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A master’s degree in social studies prepares students for a diverse range of career opportunities in education, research, government, non-profit organizations, and more. Graduates may pursue roles as educators, curriculum developers, policy analysts, community organizers, or researchers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for postsecondary social studies educators is $89,350.

Completing a master’s degree in social studies takes approximately 18 months to two years of full-time study, with programs consisting of 30 to 45 credits. Part-time options may be available, extending the duration of the program. Tuition for these programs varies widely depending on factors such as institution type, residency status, and program format. Still, it is likely to be between $12,000 and $30,000, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

How to Choose a Master’s in Social Studies Degree Program

Choose your area of study

Selecting the right area of study is crucial as it determines the focus of your academic and professional pursuits. Consider your interests, career goals, and the specific disciplines within social studies that align with your passions. Reflect on whether you’re drawn to fields such as history, sociology, political science, or anthropology. Evaluate the curriculum of potential programs to ensure they offer coursework and specialization options that cater to your academic interests and career aspirations.

Research schools and programs

Thorough research of schools and programs is essential to identify reputable institutions that offer high-quality education in social studies. Explore factors such as accreditation, faculty expertise, curriculum, and the resources available to students, such as robust library holdings. Look for programs that align with your academic and career goals and offer opportunities for hands-on experience, internships, and networking. Consider factors like location, whether the program is online or on-campus, and reputation within the field.

Prepare for tests and applications

Research the specific requirements for each program, which may include standardized tests like the GRE, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and transcripts. Allocate sufficient time to study for exams and gather application materials. If you are not confident in your test-taking skills, consider hiring a mentor or tutor to work with you. Seek guidance from professors or admissions counselors to ensure your application is polished and effectively showcases your strengths and qualifications.

Select your program

Give careful consideration to factors including the available curriculum, faculty expertise, program format, and career outcomes. Evaluate the academic offerings, specialization options, and opportunities for research or practical experience. Consider factors such as program reputation, alumni success, and faculty-to-student ratio. Alumni job placement rates may offer insights into how well graduates are prepared for the workforce. Assess logistical considerations like location, cost, and scheduling flexibility to ensure the program aligns with your needs and preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Determining how to finance your graduate education is a crucial step in the decision-making process. Begin the process by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Explore financial aid options such as scholarships, grants, fellowships, and assistantships offered by the institution or external organizations. Consider the cost of tuition, fees, books, and living expenses when creating a budget. If you are already in the workforce, determine if there are financial resources available from your employer. Research opportunities for work-study programs, part-time employment, or employer tuition assistance.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Social Studies Degree Programs

Best Master's in Social Studies Degree Programs_2024 badge

University of Florida

Brown University

New York University

Boston University

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign

Syracuse University

CUNY Hunter College

Stony Brook University

Rutgers University–New Brunswick

Teachers College, Columbia University

University of Georgia

Queens College

Lehman College

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How we rank schools

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 these programs are intended for those already working as teachers who have their initial certification, although some are open to those 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 of the schools featured in this guide are approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, the New England Commission of Higher Education, or 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 highly qualified professors.

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.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Social Studies Program?

A master’s degree in social studies equips students with advanced knowledge and skills in disciplines including history, sociology, political science, anthropology, and geography. Students can expect to delve into topics such as social theory, cultural diversity, globalization, social justice, and research methodologies. The curriculum typically includes coursework that explores contemporary social issues, historical contexts, and theoretical frameworks to understand human behavior and societal structures.

The duration of a master’s in social studies program varies depending on factors such as program format (full-time or part-time) and credit requirements. Full-time students can typically complete the program in 18 months to two years. Part-time options may be available for students balancing other commitments.In addition to coursework, some programs may require students to complete a thesis, capstone project, or comprehensive exams. Practical experiences such as internships, fieldwork, or research opportunities may also be integrated into the curriculum. Prospective students may consider other requirements or opportunities offered by specific programs, such as study abroad experiences, community engagement projects, or collaborative research initiatives.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in social studies degree program

  • Research Methods in Social Studies. This course introduces students to research methodologies used in social science research, including quantitative, qualitative, and mixed-methods approaches. Students learn to design research studies, collect and analyze data, and evaluate research findings to address social issues and advance knowledge in the field.
  • Contemporary Social Issues. Explores current social problems and challenges from a multidisciplinary perspective, examining their causes, consequences, and potential solutions. Topics may include poverty, inequality, globalization, environmental sustainability, human rights, and social justice. Students engage in critical discussions, analyze case studies, and develop strategies for addressing complex social issues in diverse contexts.
  • Social Theory. This course provides an overview of foundational social theories and concepts that shape our understanding of society and human behavior. Students examine classical and contemporary theories, such as structural functionalism, conflict theory, and postmodernism, and explore their relevance to contemporary social issues and research.
  • Cultural Diversity and Globalization. This course explores the intersections of culture, identity, and globalization in an interconnected world. Students examine the cultural dimensions of globalization, including cultural exchange, migration, media, and technology, and analyze its impacts on societies and individuals. Discussions may also explore issues of cultural diversity, cultural identity, and intercultural communication.
  • Policy Analysis and Advocacy. This course focuses on understanding and evaluating social policies and advocating for social change. Students learn to analyze policy issues, assess policy alternatives, and develop advocacy strategies to address social problems and promote social justice. Topics may include policy formulation, implementation, and evaluation, as well as strategies for effective advocacy and community organizing.

Master’s in Social Study Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in social study degree program?

Prospective students should start by reviewing the specific admission requirements outlined by the program. Typically, this includes submitting an application form, transcripts from previous academic institutions, letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose outlining their academic and professional goals, and sometimes standardized test scores such as the GRE. It’s important for applicants to carefully follow instructions and ensure all required documents are submitted by the deadline. Reaching out to an admissions counselor or program coordinator can provide valuable insights into the application process, program expectations, and any additional requirements or opportunities that may be available.

How much does a master's in social studies degree cost?

The cost of a master’s degree in social studies varies depending on factors such as the institution, program format, and residency status. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, tuition for graduate programs in social studies ranges from $12,000 to $30,000 per year. Students should consider other expenses such as textbooks, technology fees, and living expenses if attending an on-campus program.

How long does it take to earn a master's in social studies degree?

The time to complete a master’s degree in social studies varies based on factors like program format and enrollment status. Typically, full-time students can complete the program in 18 months to two years for a program requiring around 30 to 36 credits. However, part-time enrollment may extend the duration to two and a half to three years or more. Online programs may offer flexibility in scheduling, allowing students to progress at their own pace. The number of required credits and the student’s ability to transfer credits from previous coursework may also impact the program length.

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