Fancy having a significant impact on the current U.S.-Iran nuclear negotiations, or formulating a strategy to defeat ISIS? How about working to fight the next global pandemic? Or having a job that requires extensive overseas travel to exotic destinations? If so, then you might be the perfect candidate to study International Relations (IR).
IR is a type of political science that studies the relationships between states and also between non-state actors, such as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and multinational corporations. Additionally, IR also focuses on the functioning of the international system – the forces, factors and interests, customs, rules, norms, institutions and organizations from which the theory and history of its development are formed.
Those studying international relations (IR) come from a range of backgrounds. While it is common to see many students who have previously studied subjects such as politics, history, or sociology, there are many more subject areas that people hail from, including mathematics, biology, etc.
While course subjects will vary depending on the school you choose, you will be able to pick from a diverse range of topics. These could include: intelligence collection, managing a non-profit organization, US Foreign Policy, China Economic Policy, international terrorism, and many more. Most schools also offer the option to specialize in a particular IR area, such as area studies, Global Non-profits, International Security, etc.
Once you have graduated with your IR degree, you will have a diverse skillset that will have prepared you for a range of exciting professions. In particular, you will have very strong research, writing, and analytical skills. Additionally, many IR programs include language instruction – so you will be ready to immediately jump on a plane and start your new life overseas. With an IR degree under your belt, you will be able to easily grasp global issues and deal with the complex problems you will experience everyday in your new profession.
What can I do with my international relations degree?
Having an IR degree gives you the educational background to enter a variety of different professions, in both the public and private sectors. Many government and business leaders have IR degrees, such as Henry Kissinger and Dan Hesse, CEO of Sprint Nextel.
Politics and government
Imagine being on the inside of the stories that you read everyday on the front page of the newspaper. Having an IR role in government can put you in a place to have a profound effect on the world.
Represent your country’s interests (economic, political, etc.) with respect to a range of international issues. In addition to becoming an elected politician, IR degree holders can become a member of their country’s Foreign Service or Diplomatic Core. There are also many other governmental departments with a focus on international issues and that are always in need of subject matter experts.
A subset of government work not mentioned above is that related to the intelligence community. While organizations like the CIA or MI6 spring to mind immediately, as do images of James Bond, there are a range of government and private organizations that need intelligent analysis of the potential risks and opportunities facing countries and businesses.
Work in this area can cover many issues, for example, disease eradication, fighting poverty and famine, building up local businesses, and much more. Many of those working in this field are part of non-governmental organizations (non-profits) such as Medecines sans Frontiers and Oxfam. However, many governments also run their own humanitarian organizations, and the United Nations is another key source of humanitarian aid.
Journalists are often the key resource for people to learn about and understand international issues. This often requires their being based overseas and developing local sources and knowledge. Journalists generally find themselves researching and analyzing some of the world’s most pressing issues and helping people understand why they are important. In order to excel as a journalist, you must have a thorough knowledge of international issues and strong writing and analysis skills.
Using your IR degree to work in international business could involve many different career paths. These may include such professions as marketing, banking, and investment analysis. Any of these professions would necessarily require a deep understanding of the country or region you are operating in and a strong ability to conduct research and analysis. Some of the specific areas you might work on could include import/export restrictions, trade regulations, and human resource policies.
The possibilities available to International Relations graduates are vast and are developing all the time in our increasingly internationally focused culture. It’s up to students to make the most of the opportunities available to them, and this all begins with a foundation of expert knowledge, gained from a high quality education.
Read on for information on some of the top institutions in the world that are offering excellent International Relations programs:
SCHOOL OF INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, FLINDERS UNIVERSITY – AUSTRALIA
Flinders University, located in Adelaide, Australia, is South Australia’s fasted growing university and enjoys a well-justified reputation for excellence in teaching and research. The School of International Studies offers excellent undergraduate, post-graduate and doctoral studies programs. Students gain an understanding of key political, social, economic and strategic relations within the global community and how these translate into policy areas such as trade, economic development, tourism, foreign affairs, education, migration and human rights. These core topics give students the knowledge, international awareness and communication skills to prepare them for successful careers in internationally focused organisations. Read the full profile.
GRADUATE INSTITUTE OF INTERNATIONAL AND DEVELOPMENTAL STUDIES – SWITZERLAND
The Graduate Institute of International and Developmental Studies is an academic paradise for students seeking careers in international affairs. Set in beautiful Geneva, Switzerland, the Graduate Institute goes beyond standard broad-sweeping course offerings. They conduct highly specific programs that allow degree candidates to delve deep into their interests and passions. The Institute has earned a worldwide reputation for preparing students for international careers. Selective and cosmopolitan, it is located in the heart of International Geneva and specialises in the study of the major global, international and transnational challenges facing the contemporary world.
SCHOOL OF ARTS AND SOCIAL SCIENCES, CITY UNIVERSITY LONDON – UK
City University London was founded in the late 19th century, and it continues to draw praise for its strong research-based programs. City University London’s School of Arts & Social Sciences provides a dynamic and academically rigorous environment for students undertaking undergraduate, postgraduate and research degrees. The Department of International Politics focuses on three core areas of research in international relations: International Political Economy, Foreign Policy and Diplomacy and International Social and Political Justice. The central London location gives students the ideal base for study of politics in an international setting and the department currently houses students from over 60 countries worldwide.
SCHOOL OF ADVANCED INTERNATIONAL STUDIES, JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY – GLOBAL
A division of The Johns Hopkins University, the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) is a global institution that offers students a truly international perspective on today’s critical issues. A presence on three continents sets SAIS apart and is one of their greatest strengths. The school was established in Washington, D.C., in 1943, opened its campus in Bologna, Italy, in 1955 and in 1986 initiated one of the ﬁrst Western university programs in the People’s Republic of China in Nanjing. SAIS’s mission is to provide an interdisciplinary professional education that prepares a diverse graduate student body for internationally related positions of responsibility; to foster research, scholarship and cross-cultural exchange; and to contribute knowledge, expertise and leadership to the global community.