Online Masters Degree in the Social Sciences: Program Options

Learn about online degree programs with social science courses. Get an overview of the program types, requirements and course descriptions available for this field.

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Essential Information

Online master's degree programs are available in various social science disciplines. This article provides overviews for two example programs: history and social sciences education. Master of Arts in History programs may include a thesis requirement, and they can typically be completed fully online. Individuals who want to become history teachers may need to complete additional teacher education and a teaching internship if they do not already hold a state-issued teaching certification.

Similarly, master's degree programs focused on social sciences education may allow students to complete coursework without visiting campus. However, students may need to complete practical training, the extent of which depends on whether or not students already hold a state-issued teaching certification.

Before enrolling in an online master's degree program, students must make sure that their computers are equipped with word processing software and have adequate audio and video capabilities. Students should also own a webcam and headset, and printers are recommended as well.

Master of Arts in History

A Master of Arts (M.A.) in History program prepares students for a variety of careers in business, education, public service and law. In addition to gaining research and writing skills, students build an understanding of global communities through studying the social, economic, political and cultural impacts of historical events. These programs are widely available online.

Program Information and Requirements

The length of the master's degree program is usually 30-37credit-hours; depending on whether students choose a thesis track. Students can earn their degree entirely online, and in many cases, access their course material at any time that fits their schedule. Courses are generally offered through online learning programs, such as Blackboard, as well as through downloadable lectures and web presentations. Some on campus participation may be required.

Students need to have access to a computer with a high-speed Internet connection. The computer should also have audio and video capabilities in order to play video lectures. It is recommended that students have a printer to create hard copies of course materials.

Common Courses

The curriculum of a graduate history program covers historical events within a variety of cultures and eras. Prospective students work with their academic advisor to plan their course of study and to determine thesis opportunities.

Pre-Modern History

Students in this online course study the major historical events from the very origins of recorded history to the 16th century. Key moments of focus include the rise and fall of the Roman Empire, Middle Ages, Renaissance, Enlightenment, French Revolution and American history. Upon completion of this course, students will be able to explain how these historical events shaped the modern social and political landscape.

African-American History

This course focuses on the history of African-Americans since the conclusion of the Civil War. Course topics include the role African-Americans play throughout key historical events, such as the Reconstruction, the Great Migrations, Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement.

20th Century European History

A 20th century European history course focuses on the pivotal events that have shaped the current political, economic, cultural and social landscape of Europe. The timeline reaches from the onset of World War I to the dissolution of the Soviet Union.

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Master's Degree in Social Science Education

An online master's degree program in social sciences education may be designed for individuals with a background in the social sciences who want to move into teaching or for current social sciences teachers who want to expand their skills and advance in the field of teaching. Prospective teachers who do not yet hold a license should inquire if a program meets education requirements for their state licensing boards.

Schools may award a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), Master of Education (MEd) or Master of Science (MS) degree. Students need to have a bachelor's degree and may need a minimum 3.0 GPA to be eligible for admission.

Program Information and Requirements

The typical length of an education master's degree program ranges from 30-36 credit hours. Students can complete this degree completely online, and can often access asynchronous course material 24 hours a day, allowing students to continue their current teaching position while they are enrolled. Many courses do have synchronous components where professors and students assemble online for discussion forums. Also, some programs, particularly those that can prepare students for initial state teaching certification, require practical teaching experience.

In addition to a computer and Internet connection, student may need a webcam and headset for real-time discussions and conferences. Students may also need access to word processing software.

Common Courses

The curriculum of a master's degree program explores the role of leadership and management in education. This program typically provides advanced training in curriculum planning, cognitive development, socio-emotional development and school administration. The program typically culminates in a research project or thesis.

Education Leadership

This course introduces students to the fundamental concepts of school organizations and administration. Theoretical concepts in guidance, delegation, motivation and unity are explored. In addition, students conduct classroom observations, via video feeds, in order to assess instructional leadership in action.

Adversity in the Classroom

Students in this course learn of the various methods of addressing stress and violence found in today's classrooms. They learn how to identify and rectify the causes of stress and violence in their students' lives.

Educational Reform

The influences that shape the modern educational landscape, including society, politics, laws, ethics and economics are the focus of this course. Students analyze the relationship between schools and the communities they exist within, and in turn learn to cultivate public support for their educational institution.


Career Information

Many students who complete an online master's degree program can find employment as a primary or secondary school teacher, once they obtain the appropriate license. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), elementary school teachers held 1,358,000 jobs, making an annual mean wage of $57,730 as of May 2015. The mean annual wage for secondary school teachers was $60,440, though the top 10% earned salaries as high as $91,190 during the same year. The BLS projected that employment opportunities would increase by 6% for these occupations from 2014-2024.

Two fields in which online social sciences master's degree programs are offered are history and social sciences education. While M.A. in History programs focus on advanced studies of historical eras and concepts, social sciences education programs emphasize instructional techniques and educational issues that are relevant to current and future social studies teachers.

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