Teaching Social Studies with a History or Political Science BA

History and Political Science majors interested in teaching middle school or high school social studies have four options.

After you graduate, complete a Master’s of Teaching (MAT) degree, leading to certification and resulting in a pay increase. (South Carolina pays teachers based on experience and the number of advanced degrees earned.

Options for completing a Master’s degree in this region include:

  • MAT at Augusta University (online degree focused on history)
  • MAT at USC Columbia (an in-person degree that covers comprehensive social studies)
Students interested in the MAT option should consider a cognate in Teaching Social Studies Education (see details below) or a minor in Educational Studies.

 

You can take the Praxis exams and get certified through PACE, an alternate certification program in which you enter the classroom and start teaching while completing three college courses.

Students interested in PACE are strongly encouraged to ask their advisors about the cognate in Teaching Social Studies (see details below), designed to prepare you for the Praxis and for teaching a range of social studies courses or a minor in Educational Studies.

If you have already graduated and are interested in the PACE program, you should call PACE, speak to a liaison, clarify which Praxis exams you need to take, and receive instruction on how to start and navigate the PACE process.

Students pursuing PACE certification are encouraged to take the Praxis exam called Combined Core Academic Skills for Educators, as well as subject matter (history, social studies, etc.). These Praxis exams can be taken immediately after graduation.

  • Students can pursue employment at a private school or a charter school, which typically do not require certification. Students interested in this option are strongly encouraged to ask their advisors about the cognate in Teaching Social Studies (see details below), designed to prepare you to teach various social studies courses or a minor in Educational Studies.
  • Students can return to USC Aiken and, in approximately one and a half years, achieve certification without earning an MAT.


Pros, Cons, and Costs

  • The cost of an MAT will vary depending on the institution and your state residency. We encourage you to investigate the costs of different programs. South Carolina public schools pay teachers on a scale that rewards years of experience and degrees earned, which means you will be paid more as someone who earned a Master’s degree. If you are interested in teaching outside of South Carolina, you may want to look into MAT programs in the state where you plan to live so you don’t have to worry about transferring your teaching license.
  • The PACE program allows you to start teaching immediately. However, this means entering the classroom before learning the fundamentals of teaching and this may be challenging. For this reason, we encourage students who plan to pursue PACE certification to consider the cognate in Social Studies Education or the minor in Educational Studies. PACE program fees can be found here.
  • Teaching at a private school allows you to bypass a Master’s degree and PACE certification. However, as with the PACE program, this means you will enter the classroom without coursework in topics like classroom management and assessment. For this reason, we encourage students who plan to pursue a teaching career in private schools to consider the cognate in Social Studies Education or the minor in Educational Studies. In addition, students may want to weigh the reality that private schools often pay less and offer fewer benefits compared to public schools, although they may be a better match for your personal values.


What Courses Should I Take?

If you’re a History or Political Science major who plans to teach, you should take advantage of USCA’s General Education requirements and your program’s requirement to have a minor or cognate to prepare yourself for the job market and your future career. The recommendations below fall in two categories: what to take for your Gen Ed courses to prepare yourself for the Praxis exams and for teaching a range of Social Studies courses; and what additional courses you can take in a Teaching Social Studies Cognate.  

Recommended General Education Courses for History Majors

All students must take General Education credits; these selections will best prepare you to teach various social studies courses at the high school level.

  • World Civilization Requirement: World History to 1750 (HIST A101)
  • Humanities Requirement #1: World History Since 1750 (HIST A102)
  • American Political Institutions: United States History to 1865 (HIST A201)
  • Humanities #2: US History from 1865 (HIST A202)
  • Humanities #3: Introduction to Abrahamic Faiths (RELG A101) or Asian Religions and Philosophy (RELG A103)
  • Social Science #1: American National Government (POLI A201)
  • Social Science #2: Introduction to Sociology (SOCY A101) or Introduction to Psychology (PSYCH A101)
  • Social Science #3: Introduction to Geography (GEOG A103)


Recommended General Education Courses for Political Science Majors

 All students must take General Education credits; these selections will best prepare you to teach various social studies courses at the high school level.

  • World Civilization Requirement: World History to 1750 (HIST A101)
  • Humanities Requirement #1: World History since 1750 (HIST A102)
  • American Political Institutions: United States History to 1865 (HIST A201)
  • Humanities #2: US History from 1865 (HIST A202)
  • Humanities #3: Introduction to Abrahamic Faiths (RELG A101) or Asian Religions and Philosophy (RELG A103)
  • Social Science #1: Introduction to Psychology (PSYC A101)
  • Social Science #2: Introduction to Sociology (SOCY A101)
  • Social Science #3: Introduction to Geography (GEOG A103)

Teaching Social Studies Cognate (12 credits)

What is a cognate? A cognate is like a minor but is interdisciplinary and requires slightly fewer courses. All cognate courses must all be at the 300 or 400 level, and these will not count towards your major or general education requirements. We recommend the following courses for a Social Studies Education Cognate. Choose four or more courses for a total of 12 credits.

Educational Psychology Courses (make sure you take at least one):

  • Introduction to Educational Psychology (EDPY 235)
  • Introduction to Educational Psychology (EDPY A334)

Secondary Education Courses (make sure you take at least one):

  • Introduction to Adolescent Education (EDSE A311)
  • Introduction to Teaching Diverse Populations in the Middle and High School (EDSE A312)

Economics Courses (you may only take these if you have completed Math 108):

  • Principles of Macroeconomic (ECON A221) or
  • Principles of Microeconomics (ECON A222)

Other Recommended Courses:

  • Technology Integration for Teaching and Learning (EDUC A245)—note: this is a 2-credit course
  • One or more upper-division history courses (political science majors only)
  • One or more upper-division political science courses (history majors only)
  • One or more upper-division psychology courses
  • One or more upper-division sociology courses

** Unlike a minor, you have more choices with a cognate. These recommendations will guide you and your advisor as you design your cognate.

Some questions to consider as you choose your path

  • Do I want to teach in South Carolina specifically, in the wider region, or do I want to move somewhere very different? What program would allow me to teach in the state where I want to live?
  • What are my values and how do they fit in with my career goals? Would I prefer to teach at a public, private, or charter school? Do I see myself teaching at a rural, suburban, or urban school?
  • Do I mostly want to be in the classroom, or do I also want to coach a sport, lead the debate team, or develop a Mock Trial program?
  • Do I want to earn a master’s degree? Or am I ready to be done with coursework for a while?
  • What are my financial needs? Can I afford to pay additional tuition? Is it important that I start work right away, or do I have the support to spend some more time in school?

Final Advice

Experiences outside the classroom, such as serving as a Resident Mentor, coaching a high school team, or participating in Mock Trial, can help make you an attractive teaching candidate at the high school level.

If you want to teach outside the southeastern United States, earning a master’s degree is your best plan.

If you plan to pursue a career as a teacher, talk to your advisor about your goals and the options that will prepare you for certification, finding a teaching position, and success in the classroom.