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PhD in Education (Social Studies Education)

With this doctoral emphasis in social studies education, you will study theoretical and disciplinary areas, problems, and practices related to the field as part of your doctoral degree. Our primary focus with this emphasis is the continuing development of theory and research on teaching and learning of the social studies as they exist within and beyond formal school settings including P-12, post-secondary, and community education spaces.

Just as there are a variety of disciplines within, and approaches to, social studies education, there are many possibilities available for doctoral study. Our faculty members borrow from various research methodologies (e.g., narrative inquiry, design-based research, self-study, critical theory methodologies, and discourse analysis) and a variety of theoretical perspectives (pragmatism, critical theory, critical race theory, psychoanalytic theory) to focus research in social studies education. Please refer to faculty bios for an introduction to the breadth of research and expertise in our program.

Our graduates go on to research and clinical faculty positions in colleges and universities, teacher leadership positions, social studies positions in schools, and community educational spaces.


  1. Home to nationally recognized and award-winning faculty.
  2. Work with faculty on cutting-edge education research.
  3. Integrate theory and practice to support educational change.

About the Program

What is a PhD degree in social studies education?

  • A PhD (doctor of philosophy) is a degree program through which you become a scholar and leader in the field of social studies education. That can mean a lot of things, and it can take place in a variety of settings. Mostly, though, it means that you become a participant in local, national, and even international dialogue about social studies education.
  • A doctoral program is unlike any other degree program because it is much more than just a series of prescribed courses with a final project. There are courses to take, but these are meant to assist in your development as a thinker, teacher, and researcher. Courses comprise roughly half of your doctoral program—the other half consists of your supported but independent work as a researcher that culminates in your dissertation.
  • For us, social studies education is a broad term to represent interdisciplinary inquiries into the relationship between education and the social, cultural, and political world. We do this through historical, economic, geographic, and cultural lenses informed by a wide variety of theories.
  • We are interested in creating a vibrant intellectual community that seeks to understand and confront the fraught social and political challenges educators currently face. As a doctoral student in this program, you will be an integral part of, and contributor to, such a community.

Why would someone get a PhD in social studies education?

  • One reason is to attain a position as an education faculty member at a college or university. Many of these positions are a mix of teaching and research. Recent graduates of our programs who have pursued this path have gotten jobs in colleges of education at Auburn University, Kennesaw State University, Alaska Pacific University, Florida State University, and Central Michigan University.
  • Another reason is to deepen and enrich your understanding of the conditions of the work of teaching. Several of our recent students have pursued their doctoral work while continuing to teach full time and remain in the classroom upon completing their PhD. Others have been recognized as instructional and curriculum leaders. Some of these graduates have gone to to serve as department chairs and curriculum and instructional coaches at the school and/or district level.
  • A third reason is to position oneself for leadership roles in community organizations, NGO’s, non-profits, or other educational settings. Our program faculty are committed to supporting each individual student in meeting their unique personal and professional goals.

What would it look like to get my PhD in social studies education at UGA?

There is no “one way” to go. If you’re interested, the best thing to do is reach out to talk about your specific interest and goals. With that in mind:

  • Full time doctoral work can be an amazing experience. You get to take advantage of the vibrant intellectual and educational community here in the College and across campus. To do this, most people need a graduate teaching assistantship (GTA). With a GTA, you are a fully contributing member of our initial certification programs working with pre-service social studies teachers as their seminar instructors and/or onsite field instructors. These also come with a stipend of around $20k annually, and they come with a full tuition waiver. Classes are covered, in other words, and you build your experience to help meet your next career goals.
  • Part-time doctoral work can also be an amazing experience. You become connected to colleagues from across the state, nation and world who are interested in advancing their own and others’ understandings of social studies education. These connections and relationships can become a lifelong network of folks with similar goals and aspirations for their careers and the experiences of learners in public and private institutions around social studies and civic education.


The program of study includes at least 42 hours of coursework, a comprehensive examination, a dissertation prospectus, and a dissertation. Required coursework includes four dedicated seminars attending to historical and contemporary issues in social studies education. You will also take at least four research methods courses, determined in consultation with your advisory committee. You are encouraged to take as many research methods courses as needed to accomplish your research.

