Master of Social Science

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Master of Social Science

JCU Social Sciences is a leader in empirical learning with a focus on contemporary social economic and environmental issues in tropical societies. JCU students learn about the critical processes of transformation that will shape communities’ and environments’ future wellbeing.

Townsville, External, Cairns
Start dates
1.5 years full-time
Part time available
Study mode
Off campus, On campus
AQF level 7 bachelor degree in social sciences with GPA 5.0 within 5 years; AQF level 8 qualification within 5 years

Career opportunities

A JCU Master of Social Science equips students with the knowledge, skills and strategies that provide the key proficiencies for a broad range of occupations. Postgraduate students have the advanced capability to identify complex problems and pose creative solutions to social and environmental challenges facing societies around the world.

The skills gained from a JCU Master of Social Science are sought by organisations such as government agencies, the education sector, industry and commerce, and indigenous organisations.

Job opportunities include:

  • Public health services policy analysis and development
  • Research roles that involve analysis and critical evaluation of social systems, institutions, structures and practices
  • Advocacy for diverse social sciences-related programs

Course overview

During this 1.5 year full-time (or part-time equivalent) master’s course, JCU postgraduate social science students study a combination of core subjects and specialist electives, deepening their knowledge in their selected major. All major streams include a research thesis.

The Master of Social Science focusses on equipping students with the knowledge and practical skills to work towards solving complex contemporary issues of social policy, governance, cultural heritage, and resource management. JCU students benefit from a unique learning environment, dedicated to the advancement of Asia-Pacific and Tropical societies.

View the handbook for a detailed overview of available subjects


The JCU Master of Social Science offers three major streams.

Asia-Pacific Governance and Development

Gain knowledge and practical skills while learning about issues that are highly relevant to today's social, governance and policy-development challenges. As part of this major, students design and execute a substantial social science research-based project on a topic negotiated with their supervisor.

This major provides students with advanced knowledge of social theory, practice and professional ethics. JCU postgraduates are ready and equipped to make a difference in communities around the world.

Environment and Heritage

Students develop highly sought after knowledge and skills associated with natural and cultural heritage and resource management. This major stream is undertaken by coursework and builds on undergraduate learning by developing an in-depth understanding of cultural heritage management, environmental impact assessment, and regional environmental history.

Students undertake a research project completing a thesis on a topic as negotiated by their supervisor.

Indigenous Studies

Benefiting from  expert lecturers, JCU students develop highly sought-after skills and knowledge about Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander perspectives and cultural considerations. As part of this major, students undertake a research thesis on a topic negotiated with their supervisor.

JCU provides a unique and vibrant hub in which to respectfully explore cultural, linguistic, economic, social and religious diversity among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander population.

How to apply

Complete an online application through our Online Application Portal.


Master of Social Science

Handbook year


Course code


Course type

Masters Degree (AQF Level 9)


Division of Tropical Environments and Societies

Award Requirements

Admission Requirements

Course pre-requisites

Completion of an AQF level 7 bachelor degree in a social science discipline, with an overall grade point average of 5.0 (i.e. credit average), within the previous five years; or

Completion of an AQF level 8 qualification in any discipline, within the previous five years; or

Other qualifications recognised by the Dean, College of Arts, Society and Education as equivalent to the above.

Minimum English language proficiency requirements

Applicants of non-English speaking backgrounds must meet the English language proficiency requirements of Band 1 Schedule II of the JCU Admissions Policy.

Special admission requirements

Offers will be made for a specified major based on the applicant’s academic and professional experience. Admitted students wishing to transfer to another major must seek approval from the relevant Major Coordinator.

Academic Requirements for Course Completion

Credit points

36 credit points as per course structure

Course learning outcomes

On successful completion of the Master of Social Science, graduates will be able to:

  • Demonstrate and reflect critically on advanced and integrated knowledge of social theory, practice and professional ethics in a single discipline or interdisciplinary field of the social sciences

  • Demonstrate knowledge of research principles and methods in a single discipline or interdisciplinary fields of the social sciences

  • Analyse critically and evaluate social systems, institutions, structures and/or practices

  • Generate, analyse, synthesise and evaluate complex perspectives, arguments and sources of qualitative and/or quantitative data pertinent to complex social, political, historical, economic, environmental and/or cultural issues, particularly those related to quality of life in the tropics worldwide

  • Interpret and justify to a specialist and non-specialist audience theoretical propositions, methodologies, conclusions and professional decisions through advanced literacy and, where appropriate, numeracy skills

  • Design and execute a substantial social science research-based project with a high level of autonomy and accountability

  • Apply social theory to research, demonstrating advanced understanding of the relationship between theory and practice, including recent developments, in a single discipline or interdisciplinary fields of the social sciences

  • Respectfully and responsibly apply expert knowledge of diversity and difference among people, especially vulnerable and Indigenous peoples, in scholarship and/or professional practice

  • Adapt and apply knowledge and skills to identify complex problems and pose creative solutions to social and/or environmental challenges facing peoples and societies in diverse tropical contexts worldwide.

Course Structure


SS5103:06 Post-Graduate Research Methods for the Social Sciences

SS5012:12 Social Science Coursework Masters Thesis


Select a major from the Table A


Type of major



Credit points in major

18 credit points


Majors may be available for mid-year entry.  Approval will need to be sought from the course coordinator.




Asia-Pacific Governance and Development




Environment and Heritage




Indigenous Studies




Major includes external components - not available to International students requiring a Student Visa









Not all majors are available externally


Expected time to complete

18 months full-time or equivalent part-time

Maximum time to complete

5 years

Maximum leave of absence

1 year


Course progression requisites


Course includes mandatory professional placement(s)


Special assessment requirements


Professional accreditation requirements


Maximum allowed Pass Conceded (PC) grade


Supplementary exam for final subject

A student who has failed the final subject towards the award and who gained 40% or more of the marks for that subject may be granted a supplementary examination in that subject. However if that subject is required for accreditation, then the criteria specified by that accreditation will apply.

Advanced Standing


Students may apply for advanced standing for previous tertiary study in accordance with the Credit and Articulation policy associated procedures

Maximum allowed

18 credit points

Up to 12 credit points of advanced standing will be granted for an AQF Level 8 Bachelor Honours Degree or Graduate Diploma in a cognate* discipline for SS5103:06 and up to 6 credit points for optional subjects from the major

* Anthropology, Archaeology, Criminology, Economics, Environmental Studies, Geography, History, Human Services, Indigenous Studies, Political science, Sociology.


Advanced standing will be granted only for studies completed in the 5 years prior to the commencement of this course


Advanced standing gained for any subject shall be cancelled 10 years after the date of the examination upon which the advanced standing is based if, by then, the student has not completed this course

Other restrictions

Not applicable

Award Details

Award title


Approved abbreviation


Inclusion of majors on testamur

The major studied shall appear on the testamur

Exit with lesser award

Students who exit the course prior to completion, and have completed the relevant number of credit points of appropriate subjects, may be eligible for the award of Graduate Diploma of Social Science

Course articulation

Not applicable

This website is intended as general guide. Prospective students should contact the university to confirm admission requirements and the availability of courses. James Cook University reserves the right to alter any course or admission requirement without prior notice.