Online Master’s Programs in Social Studies Education

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Earning a master’s in social studies education online appeals to educators interested in expanding their career prospects and moving into administrative roles. For an undergraduate degree-holder who majored in a field like history, political science, or other social sciences, an MS or MA in social studies education can clear a path to a teaching career and state-issued certification.

Earning an online master of social studies education can offer full-time middle and secondary school teachers the flexibility to balance their employment and personal responsibilities with the demands of graduate study. Because of the popularity of the social studies endorsement, this graduate degree should provide a competitive edge in the workplace.

A student can enroll in a master of social studies education program or choose a social studies specialization within a master of education degree.

What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Social Studies Education Program?

Although social studies education master’s programs do not share a common curriculum, students can expect to take foundational courses in methods and best practices for teaching social studies, and curriculum development. Programs typically offer survey courses in social science disciplines, including U.S. history, political science, government and civics, geography, and contemporary social issues.

Most degree programs include coursework in contemporary educational theory, research methods and assessment techniques, and diversity and inclusive practices. Because of the increasing reliance on educational technology in middle schools and high schools, many master’s degrees provide training in digital technology, computer applications, and web-based programs in the classroom.

While program requirements vary from school to school, a student who enrolls in a master’s in social studies education online program can experience the same rigorous curriculum offered by traditional brick-and-mortar programs. Both distance learning and campus-based formats require students to complete supervised field experiences in middle or secondary school classrooms.

What Courses Are Offered in a Master’s in Social Studies Education Program?

Despite differences in degree requirements, specializations, and electives, most master of social studies education degrees offer core classes in social studies, teaching methods, and educational practices. Students can expect to take classes similar to those described in the list below.

IconResearch in Social Studies Education: This required course can teach learners to critically evaluate scholarly writing, apply research findings to curriculum design and instructional planning, and conduct qualitative and quantitative research relevant to issues related to K-12 teaching and learning. Topics include the development of research questions, data collection and analysis, and presentation of findings.

IconDiversity and Inclusion for Social Studies Teachers: Enrollees can explore how teaching practices, curriculum design, and school culture may reflect and reinforce social, political, and economic inequality. Coursework introduces critical pedagogy that promotes participation for all learners and fosters a climate of inclusivity and diversity in the classroom. Degree-seekers explore best practices for developing effective relationships with their classes, families, and communities.

IconCurriculum Planning and Assessment for Social Studies Teachers: Students can learn how to construct and implement social studies curriculum, select methods of assessment, and develop applications to instructional units. Topics include differentiation of instruction, the use of educational technology, and practices of reflection. Enrollees can explore how to use classroom assessment techniques to change and improve course content, modify and adjust teaching methods, and improve student learning outcomes.

IconProject-Based Learning for Social Studies Teachers:This course can train degree-seekers to integrate social studies curriculum into project-based learning formats, meeting the needs of diverse student groups and motivating student interest and curiosity through the use of hands-on activities. Enrollees can examine techniques to create active learning communities, raise learning outcomes, and achieve required benchmarks and standards.

IconClinical Experience in Middle and Secondary Schools for Social Studies: Students seeking middle school or secondary education teacher certification can complete several required hours of supervised field experiences applying knowledge and techniques accumulated in coursework to school settings. Field placements can enable future teachers to gain classroom experience teaching social studies curriculum, develop and implement instructional strategies, and refine teaching practices and methods.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

All social studies education master’s programs incorporate opportunities for clinical experience. These field placements and internships can help students to apply the theories and techniques acquired through their coursework to real-world educational settings, developing and implementing instructional plans and teaching standards-based lessons.

In most master’s programs, each degree-seeker can complete at least one clinical experience, teaching social studies in a classroom setting under the supervision of a licensed teacher. Master’s programs that lead to state certification typically include an applied professional teaching practicum, usually in the last term, as a requirement for graduation.

In addition to clinical requirements, some master’s programs require a learner to submit a portfolio of completed assignments and projects reflecting their best work.

How Much Can I Make With a Career in Social Studies Education

Teaching salaries vary significantly across the United States. While earning a master of social studies education does not always guarantee a salary boost, the degree increasingly serves as a necessary credential for higher paid administrative positions. While most graduates of master’s programs teach in middle and secondary schools, some find alternative career opportunities in educational consulting and curriculum development for school districts and other organizations.


  • Middle School Teachers

    Middle school teachers create instructional plans, teach lessons, and grade assignments and exams. They assess student progress and work with them individually, as needed. Teachers prepare students for mandated standardized tests and communicate with parents. Middle school educators may also perform supervision duties outside the classroom and serve on department and school committees.

    Median Annual Salary: $58,600

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 3%


  • High School Teachers

    High school teachers work with students in grades 9-12. They prepare and teach instructional units in a particular subject area, grade all course assignments, and assess student learning outcomes. High school teachers perform other duties outside the classroom, supervising students during lunch or study halls, serving as club moderators, and participating in faculty committees.

