Best Online Master’s in Social Sciences Programs

Advance your career in education or another field by earning your master’s in social science online. Top-rated universities offer flexible programs you can complete in about 18 months. We’ll show you how to find the program that’s best for you.

Wondering what social sciences cover? Maybe the question should be what social sciences don’t cover. A master’s in social science online wraps in anthropology, economics, education, history, psychology, sociology, and political science—or in other words, the tools you need to dig into problems and find solutions.

With an online master’s in social science you’ll gain a broad, interdisciplinary foundation that prepares you to research, analyze, and evaluate data, present logical arguments, a be a leader. Plus, distance learning makes a master’s in social science online convenient. It’s ideal for teachers and thinkers who want to take the next step in their careers, even while juggling family responsibilities and full-time jobs.

This guide introduces the benefits of earning your master’s in social sciences degree online, pinpoints the best programs, and maps out how to choose the one that’s right for you. You’ll also find useful info on program costs, the subjects your courses will cover, the careers your degree will prepare you for, and much more.

Top 3 Online Social Science Master’s Programs for 2022

To give you an idea of what to look for in a quality program, we’ve spotlighted three of the best online master’s in social science degrees currently available. All three excel when it comes to affordability, convenience and flexibility, quality instructors and curriculum, and access to vital student support services. See how the programs you’re considering stack up to these best-in-class offerings.

Ohio University

Unlike many master of social science programs that emphasize teaching methods, the online master’s of social sciences degree from Ohio University (OU) takes an interdisciplinary approach focusing on content in five social sciences fields: anthropology, geography, history, political science, and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. Students complete eight four-hour courses (four in history subjects and four in non-history subjects). By taking two courses each semester, you’ll complete the degree requirements in 18 months or four semesters. However, students have the option of taking fewer courses at a time and finishing their master’s in social science online in six years. The program culminates in a two-hour, computer-based essay exam.

All coursework in OU’s online master’s in social science program is presented entirely online with no required campus visits. The 32-credit-hour program costs $585 per credit for Ohio residents and $604 per credit for out-of-state residents.

Troy University

Troy University offers an extensive selection of elective courses covering the full range of social science subjects. Its Master of Science in Social Science program consists of three mandatory core social sciences courses (nine total credit hours) covering the subjects of social theory, research methods, and current issues in the social sciences, along with 27 credit hours of elective coursework from the following seven social science disciplines: history, geography, anthropology, psychology, sociology, criminology, or political science. Students also receive training in analytical software, such as GIS mapping software and SPSS statistical software.

All classes and coursework in this 36-credit-hour online master’s in social science is completed 100% online. However, students may also participate in hands-on research opportunities, including community focus group research, applied sociological research projects, GIS mapping projects, and other community-based activities. Tuition for this online master’s in social science is $475 per credit, making it one of the most affordable online master’s in social science programs available.

University of Northern Iowa

Secondary teachers looking to expand and deepen their knowledge in the social sciences will want to consider the Master of Arts in Social Science from the University of Northern Iowa. Students in this 30-credit-hour, seven-semester cohort program gain knowledge in a range of social science subjects, including American and world history, geography, political science, and psychology. The result is greater understanding of the social sciences field leading to improved learning in the secondary classroom.

Classes are held via Zoom on Wednesday evenings during the fall and spring semesters. You may schedule additional sessions during the summer. No campus visits are required for this master’s in social science online, however students participate in a one-week “study tour” during the last summer of the program in which they visit locations relevant to their studies, such as museums and historical sites. The current tuition rate for this online social science master’s program is $517 per credit hour.

Why Earn a Master’s in Social Sciences Online?

You’ll discover a number of benefits to earning a master’s in social science online. Here are three major ones:

  • Develop advanced interdisciplinary skills that are attractive to employers

    Students in online master’s in social science degree programs develop skills sets (communications writing, research, critical thinking, etc.) that are highly valued in the job market by employers looking to fill managerial and senior leadership roles.

  • Tailor your studies to align with your specific interests

    The majority of online master’s in social science programs are highly adaptable to the student’s social science interests. Most feature generous elective course selections allowing students to focus their studies on one area of the social sciences field or design a curriculum that encompasses all of them.

  • Work on your degree while keeping your current job

    Most students pursuing a master’s in social science degree online are working professionals interested in broadening their knowledge and skills. The convenience of online study allows you to tackle your coursework from home at times that best fit your busy work and life schedules.

