Online Master's Programs in Social Studies Education

If you are a current teacher, you can earn a master's in social studies education to expand your career options. For instance, instructional coordinators need a master's degree. This degree can also lead to higher income, with World Education Services reporting that a master's degree increases average lifetime earnings in the education field by over $400,000 as compared to bachelor's degree earnings. A master's can help licensed or certified teachers stand out when applying for positions or begin the certification process for professionals in other fields.

This article explores courses and timelines for master's programs, and explores career opportunities and professional organizations for graduates.

What to Know About Online Master's in Social Studies Education Coursework

The social studies field touches on many academic subjects. These areas include history, anthropology, psychology, geography, political science, and sociology. Social studies also embraces economic and religious concepts for cultures and regions. The field's diversity means programs can focus on certain elements, which can lead to significantly different curricula among master's in social studies education programs. The diversity of the social studies field also allows students to gain knowledge of multiple disciplines and encourages an understanding of how these disciplines interact.

An accredited master's in social studies education addresses teaching concepts like curriculum, research, and assessment. These topics build managerial, organizational, and problem-solving skills. Programs may also encourage strong communication skills and child development knowledge for helping various students grasp class topics.

Social studies teachers may use technology in classrooms. Online learning can familiarize learners with software, computers, and virtual learning platforms to prepare for these tasks.

These programs typically call for 30-45 credits and around 2-3 years of coursework.

What Common Courses are Offered in a Master's in Social Studies Education Program?

A master's in social studies education covers teaching and research concepts and examines social studies fields, such as politics, economics, and history. The field's diversity means programs can have different course lists, with factors like concentration and grade-level focus influencing the program curriculum. The following list provides an overview of possible courses in social studies education programs.

Multicultural Education

Courses examine the impact of globalization on K-12 classrooms and prepare individuals to excel as ethical teachers in multicultural settings. Curricula may address English-language learners and cultural variations that influence learning styles. Degree-seekers learn to provide effective and equal instruction that encourages cultural identities for all students.

Teaching Social Studies In Elementary Schools

Programs examine elementary social studies concepts and techniques for encouraging children to learn. This exploration involves child development areas, including emotional, physical, and psychological growth. Candidates study teaching methods that reflect developmental stages, as well as nontraditional methods of instruction such as new technology and interactive play. Programs may also address approaches to special needs students or culturally diverse classrooms.

Social Studies Curriculum

Students explore social studies topics, such as history and geography. Departments examine teaching strategies and technology for these courses and address ways to adapt teaching methods for diverse classrooms and children. Courses may focus on particular grade levels, such as middle school or high school.

Classroom Management

Courses introduce models for classroom management and tips for determining which models apply to different situations. Classes may cover student behavior for disciplinary actions and encouragement and guide degree-seekers on building classroom rules. Additional topics may include time management, physical room structure, and state standards for public education.

Political Systems

degree-seekers study political systems throughout history, including dictatorships, monarchies, and oligarchies. Departments often compare these systems and address the cultures that embrace different styles. Courses may also address the history and evolution of each system, as well as flaws and benefits for various political structures.

What Specializations are Available in a Master's in Social Studies Education Program?

The best master's in social studies programs let students specialize in areas that relate to their future career. A concentration can focus on student populations, such as learners with special needs, or particular grade levels. Accredited degrees may also prioritize certain social studies fields more than others. One program, for instance, may require several classes in politics without offering an official specialization. Learners should consider these factors to determine the most fitting program.

Middle School

Candidates examine instructional methods and technology for teaching middle school students. Programs may address common social studies concepts, like political science and geography, to get children ready for high school. Curricula may address child development and behavior for connecting with students and leading classrooms in organized manners.

Secondary School

Programs address strategies for managing high school classrooms based on research, theory, and psychology. Degree-seekers may study high school social studies fields, as well as curriculum development and learning styles for secondary students. Programs may examine cultural diversity in high school and methods for adapting lessons to reflect student needs.

