Top 5 Social Innovation Programs in the United States

Top 5 Social Innovation Programs in the United States
Top 5 Social Innovation Programs in the United States

There is a hierarchical ranking structure found amongst academic scholars and higher education institutions globally. Program rankings play a critical role in measuring academic quality of a degree program and its governing university. Trying to locate the right program is one of the most important things a new student will ever have to do. When we examine the higher education playing field you can see the diversity of options available, but it is important to consider the cost of tuition, accreditation, faculty credentials, academic excellence, branding, and student and alumni resources and services. This level of research can be a complex and lengthily process.

While there have been considerable rankings done on MBA programs, other specialized degrees are often overlooked. Degree programs focusing on social impact, sustainability,

social entrepreneurship and social enterprise are emerging fields that continues to grow in different industries and professions. These mission-based specializations are often grouped under social innovation.

For the purpose of this ranking, we focused our attention on regionally accredited institutions that offer online or adult-centered graduate degree programs in social innovation. We also evaluated the cost of tuition, unique partnerships, academic excellence, course options (online and in-class/ blended), student and alumni support, career services and assessed faculty credentials and their professional profiles.


  • Faculty: percentage of faculty that earned a doctorate combined with published research, awards and industry experience that are teaching in the program.
  • Affordability: the estimated tuition per credit hour for graduate program.
  • Program Efficiency: providing online or hybrid option, and the time required to complete the program and receive the degree.
  • Curriculum: innovative curriculum designed to give students access to leading edge research, current case studies, multimedia tools, technical resources and unique learning systems.
  • Admission: inclusive admission standards with reasonable acceptance criteria.
  • Accreditation: university and programs are regionally accredited and recognized by DOE.

A bonus for prospective students is that undergraduate business degrees are not regularly required for admission into these respected programs. While it may help with admission into more competitive programs, many programs listed in this ranking simply require demonstrated work related experience and a passion to serving their community.

Here are our Top 5 Social Innovation Programs in the nation:

1. University of San Diego (Master of Arts in Social Innovation)

MASI teaches you to look at problems in fresh ways and transform ideas into successful projects with scalable impact. Whether it’s new financial services for women coffee growers and roasters in Colombia, or a food share app for a non-profit food recovery program in the U.S., you’ll have a unique opportunity to apply systemic responses to challenges so that peace and social justice are synonymous with prosperity.

University of San Diego

2. University of Southern California (Master of Science in Social Entrepreneurship)

Whether for-profit or non-profit, enterprises that balance social missions with financial missions can offer innovative antidotes to problems in education, healthcare, poverty, and health. Social entrepreneurs are designing and managing these impact organizations. From global microfinance to mission-based pharmaceutical companies to local workforce development programs, enterprises and programs across the globe ‘look, smell and taste’ like businesses, while holding social mission as the driving force.

University of Southern California

3. Claremont Lincoln University (Master of Arts in Social Impact)

The M.A. in Social Impact teaches you to envision and implement programs that generate positive and sustainable impact within your community—and beyond. If you are an emerging leader with an entrepreneurial spirit, the M.A. in Social Impact can help you develop the social justice, social entrepreneurship, and human rights perspectives you need to be the catalyst for new social endeavors in your community.

Claremont Lincoln University

4. American University (Master in Social Enterprise)

As global challenges become more complex, organizations are turning toward socially conscious business leaders who can manage the triple bottom line. Professionals who want to create sustainability in their organizations and drive greater business value can gain expertise through the online Social Enterprise Master’s program—which merges business training with a foundation of international service skills.

American University

5. George Mason University (Master of Arts in Social Entrepreneurship)

George Mason University

The social entrepreneurship concentration in MAIS provides the theoretical and practical toolkit to engage real-world issues in industry, non-profits, government, public policy and education. Underlying the social entrepreneurship program is a commitment to social justice and care for human dignity.  By the end of the program you will be equipped to analyze problems, develop strategies to solve them, and execute these solutions effectively.