With masters in international relations, you will have the opportunity to maintain positive diplomatic relations between countries, prevent international conflicts, and make sure that things run smoothly between governments in our highly interconnected world.
As an international relations specialist, you will have a wide range of career options in addition to politics, including areas such as economics, social systems, and the cultural life of societies.
It is a fact that all of the most important and most lucrative roles in international relations today require a master’s degree or better. You wouldn’t want it any other way – the delicate arts of bringing together cultures and making agreements between states, NGOs, and multinational conglomerates are tough work that requires the best education available.
Getting a master’s degree in international relations (or even moving to the highest level, PhD) is no easy task. Regardless of your Bachelor’s degree major, in this field, you will need a solid foreign language background, excellent written communication skills, and a solid understanding of current global affairs.
Communications and references will also be important. Your best bet would be to start getting involved in the field long before the actual application of the master’s program.
Masters In International Relations Career options
A master’s degree or even a doctorate opens every possible position in the field of international relations. From the chief negotiator for trade agreements to the professional Foreign Service diplomat to the head of operations for an NGO, the sky is the limit.
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Salaries can cover a wide range. Many people work in foreign relations for reasons other than money. If you work for a nonprofit or in government service, you can expect a decent salary, but nothing compares to what the private industry can offer. A sample of positions in each of these areas collected in early 2018 from a variety of sources shows the scope:
What can you do with masters in international relations?
A master’s degree in global studies and international relations can apply to many different fields of work. Here are some of the best Global Studies jobs graduates can pursue, along with their average annual salary for each:
- Diplomat: $ 86,203
- Ambassador: $ 124,406
- Political Affairs Officer: $ 147,552
- Lobby: $ 112,770
- Director of Government Affairs: $ 130,371
- Military Operations Analyst: $ 60,981
- Foreign affairs analyst: $ 65,889
- National Security Agent: $ 88,108
- International Trade Specialist: $ 91,424
- Human rights activist: $ 65,000
There are also many global business careers students can pursue with this degree, such as economists, policy analysts, and management consultants.
Depending on the program you choose, it may not be necessary to have a specific career path in mind at the time of enrollment. At Northeastern University, for example, the prerequisite is that you have a passion for understanding how the world works. With that, faculty members work with students to develop career goals as they work through the program.
Is a Masters in International Relations worth it?
Not all MA programs are created equal, and in the field of International Relations the differences between good and medium are wider than most. Because there are many specialist areas – usually a separate degree pathway for each major region of the world or even for each country – a particular university with a strong IR department generally may not be the best in a particular sub-major.
Instead, there are majors that focus on a conceptual aspect of the field rather than a specific country or region. It could include topics such as international security, economic development, or environmental management.
You definitely have to do your homework when choosing a program, and you need a firm idea of the career path you intend to take while evaluating your options.
Master’s degrees in international relations are often offered with other types of advanced degrees that reflect the subject’s usefulness in other fields. These include:
- Master of Business Administration
- Doctor of Law
- Master of Science in Public Health
- Master of Public Affairs
Another option that offers a master’s degree education in international relations but with an emphasis on another core subject is a degree. This is for professionals who already have a master’s degree in an unrelated subject, but who require additional experience in international relations. The course scope is not as broad and the language requirements are not as stringent as a full master’s degree, but the degree does provide a similar boost to your career prospects.
Online languages and programs
Almost every reputable master’s program will have a foreign language requirement, both for admission and for graduation. You may want to make sure you meet the entry level requirements, but it is also helpful to consider graduation requirements.
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Since most language programs are not offered online, this means that master’s programs in international relations that have language requirements are not usually offered online. However, this still leaves some disciplines, such as diplomacy or international security, that are not country or regional focus.
Since there are no corresponding language requirements, these types of programs may contain online options. This makes attendance much easier, allowing you to shift your homework on real-life requirements and work on your degree from anywhere in the world.
Much of the external relationship work is done at the personal relationship level. This means that there are many prominent personalities and respected thinkers involved in this field, and they are often found in academia.
Some programs have high-level lecturers including former foreign ministers, ambassadors, and former high-level government officials. Others have faculty members who have been instrumental in helping shape current foreign policy or have written influential books in the field. Any of these could be a great addition to a program you might be considering.
Relationships and location
Although international relations is a global field of study, it is also true that it is largely conducted from particular centers of power and prestige. To be sure, universities clustered around Washington, D.C. are likely to have faculty and professional relationships with government institutions that conduct foreign policy work. Those in the major coastal cities along the western coast have close ties to the tech industry and the Pacific nations. New York and Chicago are close to centers of international finance and the economy.
These relationships between majors and locations have clear implications for you in choosing which school will have a strong focus on your chosen course of study.
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Why Masters in International Relations?
1. You want to qualify for better job opportunities
I’ve found, time and again, that the job ads you find interesting invite candidates with a graduate degree. The career mentors you want to emulate hold masters degrees – and they have good things to say about earning them. If these scenarios sound all too familiar, then pursuing higher education can potentially help you get where you want to go.
2. You want research opportunities and field work
International Relations has a bad reputation for its drawn-out training process. It is common for someone in this field to take five or six training courses before landing a full-time job with the government or in a development organization. While enrolling in a graduate program, you will have a career center and faculty to help you get the internship and research opportunities you need – and you can start these programs while still in school.
3. You know what you want
If you have already identified several organizations doing the work that you want to do – be it AIDS in Sub-Saharan Africa or women’s issues in Southeast Asia – then a graduate degree in international relations can boost your chances of getting a job there. The same applies if you have identified a specific program, training courses and professors that will help you achieve your goals. If you’ve taken the time to do some real background research and that research has reinforced your desire to go back to school, the degree is likely to be appropriate – and well worth the time and money you will spend earning it.
4. You can enroll in a great program or get a scholarship
Degrees aren’t cheap, so ultimately you’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of the package you’re actually offered. Paying too much money for a lesser-known program may not give you a significant return on your investment – even if you have good reasons otherwise for wanting a master’s degree. But if you manage to enter a first-class program or qualify for a scholarship or fellowship that allows you to enter graduate school without getting into debt, then the advantage that a degree gives you in the job market is likely a good investment.