Career Information for a Degree in Area Studies

Oct 02, 2019

Area studies degrees are designed for those interested in studying foreign cultures. Continue reading for an overview of the programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

A degree in area studies is an asset for those interested in working with people from different cultures or being employed overseas, because area studies allows students to focus on learning about different cultures. Some career options for individuals with a degree in area studies include being a lawyer, a postsecondary teacher, or an administrative services manager. Administrative service managers are required to have a bachelor's degree, lawyers need to graduate law school with a law degree, and postsecondary teachers need to have a doctoral degree in their field.

Essential Information

Area studies is an interdisciplinary type of degree, and it gives students knowledge on cultural regions around the world. Some areas students can learn about include Central America, Africa and the Middle East. In order to thrive in this career field, students must have advanced foreign language skills. There are great travel opportunities in this career, and students can take classes in sociology, political science and economics. There are a lot of professional programs and graduate degrees, which are geared towards students looking to expand their knowledge in hopes of getting a higher paying entry-level job.

Career Administration Services Manager Postsecondary Teacher Lawyer
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Doctoral degree Doctoral or professional degree
Other Requirements Certifications available Licensure and certification sometimes required Licensure required
Job Growth (2018-2028)* 7% 11% 6%
Mean Annual Salary (2018)* $106,050 $76,990 $144,230

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Area studies degrees are great for those looking to expand their knowledge on different cultures around the world. Below are descriptions and overviews of three potential career options for area studies graduates.

Foreign Service Officer

Training in area studies can prepare students to apply for positions with the federal government, including positions with the U.S. Department of State. Working for the federal government is generally considered quite stable, and competition for these positions is high. All applicants for Foreign Service Officer positions are required to take the Foreign Service Exam. Foreign language proficiency increases a candidate's chances of being selected.

The BLS doesn't have any information on foreign service officer salaries directly, but for a related job title, it states that administration service managers earned a mean annual salary of $106,050 as of May 2018. It states that the employment opportunities for this career are expected to grow faster than average by 7% between 2018 and 2028.

Area Studies Postsecondary Teacher

Postsecondary teachers of area studies generally specialize in one particular area or culture, such as Asian studies or African studies, but may have broad knowledge of other areas as well. Area studies teachers use a range of methods to help impart knowledge of different cultures and develop critical thinking skills. For university teaching, a Ph.D. is usually required, while community colleges generally require master's degrees.

According to the BLS, the number of available postsecondary teaching positions was expected to grow 11%, much faster than the average for all occupations, during the 2018 to 2028 period. College-level teachers including area studies professors (categorized as 'postsecondary teachers, all other') earned a mean annual salary of $76,990 as of May 2018.

International Lawyer

Although international law has traditionally governed relationships between sovereign countries, in recent times this has begun to change. Individuals and organizations find themselves facing international law and regulations. Area studies degree holders who become lawyers may find a range of roles within industry and government. A law career in the U.S. generally requires a bachelor's degree, three years of law school and passing the bar exam, which is a test for state licensing. International law is an area of specialization that might be especially suited for area studies specialists.

The BLS cites the mean annual salary of lawyers at $144,230 as of May 2018. Although job growth will be in line with the rest of the economy, because of the high number of law school graduates, competition for these positions will be intense. The BLS projected job growth of 6%, about as fast as the average for all occupations, from 2018 to 2028.

A career in area studies can offer professionals the opportunity to travel as part of their work. In addition to their degree, professionals in area studies often need to speak a foreign language. Professionals who may begin their career with a degree in area studies include lawyers, postsecondary teachers, and administrative services managers.

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