Special Education

Degree-seekers learn to adjust lessons and teaching methods to reflect special needs students. This process involves understanding educational techniques for various learning disorders, and strategies for accelerating coursework for gifted learners. Programs train individuals to observe classrooms and build individual learning plans for high school curriculum.

What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?

A master's in social studies education may require a student teaching experience. Requirements for this fieldwork often include a specific number of hours or weeks in a supervised setting. To complete these experiences, degree-seekers may need to apply, obtain a minimum GPA, and submit to a criminal background check. Departments may insist these experiences take place in social studies classrooms for the degree-seeker's target age group, such as elementary schools. Institutions may allow distance learners to finish this fieldwork near their homes.

Other program requirements may include research projects or a thesis that explores unique field concepts.

How Can I Choose a Quality Online Master's in Social Studies Education Program?

When searching for a quality master's in social studies education degree, candidates should only consider accredited schools. Institutions should hold national or regional accreditation, and programs should boast specialized accreditation. For education degrees, learners can look for accreditation through the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). CAEP includes the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Social studies programs may also offer classes taught by field professionals or experts. Learning from experts means degree-seekers explore current field concepts from reputable sources, which can increase the value of the degree. Likewise, programs may boast field experts as alumni, which indicates that the program prepares students for success.

Other traits of a quality program include high graduation rates and low student-to-faculty ratios; these numbers provide evidence that students are satisfied with their education and learn in interactive environments. In contrast, low graduation rates and high student-to-faculty ratios can indicate low approval and a lack of personal attention in classes.

Career Opportunities With a Master's in Social Studies Education Degree

The best master's in social studies education programs guide degree-seekers on social studies topics, such as politics, history, and geography. Graduates can teach this information to kindergarten and elementary students or use this knowledge of people and cultures in marketing, geography, and community service careers. Candidates can also assist K-12 students outside of classrooms by building social studies curriculum for school districts.

Since social studies includes a variety of disciplines, learners should think about career paths before choosing a program. Early consideration lets students select degrees that focus strongly on their intended career fields.

Kindergarten and Elementary School Teachers

Kindergarten and elementary school teachers provide lessons for several subjects. For instance, teachers help children develop literacy skills, add and subtract numbers, and understand the water cycle. Educators must structure lesson plans, deliver lectures, and oversee activities that encourage social interaction and academic growth. Other responsibilities may include discussing accomplishments with parents and watching for indications of special needs. Employers often require a bachelor's in education for this position; however, some states may allow candidates to earn certification with a master's degree.

  • Median Salary: $57,980 per year
  • Currently Employed: 1,569,000
  • Projected Job Growth in the Next 10 Years: +3%

Geographers provide information on lands and cultures through written reports and presentations. These reports can illustrate economic, political, or medical concerns for large groups, and also highlight inaccuracies on maps. Geographers may draw conclusions from witnessing cultures, analyzing resources like censuses and maps, or questioning citizens. Applicants must hold at least a bachelor's degree for these positions. A master's in social studies education, however, prepares learners to teach geographic concepts, which may help candidates find employment.

  • Median Salary: $80,300 per year
  • Currently Employed: 1,500
  • Projected Job Growth in NextN10 years:Y+3%
Social and Community Service Managers

Social and community service managers consider community needs and structure programs to assist with issues. Managers can also adapt current programs and design events to increase community awareness. Candidates may also pursue funding for programs and make hiring choices for companies. These managers should excel at assessment and recordkeeping since administrators may insist on proof-of-program impact. For these positions, individuals may need a degree in social sciences, such as a master's in social studies education.

  • Median Salary: $65,320 per year
  • Currently Employed: 168,800
  • Projected Job Growth in the Next 10 Years: +13%
Market Research Analysts

Market research analysts advise companies on goods and services. Analysts base this advice on surveys, public opinions, and research on competitors. Essentially, these individuals predict market trends and consumer wants and then present conclusions to clients through presentations and visual aids. This information can influence the products, services, and prices companies offer. While organizations may prefer applicants with marketing degrees, candidates with social science backgrounds may also qualify. For instance, a master's in social studies education indicates experience with studying cultures that relates to these positions.