    Median Annual Salary: $60,320

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 5%


  • Instructional Coordinators

    Instructional coordinators develop and implement curriculum, teaching standards, and instructional units for schools and other organizations providing educational training. These consultants evaluate curriculum goals and ways to achieve them, recommend appropriate teaching techniques, and assess the effectiveness of the curriculum. Consultants train instructional staff in new content areas and coordinate workshops, conferences, and professional development for teachers.

    Median Annual Salary: $64,450

    Job Growth 2018-2028: 6%


Online Master’s in Social Studies Education Program Accreditation

Prospective students should choose a school that holds national or regional accreditation from accrediting agencies approved by the U.S. Department of Education. For-profit and vocational schools typically acquire national accreditation. Nonprofit, public, and private schools tend to seek out regional accreditation, which recognizes high academic standards and stringent admission policies.

In addition to a school’s institutional accreditation, specific academic programs may hold specialized accreditation. Many master of social studies education degrees hold programmatic accreditation from theCouncil for Accreditation of Education Preparation.

How to Pay for a Master’s in Social Studies Education Degree

Students should explore all available financial aid opportunities before enrolling in graduate school. While many online learners apply for federal and private loans, which must be repaid after graduation, they should also examine their eligibility for scholarships, grants, and fellowships, which do not require repayment.

  • Employer Tuition Reimbursement: Employers interested in developing and retaining a highly trained workforce commonly offer tuition reimbursement to employees seeking graduate degrees. Tuition reimbursement programs usually require an employee to work for the company for a specific period after completing the degree or pay back the amount received.
  • Financial Aid for Active Military, Veterans, and Dependents: Many military-friendly schools work with active-duty personnel, veterans, spouses, and dependents to access educational benefits from the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs. Several schools offer discounts, grants for online courses or specialized programs, and credit toward the degree for military experience.
  • Federal Loans: Every graduate and undergraduate student should submit a FreeApplication for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine eligibility for federal financial assistance. The federal government offers several aid programs for postsecondary education, including low-interest Stafford loans and Graduate PLUS loans, which do not require repayment until six months after graduation.

Scholarships for Master’s in Social Studies Education Students


  • Dolores Zohrab Liebmann Fund

    Who May Apply: These need-based fellowships support graduate students attending regionally accredited institutions in the United States. Candidates must focus their studies in the social sciences and humanities, demonstrate an outstanding academic record, and document financial need. Only U.S. citizens may apply.

    Amount: $18,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Hispanic Scholarship Fund

    Who May Apply: This merit- and need-based award, restricted to undergraduate and graduate students of Hispanic heritage, supports U.S. citizens, permanent legal residents, DACA, or eligible non-citizens (as defined by FAFSA) who maintain GPAs of at least 2.5.

    Amount: $500-$5,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • James Madison Memorial Fellowship

    Who Can Apply: Recipients must agree to teach American history, government, or civics in grades 7-12 for at least one year following completion of their master’s degrees. Each applicant must commit to a proposed plan of study that includes coursework on the U.S. constitution.

    Amount: $12,000 annually, $24,000 maximum

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Pi Gamma Mu Scholarship

    Who May Apply: Scholarships, awarded to Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society members, support the first or second year of graduate work in any of the social sciences. Each candidate must submit transcripts, a resume, a personal statement, and three letters of recommendation.

    Amount: $1,000-$2,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


  • Poise Foundation Agnes Jones Jackson Scholarship

    Who May Apply: Full- or part-time graduate students under the age of 25 who attend regionally accredited schools may apply for this scholarship. Each candidate must have a 3.0 GPA, maintain membership in the NAACP, and demonstrate financial need based on federal poverty guidelines.

    Amount: $2,000

    APPLY FOR SCHOLARSHIP


Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations provide valuable resources for professionals and students earning master’s degrees in social science education online. Membership benefits typically include access to publications, professional development and networking opportunities, and employment services.

  • Association of American Educators: As the largest non-union professional association for educators, AAE engages in advocacy on behalf of educators, promotes professional standards, and encourages collaboration. Members can receive access to online publications, liability insurance, legal aid, scholarships, and grants.
  • Association of Teachers of Social Studies/United Federation of Teachers: This affiliate of UFT advocates on behalf of social studies education and shares information, strategies, and practices for social studies teachers and related professionals. ATSS sponsors workshops and conferences and maintains a website providing links to current resources.
  • National Council for History Education: NCHE promotes the teaching, learning, and appreciation of history. Its members receive newsletters, discounted conference fees, and admission to historical venues. This council sponsors a Teacher Advisor Group to support history education. NCHE also maintains a career center for history educators.
  • National Council for the Social Studies: NCSS is an umbrella organization for elementary, secondary, and postsecondary teachers of social studies. It publishes curriculum standards, sponsors an annual conference, and provides volunteer opportunities. NCSS maintains a career center that posts job listings and offers career guidance.
  • National Education Association: NEA, the nation’s largest trade union, advances the cause of public education and lobbies at the state and national levels on behalf of education professionals. Through its affiliates in 14,000 communities, NEA offers membership to educators teaching in preK to postgraduate settings.

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