Social Studies Curriculum Plan of Study

Social Studies Curriculum for High Schools

Students talking in class
Cultura/Frank and Helena/Riser/Getty Images

High School social studies typically consist of three years of required credits along with additionally offered electives. Following is an overview of these required courses along with electives one might find at a typical high school.

Sample High School Social Studies Plan of Study

Year One: World History

The World History course is obviously a true survey course. Due to time constraints, students typically get just a taste of the various cultures and their history from around the world. The most powerful world history curriculum is one which builds connections between world cultures. World history follows a progression as follows:

  • Prehistory and Early Man
  • First civilizations (Mesopotamia, Egypt, India, China)
  • Greece and Rome
  • Medieval China and Japan
  • Medieval Era in Europe
  • Renaissance and Reformation in Europe
  • Modern Era

AP World History is the standard replacement for World History. This course is considered an introductory advanced placement social studies course.

Year Two: Electives

This plan of study assumes that only three full year credits are required in social studies for graduation. Therefore, this year is one in which students often take any desired social studies electives.This list is not meant to be exhaustive but instead representative of a typical high school.

  • Psychology or AP Psychology
  • Sociology
  • World Geography
  • AP Comparative Government

Year Three: American History

The American History course differs in many locations. Some have American History in high school cover the time period beginning with the American Civil War while others have it begin at the beginning. In this curriculum example, we begin with a brief review of exploration and discovery before jumping into the colonial era. One of the main purposes of the American History course is to highlight the root causes and interconnections of many events that arose throughout America's past. Connections are highlighted along with the dynamics of group interaction, the building of a national identity, the rise of social movements, and the growth of federal institutions.

AP American History is the standard replacement for American History. This course covers topics that range from discovery and exploration through the most recent presidential administrations.

Year Four: American Government and Economics

Each of these courses normally lasts for one-half of the year. Therefore, they are typically placed together although there is no reason that they have to follow each other or be completed in a particular order.

  • American Government: American Government provides students the basic understanding of the institutions and functions of government in America. Students learn about the foundations of American Government and then focus on the institutions themselves. Further, they learn about the ways that they can get involved and participate in government.​ Check out this American Government Course Outline.
  • AP American Government replaces American Government. This course typically covers the same topics as American Government but in greater depth. Emphasis is placed on interpretation, synthesis, and analysis of governmental policies and institutions.
  • Economics: In Economics students learn key economic concepts such as scarcity, supply and demand, and major economic theories. Students then focus on the way that the American government interacts with the American economy. The last portion of the course is spent on real-world applications of economic concepts. Students do not only learn basic consumer economics but also details about savings and investing.
  • AP Macroeconomics and/or AP Microeconomics replaces Economics. This advanced placement course focuses less on consumer economics and more on a typical undergraduate level of economic theory.
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Kelly, Melissa. "Social Studies Curriculum Plan of Study." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Kelly, Melissa. (2023, April 5). Social Studies Curriculum Plan of Study. Retrieved from Kelly, Melissa. "Social Studies Curriculum Plan of Study." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 2, 2023).