Earning a Master’s in Social Studies Education Online

Social studies teachers educate students in U.S. history, world history, civics, government, and geography. At the high school level, a master's degree prepares educators to teach honors or Advanced Placement courses. Elementary and middle school teachers with a master's degree in social studies education online also advance their salary potential and career opportunities. A master's in social studies education prepares graduates for leadership roles like educational program director or curriculum specialist. The flexible, convenient format of an online program lets educators continue teaching while earning their master's in education.

Student Profile: Who Earns an Online Master’s Degree in Social Studies Education?

Many students pursuing a master's degree in social studies education online currently work as teachers. By earning a master's degree, teachers advance their career opportunities and often increase their salary potential. Prospective students may hold a teaching certification in a related field and choose social studies education to specialize their abilities. Online programs often appeal to working educators because the flexible format lets graduate students continue teaching while earning a degree.

Why Get a Master’s Degree in Social Studies Education?

Pursuing Specialization

With a master's degree in social studies education, educators can teach advanced courses in their field or move into school administrative roles. During a graduate degree, social studies teachers expand their teaching abilities and gain content knowledge. They can take graduate-level courses in an area within social studies, such as civics or world history, to teach specialized classes. The training also prepares graduates for roles in curriculum supervision.

Career Advancement Opportunities

Teachers can advance their careers with a master's degree. Many school districts grant a pay raise to teachers with a master's degree in education. Completing a master's in education social studies online lets educators advance their careers and increase their salary potential, often while continuing to teach. Many school administrative positions also require or prefer a master's degree, including for curriculum directors or program directors. These roles often come with greater responsibilities and higher pay.

Online Learning Technology

Online students rely on the latest communication technology to complete their coursework. During an online program, students gain familiarity with online learning technologies, which they can apply during their teaching. The ability to use online learning tools benefits educators and school administrators in many fields, providing valuable professional development for graduates. As educators increasingly rely on online learning and digital education technologies, completing an online program benefits graduates.

Prerequisites for Online Social Studies Education Programs

Before enrolling in a social studies education program, prospective students must meet the program's prerequisites and admission requirements, which vary depending on the program.

  • Work Experience: Some master's programs prefer applicants with professional experience, particularly as a classroom teacher. Experience as a teacher helps graduate students focus their studies and get the most from their programs. Prior experience also prepares graduate students for advanced coursework; however, most programs do not set a minimum number of years of teaching experience to gain admission.
  • Exams and Test Scores: Many programs require GRE or MAT scores during the admission process. Some programs set a minimum score for full admission, while applicants who do not meet the minimum can gain provisional admission at certain schools. GRE and MAT scores remain valid for five years.
  • Coursework: While most master's programs in education do not require prerequisite coursework, many expect a valid teaching license before enrolling in the program. Prospective students may need to complete a bachelor's program in educator preparation and earn a state teaching license before gaining admission. Most programs also set a minimum GPA for admission.
  • Recommendations: Programs may require letters of recommendation speaking to the applicant's ability to succeed at the graduate level. These letters come from educational supervisors like a principal or professors. Applicants should give their recommenders at least three weeks' notice.
  • Essays: Applicants may need to submit essays as part of the admission process. Many graduate programs ask prospective students to write an essay explaining their professional goals by earning a master's degree and their background for graduate study. Applicants may also need to provide essays on their teaching philosophy or classroom experience.
  • Interviews: Some programs conduct interviews as part of the admission process. During the interview, prospective students meet with faculty members or an admissions adviser to discuss the program, the applicant's preparation for graduate study, and any questions the applicant has about the program.
  • International Students: International students often must meet additional requirements during the admission process. Many schools require proof of English language proficiency, often in the form of TOEFL scores. Some programs set a minimum TOEFL score for admission. Programs may also request additional essays, writing samples, or translations for foreign-language transcripts.

How Much Can I Make with a Master’s Degree in Social Studies Education?

Educators with an online master's in teaching social studies often work as secondary school teachers at the middle school or high school level. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, secondary school teachers earn a median salary of over $60,000. Teachers at the 10th percentile earn just under $40,000, while those at the 90th percentile earn over $97,000 a year. Teachers with a master's degree often earn a higher salary than those with a bachelor's degree.

Traditional Careers for Master's in Social Studies Education Graduates

Careers Stats Description

Education Program Director

Median Salary: $60,683

Education program directors develop an academic curriculum, monitoring its implementation to ensure a school meets its educational standards. They research curricula, select educational resources to supplement the curriculum, and train teachers on implementing the program. Education program directors also evaluate the effectiveness of a curriculum.

