International Relations Education Program Overviews

Oct 16, 2019

Essential Information

Many disciplines come together in the field of international relations, such as history, government, economics and law. At the bachelor's degree level, students get a solid understanding of these disciplines and explore how nations are related. Students perfect their skills in another language and may have the option to study abroad.

Admission to programs at the graduate level requires a bachelor's degree, volunteer work, and fluency in more than one language. Some programs may even require a Law School Admission Test. At this level, students will typically specialize in fields such as foreign affairs, regional or operative studies, and economics, with master's degree programs training students for careers in these areas. Some master's programs in international relations are combined with law degree programs. Studies at the doctoral level prepare students for careers in academia and research. As such, these programs require completion of a dissertation.

Courses may be available online for programs at the bachelor's and master's level.

Bachelor's Degree in International Relations

In a bachelor's degree program in international relations, the focus of study is on economical, historical and governmental relationships between nations. Studies analyze the function of governmental agencies, humanitarian organizations and global corporations and their effect on foreign relations. Most programs in international relations have a number of core classes which provide an in-depth understanding of the factors affecting international relationships and systems. Some possible course topics include:

  • Sustainable environmental management
  • Foreign policy and domestic security
  • Global business policies
  • International economics
  • Regional cultures and governments

Master's Degree in International Relations

A master's degree program in international relations prepares a student to become an international affairs professional. Many programs require a student to choose an area of interest, such as foreign policy or economics. It is also common for a student to select a specific geographical region on which to focus his or her studies. In addition to coursework, some schools offer internships domestically and abroad. The following are a few graduate-level topics that may be studied:

  • Developing nations
  • American foreign policy
  • Terrorism
  • Diplomacy and trade
  • International law

Doctor of Philosophy in International Relations and Political Science

Doctoral degree programs in political science and international relations prepare students to become a professional scholar. Students may be eligible to participate in teaching assistantships and can receive financial support for foreign studies. Programs typically take five years to complete. The coursework at the doctoral level is also primarily grounded in research. Core doctoral studies may include:

  • International organizations
  • Modern languages
  • Evolving economies
  • Comparative regional analysis
  • Quantitative techniques

Popular Careers

Many career options exist for international affairs professionals with a master's degree. An interdisciplinary graduate degree in foreign relations offers a well-rounded education for those interested in global business, international aid organizations, government agencies and diplomatic positions. Some possible career options include:

  • Foreign political representative
  • Peace worker
  • Intelligence analyst
  • Foreign policy analyst
  • Economist

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

International relations is a field of study, not a profession unto itself. There are, however, many jobs available for a bachelor's degree graduate with knowledge in the field, such as business account or marketing management, program coordinator for an international non-profit organization or a governmental intelligence analyst.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), intelligence analysts (which were categorized as detectives and criminal investigators) could expect little to no change in job growth from 2018 to 2028. These professionals took in median pay of $81,920 per year as of May 2018. Employment growth for marketing managers was predicted to be faster than average from 2018 to 2028, and workers made a median annual wage of $134,290 as of 2018.

Though graduates of a doctoral degree program may excel in a number of private and public international fields and achievements, programs are typically designed to prepare students for work in academia. The BLS anticipated an 11% increase in demand for university and college teachers between 2018 and 2028 ( The BLS reported that the median income for professors of political science and international studies programs was $83,370 in 2018, with the highest earners making over $177,360 per year.

Continuing Education

While a bachelor's degree is often sufficient for entry-level positions in international relations fields, graduate study may help to advance a career into management or earn higher political offices. Master's and doctoral degree programs in international relations offer comprehensive instruction in specific areas of global affairs, business and politics. A graduate degree is typically required for those interested in a career in academia.

Studies in international affairs typically offer the opportunity to study abroad and learn additional languages in preparation for careers in various fields. Degrees can be earned at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate level.

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