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With improved technology and media, the world seems smaller than ever before. Now that industry works on a global scale, old-fashioned businesses no longer cut it; for this reason, companies are looking for qualified people to build their businesses internationally.

Graduate students in International Affairs seek to understand international policy, economics, and statistics, and are generally required to do an internship related to their individual career interests. Applicants are encouraged to have an understanding of macro- and microeconomics along with a background in the social sciences.

Students choose a concentration to narrow the focus of their studies. These concentrations may include policy analysis, finance, economics, trade, security, criminal justice, communications, health policy, and others. It’s important to look for schools offering skills training in international analysis and forecasting, negotiation, strategic planning and leadership.

Schools often expect that their students have a good knowledge of one or more foreign languages prior to graduation. They encourage students to get first-hand experience by participating in a wealth of international programs. Schools offer part-time study but taking advantage of the opportunities to go abroad as a full-time student is invaluable.

Degree Information

In most cases students will work towards a Master of Arts (M.A.) or a Master of International Affairs (M.I.A.) degree. Schools do offer joint degrees for those looking to combine International Affairs with Journalism or Law, for example. Degrees on the doctoral level are less common and are primarily research-based. Those pursuing doctorate degrees generally do so in areas such as Political Science, Cultural Studies, or Business.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • What concentrations are offered? Will you be required to specialize in a geographic area or subject area?
  • What opportunities exist for study abroad? For internships?
  • Does the program offer skills training in fields like negotiation, strategic planning, and leadership?
  • What is the foreign language requirement? What opportunities and options exist for language study?
  • How connected are the program, faculty, and students to the international community?

Career Overview

Since the field is extremely broad, there are many job options. Many jobs are governmental, but students also work for large corporations in the public and private sector. Career areas include the Foreign Service, international trade and business, economic development, global finance, conflict analysis and resolution, human security, and global governance. Public relations, immigration, and human resources are still other options.

Some graduates go on to work for the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, various foreign policy positions within the State Department, and the National Security Agency. Many others choose to work internationally, in places like the World Bank, the United Nations, or the International Monetary Fund. Competition for many of these positions is high.

Those students with a Ph.D. usually pursue university-level teaching positions and independent and collaborative research.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no specific licensing requirements for careers in International Affairs and Relations, however some governmental jobs, such as the Foreign Service require candidates to pass a rigorous series of exams and clearances.

Salary Information

International Affairs graduates pursue a wide variety of careers, and salaries depend heavily on the type of job, location, past work experience, and type of degree. Generally, students can expect to earn anywhere from $20,000-$40,000 to start.

Related Links

International Studies Association
The International Studies Association promotes international affairs research and education. They have "nongovernmental consultative status with the United Nations."

Council on Foreign Relations
The CFR's mission is to increase the United States' "understanding of the world and contributing ideas to U.S. foreign policy." In addition, it publishes the quarterly journal, Foreign Affairs.

American Foreign Service Association (AFSA)
The AFSA is the professional association for the United States Foreign Service, representing both active and retired Foreign Service employees.

U.S. Department of State Careers
This website outlines the Foreign Service Officer, Foreign Service Specialist, and Civil Service and Student Program career options at the U.S. Department of State.