In the hands of the right teacher, social studies is much more than a retelling of past events. It’s a way to help students understand the context of their moment in history. It’s a way to promote active, engaged, and informed citizenship. It’s a crucial part of any well-rounded education.
Whether you’re a teacher with years of experience under your belt or you’re taking your first steps into a new career in education, the degrees on this ranking can help you elevate your social studies teaching practice.
What kind of master’s degree in social studies should you get?
In this ranking, we focus specifically on online degrees. These distance learning programs are particularly well-suited for students who already work as classroom teachers. With an online program, you’ll be able to complete your coursework whenever it fits into your busy schedule.
Many people know they want to earn a graduate degree through an online program, but aren’t totally certain what they want to study. If you’d like a broader perspective on the best values in distance education, don’t miss our ranking of the Most Affordable Online Colleges for a Master’s Degree.
How much money do people make with a master’s degree in social studies?
As a teacher, a variety of factors will affect your paycheck. One of the biggest factors is the state where you work.
According to data from CNBC, here are the five states with the best-paid teachers and the average annual salaries in each one:
- Alaska: $82,020
- New York: $81,410
- Connecticut: $76,260
- New Jersey: $75,250
- California: $74,940
Meanwhile, the five states with the lowest-paid teachers – Oklahoma, Mississippi, South Dakota, North Carolina, and West Virginia – all have average annual salaries under $46,000.
What can you do with a master’s degree in social studies?
Most of the programs on our list are designed for social studies educators working in high schools or middle schools. Accordingly, most graduates of these programs will become, or remain, classroom teachers. You may choose to work in a public or private school, in a rural or urban setting.
With a master’s degree, you may be qualified for leadership positions within your school. For example, you may serve as a department chair or curriculum coordinator. In many cases, earning a master’s degree will lead to a pay raise.
What are the requirements for a master’s degree in social studies?
Some of the programs on our list lead to initial teaching certification. Any initial certification program will typically feature at least one full semester of student teaching.
Other degree programs lead to professional certification, or a specific type of licensure beyond the initial certification. These programs will also usually require a significant fieldwork component.
There are some degree programs that don’t lead to any type of teaching certification. These programs may not require student teaching or fieldwork. But they may feature another capstone requirement, such as a master’s thesis or a professional portfolio.
What are the most affordable online master’s degrees in social studies?
Our goal in creating this ranking is to help you find a program that offers excellent academic quality at an outstanding value. To do that, we’ve examined net tuition costs as well as institutional reputation. Our data is sourced from publications such as U.S. News & World Report and the National Center for Educational Statistics.
The degree programs on this list represent the best of the best in convenience, flexibility, and affordability. While no one can tell you which program is the right fit for you, we hope we’ve made your school search a little easier.
See our rankings methodology page.
The College at Brockport, SUNY
Average Net Price: $14,267
Founded in 1835, the College at Brockport is a public university and a member institution of the State University of New York system. The university serves approximately 7,000 undergraduate students and 1,100 graduate students. The extensive teacher education programs at Brockport include master’s degrees in a range of content areas, including literacy, bilingual education, English, and social studies.
The College at Brockport offers a 30-credit-hour Master of Science in Education: Adolescence Social Studies. This online degree program is intended for students who currently hold, or will soon earn, a New York State initial teaching certificate in Social Studies for grades 7 through 12. All candidates for this degree will take the following courses:
- Diversity in Education
- Educational Assessment and Evaluation
- Issues in Social Studies Education
- Applied History Seminar
Preference will be given to applicants with an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above. Students with an undergraduate GPA below this benchmark may contact the Department of Education and Human Development about the possibility of provisional acceptance. After earning this degree, students will be qualified for professional teaching certification. The College at Brockport awards some form of financial aid to 82 percent of its students.
University at Buffalo, SUNY
Average Net Price: $15,987
The University at Buffalo, SUNY is a member of the Association of American Universities, an elite consortium of 62 top research universities in America and Canada. The university is the largest and most comprehensive campus of the 64-campus State University of New York system. The Department of Learning and Instruction at UB offers outstanding teacher preparation programs at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral level.
