Best Online Master’s in Social Studies Programs

Pursue a role in educational leadership with an advanced degree in social studies. Take the first step toward a career by earning an online master's in social studies.

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by Doug Wintemute

Published on March 16, 2022 · Updated on June 10, 2022

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Social studies address society's diverse and changing nature and its systems and environments. In an online master's in social studies, students better understand social sciences and humanities and how to share that knowledge with others.These widely applicable programs can prepare you for many education and social science careers, such as a sociologist or high school teacher.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects the addition of more than 920,000 education jobs between 2020-2030, along with nearly 115,000 life, physical, and social science jobs in that same period. At many of the top online schools, you can specialize your training in areas like education, sociology, political science, or management.

When choosing a graduate school, you should pick a program that offers the training depth and direction you need to pursue your dream career. Here, we explore the social studies discipline and show you what to expect from a master's program and the application process. We also highlight possible career paths.

What Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Social Studies Program?

A master's in social studies program can vary widely. They often last between 1-2 years and feature 30-45 credits. Students in these programs examine all types of social issues, movements, and developments, along with many different contexts and group structures.

Prospective social studies students may encounter MA, MS, or education degree types when preparing for graduate school. Most master's in social studies programs focus on education and teacher preparation, though other options are available. In general, MA programs take an interdisciplinary approach to the training. MS programs usually focus on technical training.

Social studies students usually choose a specialization to focus their training. Learners can concentrate in various subfields, such as sociology, economics, political science, and anthropology. Within these disciplines, they can focus even further and study specific industries, organizations, or social developments.

In addition to theoretical lessons and classwork, social studies students can participate in practical training opportunities. Options may include internships, field exercises, and volunteering experiences. In an online master's in social studies, learners can usually access the same opportunities locally.

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Popular Online Master's in Social Studies Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.

What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Social Studies Program?

Advanced Sociological Theory

This course examines the various perspectives of major societal changes and activities. Students explore the leading social theories on historical developments and movements. They also study the development of contemporary systems and structures.

Gender, Race, Ethnicity

In this course, students explore sociological perspectives on gender, race, and ethnicity. They look at various topics, including status, movements, and intersectionality, while also investigating current situations and systems.

Social Policy Analysis

Students in this course analyze various social policies, systems, and practices. They examine the development processes of policies and their practical implications on different social groups, such as low-income individuals.

Immigration and Community Development

In this course, students look at the processes, policies, and institutions involved with immigration and community development. Coursework examines the barriers facing immigrants and social policies that impact historically excluded immigrant communities.

Social Studies for Global Understanding

This course explores the various perspectives, cultures, and relationships between groups worldwide. Learners analyze differences among people and groups and study various conflicts. They also investigate public policies that help or hinder people.

Find the Tools You Need to Get Started on Your Degree

Financial Aid Guide for Graduate Students The Student's Guide to College Loans The Student's Guide to Financial Aid and the FAFSA

What Are the Admission Requirements for an Online Master's in Social Studies Program?

An online master's in social studies generally features the same admission requirements as on-campus programs. Prospective students usually need at least a bachelor's degree to qualify. Some programs may require applicants to have specific degrees or prerequisites, along with a minimum GPA.

Below, we provide details on some of the most common application components as per our graduate admissions guide.

Application

For the standard college application, prospective students provide their personal details and indicate their school and program of choice. College application systems can help streamline this process and allow applicants to apply to many schools at once. At the graduate level, however, prospective students typically apply directly to their desired school and program.

Test Scores

Schools often require applicants to submit standardized test scores. Due to COVID-19, however, many schools have introduced temporary test waivers. Prospective students can still submit their test scores if they wish, and they can prepare for the exam by completing GRE prepbeforehand.

Letters of Recommendation

Graduate schools typically ask for three letters of recommendation from prospective students. These letters usually come from former teachers, employers, and professors and address how well-suited applicants may be for their desired program and discipline. Candidates should provide their chosen references with clear instructions about their intentions and deadlines.