What You’ll Learn in a Social Sciences Online Master’s Program

Many online master’s in social sciences programs are designed specifically for teachers (like the ones from the University of Northern Iowa and Wayne State College). However that’s not always the case; your online master’s in social sciences degree program can be broad-based and designed for students in other professional roles (like the programs from Ohio University and Troy University). Classes may include a small number of required core courses, like the first two described below. The others give you an idea of courses offered for social sciences specializations.

Common Courses

  • Seminar in Social Science

    This introductory course integrates the perspectives of the disciplines making up the field. Topics covered include social science theory, ethics, social science methodology and criticism, current issues and trends in the social sciences, and advocacy in the promotion of social change.

  • Research Methods in Social Science

    This course reviews the basics of qualitative and quantitative social science research. Topics include the nature of social scientific research, research design, data collection and analysis, sampling procedures, research techniques, computer applications, and the presentation of research results. Special emphasis is placed on ethical issues and practices in social scientific research.

  • Instructional Practice and Teaching Methods in Social Science (teacher-focused social science programs)

    This course surveys instructional techniques and strategies in the teaching of social studies across the grades. It covers the development of lesson plans, effective instruction methods (delivery and assessment), teaching diverse learners, interdisciplinary teaching, and the latest research in instructional theory and practice.

  • Cultural Anthropology (general social sciences programs)

    This course introduces the study of human culture and society, including an examination of foundational theories, concepts, and methodologies. The course explores all aspects of the subject (biology, religion, politics, economics, kinship, diversity, etc.) cross-culturally and across time from hunters and gatherers to present industrial states.

  • United States Historical Geography (general social sciences programs)

    This introduction to the field of historical geography examines the United States from the precolonial and colonial periods through the mid-nineteenth century. Course objectives include the analysis and evaluation of written works in the historical geography field as well as maps, tables, figures, and photographs related to historical U.S. geography.

Specialization Options

Online master’s in social science degrees encompass a broad range of disciplines concerned with society and how it functions. If you’d prefer to specialize, keep reading to learn about five of the most common concentrations. If the program you’re interested in doesn’t offer a formal concentration, it’s likely you’ll be able to tailor your studies to focus on that discipline through your choice of electives.

  • Anthropology

    Anthropology is the science concerned with what makes human beings human. The study of anthropology takes into account archeology, cultural anthropology, linguistic anthropology, and biological anthropology. Graduates in this concentration are employed with government and community agencies, private businesses, media organizations, private research institutions, and schools at all levels.

  • Geography

    Broadly defined, geography is the study of the earth’s surface and its interaction with both natural (weather, climate) and manmade (social, cultural, political, economic) components. Specific subjects include geographic information science, earth systems, urban and regional analysis and planning, business geographics, and environmental modeling.

  • History

    History, simply put, is the study of the human past. Online master’s in social science students with a concentration in history can tailor their studies as broadly or as specifically as they want through their electives in terms of era (ancient, medieval, modern, etc.), geography (world, European, American, etc.), events (Cold War, slavery, French Revolution, etc.), and subject (gender, ethnicity, disease, etc.).

  • Political Science

    Political science focuses on the history, theory, and practices of governments, political groups, and movements. Master’s in social science online students approach the subject from any number of perspectives, such as political system, time period, location, or specific issue. Graduates with a master’s in social science typically work in education, public service, private enterprise, political analysis, lobbying, and with nonprofit organizations.

  • Sociology

    Sociology can be defined as the study of human behavior as it relates to the history, development, organization, and functioning of societies. The subject of sociology, for academic purposes, is practically as broad as the larger social sciences field itself. Students opting for the sociology concentration focus their studies on subfields such as culture, class and stratification, gender and sexuality, social change, and many others.

Accreditation for Online Social Sciences Master’s Degree Programs

As you evaluate potential master’s in social science online programs, you’ll encounter two basic forms of postsecondary accreditation: institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation concerns the vetting of colleges and universities as a whole. Programmatic accreditation concerns the vetting of specific degree programs.

There are currently no organizations that programmatically accredit master’s in social sciences degree programs in the United States. Therefore, prospective master’s in social sciences students will focus on the institutional accreditation of the school offering the program.

Institutional accreditation of U.S. colleges and universities is administered by a number of Department of Education (DOE) recognized national and regional accrediting agencies. Look for current institutional accreditation status by visiting the accreditation webpage for each school you’re considering. You can also check accreditation status using this DOE search engine.

What Can You Do with a Master’s in Social Sciences?