The Master of Education in Social Studies Education is considered a blended program, meaning that 50 percent or more of the coursework can be completed online. Some campus visits may be required. Successful graduates of this program will be recommended for New York State professional certification for teaching grades seven through twelve, with an available extension for grades five and six. Coursework for this 33-credit-hour program will include:
- Adolescent Writing Across Curriculum
- Middle Childhood-Adolescent Literacy Methods
- Psychological Foundations of Education
- Instructional Strategies in Secondary Schools
Applicants to this program must have majored or earned at least 30 credit-hours in history or a social science (such as anthropology, economics, or sociology). The degree can be earned in two to three semesters of full-time study. Graduate students in this program may be eligible for institutional scholarships, such as the SUNY Graduate Diversity Fellowship.
University of Missouri
Average Net Price: $16,317
In 1839, the University of Missouri became the very first public university west of the Mississippi River. In 2018, the university’s College of Education was ranked forty-third among all colleges of education nationwide by U.S. News & World Report. Specifically, the online graduate education programs at Mizzou Ed were recognized in the top 12 percent of all such programs in the country.
Mizzou’s Master of Education in Social Studies Education requires a minimum of 30 credit-hours. This degree program does not lead to teaching certification. The curriculum for the degree features nine credit-hours in elective coursework. Students may fulfill this requirement with electives such as:
- African American Education – Historic and Current Issues
- Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Issues in the Schools
- Developmental Aspects of Human Learning
- Immigrant Issues in Education
This program is offered entirely online and requires no campus visits. Most students take only one or two classes per semester. By following this schedule, students will complete the program in two years. As of the 2018 academic year, the cost of tuition and fees is $416.49 per credit-hour. This cost is the same for all online graduate students, regardless of state residency. The estimated cost for the entire degree program is $12,494.70.
University of the Cumberlands
Average Net Price: $17,619
The University of the Cumberlands is located in Williamsburg, KY and enrolls approximately 3,300 students. UC’s mission is rooted in principles of excellence, practicality, and affordability. Founded in 1888 by a group of Baptist ministers, UC has proudly served Appalachia for 125 years. Today, UC has extended its reach to students all over the country with online programs in information technology, counseling, and teacher education.
UC offers a fully online Master of Arts in Teaching program that is designed for pre-service teachers. Students will be able to select from a wide variety of certification tracks at the elementary, middle grades, and secondary level. Aspiring social studies teachers can seek certification either for grades five through nine or for grades eight through twelve. Coursework for this degree may include:
- Educational Technology
- Research Methods in Education
- Instructional Design and Curriculum
- Classroom Management and Discipline
Although the coursework for this degree is available fully online, students will be expected to complete an extensive student teaching placement and other fieldwork in a local school district. Degree candidates must maintain a GPA of 3.0 or above to graduate with this degree. Almost 97 percent of UC students receive some form of financial aid.
Average Net Price: $22,518
Established in 1905 in affiliation with the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, Concordia University-Portland is a private liberal arts university. The university’s College of Education offers 27 degree programs, many of which are available entirely through distance learning. Concordia’s versatile, innovative Master of Education degree program boasts an alumni network of over 10,000.
The Master of Education at Concordia University-Portland is available with a wide variety of concentrations, including Adolescent Literacy, The Inclusive Classroom, Educational Technology Leadership, Social Studies, and many more. This degree is fully online and does not require any in-person fieldwork. The program can be completed in as little as one year. Students in the Social Studies concentration will be expected to take the following coursework:
- Developing Character Through the Curriculum
- Theories of Teaching and Learning
- The Social Studies Toolkit
- Global Citizenship: Teaching for an Interconnected World
Online MEd students will be eligible for a number of scholarships, such as the Priority Scholarship, the District Partnership Scholarship, and the Seasonal Scholarship. Students may also qualify for free textbooks. Among the recent graduates of the online Master of Education program, 93 percent reported that they were satisfied with their overall academic experience at Concordia University-Portland.