Tertiary level training in sociology in Ethiopia has relatively long history, having started together with the inception of formal college education in the early 1950s. In this relatively long period of time, training in sociology as a subject has passed through many stages. Courses in sociology have been offered in various forms and along with those of the related fields of social anthropology and social work. The organizational structure of the department in undergraduate level training has passed through a number of changes together with successive curricular revisions. Generally, sociological training at AAU passed through the following stages.

The first phase covering the period 1951/2-1978/79 is associated with the establishment of the University College of Addis Ababa and the subsequent establishment of Haile Selassie I University. It is important to note that sociology was one of the courses offered as part of the general education program of the University College of Addis Ababa. Together with the establishment of a full-fledged university – Haile Selassie I University in 1959 – the Department of Sociology and Anthropology was set up as one of the departments of the Faculty of Arts, offering service courses as well as a minor program. It appears that the founders of the training in sociology and anthropology at the time envisaged that while the sociological component of the program would lay the foundation for training and research on the process of social change and modernization associated with urbanization, industrialization and socio-economic development, the anthropological component on the other hand would focus on the study of the traditions, and cultures of the various peoples and ethnic groups of the country. Another significant development that took place within the same period was the establishment of an independent School of Social Work, initially offering a two-year diploma program, which was upgraded into a degree program later in 1966.

The second phase is associated with the major reorganization of higher education in the country, which followed the 1974 revolution. The restructuring and revision of curriculum resulted in the merging of the Department of Sociology and Anthropology and the School of Social Work into the newly named Department of Applied Sociology as one of the departments under the newly created College of Social Sciences of the now renamed Addis Ababa University. The term Applied Sociology was coined to impart the sense that the teaching of Sociology in a revolutionary society should have a strong practical bent. The curriculum which followed the reorganization went into effect in the 1978/79 academic year and thereafter, undergraduate level training in the combined fields of sociology, anthropology and social work offering a full-fledged BA degree program was firmly established. A major revision of the undergraduate curriculum was undertaken in 1985/86, which was also accompanied by the renaming of the department as the Department of Sociology and Social Administration. The second major curricular revision that was effected in 2002/3 once again entailed the renaming of the department as the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology.

As the demand for graduates of sociology and anthropology was growing rapidly, it was felt, the splitting of the disciplines and establishment of two separate departments was necessary.  As a result, the Department (Sociology and Social Anthropology) in its meeting held on 26th of October 2007, established different committees to work on separate curriculums for undergraduate sociology and anthropology as well as PhD in Sociology and Anthropology. In fall 2008, following the completion of a new sociology undergraduate curriculum, an independent department of Sociology came into being.