Graduates of an international affairs master's degree program develop the skills to become leaders in world politics and diplomacy. These programs offer a foundation in economics, history and politics that prepares students to specialize in such international affairs areas as finance and economic analysis, foreign affairs specific to geographic regions, types of policy or international media.
Applicants need a bachelor's degree, GRE scores and a demonstrated interest in international affairs. In order to engage in global issues and conduct in-depth research, students are expected to gain proficiency in at least one foreign language. It's common for international affairs master's degree programs to culminate in a capstone seminar, which can take the form of a professional internship, a thesis or a project involving real clients and current world issues.
Most programs require two years of full-time study. In the first year, students gain a foundational knowledge of international policy and exchanges. In the second year, they take courses and perform research or gain practical experience in their particular area of interest.
Master's Degree in International Affairs
While most programs don't require applicants to have earned an undergraduate degree in a related field, they often prefer students with professional experience or academic experience in the social sciences. Some international affairs programs recommend that admitted students complete micro- and macroeconomics courses prior to enrollment.
A master's degree in international affairs begins with courses that provide an introduction to the theories, structure and politics that govern international exchanges and policy. The second year offers instruction in practical skills and focused studies of specific sectors within international affairs, such as urban development, security, finance, human rights, political science, history, diplomacy and specific countries or geographic regions. Courses may include:
- International relations theory
- Quantitative analysis
- Foreign language
- Global sustainability and environments
- Global finance
International affairs encompasses a large number of career fields; graduates of master's degree programs are often qualified for management positions. Graduates can work at corporate, non-profit, governmental and non-governmental organizations around the world. Job titles include:
- Economic and financial analyst
- Multinational business manager
- Non-profit director
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), earning a master's degree in a field like international affairs can lead to work as a political scientist. From 2014-2024, the number of employed political scientists was expected to decline by 2%. The median annual wage for these professionals was $99,730 as of May 2015. In addition, post-secondary international affairs and political science teachers made a median annual salary of $76,370, as of May 2015.
While some graduates may go on to pursue doctoral degrees within particular areas of international affairs, most are qualified for leadership positions in their field of study. Many international affairs master's degree programs are offered as joint programs, allowing student to simultaneously earn Juris Doctor, Master of Social Work, Master of Business, Master of Public Health or Master of Public Policy degrees.
Students with experience in the social sciences can pursue a master's degree in international affairs to increase their expertise and find their professional focus.