Elementary School Teacher

Median Salary: $57,980

Job Growth: 7%

Elementary school teachers typically work with a single class, teaching multiple subjects including social studies. They work on basic skills like problem-solving, critical thinking, and intellectual creativity. A social studies specialty prepares teachers to instruct students on world history, U.S. history, geography, and civics.

Instructional Coordinator

Median Salary: $64,450

Job Growth: 11%

Instructional coordinators act as curriculum specialists for a school, evaluating the effectiveness of an academic curriculum. They also oversee teaching techniques to ensure schools meet their educational standards. Instructional coordinators observe teachers, review student learning data, and recommend changes to the curriculum based on their analysis.

Middle School Teacher

Median Salary: $58,600

Job Growth: 8%

Middle school teachers typically work with students in sixth to eighth grade, often teaching a single subject such as social studies. They educate students on U.S. history, the Constitution, civics, world history, geography, economics, and other social studies topics. Middle school teachers assess student learning and assign grades.

Source: BLS

Nontraditional Careers for Social Studies Education Graduates

A master's in social studies education prepares graduates for teaching and school administrative positions; however, the degree also leads to nontraditional careers that draw on many of the same skills. Graduates can work in community services as training managers or even as social workers.

Careers Stats Description

Associate Director of Education

Median Salary: $55,835

Skills Overlapped: Strong communication skills; multitasking and supervising

Associate directors of education oversee academic affairs for a school or institution, conducting performance reviews and planning the academic calendar. They often play a role in supervising staff and teachers.

Social Worker

Median Salary: $49,470

Job Growth: 16%

Skills Overlapped: Analyzing information; communicating with clients and providing educational resources

Social workers support people dealing with challenges in their daily lives. They advocate for clients and work with community organizations to improve services. Clinical social workers must hold a master's in social work.

Social and Community Service Manager

Median Salary: $65,320

Job Growth: 18%

Skills Overlapped: Planning skills; organizational abilities; analytical skills

Social and community service managers oversee social service programs. They manage employees, identify necessary programs, and monitor administrative needs. Social and community service managers also analyze data to measure a program's effectiveness.

Training and Development Manager

Median Salary: $111,340

Job Growth: 10%

Skills Overlapped: Designing teaching programs; organizational skills

Training and development managers oversee training programs, manage staff, and design training and development plans. They evaluate training methods, instructional content, and training systems to make sure they achieve the organization's goals.

Source: BLS

Paying for an Online Master’s in Social Studies Education

The cost of a social studies master's degree online varies depending on the program and school. In general, in-state public schools charge the lowest tuition rates, while private schools typically charge higher rates, however, some online programs offer in-state tuition rates for online students in other states, and students can consider an accelerated path or applying transfer credits to lower the cost of their degrees. Master's students in education also qualify for financial aid, grants, and scholarship opportunities.

Scholarships for Online Social Studies Education Master's Students

Scholarships help educators advance their careers by making a graduate degree more affordable. Unlike loans, recipients do not need to repay scholarships. Many organizations offer grants, fellowships, and scholarships for master's students in social studies education. These opportunities help online students attending accredited institutions fund their degrees.

What to Expect from a Master’s Level Online Social Studies Education Program

During a master's degree in social studies education online, students complete a core curriculum, choose electives to specialize their degrees, and complete a master's thesis or comprehensive examination. Most programs require 1-2 years of full-time study, designed in an accessible format for working teachers. Master's students can also choose a part-time or accelerated option, depending on their career goals and timeline. The specific requirements and coursework will vary depending on the program.

Major Milestones

  1. Orientation

    After gaining admission to the program, most students complete an online or in-person orientation. During the orientation, graduate students meet with potential advisers and other students in the cohort.

  2. Core Coursework

    Most programs set core classes to earn a master's in social studies, which may include teaching methods, best practices in social studies, and content coursework. Students typically complete 15-24 credits of core classes.

  3. Elective Coursework

    Many programs let students choose electives or a concentration area within their programs to focus their degree. Social studies students may specialize in world history, civics, curriculum development, or another field.

  4. Master's Thesis

    Some programs require a master's thesis or project to graduate. Students work with a faculty adviser to design a research project, conduct research, and write a thesis. Before graduation, master's students must successfully defend their thesis.

  5. Master's Exams

    Some programs offer a nonthesis option, which typically requires master's exams that cover content area knowledge and teaching methods. Depending on the program, the student may take written or oral exams. Graduate students must pass the exam to graduate.

  6. Graduation

    Before graduation, students file an intent to graduate with signatures showing they passed their thesis defense or master's exams. Online students can often participate in on-campus graduation ceremonies.


Master's programs in social studies incorporate coursework on teaching methods and content-based courses. Both prepare graduates to teach social studies at the K-12 level.

