International Relations Major

What to Do With Your Degree

International relations majors can work in the United Nations
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About This Major

The international relations major involves the study of the global community. This area of study looks at world societies and the interactions between them. Many colleges and universities offer students an interdisciplinary approach which includes studying history, politics, economics, world languages, and geography. You can earn bachelor's, master's, or doctorate (Ph.D.) degrees in international relations.

Master's and Ph.D. programs are usually more specialized than bachelor's degree ones.

Like other liberal arts degrees, a degree in this discipline will not give you entry into a particular occupation. It will, instead, provide you with a broad knowledge base that you can use to excel in a variety of career fields.

Sample of Courses in Bachelor's, Master's and Doctoral Programs

The interdisciplinary approach many colleges and universities favor means the curriculum for international relations majors features a diversity of courses. Here are some of the classes you can expect to take at the three different degree levels:

Bachelor's-Level Coursework

  • Politics in the United States
  • International Economics
  • International Politics: Methods of Analysis
  • Politics of Third World Nations
  • Global Security
  • Culture in the Age of Globalization
  • Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development
  • World Geography
  • Comparative Politics
  • International Law
  • The Politics and Psychology of Persuasion and Prejudice
  • National Security Controversies
  • Causes of War
  • Money and Power in the International Political Economy
  • Global Justice
  • Sacred Objects: Religion, Violence, and History
  • Sex, Lies, and Capitalism
  • Diplomacy Lab
  • Middle Eastern Political Systems
  • Modern Korean History
  • History of Germany
  • Globalization and International Development

Master's Degree Courses

  • Peacemaking and Negotiation
  • Human Rights in World Politics
  • Non-Government Organizations
  • Managing Non-Profit Organizations
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Qualitative Data Analysis
  • International Relations: Theory and Practice
  • International Finance
  • American Foreign Policy Since World War II
  • Evolution of the International Systems
  • Good Governance

Doctoral Degree Courses

  • The Politics of Public Policy
  • Quantitative Analysis
  • Challenges and Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy
  • Schools of Thought in International Relations
  • Seminar in Advanced Research Design
  • Comparative and Regional Studies
  • International and Area Studies
  • Failed States
  • Electoral Systems
  • International and Foreign Law Research
  • Globalization and Health

Where Do International Relations Majors Work?

In addition to in-depth knowledge of world affairs, economics, culture, history, and language, you will develop several valuable soft skills during your studies. They include listening, speaking, critical thinking, problem solving, and writing skills. This strong foundation will qualify you to work both in the corporate and non-profit sectors. International relations majors go on to have careers in government, law, politics, business, education, media, and international affairs.

Possible Job Titles

Here are several job titles for which you may qualify after graduation: 

How High School Students Can Prepare for This Major

If you are a high school student who would like to be an international relations major in college, you should make sure to take classes in U.S. history, world history, government and politics, and geography. You should also study at least one world language.

What Else You Need to Know

  • Other names for this major are international studies and international affairs.
  • Admission requirements for master's degree programs vary, but candidates are typically required to have earned a bachelor's degree first. Your major isn't important, but you should have completed coursework in economics.
  • Doctoral programs, which are research-oriented, usually only admit candidates who have already earned a master's degree in international relations.
  • To become a more marketable job candidate after you graduate, consider studying abroad and becoming fluent in at least one language other than your native one. Internships are also invaluable.
  • If you want to earn a Ph.D., expect to spend at least five years studying full time in a doctoral program.
  • Ph.D. candidates must write and defend a dissertation, a technical work that proves a thesis. It could take a few years to complete.

Employment Information

  • : This site provides resources to help you learn about careers in the Foreign Service.
  • : Get the facts on becoming a Peace Corps volunteer and apply online.
  • : Find out about career opportunities with the State Department.

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