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International relations is a multidisciplinary field that focuses on the “interactions between and among states.” This field is sometimes referred to as “international studies” or “international affairs.” The fields of international development and foreign relief are subfields of international relations. 
A master’s in international relations degree can provide you with a wide skill set that will allow you to access a range of lucrative careers. Because jobs in this field are expected to grow by 21% over the next several years, many new opportunities will be available for graduates of the Master of International Relations degree at public, private, multilateral, and nongovernmental organizations. [23-25]
If you are interested in the international applications of development, economics, education, policy, diplomacy, conflict resolution, human rights, and/or security and intelligence, the Master of International Relations may be the degree for you.
International relations is a multidisciplinary field in which people study the interactions between and among nation states carried out in person or through indirect communications.  It also involves the study of the international system as a whole. Often, disciplines such as politics, economics, law, history, and sociology converge in this field. Some people think of international relations as a “meta discipline,” because it is more than a combination of these disciplines; rather, it uses aspects of each discipline for unique applications in the international context. Graduates of the Master of International Relations degree focus on “systemic structures and patterns of interaction of the human species taken as a whole.”  The field of international relations is also sometimes referred to as “international affairs” or “international studies.” 
The master’s in international relations is a graduate-level degree within the field of international relations. It may be a good choice for those with an undergraduate degree in international relations or a related discipline who are interested in optimizing employment prospects by improving access to field work and management positions.
Because there is no specifically required educational background for the Master of International Relations program, students can often have a wide array of background experience and education. 
A Master of International Relations usually takes approximately two years to complete, and graduates are employed in many diverse sectors, including public, private, non-governmental and multilateral organizations. 
Generally, because of its interdisciplinary nature, the master’s in international relations focuses on helping students develop transferable skills that may be attractive to a wide range of employers. 
Workers with a master’s in international relations can work in many possible areas. Graduates of the Master of International Relations program are trained to be leaders who solve problems through diplomacy.  They may work for governments, nongovernmental agencies (NGOs) or corporations, and may move products and ideas around the world, or solve problems and challenges related to the relationships between international entities.
Among the wide range of potential opportunities, a career in the field of international relations may include assisting with negotiations between states to avoid conflict and war, working in the field of humanitarian aid, helping with corporate expansions into the developing world, and engaging in international education. 
Application for the Master of International Relations degree does not require a specific undergraduate degree or professional background. Most often, those who apply to master’s in international relations programs have an undergraduate degree in international relations or an interest or background in public affairs, politics, or government; however, applicants with degrees in a multitude of undergraduate subjects can be well-suited for this program due to its multidisciplinary nature. Based on a survey of master’s in international relations programs, undergraduate degrees in international or global studies, political science, economics, business, sociology, history, and law may also be a stepping stone to advanced studies in international relations. [12-20]
The average age of international relations professionals is 43 years.  29% of international relations degrees awarded in the United States are master’s degrees, and approximately 25% of the workforce in this field has a master’s degree. 
Excellent employment opportunities
Graduates of a master’s in international relations degree enter a field with a high number of employment opportunities. Forbes magazine recently ranked the Master of International Relations as the fifth-best graduate degree for job attainment.  Jobs in this field are expected to grow by 21% over the next several years, and the overall mid-career median salary is quite lucrative, at 97,500. 
Diverse employment opportunities
The field of international relations is diverse. Graduates of the Master of International Relations program work in a wide range of positions, in an equally wide range of domestic and global settings, and with colleagues from diverse backgrounds and ethnicities. This makes the field of international relations one of almost endless opportunities for graduates with a master’s degree. 
Wide skill set
Because of the multidisciplinary nature of international relations graduate programs, students are offered the opportunity to study a wide variety of subjects, including politics, business, economics, law, history, and sociology.  Programs can be highly customized to fit your own career interests and goals, which means that you can optimize both your education and your employment in relation to the career path that will be most fulfilling for you. 
