Online Master's Programs in Social Studies Education

An online master's in social studies education can help current or aspiring social studies teachers advance their careers and further expand their teaching skills. Education master's programs emphasize pedagogy and research, offering a deeper exploration of the subject area, educational policy, and program evaluation. As a result, the degree is a great option for teachers hoping to take on more advanced positions.

This guide provides information on earning a master's in social studies education online, including sample curriculum, guidance for finding the right program, and job and salary prospects for graduates.

Overview of an Online Master's Program in Social Studies Education

Current and prospective social studies teachers often choose to earn an online master's in social studies education to advance in their careers. This section provides a general overview of what to expect from these programs, though specific details vary from school to school.

Common Classes and Coursework

Literacy in the Content Area

This course provides social studies teachers with methods for incorporating literacy instruction into social studies. Students explore literacy pedagogical methods for teaching reading and writing that also align with the core social studies curriculum. The course emphasizes literacy teaching strategies, including incorporating key texts and essay writing.

Curriculum Theory and Practice

This course explores the intersection of theory and practice in curriculum development. Students gain a deeper understanding of curriculum design and the various educational theories that shape social studies curricula. The course may be specialized for elementary, middle, or secondary school curricula. Students may also explore policy in curriculum development.

Classroom Management

Students expand skills in classroom management, exploring existing research in the field and developing a stronger understanding of behavior management methods. The course may specifically address methodology at different grade levels, taking into account key aspects of child and adolescent psychosocial development.

Advanced Study in Teaching Social Studies

This course builds on similar courses offered at the undergraduate level, expanding on theory and practice in teaching social studies at various grade levels. Students learn and develop new teaching strategies for specific aspects of the standard social studies curriculum. Learners often create lesson and unit plans.

Education and Social Issues

This course addresses issues in social justice and its intersection with education. Students engage with literature in the field to further understand the diverse experiences represented in typical classrooms, then develop practices for ethically and authentically addressing those experiences. Often, the course involves critical exploration of social justice theory.

Skills You Will Gain

Online social studies education master's degree programs often emphasize research and scholarship in education, examining the intersection between teaching theory and practice. Graduate programs in education provide students an opportunity to engage with current, relevant research in the field, as well as contribute their own original scholarship. Through multiple courses in research methods, learners explore both quantitative and qualitative methods commonly used in education and gain a better understanding of the current trends and issues in the field. Students also hone skills in collaboration and teamwork, working alongside a cohort or group of peers to complete research projects.

learners explore both quantitative and qualitative methods commonly used in education and gain a better understanding of the current trends and issues in the field

The curriculum in an education master's program in social studies also provides a wider knowledge of the subject area, often with courses in political science, world history, and U.S. government. Many courses provide students the opportunity to create and implement lesson and unit plans built around key themes and subject areas in social studies. The program further emphasizes strong skills in planning, organization, and time management, empowering current and future teachers to manage classrooms and effectively teach course materials. Students may also gain valuable experience using different online learning software and other digital learning tools they can implement in the classroom.

Average Degree Length

A variety of factors influence the time it takes to earn an online master's in social studies education. Despite similarities across curricula and degree outcomes, each program sets different requirements, which can influence the time it takes to earn the degree. Some factors that influence program length include:

  • Required Credits Generally, an education master's program requires between 30 and 45 credit hours. More required credits lengthen a program.
  • Accelerated Options Some online programs offer accelerated formats, allowing students to complete courses faster.
  • Full-Time Versus Part-Time Enrollment Part-time students take fewer classes per term, which lengthens their time to completion. To finish faster, consider enrolling full time or taking extra courses each term. In the long term, this can also potentially lower the overall cost of your degree.
  • Transfer Credits Students who have earned graduate credits from another institution may be able to apply those credits toward their degree. Additionally, some schools grant credit for work experience.

How to Find a Top Program

While researching online social studies education master's degree programs, look for specific qualities to ensure you pick the best fit possible. Factors include programmatic accreditation, graduation rates, exam pass rates, and a strong, positive reputation. The list below provides more details on what aspects to keep an eye out for when looking for a quality online master's in social studies education.

  • Graduation Rates

    Research the school's graduation and retention rates, the percentage of students who graduate compared to the number of students who enroll. Stronger programs generally have higher retention and graduation rates, signifying student success.

  • Exam Pass Rates

    Find the licensure exam pass rate for each program. For social studies education, you might look at pass rates for the Praxis exam or other required state licensing exams. Top programs often boast high exam pass rates.

