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Why This Matters


    Eighth graders spend more than ten hours a week studying Social Studies, a number that rises as they move through high school.


    A 4% increase in the number of jobs available, coupled with an aging workforce, means a net increase in the number of middle and high school teachers needed in the next decade.


    The starting salary for a teacher with a master’s degree is $54,800, more than $10K higher than that of a teacher in their first year with only a bachelor’s degree.

Our Research

This list focuses on graduate programs that lead to a master’s degree in Social Studies, enabling you to fulfill state requirements to teach at the secondary level. Many of them are intended for those already working as teachers who have their initial certification, however some are open to those who are just entering the field.

Our chosen programs generally lead to secondary certification, but this depends on requirements at the state level. If you attend an online program in a state other than your own, make sure credits are transferable and may be used for any necessary licensing in your home state.

All programs are accredited by the regional accreditation agency that is active in the school’s region. This includes the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the New England Commission of Higher Education, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Periodic accreditation is a rigorous process that ensures you will be getting the most relevant and complete curriculum, taught by professors who have the terminal degrees in their field and real-world knowledge.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 58 hours to write this article
  • 51 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 193 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Best Master’s in Social Studies Degree Programs

Best Master's in Social Studies Programs badge

University of Missouri

SUNY Brockport

Penn State College of Education

University of the Cumberlands

University at Buffalo

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What You Should Know About This Degree

A master’s degree program in Social Studies combines theory and practice to ensure that you have a firm foundation in educational practice as well as in the field of Social Studies. You may take courses in effective research and pedagogy, American or global history, geography, and more. Some programs require a thesis, and there may also be a student teaching or fieldwork experience that is required for those who are seeking licensure.

Completing the program means that you will be able to teach Social Studies at the secondary level, but there are other career options as well. You may become a curriculum specialist or work in school administration. Museum work is another career venue to explore.

Requirements for a master’s program in Social Studies vary from school to school, but all require an undergraduate degree from an accredited college or university. Many programs stipulate a minimum GPA at the undergraduate level — often 2.5.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching social studies programs:

  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Online programs offer two possible tracks. You may take the classes on a predetermined schedule where all students meet with the teacher at once (synchronous), or you may take classes on your own schedule when you have time (asynchronous). The latter is a good option if you are continuing to work while attending graduate school.
  • What certification or licensing is required? Your state’s Department of Education will issue licensing as needed upon completion of most of these programs. When you are researching your graduate possibilities, be sure to ask an admissions counselor if the program leads to certification in your state.

Graduate admissions counselors can be your best friends when you’re deciding on a program. They can answer questions, facilitate your application, and assist you in determining your financial aid status with the school. Note that financial aid application deadlines may differ from other deadlines you’ll need to meet.

The available financial aid may play a big role in your determination of the best school for you. It’s also worth checking to see if your employer or any professional organizations you belong to offer scholarships, grants, or loans for advanced study.

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