International Relations Major
International relations is the study of the global community, with diplomacy and foreign policy the prized players. International relations is all about international cooperation; employed within the government, at nonprofits, private enterprises, and businesses, graduates from this area of study influence everything from foreign investment to national security. This major is available at the baccalaureate, master, and doctoral levels, and is sometimes called “international studies” or “international affairs.”
Earning a bachelor’s degree in International Relations typically takes four years. The curriculum will focus on political science, geography, economics, and history, while some institutions also offer concentration options, such as globalization, environmental politics, conflict resolution and mediation, or comparative cultures. Some programs require a study abroad experience be completed to qualify for graduation.
Minoring in a foreign language isn’t required, but becoming competent in a second language is required for certain positions in international relations, such as becoming a Foreign Service Officer.
Career paths for graduates with a baccalaureate in international relations include: Diplomat, Intelligence Specialist, Political Analyst, Lobbyist, Communications Specialist. The average salary is $59,000.
A Master’s in International Affairs, or MIA, is more than a degree with an amusing abbreviation. Programs typically take between 1 and 2 years and delve more deeply into a specific area of international affairs, such as NGO Management or Counter-Terrorism. Research and fieldwork are critical experiences that most organizations require of their international affairs graduates, and master’s programs are well-known for focusing in both. Earning an MIA can open up higher level positions and opportunities, but it’s not always required for positions in this area of study.
There are some highly specialized programs available for IR students who know exactly what area they want to be in. Technically, these degrees are Master’s in Science (MSc), but their focus is international relations, just without directly stating it. Options including an MSc in Terrorism and Political Science; an MSc in Migration, Ethnic Relations, and Multiculturalism; and an MSc in Cultural Policy, plus many more, are available.
As with most PhDs, doctoral degrees are typically reserved for life in academia. There’s some debate over whether a PhD in International Relations offers a leg up in governmental and research positions, but the jury’s out. Programs typically take between four and seven years to complete and the entire area of study, program acceptance to job market, is incredibly competitive.