Your remaining coursework, at least 18 credit hours, will help prepare you to think deeply about and conduct research on your specific interests within the field. These electives may be from within or outside the College, and might include courses in women’s studies, language and literacy, student learning and development, educational foundations, education policy, history, economics, political science, geography, anthropology, sociology, critical studies, and philosophy.

Additional information and disclosures regarding state licensure for professional practice in this field can be found at the UGA Licensure Disclosure Portal .


Working on my PhD in social studies education at UGA has given me more language and tools to understand and make meaning of my experiences as a high school social studies teacher. Furthermore, I have had the opportunity to think critically about the work of social studies and its relationship to democracy, environmentalism, and ethics, preparing me for a future inside and outside of academia. Throughout this process, I’ve felt supported and empowered by a fabulous faculty and wonderful peers.

Morgan Tate, current doctoral candidate

I can sum up my PhD experience with UGA’s social studies education program in two words: expanding and affirming. The coursework expanded my knowledge about contemporary social studies education and exposed me to social theory that expanded my understanding of the social world. My mentors in the program also affirmed my capacities and contributions throughout the process. They never let me forget that I could do hard things and that my ideas were important.

Amelia Wheeler (PhD '22), teacher at Joy Village School in Athens, Georgia

The PhD in social studies education program gave me a great education to help see and understand the classroom better. From coursework in theories and content, to opportunities to talk about research and collaborate with faculty and other students, the program provides tons of educative experiences and a great community to work with!

Jesus Tirado (PhD '19), assistant professor of social studies education at Auburn University

How to Apply

Part 1: Apply to the University of Georgia

The Graduate School handles admission for all graduate programs at the University of Georgia, including those in the College of Education. The Graduate School website contains important details about the application process, orientation, and many other useful links to guide you through the process of attending UGA at the graduate level.

Start a Graduate School Application

Part 2: Apply to the Degree Program

After filling out your application to the Graduate School, please submit the following directly to the graduate programs office:

  1. A personal statement telling the program faculty about:
    1. Why doctoral education is being pursued
    2. The questions and/or commitments about teaching, learning, and schooling pushing you to further your education
    3. What experiences, readings, theories, and/or research inform these questions and commitments
    4. Why the doctoral emphasis in social studies education at UGA is an appropriate place to pursue such questions (possibly including how your interests align with faculty in the program)
    5. Personal and professional goals for obtaining a PhD degree in social studies education
  2. A writing sample that demonstrates the applicant’s ability for scholarly writing and engagement with intellectual ideas
  3. A resume or curriculum vitae
  4. Please note that at least one of the three references you provide to the Graduate School should be a university faculty member who can attest to your academic potential, preferably from the master’s level

Deadline to Apply

Applications are accepted on a rolling basis.

However, applications received by January 1 (for Fall admissions) and October 1 (for Spring and Summer admissions) will receive full consideration for funding opportunities.

Log into Existing Application

Additional Resources

Please use our online form if you have any questions for the department. Please be as specific as possible so that we may quickly assist you.

Faculty and Advisors

The College’s programs are taught by dedicated faculty who are experts in a range of areas and are passionate about helping students succeed both in their programs and professionally.

Meet the Faculty

Most graduate students at UGA are not assigned to a faculty advisor until after admittance. A close working relationship with your advisor is paramount to progressing through your program of study.

Tuition and Financial Aid

Almost all in-state students begin their studies at UGA paying limited tuition or fees. Please note that these amounts are subject to change and are meant to give prospective students an idea of the costs associated with a degree at the University of Georgia College of Education.

Students may qualify for a variety of assistantships, scholarships, and other financial awards to help offset the cost of tuition, housing, and other expenses.

Tuition Rates   Browse Financial Aid

Student Life

Doctoral students have the opportunity to attend academic conferences and develop their capacity to produce research in local, national, and international contexts. Graduate students can also participate in a number of student organizations, including the Feminist Scholars-Activist and the Graduate Student Organization.

Most full-time students can apply for and receive a graduate assistantship.

See for yourself how much UGA College of Education has to offer! Schedule a tour of campus to learn more about the UGA student experience.

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