Social Justice Education

Social justice education prepares teachers, leaders, and scholars to foster educational environments that are socially just, diverse, inclusive, and equitable.


We welcome educational professionals of every stripe—teachers, counselors, psychologists, administrators, student affairs programmers, residence life educators—who work throughout the educational system—kindergarten through college, after-school and youth development programs, and community-based organizations. The program is ideal for students with broad career and life experience who want to acquire the tools and knowledge they need to effect change in the educational environments and systems in which they work.

The social justice education curriculum seamlessly bridges theory and practice, drawing on a variety of fields and areas of study beyond education, including critical theory, social movement history and theory, community organizing, human relations, clinical social psychology, and trauma theory. Students engage deeply with research, methodology, and theory, interrogating and contributing to the current thinking on social justice issues and social justice education practices. They explore the way that social processes like exploitation, marginalization, powerlessness, cultural imperialism, and violence lead to inequities in education. They learn about the resources that individuals, families, social groups, and communities bring to personal and social change and to the transformation of educational institutions and practices. Our program also takes a clinical approach, with extensive hand-on experience where students learn to employ effective social justice education practices in classrooms and other educational settings.

Graduates of the program find professional positions in a variety of education-related fields. They are often employed in local, state, and national advocacy or education programs, as well as in nonprofit organizations that focus on issues of diversity and social justice. Those who have previous certification as K-12 teachers, counselors, or administrators often return to these or other positions in K-12 education after completing their graduate work. Those without previous certification who are interested in careers in K-12 education, can take the required certification courses while working on their degree. Our graduates also work in higher education, as faculty and researchers, and in positions in student affairs, residential life, disability services, LGBT resource centers, diversity and multicultural affairs offices, and women’s centers.


The social justice education doctoral program prepares educators, counselors, and school leaders to study, interrogate, and further theorize conceptual, empirical, and applied knowledge in social justice education. Our students are applied scholars, integrating research with practice. They generate knowledge about social justice educational theory and practice and apply this to the design, delivery, and evaluation of effective social justice educational practices in a variety of educational settings. Applicants should have a master’s degree related to social justice education and professional experience in related areas of teaching, counseling, youth development, civic engagement, social work, teacher education, education administration, student affairs, special education, and college residential programs.

Our social justice education master’s students become social justice educators who are skilled in the use of critically reflective practices and who can demonstrate competency in the knowledge, awareness, and skills needed to plan, implement, and evaluate effective social justice education programs in formal and non-formal education settings. Students enter the program with some applied social justice experience, as classroom teachers or residence assistants, and in peer education programs, mediation teams, or community outreach programs.

The social justice education certificate program is for graduate students in other UMass Amherst programs who want to develop foundational knowledge and curricular and facilitative skills in social justice education. Students complete five courses (15 credits) and a teaching practicum. The program offers two tracks. One is designed for graduate students teaching undergraduate diversity or social justice courses on the UMass Amherst campus. The second is designed for graduate students preparing for social justice teaching in schools or related venues (such as after-school programs).

Our online graduate certificate includes four courses and a practicum (15 credits) that focus on Teaching for Diversity. The purpose of the certificate is to provide educators and student services professionals with foundational and applied knowledge and skills in Social Justice Education. Students will learn to develop, facilitate, teach, and assess social justice education curricula in their professional contexts. 

Note about Licensure

Students in the social justice education program do not necessarily complete courses and practica that lead to eligibility for professional certification or licensure. Those who want to pursue such certification or licensure will need to take additional coursework beyond the degree requirements.