PhD in International Affairs: Program Information and Requirements

A Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree program in international affairs combines elements of political science, economics, sociology, and the hard sciences. These programs expose students to the process of policy formulation, social science theories and real-world problem solving.

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Essential Information

PhD programs in international affairs (or international relations) offer advanced study of global issues such as development, resource use and depletion, conflict resolution, and trade. Career possibilities with this degree include jobs in academia as teachers and researchers or positions as policy analysts and social scientists in business, government, and non-governmental organizations.

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PhD in International Affairs

Students who wish to earn a PhD in International Affairs will need to demonstrate academic acumen, since most programs admit only a small number each year and are very selective. All programs will require applicants to have earned a B.A. or B.S. degree from an accredited college or university. Some will also require an M.A. or M.S. degree, though at either degree level there is flexibility in the discipline or subject area. GRE scores are commonly required as well.

PhD candidates will have up to five years to complete a program, in most cases. The balance of the first year is taken up with graduate-level classes, with the remaining years devoted to seminars and research for a dissertation. All doctoral candidates must present an oral defense of their dissertation at a public examination. Students are required to demonstrate fluency in a foreign language, usually one from the geographic region in which they will specialize. Comprehensive exams might be required too. Typical coursework includes disease prevention and public health, development and microfinance, and:

  • Economic analysis
  • Policy analysis, evaluation and planning
  • Energy policy, public policy and science
  • Environmental policy and natural resource management
  • Nuclear disarmament
  • Market regulation & globalization

Employment Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected that job growth for political scientists would decrease 2%, while the overall job growth for professors would increase 13% from 2014 to 2024. According to the BLS in May 2015, political scientists earned a median annual salary of $99,730, while political science professors earned a median annual salary of $72,470.

Those interested in a career as either a political scientist or a political science professor will need to attain a political science Ph.D. In these doctoral programs, students will pursue intensive studies and research in specific areas of political science, culminating with a final dissertation in that topic.

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