; governance, transparency; health; law, justice, human rights; trade, economics, finance
Centre for the Study of Living Standards Ottawa, ON Productivity, living standards, economic well-being; international affairs, development; social policy; trade, economics, finance
Centre for Trade Policy and Law Ottawa, ON Governance; international trade; trade policy; trade negotiations
Centre interuniversitaire de recherche en analyse des organisations Montreal, QC Multidisciplinary; social and economic policy
Chaire Raoul-Dandurand en études stratégiques diplomatiques Montreal, QC International relations; political science
Chantier de l'économie sociale Montreal, QC Social economy of Quebec
Community Research Connections Victoria, BC civic literacy, sustainable community development; environment, natural resources, energy; food, agriculture; gender; international affairs, development; social policy
Conference Board of Canada Ottawa, ON / Montreal, QC / Calgary, AB Canadian economics, education & skills, sustainability, human resources, immigration, inclusion, indigenous & northern communities, innovation & technology, health
Conflict Research Centre Ottawa, ON peace and social justice; defense, peace, security; law, justice, human rights
Council of Canadian Academies Ottawa, ON Scientific topics of public interest; Defense, peace, security; education; environment, natural resources, energy; food, agriculture; gender; governance, transparency; health; international affairs, development; law, justice, human rights; media, culture, sport; private sector development; social policy; techology, innovation; trade, economics, finance; transport, infrastructure, urban
Council of Canadians Ottawa, ON / Offices across Canada social, economic and environmental justice; clean water, fair trade, green energy, public health care, democracy
David Suzuki Foundation Vancouver, BC Science-based education; environment, natural resources, energy; law, justice, human rights
Donald J. Savoie Institute Moncton, NB regional development of l'Acadie, New Brunswick and Atlantic Canada; trade, economics, finance
Environmental Defence Toronto, ON Environmental action, natural resources, energy
Forum des Politique Publique Ottawa, ON Public-private dialogue; public sector management; collaborative policy making; environment, natural resources, energy; governance, transparency; law, justice, human rights
Fraser Institute Vancouver, BC / Offices across Canada Government policy, entrepreneurship, well-being; policy formation in welfare reform, privatization, taxation, free trade, government debt, education, poverty, deregulation, healthcare, labour markets, economic restructuring, role of government
Frontier Centre for Public Policy Winnipeg, MB aboriginal futures; core public sector reform; Crown corporation valuations; cutlure wars; education; healthcare; housing affordability; immigration & workplace; municipalities & cities; policy blueprints; public finance & fiscal federalism; smart green; transportation
GPI Atlantic Glen Haven, NS Genuine Progress Index (GPI) - measure of sustainability, wellbeing, and quality of life
Groupe de réflection et d'action pour une Haïti nouvelle Montreal, QC Reconstruction of Haiti; education
Human Rights Research and Education Centre Ottawa, ON Defense, Peace, Security; Gender; International Affairs, Development; Law, Justice, Human Rights; Social Policy; Governance, Transparency
Institut du nouveau monde Montreal, QC Democracy; citizen participation
Institut national de la recherche scientifique Québec, QC Health Biotechnology, Environment, Urbanization
Institute for 21st Century Questions Toronto, ON Geopolitical, political, social issues; countries that were part of the former Soviet Union; security environment in the Middle East and Asia; international criminal justice; the future of the Arctic; the future of Quebec in Canada
Institute for Citizen-Centred Service Toronto, ON Government and public sector service delivery; governance, transparency; law, justice, human rights
Institute for Liberal Studies Ottawa, ON Classicla liberal ideas; democracy, rule of law, economic and personal freedoms; economics and government, philosophy and society, environmental policy and social policy
Institute for Research on Public Policy Montréal, QC Economic and social policy; global trade and production
Institute of Health Economics Edmonton, AB Health policy
Institute of Intergovernmental Relations Kingston, ON Federalism and intergovernmental relations; national unity, Canada-quebec relations; fiscal federalism; constitutional reform; social union
Institute of Public Administration of Canada Toronto, ON Public service and administration; international affairs, development
Institute on Governance Ottawa, ON / Toronto, ON Governance, transparency; technology, innovation
Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation Waterloo, ON Environment, Natural resources, Energy
International Centre for the Prevention of Crime Montreal, QC Crime prevention; security
International Development Research Centre Ottawa, ON / Offices across Canada Foreign affairs and development; food, agriculture; technology, innovation; trade, economics, finance
International Institute for Sustainable Development Winnipeg, MB / Offices across regions Climate, resources, economies, acting on sustainability, engaging people in sustainable development
International Migration Research Centre Waterloo, ON Defense, Peace, Security; International affairs, development; Law, justice, human rights
Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms Calgary, AB Government enforcement of freedom of conscience and religion, freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression (including Freedom of the Press), freedom of peaceful assembly, freedom of association, the right to life, liberty and security of the person, equality before the law
Liu Centre for the Study of Global Issues Vancouver, BC sustainability, security and social justice, particularly in lower income communities
Macdonald-Laurier Institute Ottawa, ON economic and public policy (defence and security, foreign policy, immigration, economic and fiscal policy, Canada-US relations, regulatory, regional development, social policy, aboriginal affairs)
Mackenzie Institute Toronto, ON Geopolitical security issues, issues impacting political and social stability (terrorism, organized violence, security)
Maytree Toronto, ON Systemic solutions to poverty and strengthening civic communities (poverty and human rights, housing, income security, human rights cities, right to education)
Montreal Economic Institute Montréal, QC Economics and entrepreneurship, Agriculture, Austrian Economics, Education, Energy Policies, Environment, Health Care, Housing, Labour, Liberalization of Markets, Public Sector Reform, Regulations, Social Services, Taxation, Theory, History and Thinkers
Mosaic Institute Toronto, ON Defense, Peace, Security; Gender; International Affairs, Development; Law, Justice, Human Rights; Social Policy
Northern Policy Institute Thunder Bay, ON / Sudbury, ON Sustainable Northern Ontario communities; Indigenous peoples, communities, demographics, economy, environment, infrastructure
Parkland Institute Edmonton, AB Political economy; economic, social, cultural and political issues facing Albertans and Canadians; democracy and the role of government; just and sustainable economy; quality of life
Parliamentary Centre Ottawa, ON Parliamentary democracy; defense, peace, security; environment, natural resources, energy; governance, transparency; health; law, justice, human rights; social policy
Pearson Centre for Progressive Policy Ottawa, ON Progressive, centrist, and moderate public policy; Indigenous, International, Values, Justice, Democracy, Economy, Energy & Environment, Immigration, Innovation, Health & Social
Pembina Institute Calgary, AB / Offices across Canada Clean energy; environment, natural resources, energy
Polaris Institute Ottawa, ON Education; Environment, Natural resources, Energy
Pollution Probe Toronto, ON Environment, Natural resources, Energy; Social policy; Trade, economics, finance; Transport, infrastructure, urban
Second Street Regina, SK Government policies
Smart Prosperity Institute Ottawa, ON Green economy; environment, natural resources, energy; food, agriculture; law, justice, human rights
Social Research and Demonstration Corporation Ottawa, ON / Offices across Canada Post-secondary education; Adult learning; P-12 education; Employment; Income security; Community capacity; Health; Youth development and inclusion; career development and LMI; Social Finance; Housing policy and homelessness
Vanier Institute of the Family Ottawa, ON Families and Family Life in Canada
Wellesley Institute Toronto, ON Urban health in the GTA; Housing, Building Healthy Communities; Economic Inequality; Health Equity
Yellowhead Institute Toronto, ON Land and governance policy using First Nation philosophy and community networks; Environment, Natural resources, Energy, Governance, Transparency, Law, Justice, Human rights
York Consortium on International and Security Studies Toronto, ON International and security studies; defense, peace, security


* Data are of 2000-2015 graduates of last known position as of October 2020. 66 graduates are in tenure-track faculty positions; 10 are in other teaching or research positions in universities; seven are working in universities in administrative roles; two are working in nonprofits; three are in the private sector; five are working in the public sector; and seven are unknown.
[Return to Teaching and Research Positions]