Master’s (M.Ed.) and Doctoral (Ph.D.) Degrees in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I) can build expertise in K-12 social studies and in the professional development of teachers for it. Our graduate program allows flexibility in choosing intellectually rich academic experiences that support specialization in social studies topics as well as interdisciplinary connections to related fields.

  • The M.Ed. serves practicing educators seeking to upgrade their certification and professional expertise. Master’s Degree students work with a faculty adviser to choose classes that contribute to their understanding of K-12 social studies curriculum, teaching and learning, and educational research. 
  • The Ph.D. serves educators interested in an academic career in social studies teacher education at colleges or universities or a research career in industry, foundations, or government. Doctoral students work closely with an adviser to create a program of study individualized around academic interests and career goals, culminating in a doctoral research dissertation. 

Classes On-Campus or Online

We offer a number of graduate courses that include topics relevant to social studies education. Some are on-campus seminars; others are available online. It is possible for our residential graduate students to take most of our online courses and for students in our online program to take residential classes. Our graduate students are able to take intellectually diverse coursework—including some courses in Curriculum and Instruction (C&I), from across the College of Education (such as Educational Theory and Policy, Educational Psychology, or Learning Design and Technology), and from other University departments (such as History, Political Science, or Sociology).

For more information on our online program, please see the Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction at Penn State's World Campus.

For more information on how to apply to our Master's and Doctoral programs, please see Curriculum and Instruction's How to Apply and our Frequently Asked Questions below.

Penn State’s Graduate Social Studies Faculty Team

We encourage you to look at our faculty members and their teaching and research interests:

If you are interested in working with any of our faculty members, please call or email them at the contact information linked to their name above.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Our Master (M.Ed.) and Doctoral (Ph.D.) Degrees do not lead to initial teacher certification. A graduate degree can be used by currently certified schoolteachers to meet state-mandated requirements to upgrade or renew teaching certification.

It is possible for an applicant to the M.Ed. graduate degree program to apply also for Post-Bachelor Teacher Certification. Pursuing teacher certification adds additional time to the graduate degree’s normal timeline. Teacher certification is only possible at Penn State’s University Park campus and cannot be done online.

It is not necessary to have a Master’s Degree before applying for our doctoral program. It is possible to begin in a Master’s program and later apply to transition into the doctoral program (either before or after completing the Master’s Degree). 

Yes, it is possible to take up to 15 credits (typically 5 classes) prior to applying and subsequently transfer them to a graduate degree after being admitted. Even if you end up at a different college or university, Penn State is a globally recognized institution and our courses are likely to transfer. To apply to take classes pre-admission, visit Apply to the Graduate School at Penn State, select “non-degree” status, and choose “World Campus” (if taking classes online only) or “University Park” (if you plan to be residential or a commuter).

Master’s Degree students often receive some financial reimbursement from their employer, typically a school district. Graduate students can cover tuition and other expenses through graduate assistantships in the Department of Curriculum & Instruction or College of Education (most assistantships are for Ph.D. students). Residential Master’s Degree and Ph.D. students may be able on their own to find different assistantships or other paid work available elsewhere at Penn State by searching the PSU.JOBS website. Prospective graduate applicants who need outside financial aid (typically loans) should contact Penn State’s Office of Student Aid for more information and assistance. 

Cost to attend Penn State can be estimated using Penn State’s Student Tuition Calculator.

Donors to the College have funded a number of scholarships for which Master’s and Ph.D. students can apply. See the College of Education Scholarships webpage for details.