Online PhD in International Relations: Program Overview

Dec 04, 2019

Essential Information

Online Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in fields of study related to international relations are rare but available. Graduates of doctoral programs often aspire to research and postsecondary teaching positions.

In general, graduates of a doctoral program in international relations have developed advanced skills in analysis, research and writing about all aspects of foreign relations, including economic, political, cultural and social development. Some programs may have in-person requirements such as a coursework, workshops or the dissertation defense. Prerequisites for this program typically include a master's degree in social sciences or business administration with a high GPA, respectable GRE or GMAT scores and a number of letters of recommendation.

PhD in International Relations

Although it depends on the number of courses taken per semester, students are usually able to complete doctoral programs within 4-5 years, although some may take as little as three years. Although the majority of courses are delivered online in both asynchronous and synchronous sessions, this hybrid program may also entail a number of in-person components. Students may be required to attend classes, seminars or workshops, as well as face-to-face meetings with professors. Upon completion of all degree requirements and a written dissertation, students are required to participate in a live presentation and defense of the paper.

Program Information and Requirements

Technical requirements include access to a computer with an Internet connection, a Web browser and CD-ROM. Depending on the practices of the program, a microphone, headset and Web cam may be required.

Common Coursework

Students are usually required to complete a certain number of core courses that supply them with a foundation in the field and introduce them to techniques and methodologies of research and analysis. Once the core requirements are fulfilled, students choose an area of concentration from specializations such as political development, social development, security or cultural development.

International Development Theory

Focusing on various disciplines in the field, this course deals with the nature of modern research techniques, their history and development.


This course is primarily intended to teach students the use of new technologies in the performance of their own research. Topics covered usually include remote sensing and geographic information systems.


This course provides students with a foundation in the terminology and concepts commonly associated with international economics.

Oil Market

This is a survey course that examines the nature of world oil markets. Emphasis is placed on the effect of energy economics politics on various aspects of national identity, such as culture, poverty, conflict and status.

Comparative Cultures

Various cultural theories and their application to international development are examined. Topics include religion, languages, the role of the family unit and gender issues.

Career Information

Graduates holding a Ph.D. in International Relations often become college professors. These positions allow them to teach while conducting research projects. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), opportunities for all postsecondary educators are expected to increase by 11%, which is much faster than average for all occupations, from 2018-2028 ( reported that as of November 2019, the median annual salary for assistant professors was $67,223, while associate professors earned a median annual salary of $76,500. The BLS reports that the median salary among postsecondary teachers was $78,470 as of 2018.

On the other hand, the BLS projects a 5% increase in positions for political scientists from 2018-2028. As of May 2018, the median annual salary for political scientists was $117,570.

Continuing Education Information

While not a requirement, membership in organizations such as the Foreign Policy Association offers political scientists opportunities to attend events such as lectures, symposiums and forums. Members can also access research sources and specialized publications that provide information and serve to increase their breadth of knowledge of the field.

Although rare, online PhD programs in international relations are available and provide advanced coursework in international development theory, comparative cultures and research analysis. These programs prepare graduates for postsecondary teaching positions or positions in public policy.

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