Advanced Methods of Teaching Social Studies

Graduate students study teaching strategies, curriculum approaches, and methods for teaching social studies. The coursework covers assessment methods, interdisciplinary teaching strategies, and different pedagogical approaches to social studies.

Diversity in Social Studies Teaching

Classes on diversity in social studies teaching examine how to address social, political, and economic inequity in teaching. The class provides strategies for promoting inclusivity, diversity, and equity in the classroom.

Social Studies Inquiry

Master's students learn how to incorporate inquiry into content-based learning. Students learn pedagogical approaches to promoting in-depth social studies learning, including curriculum development and assessment.

World History

Content-based courses prepare social studies educators to teach world history, often with an emphasis on a particular time period. The course may cover imperialism, social change, political movements, and globalization. Students learn about the connections between different nations, including through war, trade, and diplomacy.

United States Constitution

Students learn about the philosophical foundations of the Constitution, the ratification process, and modern constitutional issues. The course prepares graduates to teach civics or U.S. government classes.

Degree Timelines

While many students choose a full-time schedule, programs also offer part-time and accelerated paths to a master's in social studies education.

Enrollment Status Time to Complete Description


2-3 years

Many programs offer part-time schedules, which let students take as little as one class per semester. This option appeals to working educators or students balancing school with other responsibilities. Most part-time students complete their master's degrees within three years.


1-2 years

A full-time master's in social studies education typically requires 1-2 years of study. Students complete 9-15 credits each semester to finish the degree, depending on the program and term length. Many online programs design full-time schedules for working teachers, with the option to complete coursework over the summer semester.


1 year

An accelerated master's in education may take under one year, depending on the program. During an accelerated program, students take up to 18 credits per semester. Many accelerated options also use shorter terms, letting students concentrate on one or two courses for several weeks before moving on to another subject.

Licenses and Certifications

A master's degree in social studies education online prepares educators for careers in the classroom or in other areas of education. Many teaching jobs require a state-issued teaching license or certification in a subject area for secondary teachers. Social studies teachers, for example, can complete a social studies certification or endorsement to teach in a public middle school or high school. Each state sets their own requirements and licensure process, so prospective educators should carefully research the requirements in their state.

  • Teaching License: Earning a master's in social studies education online from an accredited teacher training program meets the teaching licensure requirements in every state. Candidates for a teaching license often need to pass an examination on their content area knowledge and teaching methods.
  • Social Studies Teaching Certification: Social studies teachers can earn certification by passing a test on content knowledge and teaching methods. Some states offer social studies certifications with an emphasis on world history, U.S. history, and civics.
  • Professional or advanced teaching license: In many states, educators with a master's degree qualify for a professional or advanced teaching license, representing their additional education beyond the initial teaching license level. The license may stay valid for a longer period of time, requiring fewer renewals.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations help educators stay current in their field and connect with other teachers. Specialized organizations also support social studies teachers with lesson plans, teaching materials, and professional resources to apply in the classroom. Many organizations offer scholarships, annual conferences with networking opportunities, and career services support, including job boards. These tools help educators transition from their master's program into the classroom. Current students and recent grads benefit from these professional organizations and resources.

  • National Education Association Dating back to 1857, NEA represents over three million educators through its national, state, and local organizations. The association offers lesson plans, classroom management tips, and other teaching resources.
  • Association of Teachers of Social Studies A division of the United Federation of Teachers, the association brings social studies educators together to share information, practices, and strategies.
  • Association of American Educators AAE represents educators across the country who can apply for classroom scholarships and grants. The association publishes research, provides professional resources, and offers membership discounts.
  • Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development A professional organization focused on curriculum development, ASCD publishes the Educational Leadership magazine, hosts events and summits, and provides professional learning tools like webinars.
  • National Council for the Social Studies NCSS dates back to 1921 and represents the largest professional association of social studies educators. The council hosts conferences, provides professional learning resources, and publishes research.
  • Common Core Common core sets guidelines for grade-level learning. Social studies teachers can find suggested lesson plans, primary source readings, and activities in the Common Core resources.
  • National Archives Educator Resources The educator resources from the National Archives include guides on working with primary sources, online primary sources, and lesson plans. Teachers can also plan student visits to see primary materials.
  • Smithsonian Learning Lab The learning lab provides access to digital resources from the Smithsonian. Educators can create content using online tools or design lessons around the materials.
  • Library of Congress The Library of Congress offers information in specific subjects, including government, science, and history. They also provide photo archives and articles on their collections.
  • Teaching History A resource for K-12 social studies and history teachers, the website focuses on U.S. history resources. The website also provides materials, lesson plans, and primary sources for educators.