Although international relations graduate programs are highly customizable, a focus on skills that are transferable across all industries is a commonality shared by most Master of International Relations degrees. Regardless of your career interests and goals, this degree can prepare you to engage in: 
Within the broader field of international relations, there are a number of subject areas that you may focus on. These include:
Within these four sectors and eleven subject areas, there are many specific career pathways that are currently experiencing high rates of relative growth.
This is the best-known career pathway for international relations professionals.  This career pathway is known for engagement in diplomacy with other nations on behalf of the United States.  Most often, international relations professionals are employed as ambassadors or as part of the ambassadorial staff as part of the United States Foreign Service.
This career pathway is extremely competitive, but jobs in this area are among the highest-paying in the field. Approximately 8,000 people staff embassies around the world, with numbers growing.  Foreign Service Officers earn a median annual salary of $91,440. Salary is often calculated based upon experience, and can be as high as $148,000. 
Other government services
This career pathway by far employs most international relations professionals in the United States.  The widest areas of job growth for graduates of the master’s in international relations program within the United States government are:
The United Nations (UN) is an example of a multilateral organization, being made up of 193 international member organizations.  Graduates of the Master of International Relations program who work for the United Nations may work in areas such as “peace and security, climate change, sustainable development, human rights, disarmament, terrorism, humanitarian and health emergencies, gender equality, governance, food production,” and more. 
There are a wide variety of potential jobs available with the UN for graduates with a master’s in international relations degree. All yearly UN salaries are set by international agreement and apply to all professionals.  The base salary for early-career professionals is $37,000-$80,000; for mid-career professionals it is $67,000-$106,000, and for senior level professionals is $95,000-$123,000. 
Translators and interpreters can make between $500 and $800 per day and often work on short-term assignments. 
Private sector research
There are many private interest groups in Washington, D.C. and across the United States that focus on the area of international relations. Employment in this career pathway often involves lobbying the government in the interest of making advancements in any number of areas, such as human rights, climate change, gender equality, and governance. 
Job titles in this area include lobbyists, who make an average yearly salary of $107,318. The average master’s level professional in this role can increase their earning potential beyond $100,000 as senior employees. 
Private sector international business
Multinational corporations play an important role in international relations, and this area is one of rapid growth and development. As our economy becomes increasingly globalized, business interests and the negotiations around international trade become central. 
Globally based jobs in this field are often best suited to international relations professionals with particular sets of specialized skills, such as actuarial or foreign language proficiencies. However, foreign companies also hire a growing number of international relations professionals to work in their companies located domestically within the United States.  Professionals in this field are often involved in negotiating international trade deals, establishing international satellite offices, and analyzing the risk of investing in particular countries or regions. 
Average median annual salary for marketing managers is $144,140; and international business development managers make an average of $70,091 per year.  
Nonprofit organizations make up a large proportion of the employment sector in the field international relations. If you are interested in integrating a passion for an international relations content area with an exciting career, working for a non-profit may be for you. There are hundreds of nonprofit organizations in this field, often referred to as non-governmental organizations (NGOs) or private volunteer organizations (PVOs).
These organizations share a concern for humanitarian issues, and examples include Oxfam and Crossroads Africa.  Often a focus is administering foreign aid in the developing world and providing relief services during times of upheaval or famine. 
Salaries tend to be lower in this field than in other international relations career pathways, but professionals in this field report the highest level of career satisfaction.  Salary is also highly dependent upon position. For example, program managers at NGOs earn a median salary of $46,418, but the median salary for a director of operations is $74,000. An program director of an non-profit organization makes an annual median salary of $102,186, which means that lucrative opportunities are available in this career pathway, particularly for those interested in the management career track. 
University teaching and research
Universities function as generators and disseminators of knowledge, and this applies equally to the international relations field. Often, graduates with an international relations degree teach and do research in faculties of economics, law, political science, sociology, and history.    There is often a great amount of freedom to choose your own topics of interest for teaching and research.
