Few schools offer bachelor's degree programs in international relations that can be completed totally online. However, master's and doctoral programs are more widely available A program in international relations covers many liberal arts subjects, including political science, economics, history and geography. Knowledge of a foreign language may be required at the graduate level of study. Doctoral programs may also require a residency.
Students at all levels can choose a geographic area in which to specialize. Some programs allow students to concentrate on a particular field, such as global security or diplomacy. Courses at the bachelor's level may include terrorism, peace studies and international relations. Master's degree students engage in research and may be required to produce a thesis in their area of specialization. Doctoral students also learn about research methods as they prepare a dissertation.
Bachelor's Degree in International Relations
While numerous on-campus opportunities to study international relations exist, fully online programs are rare. This truly interdisciplinary field borrows from other social sciences, including political science, anthropology and economics. Students learn diplomatic skills that can be used towards developing peaceful policies for business and foreign relations. Distance learners may elect to concentrate on a geographic region such as Africa, Asia, Europe, or Latin America. Other concentration options focus on conflict resolution, global security and political systems.
Program Information and Requirements
Distance learners can complete the degree requirements entirely online in four years. Online classes begin monthly and are asynchronous, so students can adapt their studies to fit their busy work and family schedules. Students must have an up-to-date computer with high-speed Internet access.
All students must fulfill general education requirements by taking humanities and natural science courses in addition to the social science classes for the major. Math courses hone the analytical skills that are needed for market analysis. An introductory course in online learning and a final seminar in international relations are necessary for degree completion. Elective courses explore policies of war and peace in a global context.
In this class, distance learners are introduced to the different political systems and how they develop and interact on the international stage. A study of global markets, colonization and wars gives students a historical perspective for understanding current foreign policy.
Terrorism is examined on a domestic and global scale in this course. Current events are discussed in a historical context, and the various motivations for terrorism, from religious to economic, are considered.
Students learn about theories of conflict resolution and diplomatic negotiation in a peace studies course. The role of the United Nations in maintaining peaceful relations during the Cold War is addressed.
Master's Degree in International Relations
A variety of online master's degree options exist for those interested in pursuing graduate study in international relations. Applicants must possess a bachelor's degree, preferably in a related subject, such as anthropology, economics, history, political science, psychology or sociology. At the graduate level, students may choose to specialize in global security, conflict resolution or diplomacy. Students polish their social science research skills and develop comprehensive knowledge of the history of foreign policy.
Program Information and Requirements
Students may complete a master's degree in 1-2 years. All classes are available online and students must pass a comprehensive exam to graduate. Most graduate programs require students to demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language relevant to the geographic region they are specializing in, enabling them to consult primary sources for research.
Core classes provide a theoretical foundation for studying political and market systems worldwide. Students concentrating in security study issues of national and international protection. Others focusing on conflict resolution learn about international law and diplomatic measures for ensuring peace.
The theories of the causes of war are examined in a historical context. Students review the cultural, environmental, gender and religious issues that give rise to violent conflict.
Distance learners study various methods of international negotiation. Students develop the skills and techniques for preventing conflict.
In this class, students analyze a variety of economic systems as they relate to the various political structures in which they develop. Current theories of international trade relations are examined.
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Doctoral Degree in Public Policy and Administration
For students interested in teaching at the university level or advancing their international relations careers, online Ph.D. programs are available. Applicants must have already completed a master's degree in a related subject and possess relevant experience.
Students have the option of writing a dissertation or completing a residency. Specializations include the management of nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and security as it relates to policies of terrorism, mediation and peace. Graduates demonstrate advanced knowledge of American public policy and are prepared for leadership roles.
Program Information and Requirements
A course-based doctoral program can be completed online in three years. Original dissertation research and writing may take longer, especially if students continue their professional careers. Web content, such as interactive discussions, may require a high-speed Internet connection.
Beginning coursework teaches students how to develop a plan of study and write a dissertation proposal. Students acquire both the quantitative and qualitative analytical skills imperative for research. Advanced classes are tailored to a student's professional objectives in nonprofit administration, international security or foreign policy.
Distance learners study methods of enhancing collaboration among international organizations with common goals. Strategic cooperation is introduced as an effective means of providing services, especially in times of war or natural disaster.
In this graduate-level course, students examine the ethical issues of foreign policy. An understanding of the social, economic and political dynamics of international relations guides decision makers.
Types of terrorism are considered including cyber attacks and biological warfare. Students discuss ways to prevent international incidents and how to build an emergency response network.
A bachelor's degree gives students a broad liberal arts education. International relations majors are prepared for entry-level jobs as research assistants and policy analysts in government and nonprofit aid organizations.
Graduates who have master's degrees in international relations are prepared for diplomatic positions in the Foreign Service, as well as administrative and research positions in international organizations such as the World Bank or Red Cross.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected a 2% decline in employment for political scientists between 2014 and 2024. In 2015, the BLS reported salary ranges between $47,210 and $162,500 for most political scientists, with an annual median salary of $99,730 (www.bls.gov).
Graduates with doctoral degrees in international relations may work as Foreign Service officers or as university professors. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the median annual salary for political science teachers at the postsecondary level was $76,370 as of May 2015.
Prospective policy analysts, political scientists, diplomats and professors interested in international relations may pursue a bachelor's, masters or Ph.D. in the field through online programs. With the exception of residency requirements at the Ph.D. level, these programs' coursework can be completed entirely via distance education.