  • Median Salary: $63,120 per year
  • Currently Employed: 681,900
  • Expected Job Growth in the Next 10 Years: +20%
Instructional Coordinators

Instructional coordinators review student performances, like standardized test scores, and find educational areas that need improvement. Candidates may design curriculum for these areas and make recommendations on course materials to school districts. Coordinators may also offer training or workshops to improve teaching strategies and encourage the use of innovative technology in classrooms. These positions call for a related master's. For instance, a master's in social studies education prepares learners to make curriculum decisions for social studies courses.

  • Median Salary: $64,450 per year
  • Currently Employed: 181,600
  • Projected Job Growth in the Next 10 Years: +6%

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2019

What's the Expected Job Growth for Social Studies Education Careers?

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects positive growth for careers that relate to an accredited master's in social studies education. For instance, market research analyst positions should increase 20% by 2028, and social and community service manager opportunities are projected to grow by 13%. Careers in public education should also increase by 2028. The BLS credits these growth projections to factors such as growing student enrollment and businesses' continued need for consumer research.

Professional Organizations for Careers in Social Studies Education

Professional organizations deliver resources for social studies education students and graduates, including job lists and professional development webinars. Groups often host events like conferences and workshops where attendees interact with other professionals and explore innovative field concepts. Organizations may also publish scholarly articles and books and provide educational funding for teachers.

National Geographic

  • National Geographic provides middle and high school classroom resources on topics like erosion, the water cycle, and the earth's structure. Educators can also take virtual courses on teaching techniques, apply for grants, and attend events like film festivals and exhibitions.

Council for Exceptional Children

  • CEC offers professional development webinars and publishes journals and e-books that explore educational topics. The group also provides resources on special education and hosts the CEC Convention with workshops and sessions.

National Council for the Social Studies

  • NCSS collaborates with the National Council for Geographic Education (NCGE) and the Texas Council for the Social Studies (TCSS) to deliver a yearly conference. Candidates can also participate in group workshops and webinars and review NCSS journals like Social Studies and the Young Learner.

National Education Association

  • NEA delivers multiple events that include the Representative Assembly and the National Leadership Summit. The group also offers the Read Across America program and classroom resources on teaching tactics, management, and lesson designs.

National Council for Geographic Education

  • NCGE participates in a yearly conference with NCSS and TCSS. The organization delivers resources for K-12 social studies classrooms. Candidates can attend NCGE webinars and explore group publications like The Geography Teacher.

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

Earning a master's in social studies education can be expensive, with costs including tuition and course materials. To make the degree more affordable, students should explore funding through state and federal governments, schools, and businesses. Learners should consider all details for funding types, such as repayment and application factors, to ensure they choose the most practical opportunities.

Federal Financial Aid

Federal financial aid includes loans, grants, and work-study and is awarded primarily based on financial need. Federal loans require repayment, but charge comparatively low interest. Candidates can also apply for income-based repayment options to manage student loan debt. To apply for this aid, students must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).


Students may obtain scholarships from schools or companies for different reasons, such as culture, gender, academic merit, location, or major. Degree-seekers do not repay funds unless a scholarship obligation goes unfulfilled. For instance, Kentucky learners may qualify for the Teacher Scholarship Program, but must teach in the state to avoid repayment.

Tuition Reimbursement

Tuition reimbursement means an employer pays for at least a portion of an employee's tuition. Not all employers offer this benefit, and details are unique for each organization. For instance, candidates may need to submit an application and maintain a minimum GPA. Organizations may also pay tuition early in the semester or reimburse students after seeing their final grades.


Internships give degree-seekers relevant field experience. Social studies education studies, for instance, may earn internships with the U.S. Department of Education, school districts, or nonprofit agencies that focus on education or social studies. These experiences may deliver academic credit and financial compensation.