It is important to note that a Ph.D. degree is often required for work at a university; however, most Master of International Relations programs can prepare you to enter a Ph.D. program if this is your field of interest.   
The annual median salary for international relations professionals employed by universities for teaching and research is $84,990. 
International relations professionals are most often employed within four sectors:
Working for governments and/or governmental agencies. 
Multilateral organizations are tasked with international issues that cannot be addressed within one country, or even between two countries. Often the focus is on humanitarian issues, international law, or science.  An example of a multilateral organization is the European Union. 
Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) address charitable, educational, and humanitarian needs around the world. 
Work in the private sector involves working for private corporations or companies that are independent from states. The increasing globalization of economies means that experts in international relations are required by these often-multinational corporations. 
ore courses are those that provide crucial knowledge for work as an international relations professional. All core courses for a program must be taken in order to graduate. There is variation in core courses across universities and programs, although some commonalities exist. It is important to check with your university in order to confirm which courses you will be required to complete. Based on several online Master of International Relations programs, some typical core courses found include:
Elective courses provide the opportunity for furthering knowledge in an area of interest. Most universities offer a high level of choice when it comes to which electives a student can take, but require completion of a certain number of these courses in order to graduate. It is recommended that students choose electives that focus on areas of interest, or areas in which they would like to specialize. There is a very wide variety of elective courses available, which reflect the diverse employment opportunities for international relations professionals outlined above. A survey of several online master’s in international relations programs yielded these common elective courses:
Given that the Master of International Relations program is multidisciplinary, there are many potential areas in which you can specialize. Based on a survey of several online programs, areas of specializations generally fall under two categories: regional specializations and functional specializations.
An international relations professional with a regional specialization has highly developed knowledge and skills related to a certain region of the world. International relations professionals with functional specializations have highly developed skills related to certain types of work within the field of international relations. It is very important to choose an area of specialization that closely aligns with your interests and career goals.
Examples of functional specializations in the field of international relations include:
Examples of common regional specializations in the field of international relations include concentrations in:
Internships are critically important for pursuit of career opportunities in the field of international relations. Internships are educational job placement opportunities that students engage in while studying or soon after graduation. These provide direct field experience and opportunities for networking, and are highly valued by employers. They may be paid or unpaid. Based on several online master’s in international relations program, most degrees offer at least one internship opportunity.
As you work toward completing your Master of International Relations degree, your choice of internship will be critical for obtaining employment after graduation. Prospective employers often look for graduates with field experience in their career pathway of choice, so as you work toward your degree, you will want to choose an internship that closely aligns with your career goals and personal interests. 
The field of international relations is inherently multicultural and diverse. Employees in this area are expected to work across national boundaries, often in foreign territories or with colleagues from different countries. A survey of online master’s in international relations programs reveals that many programs have now added requirements for graduates to have proficiency in a foreign language of choice.
Employers in the field also see language proficiency as an important asset when considering employment candidates. It is recommended that you choose to become proficient in a language that aligns with your career pathway. For example, if you are interested in work with an international corporation that has frequent trade interests in China, proficiency in one or more of the Chinese dialects would be highly useful. The most in-demand languages for foreign service officers and diplomats include: 
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Master of International Relations programs will typically require between 10 and 15 courses, comprising about 30-45 semester credit hours. Your program’s composition will vary, but likely components of the curriculum include required or core courses, elective courses, and a capstone or experiential learning option.
Even within a particular school’s degree program, the number of courses required may vary based on the concentration you choose, your prior work experience, your number of transfer credits, or other such factors.
There are no specific specialized requirements for master’s degrees in international relations, but employment or volunteer experience within the field is highly recommended, particularly for securing highly prized internships. Applying for an internship is like applying for a job: Some are highly competitive and may have many more applicants than positions available.