  • Programmatic Accreditation

    Some state licensing boards may require students to graduate from a social studies education program accredited by special education-based accrediting agencies such as the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Check to see which, if any, programmatic accreditation each program holds.

  • Research and Scholarship

    Look for peer-reviewed publications by students and faculty members from each program. A strong presence in current scholarship and scholarly journals points to a productive program that emphasizes student publication and research.

  • Positive Student Experiences

    Find out what current and former students think of the program. Some schools offer anecdotes on their website. You may be able to reach out to current students for guidance.

Social Studies Education Careers After Earning A Master's Degree

Earning a master's in social studies education online provides pathways to new and more advanced careers in education. A graduate degree offers a deeper exploration of key skills and knowledge, preparing current and prospective teachers to take on more advanced positions and potentially earn a higher salary. Although many graduates go on to work as teachers, many also enter different fields, including postsecondary education, administration, and the nonprofit sector. The careers listed below serve as examples of careers these degree-holders go on to pursue after graduation.

High School Teachers

High school teachers prepare and teach high school courses for grades 9-12. They must create unit and lesson plans that adhere with state standards, as well as monitor student progress and success.

Average Annual Salary: $60,320

Postsecondary Teachers

A master's degree in social studies education may qualify graduates to teach courses at the postsecondary level. These instructors may work specifically in teacher preparation programs, mentoring other preservice teachers. Four-year universities typically require faculty to hold a Ph.D.

Average Annual Salary: $78,470

Elementary, Middle, and High School Principals

Elementary, middle, and high school principals oversee operations at their school. They often hire new teachers, ensure the curriculum is implemented, and oversee standardized testing outcomes.

Average Annual Salary: $95,310

Postsecondary Education Administrators

Administrators in postsecondary education often work within a specific department. Their duties might include working with students as an advisor and overseeing class offerings and enrollments each semester.

Average Annual Salary: $94,340

Public Relations and Fundraising Managers

Outside of education, some graduates may choose to work for nonprofit organizations, particularly those dedicated to education. They may work as public relations and fundraising managers within those organizations.

Average Annual Salary: $114,800

Source: BLS

Additional Certifications for Social Studies Education

Most states require social studies teachers to hold a professional teaching license. Online social studies education master's degree programs often prepare students for the licensure process, which generally includes an examination and a minimum number of student teaching hours. Graduates of education master's programs may be eligible to earn the licenses and certifications outlined below.

Professional Organizations and Resources for Social Studies Education Students

Joining a professional organization and taking advantage of available professional resources can help students pursuing a master's in social studies education as they earn their degree and search for jobs. Below are examples of the resources available.

  • American Association for State and Local History Social studies teachers specializing in history may benefit from a membership in this association, which provides professional development workshops, an annual national conference, a special job board, and publications.
  • Association of American Educators A nonunion organization aimed at promoting professionalism in teaching, this association offers educators special scholarship and grant opportunities, professional resources, legal protection services, and supplemental insurance.
  • Association for Middle Level Education Serving middle-school teachers, this association aims to help teachers excel and more effectively reach students through advocacy and professional development. Members have access to special scholarly publications and discounted conference registration.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development This association emphasizes "helping educators enhance their crafts and enhance their roles." The organization supports educators in all roles and positions. Members have access to school and office supply discounts, travel benefits, and a job center.
  • Association of Teacher Educators This association "promotes advocacy, equity, leadership, and professionalism for teacher educators" by providing members with subscriptions to professional journals, networking opportunities through an online forum, and a variety of annual events.
  • Association of Teachers of Social Studies This association provides a network for social studies educators and similar professionals to advocate for social studies education. Members have access to professional development opportunities, an annual conference, and special publications.
  • National Council for History Education Social studies teachers focused on history may benefit from a membership with NCHE. Members gain access to a special newsletter, a career center, discounted museum admission, and discounted conference registration.
  • National Council for the Social Studies Comprised mostly of current and aspiring social studies educators, this organization offers access to scholarly publications, an annual conference, volunteer opportunities, and professional development.
  • Rho Kappa An honor society for excellent high school social studies students, Rho Kappa provides an opportunity for social studies teachers to create chapters at their schools. Rho Kappa offers honors cords, induction certificates, and other special benefits for students.
  • Share My Lesson This unique resource, offered in partnership with National Council for the Social Studies, provides teachers a forum to share lesson plans for various grade levels and subject areas.
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