Resume and Work Experience

Schools may request a resume from applicants to learn about their professional history. Some programs require a minimum amount of experience, which resumes help highlight. A college application resume can also lead to work experience credits in some situations.

Essays

A college application essay lets prospective students talk about themselves and their journeys. At the graduate level, these essays usually identify the applicant's research interests and address why they chose their school and program. When writing a grad school essay, students should ensure they satisfy all required elements.

Official Transcripts

Prospective students must submit official transcripts when applying to a graduate program. These records show the applicant's previous education, highlighting what prerequisites they have and need and what grades they received. As per our transfer guide, students need transcripts to transfer credits.

What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Social Studies Degree?

Career Outlook

A master's in social studies grants graduates access to many professions and industries. Depending on their degree type and training focus, they may pursue education, economist, political scientist, or organizational manager roles. They can work for the government, research and development, or consulting services.

The BLS projects strong growth between 2020-2030 for many master's in social studies jobs. The projections include 9% growth for political scientists, 10% for education professionals, and 13% for economists. These fields also reported competitive median annual salaries in May 2020, including $125,350 for political scientists and $108,350 for economists. In education, social studies graduates may access teaching, administrative, and management roles.

Discover where a master's in social studies can lead. Learn more about social science careers.

Career Paths

Political Scientist

These professionals study political systems, policies, and theories. They analyze the political effects on people and groups and monitor and forecast trends. They also help people and organizations make decisions based on their findings. Aspiring political scientists might choose politics, governance, and public policy courses and specializations.

Median Annual Salary: $125,350

Economist

These professionals study the movement and market of goods and services. They analyze economic data, trends, and issues to find solutions and predict outcomes for people, organizations, and governments. Social studies students should focus their studies on economics and public policy if they wish to pursue this career path.

Median Annual Salary: $108,350

Sociologist

These professionals study society and the various people, groups, and interactions within it. They investigate and analyze social issues and data to bring awareness and policy changes. They work with governments, educators, and lawmakers to develop solutions and improved policies.

Median Annual Salary: $86,110

Instructional Coordinator

Instructional coordinators help develop the learning materials and curricula for schools and school boards. They analyze student outcomes and curriculum standards to create new lessons and testing materials that improve students' learning and satisfy educational policies. These professionals may need a teaching license to work in some schools.

Median Annual Salary: $66,970

High School Teachers

High school teachers educate students in their field of expertise. They review curricula and organize lessons depending on class and student needs. They also create the learning materials, teach lessons, and adhere to school policies and standards. High school teachers help prepare students for life after school, which requires talking to individual students and their families.

Median Annual Salary: $62,870

Social Studies Not For You? Check Out These Related Careers.

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Continuing Education

In addition to a wealth of postgraduate career options, graduates with an online master's in social studies can access many continuing education paths. They can pursue the educational route, such as a doctorate in education, a doctorate in educational administration, or a doctorate in curriculum and instruction. They can also pursue a doctorate in sociology, economics, or political science, along with a doctorate in public administration.

Social studies graduates may also follow a business path, such as earning a doctorate in organizational leadership or a doctorate in human resources.

How Do I Choose an Online Master's in Social Studies Program?

Cost

Education costs can create many obstacles for students. To best evaluate price, prospective students must determine the true program cost, which includes all fees and income lost due to the education. Applicants should also compare online and on-campus costs, private and public school costs, and in-state and out-of-state program costs.

Program Format

When choosing a program, prospective students should find the program format that best suits their needs. They should understand the difference between synchronous vs. asynchronous programs and full-time vs. part-time enrollment status. This knowledge can help online learners determine which study schedule they need and which program best accommodates them.

Location

Regardless of whether students attend college online or on campus, they must consider location. On-campus learners need to find a school location they can travel to regularly or live nearby. Online learners may need to complete campus residency requirements or other on-campus components, so they should also consider location.

Accreditation

Prospective students should always ensure that their school and program have the appropriate accreditation. As per our online college accreditation guide, schools need institutional accreditation to offer federal financial aid. Social studies programs do not have one mandatory accrediting body. But teacher programs should hold accreditation from an organization like the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.

