First established as an undergraduate department in 1962 with three members, the Sociology Department began to offer MA degrees in 1966 and PhD degrees in 1969. In 2010, the Sociology Department amalgamated with the program in Legal Studies to become the Department of Sociology and Legal Studies. The Department currently comprises 15 core faculty along with 13 associated faculty cross-appointed from the affiliated University Colleges, other University of Waterloo departments, and neighbouring universities. The Department is home to approximately 500 undergraduate Sociology and Legal Studies majors and 40 graduate Sociology students, and teaches over 6,000 students each year (on-campus and on-line/Distance Education combined). Over the years, the Department has maintained a consistent focus on quality education within a context of flexible and personalized instruction. The Waterloo Sociology program is known in particular for its rigour in social theory and research methods. The Legal Studies program draws on a wide variety of disciplinary perspectives to study the law, legal institutions, and criminal behaviour.
At the undergraduate level, the Department offers a wide range of Sociology, Legal Studies, and Criminology courses in conjunction with its Sociology and Legal Studies plans. Sociology Honours students may also choose co-operative education, either through the regular departmental co-op or as part of the Arts and Business Co-op program in the Faculty of Arts. Legal Studies students may choose co-operative education as part of the Arts and Business Co-op program. Sociology students may take degree specializations in the areas of Crime and Deviance or Business and Technology. Legal Studies students may choose to specialize in Financial Regulation. There is also the option of the Joint Honours Legal Studies/Sociology, Criminology Specialization and for students majoring in other subjects a Sociology minor may be earned. The Department also offers a Legal Studies minor. Through online/distance education, students can complete credit courses without attending on-campus classes.
Currently, the Currently, the Department does not offer graduate programs in Legal Studies. However, it has a comprehensive graduate program, offering both the MA and PhD degree. At the PhD level, supervision and instruction are organized around four program fields: Social Inequality, Work and Technology, Interpretive Sociology, and Crime and Deviance. The graduate program is ideally sized to allow personalized instruction and programs of study tailored to student interests. The department strongly encourages student-faculty research collaboration.
All Sociology faculty maintain active programs of research and writing. The areas of research and teaching interest covered by the department include theory, criminology, family, gender, social stratification, politics, knowledge and religion, health, work and recreation, social psychology/symbolic interactionism, and research methods.
Waterloo Sociology and Legal Studies graduates go on to a variety of careers. Many undergraduates go on to further study in professional programs such the law, social work and teaching. Others pursue graduate studies en route to careers as social science researchers. Still others pursue careers in law enforcement and corrections, or in business in areas such as human resources, organizational behaviour and marketing. Other career paths include government service and work in social agencies. Those who earn Master's or PhD degrees pursue careers as social science and policy researchers (e.g. at Statistics Canada), as market researchers or public opinion pollsters, or as university faculty.