We live in an ever shrinking world where cross-border and even internal interactions of countries have always been complicated and often frustrating. As we become more interconnected through our jobs, our governments, and even our personal lives, the demand for people who understand the ways of the world are higher than ever.
At one time, it was enough for people to pursue one or two regional areas of interest with one area of specialization, like security policy. As you can imagine, the expectations have changed and students pursuing advanced degrees in international relations are expected to have a broader understanding of all of the regions of the world, pursue more interdisciplinary courses that connect international relations to a specific area of focus (ex. public health), and generally know more about the world than ever before. As a student in this field, you are expected to think carefully, handle problems in both micro and macro terms, be able to process information that may seem to be unrelated and find the ties that connect them. More importantly, you will need to learn the history and politics of various regions throughout the world, and become familiar with the cultures and social norms of the people from those areas. This area of study may be one of the more challenging ones in terms of the sheer amount of knowledge you are expected to have, but it can open doors for you in all of the sectors (private, public, nonprofit, academic) in nearly every country in the world.
You can expect your classes to be as diverse as the populations you will eventually serve, ranging from politics to culture to language and practically everything in between. Depending on the program you choose, the focus of your studies could include but are not limited to classes in security policy, comparative politics, political development, social welfare, regional issues, comparative foreign policy, international trade regulation, and broad topic classes focusing on issues in international relations. Certainly this is just a small sample of the courses you are likely to encounter over the course of your graduate education in international relations. Other classes could include techniques of international negotiations, translation and conflict resolution, among a wide array of others. The ultimate goal of pursuing a degree in international relations is to work to improve your understanding of the world and apply what you learn in your career.
For more information about programs in international studies, visit the International Studies Association website.
Whether you would like to work at home or abroad, international relations, inherent in the name, is all about working with international issues. There are few limits to what and where you could go with an advanced degree in international relations.
Job Opportunities In the Field
The range of jobs open to you after pursuing an advanced degree in international relations can range from private to public sector work, journalism to public health, education to corporate social responsibility and so many more. It is the case that people with a strong understanding of not only how the world works on the large scale, but also of how individual nations and populations go about making their decisions and implementing their policies will be the ones who succeed.
If you are interested in politics, you could certainly pursue running for office or working as an advisor to those in office. You can also find work with federal agencies analyzing information of an international nature or negotiating treaties and deals with other countries. In fact, a number of those agencies and departments are looking to increase the number of people working for them.
In the private sector, you will likely find work with multinational corporations, as your expertise will be of incalculable use to them in their quest to get into new markets and maximize their capitalization off the ones in which they're already working. Then there is journalism: With the things happening around the clock, news organizations are always looking for people who can help set up interviews with international figures, analyze the goings on of the day and report it in such a way that it is understandable to the general public. Considering the wide range of job opportunities in the field, you have a myriad of career opportunities that could end up working in politics or running an extraction project in the oil industry. But because there are so many other considerations to going into this field-intellectual challenge, professional satisfaction and excitement, among many others-you should give the direction in which you wish to go a great deal of thought.