International Relations Degree

An international relations degree is a multidisciplinary academic qualification which focuses on diplomacy and foreign policy. This field forms a part of the larger field of political science and explores a wide range of different disciplines, including economics and anthropology.
A degree in international relations may be pursued at the undergraduate, graduate, and doctoral levels.

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  • Bachelor of Science in Project Management
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What are International Relations?

International relations is an interdisciplinary subfield of political science. The principal focus of this discipline is to study the relationship(s) between sovereign states and non-state actors. These relationships are very important in light of the fact that the international system is composed of states which do not recognize any superior authority over a wide range of matters which are vitally important for everyone.

Supplementary Section

Did you know?

  • President Barack Obama went to Columbia University in New York City where he completed his BA in political science with a specialization in international relations.
  • The current Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, received a bachelor's degree in international relations from Seoul National University in 1970.

International Relations Degree Types

Since international relations are highly interdisciplinary, students can expect to cover a wide range of subjects like political science, economics, history and geography. At the graduate level of study, knowledge of a foreign language may be required. Some programs offer students the chance to choose a specific geographic area in which to specialize or the option to concentrate on a particular aspect of international relations such as global security or diplomacy.
Online degree programs are available in the field, though mostly at the graduate and doctoral levels. Many programs also employ a hybrid approach to study, incorporating elements of online and on-campus instruction.

Associate Degree in International Relations

Most jobs in the field of international relations require candidates to have at least a bachelor's or even advanced degrees in order to qualify. An associate degree in international relations can provide students with the basic understanding of the elements of international relations.
These programs typically take two years to complete.
Entry Requirements
Although entry requirements are likely to vary by program, generally, they are as follows:

  • High school diploma or its equivalent
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by individual programs
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of entry

Curriculum
The curriculum of associate degree programs in international relations cover both general education courses as well as specialized courses dealing with international relations.
Classes may include:

  • Political science
  • Economics
  • World geography
  • Global affairs
  • Social science statistics
  • World civilizations

Bachelor’s Degree in International Relations

Bachelor’s degree programs in international relations focus on giving students a sound foundation in the complex dynamics of international relations. This involves looking at international relations through a number of different social science lenses including political science, anthropology and economics.
Students may have the option of concentrating on a specific geographic region such as Africa, Asia, Europe, or Latin America, as well as choosing a concentration area for their degree such as conflict resolution, global security or political systems.
This degree typically takes four years to complete.
Entry Requirements
Entry requirements may vary by program. However, the general requirements which must be satisfied by applicants typically are:

  • A high school diploma or its equivalent
  • Specific GPA requirements are determined by individual programs
  • SAT/ACT scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose

Curriculum
Students must complete all general education requirements by taking humanities and natural science courses, in addition to the international relations classes for the major.
Some of the courses which may be offered in bachelor’s degree programs in this discipline include:

  • Concepts of International Society
  • Introduction to Political Theory
  • Public International Law
  • Politics of International Economic Relations

International Relations Graduate Programs

Graduate degree programs in international relations offer students the chance to gain advanced knowledge in the field. The courses offered in these programs will give students multiple perspectives on the many issues which are part and parcel of international relations. Students also have the chance to specialize in a specific geographic region or choose a concentration area for their major.
Graduate students specializing in a specific region must demonstrate proficiency in a foreign language relevant to that region in order to be able to consult primary sources for research.
These programs typically take 1-2 years to complete.
Entry Requirements
Although entry requirements are likely to vary by program, generally, they are as follows:

  • A bachelor’s degree in international relations or a related field such as anthropology, economics, history, political science, psychology or sociology
  • Minimum GPA requirements are determined by individual programs
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose

Curriculum
These programs are research intensive and require students to develop a comprehensive knowledge of the history of foreign policy.
Some of the courses offered may include:

  • Global Governance
  • International Studies: History, Theory, and Practice
  • International Development
  • International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  • Intercultural Communication
  • Global Security

Ph.D. in International Relations

Ph.D. programs in international relations are geared towards those students who are interested in teaching at the university level or advancing their international relations careers.
Entry Requirements
Although entry requirements are likely to vary by program, generally, they are as follows:

  • A master’s degree in international relations or a related field
  • Relevant professional experience
  • Minimum GPA scores are determined by individual programs
  • GRE scores
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Statement of purpose

Curriculum
The curriculum of these programs is multi-disciplinary and policy-relevant in order to prepare students for advanced positions in the field. Much of the emphasis is put on research and students are required to complete a thesis on an original piece of research as part of the program. Many programs also encourage students to present conference papers, engage in collaborative work with faculty members, and submit articles to journals.
Some of the courses offered may include:

  • Schools of Thought in International Relations
  • Comparative and Regional Studies
  • Quantitative Methods in International Relations
  • Qualitative Methods in International Relations

Job Prospects and Salary

With a degree in international relations, one of the career paths you can follow is that of a political scientist.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, political scientists:

  • In 2012 - the annual median salary made by these professionals was $102,000.
  • The top 10 percent of professionals in this field earned more than $155,490.
  • Employment of political scientists is projected to grow 21 percent from 2012 to 2022, faster than the average for all occupations.
  • In May 2012, the median annual wages in the top three industries employing political scientists were as follows:

Federal government, excluding postal service

$115,740

Scientific research and development services

99,500

Colleges, universities, and professional schools;
state, local, and private

65,030

In conclusion, those interested in international relations must:

  • Get a high school diploma.
  • Enroll in an undergraduate program in international relations.
  • Pursue graduate studies in international relations for better job prospects.
  • If interested in academia or research, pursue doctoral studies.

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Q:What to do with an international relations degree?

A:With a degree in international relations, there are several career paths you could adopt. You could work as a civil service fast streamer, government social research officer, social researcher, public relations consultant, charity officer, politicians' assistant, diplomatic services operational officer, local government officer, market researcher, newspaper journalist and so on.

Q:What skills do I need for a career in international relations?

A:To be able to perform well in an international relations career, you need a certain skill set. For instance, you will need really good analytical skills, interpersonal skills, language skills, international experience, and relevant work experience in the form of internships or assistantships. An amalgamation of these skills and experiences can help you establish yourself in the international relations field as a promising candidate.

Q:What are international studies?

A:International studies refer to the degrees and courses that are concerned with the study of the political, social, economic and cultural issues that dominate the international space. Many universities offer both undergraduate and graduate programs in international studies. At the undergraduate level, it is typically offered as part of an arts degree, as either a major or a minor.

Q:Where can you work with international relations degree?

A:With an international relations degree, you can work in various capacities. For instance, you could be employed as a civil service fast streamer, government social research officer, politician's assistant, public affair consultant, social researcher, charity officer, local government officer, marketing executive, newspaper journalist or a human resources officer.

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