Earning an online master’s in social science is a great choice for current and prospective teachers, especially those on the middle and secondary education levels. However a master of social science degree isn’t limited to education. Below are descriptions of five popular career choices for online master’s in social science degree holders to give you an idea of where your degree might take you. We’ve included Bureau of Labor Statistics salary estimates for each to give you an idea of how your paycheck may look.

Management Analyst

Management analysts (aka management consultants) gather, organize, and analyze information and statistics to address and resolve problems. Improving organizational efficiencies results in reduced costs and (for private businesses) increased profits. Management analysts are often employed full-time by companies, nonprofits, and public agencies, or may be hired as independent contractors to tackle a specific issue.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$50,190

$93,000

$163,760

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Market Research Analyst

Helping companies and organizations understand what products consumers want and how to best get those products into the marketplace is the job of the market research analyst. As you might expect, most market research analysts with an online master’s in social science degree are employed by private businesses looking to increase sales and profits. However, nonprofits also hire market research analysts to improve their awareness and standing with the public.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$37,570

$63,920

$128,320

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Political Scientist

Political scientists are analysts who develop political and policy theories and then conduct research (polling, public opinion surveys, etc.) and gather data to support or refute those theories. Political scientists are employed by individual candidates for public office to help get candidates elected. They also work directly for political parties, government agencies, nonprofits, political action groups, and others.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$61,480

$122,510

$172,490

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Secondary School Teacher

As we said, an online master’s in social science is an excellent degree choice for teaching professionals on practically any level, but especially for middle and secondary school social studies teachers. Teaching jobs are available primarily with public school districts and at private schools.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$46,090

$61,820

$100,310

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Sociologist

Sociologists study the interaction of individuals and groups with the world around them. They conduct research and analyze data, often in collaboration with professionals in other social sciences fields, to increase understanding of how groups and social structures function. With a master’s in social science online, you’ll work to improve actions and policies regarding business, economics, education, health, politics, and more, usually as part of a government agency or college.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile

$60,770

$92,910

$135,420

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021

Funding Your Online Master’s in Social Sciences

Before signing on with any online master’s in social science program, it’s essential that you have a clear and detailed understanding of exactly what your degree will cost as well as how you’ll pay for it. As the figures in the chart below indicate, the cost of a degree program represents a substantial financial investment. Fortunately, there are scholarships, grants, fellowships, work-study programs, employer tuition assistance programs, and student loans to help with the cost.

To learn more about these education funding sources, be sure to check out OMD’s own guides to Employer Tuition Assistance and Scholarships for Master’s Students as well as our main financial aid website.

How Much Your Online Master’s in Social Sciences Could Cost

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Est. Total Tuition Cost*

36

$695

$25,020

30

$440

$13,200

36

$359

$12,924

*Tuition costs only. Does not include additional program fees or the costs of books, supplies, internet service, etc.

FAQs About Online Social Sciences Master’s Degrees

What are the typical admissions requirements for an online master’s in social sciences?

Admissions requirements are different for every master’s of social science online program. Be sure you have a full understanding of the requirements for any program you’re interested in before you apply. That said, most online master’s of social science programs share these admissions requirements:

  • Bachelor’s degree: All master’s in social science online programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. Some programs require the degree to be in a specific social-science-related major.
  • Teaching credential: Online master’s in social science programs specifically for teachers (like those from Wayne State College and The University of Alabama) require applicants to hold a valid teaching/professional educator certificate.
  • Minimum GPA: All programs include a minimum GPA (usually a 3.0).
  • Admissions test scores: Some online master’s in social science programs require scores from the GRE, GMAT, and/or MAT. Check with each individual program to learn which tests and what minimum scores are acceptable.
  • Additional requirements: Schools may have other requirements, such as letters of recommendation, a personal statement/essay, or a copy of your CV or resume.

How long will it take to complete my master’s in social sciences online?

Online master’s in social sciences programs require between 30 and 36 credit hours of coursework, which can normally be completed with 18 months of part-time study. However, schools that offer social science master’s degrees, particularly those with online programs, understand that most students pursue their studies while working full time. Therefore, many offer generous completion times (up to four years or longer). Some programs, like Ohio University’s, are self-paced. Make sure you know the time limit for any program you consider.

Can I earn a master’s in social sciences completely online or will I need to visit campus?

Most online master’s in social science programs feature curricula that are 100% online, with no required campus visits. In most cases you can access and complete your coursework at any time. (One exception is the University of Northern Iowa’s master’s in social science, which has classes you must attend online at specific times.) Other programs, like the MSSc program at Troy University, include one or more mandatory in-person activities.