Student Support

When choosing a program, learners should also evaluate the number and quality of on-campus student services and online student services available. Services like college internship placements, academic support, and college mentors help with student success. Students with disabilities can also check what accessibility services a school offers. Prospective students should identify what services they want most and find a school that best meets those needs.

Best Accredited Online Master's in Social Studies Programs

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Online Master's in Social Studies Degree Programs

  1. The College at Brockport
    Location

    Brockport, NY

    Tuition

    $14723

    Brockport's master's in social studies program trains licensed New York educators to become successful secondary social studies teachers. The 30-credit curriculum features courses in diversity in education, issues in social studies education, and an applied history seminar. The program does not have any on-campus requirements.

    Degree-seekers can explore many job opportunities on Brockport's career services website. Online career tools include a career interest inventory and Vault — a software platform that gives users important information on different industries.

    In addition to a New York teaching license with a social studies endorsement, applicants must have a minimum 3.0 undergraduate GPA.

  2. New England College
    Location

    Henniker, NH

    Tuition

    $27800

    NEC offers an online master of education program with over 20 concentration options, including one in social studies. Specialized social studies courses cover topics like international political economy, international organizations, and foreign policy. Additional degree requirements include two research practica and an academic portfolio.

    NEC helps degree-seekers create a professional network, hone transferable skills, and find a fulfilling career. The college achieves these goals by providing students with resume reviews, cover letter advice, and interviewing tips.

    Prospective students must have an active New Hampshire teaching license. However, this program also admits applicants who live in a state with licensure reciprocity.

Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Social Studies Programs

Is a master's in social studies worth it? true

Yes. A master's in social studies offers many benefits to students and professionals. While in school, these programs offer various specializations. For students who wish to continue their training after graduation, this flexibility gives them many areas to choose from.

The flexible training can also lead to many career paths, including education, business, and research and development careers. There is also the added value of an online degree, which offers flexible and accessible training. Online learners can often study during nontraditional hours, which allows them to maintain a healthy work and school balance.

What can I do with a master's in social studies? true

Graduates with a master's in social studies can pursue many different fields, professionally and academically. In the workforce, they can become teachers, administrators, or organizational managers. They can also begin careers as sociologists, economists, or political scientists.

Graduates can earn doctoral degrees in various fields as well, including political science, sociology, and economics. They can pursue training in the educational field, such as educational administration or curriculum and instruction. Another option includes pursuing business or human resources training.

Are social studies graduates in demand? true

Yes. Graduates with a master's in social studies are in demand in many fields. The BLS projects 8% growth between 2020-2030 for life, physical, and social science occupations. Some professions offer higher projected growth rates during the same period, including economists at 13% and political scientists at 9%.

The BLS also projects 8% growth for high school teachers from 2020-2030, about the same projected growth rate for all occupations. However, this projection amounts to an average of 77,400 high school teacher openings yearly over the same time.

How much money can I make with a master's in social studies?

Graduates with a master's in social studies can earn competitive wages, as per the BLS. Among the most direct career paths, high school teachers and instructional coordinators made some of the lower median annual wages, earning $62,870 and $66,970 in May 2020, respectively.

Life science professionals made much more during that same period. Sociologists earned $86,110 and economists earned $108,350. Overall, social scientists earned median annual wages of $87,260 in May 2020, and the top 10% of professionals made more than $133,440.

What are the highest-paying jobs with a master's in social studies?

While the highest-paying jobs for graduates with a master's in social studies vary, political scientists make some of the highest wages. According to the BLS, political scientists made median annual salaries of $125,350 in May 2020. That figure exceeds the median annual wage for all occupations by more than $83,000.

Some interdisciplinary career paths offer similarly high wages. Human resources managers, for example, made median annual wages of $121,220 in May 2020, as per the BLS. The top 10% of earners in both of these fields earned considerably higher wages. Political scientists made more than $170,800, and human resources managers made over $208,000.

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