ornate ceiling of a government building_ become a social studies teacher at uw madison

Social Studies

The UW-Madison Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction: Secondary Education program with a dual certification in English as a Second Language (ESL) prepares students with the skills and knowledge needed to become social studies teachers and to transform the learning experience in the classroom.

The subjects that comprise social studies—history, economics, geography, political science, sociology, and psychology—are rich, interrelated disciplines, each critical to the background of thoughtful citizens.

We believe in an integrative approach to teaching social studies—addressing the totality of human experience over time and space, connecting with the past, linked to the present, and looking ahead to the future.

The best social studies teachers develop awareness of their own values and how those values influence their teaching. They assess their teaching from multiple perspectives and, when appropriate, adjust it to achieve a better balance.

If you have questions about the field of secondary education social studies, or about content preparation within the program, please feel free to reach out to the SED Soc St Coordinator, Tom Owenby owenby@wisc.edu.


  1. Relevant undergraduate degree
  2. Coursework or experience that spans the necessary content domains
  3. Passing an approved content examination*

*Admitted students may need to complete the Praxis II: Subject Assessments/Specialty Area Tests through the Educational Testing Service (ETS)—Social Studies Content Knowledge Exam # 5081 with a passing score of 153 or above. If this exam is required it may be taken after you have been admitted into the program, but prior to the endorsement of your certification.  

Undergraduate Degree

Applicants need to have (or have completed by June) a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts with a major in one or more of the following areas:

  • History
  • Political Science
  • Geography
  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Philosophy
  • Economics
  • or some other Social Science-related degree

If you do not have one of these degrees, and believe you have a special case for consideration, including significant professional experience or comparable university courses, you may send an email to  Professor Tom Owenby owenby@wisc.edu explaining your situation.

Content Domains

Prior to admission, all applicants must demonstrate competency in one or more of the following areas through coursework or other experiences. For more information, see below under Certification Areas.

Admissions Criteria

The admissions process of the Master of Science in Curriculum & Instruction: Secondary Education is highly competitive. The program will select students in each subject area for admission based on the following:

  • Is the applicant well-qualified academically? Does the academic background reflect the needs of the profession?
  • Is the applicant thoughtful and reflective about the meaning of teaching? Are the applicant’s motivations for entering the profession worthwhile and do they reflect a commitment to professional improvement?
  • Has the applicant shown the ability to work effectively with young people, especially those different in important ways from the applicant?
  • Does the applicant show a genuine commitment to working with all children, not just the privileged or highly motivated? Does the applicant provide evidence of working with adolescents?
  • Is the applicant capable of working effectively with other professionals in the school, parents, caregivers, and members of the community outside of school?
  • Does the applicant have work experience that may add to their ability to assist students in building their own knowledge of the subject?


Certification Areas

Wisconsin social studies teaching certification is available with the Secondary Social Studies degree program.  The certification is correlated to DPI License 2700 license, Grades 4-12. This license certifies a teacher to teach any social studies course between grades 4 and 12, including all honors, AP, IB, or stand-alone courses.


Typical social studies course topics include:


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