Why This Matters


    According to the National Council on Teacher Quality, 88% of the largest school districts in the U.S. offer additional pay to teachers who hold an advanced degree. These teachers receive either an annual stipend or yearly pay increases.


    Enrollment in public schools is increasing, as is the number of teachers who are retiring, leading to a higher demand for K-12 teachers. Having an advanced degree and a specialization like social studies can increase your employability.


    Teachers in Connecticut, Maryland, and New York must obtain a master’s degree in order to maintain their teaching credentials and advance in the field. Other states encourage teachers to pursue advanced study through salary increases.

Our Research

Our research focused on finding high-quality programs in social studies education. There are a few different degrees students can earn in this field, including a Master of Education (M.Ed), Master of Arts (MA), or a Master of Science (MS).

We concentrated our research on programs that are delivered completely or primarily online so that they are accessible to the greatest number of students, regardless of availability or location.

All of the programs on our list are offered by regionally accredited institutions. Many programs are also accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP), which specifically accredits teacher preparation programs.

Once we found the programs that met our criteria, we evaluated each of them on the basis of faculty, flexibility, reputation, cost, and outcomes. Using this information, we calculated an Intelligent Score for each program on a scale of 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 54 hours to write this article
  • 141 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 321 education programs we compared

The Top 24 Online Master’s in Social Studies Degree Programs

Best Online Master's in Social Studies Degree Programs
Intelligent Pick
Slippery Rock University
Best Alumni Network
University of Florida
Best Master of Arts in Teaching Degree
University of the Cumberlands
Best Master of Education Degree
University of Missouri
Best Certificate Program
SUNY Brockport
Best Master of Science Degree
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee
Best For-Profit University
American Public University
Best Thesis-Optional Program
Purdue University
Best Master of Arts Degree
Ashland University
Best Secondary Education Focus
Northwestern State University of Louisiana
Best in the Northeast
University at Buffalo
Best Middle Grades Education Focus
University of Georgia
Best Online University
Capella University
Best Catholic University
Gwynedd Mercy University
Best in the South
Florida State University
Best in the Northwest
Eastern Oregon University
Best Private University
Boston University
Most Customizable
Pennsylvania State University
Most Experienced Faculty
University of Pittsburgh
Most Unique Capstone Experiences
University of Missouri-St Louis
Best History-Focused Program
NYU Steinhardt
Most Flexible
Drexel University
Best Scholarship Opportunities
University of Rochester

What You Should Know About This Degree

There are two types of master’s programs in social studies – those that are designed for educators who already have a state-issued teaching license or certification, and those that prepare graduates for licensure or certification. Your educational and professional background will determine which type of program you are seeking. All states require public school teachers to have a teaching license or certification. If you do not have a teaching license or certification, your job opportunities will be limited to private, charter, or alternative schools.

Since each state’s educational board sets its own regulations for certification or licensure, you should review your state’s requirements before enrolling in a program. This will help you select a program that meets your state’s requirements for credentialing.

Another consideration is attending a program that is accredited by the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation. Some states require that students complete a CAEP-accredited program as a prerequisite for obtaining their licensure or certification.

Most programs include an experiential learning component, such as student teaching, in their curriculum. Individuals who are employed as teachers may be able to complete these requirements at their current job. If you are not presently working in a school, you should be prepared to spend at least one term in a school setting completing these requirements.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions you can ask when researching online master’s in social studies programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Depending on the program, you may need to have a bachelor’s degree in education, teaching licensure, and/or teaching experience. Be sure to review the program’s eligibility requirements prior to applying to ensure that you have the right qualifications for admission.
  • Are there any in-person requirements for this program? Because teachers typically have summers free, many programs are designed with online courses during the traditional academic year, and in-person classes during the summer. Review the program’s curriculum, or talk to a program representative about how classes are delivered, to confirm that you can accommodate any in-person requirements in your schedule and budget.

Other steps you can take at this time include collecting your application materials, confirming application submission deadlines and procedures, and researching your options for funding your graduate degree. If you are currently employed, find out if your employer offers any tuition assistance benefits. Other funding resources include private and institutional scholarships, student loans, and assistantships.