Having experience within the field of international relations can help you to obtain the most prestigious and competitive internships, particularly if your experience demonstrates an aptitude or competency for tasks required as part of the internship. Experience can be obtained through your place of work, volunteer roles, clubs, portfolios, or even advanced coursework. 
Master of International Relations vs. Master of Arts in Political Science
The Master of Arts in Political Science degree differs in focus from the Master of International Relations program, though there is usually some overlap in course content. Political science degrees frequently focus on political theory, government structure, and the impact of political policies on citizens and social structures.  Generally, the focus of the MA in Political Science program is on domestic rather than international politics; however, courses on comparative politics are offered by some universities. 
The Master of International Relations, on the other hand, focuses by nature on the relationships between nation-states, and seeks to build skillsets related to international work. Although you will also learn about political theory and domestic government structure as part of your master’s degree in international relations, the degree provides an international context, and in relation to multiple countries and governmental/political systems. 
Master of International Relations vs. Master of Business Administration (MBA)
The master’s degree in business administration focuses on business-related skills for work in the private sector. An MBA prepares graduates well for work in business-related fields and less focused on foreign policy than an international relations degree.
If you are interested in working in the private sector for a multinational corporation, an MBA may be useful to you, but will not replace the type of preparation for international work you would receive through a Master of International Relations program. Based on a survey of several online universities, some schools are now offering combined MBA/Master of International Relations programs, which may be ideally suited for those looking to specialize in international business.
Master of International Relations vs. Master of Public Administration (MPA)
A master’s degree in public administration prepares graduates to work in public administration or for government, generally within the continental United States. Graduates may find employment at the municipal, state, or federal level; or may work for U.S.-based non-governmental agencies. Generally, courses in the MPA degree focus on political systems and economics within the United States. The MPA is an operational degree by nature, focusing on elements of policy development and the running of governments. 
The Master of International Relations focuses on similar topics, including politics and economics, but on a worldwide scale. If you are interested in specializing in the practical operations of U.S.-based systems, the MPA may be a good fit,  but if your interest is more on relations with other nation-states, the Master of International Relations is likely more appropriate.
The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), founded in 1989, strives to standardize and improve graduate education in the field of international relations. One of APSIA’s main functions is to bring together graduate programs in international relations, international studies, and international affairs to ensure that all students are equally prepared for work within the field.
Only schools that “demonstrate excellence in career-focused education” can join APSIA, with member and affiliate schools being subjected to a rigorous accreditation process.  The goal is for accredited graduate programs in international relations to provide a high-quality education that focuses on career preparedness. APSIA notes that all member programs should provide opportunities for networking with both colleagues and employers. 
Attending a school that is a member of APSIA can give you peace of mind. You can be assured that your program will afford a high level of education that will help prepare you for a career in the field of international relations.  According to APSIA, “member schools combine broad preparation in critical thinking, quantitative analysis, public communications, project management, and teamwork with deep regional, cultural, and economic expertise.” 
There are a number of APSIA member schools that provide online learning opportunities. 
APSIA schools are consistently ranked among the top five graduate schools for international relations, and help 85% of their graduates find education or pursue further education after graduation. 
The International Studies Association (ISA) describes itself as one of the oldest organizations dedicated to international studies in the world. It currently has more than 7,000 members worldwide and hosts a wide variety of disciplines. 
The ISA is broken into four components that members can engage with: 
The ISA offers many opportunities for engagement, networking and continuing education to those working in the field of international relations. The ISA can help you connect with others who have similar interests, bridging the gap between education and employment.
Through its annual convention, many regional conferences and peer reviewed publications, the ISA offers international relations professionals plenty of opportunities to access continued education, and can even provide “various funding, bridging and mentoring opportunities that facilitate the development of new ideas, relationships and skillsets.”  Students and graduates of a Master of International Relations program are highly encouraged to connect with the ISA.
The Foreign Policy Association (FPA) has a mission to improve awareness around United States foreign policy and global issues.  It is a nonpartisan association that has a goal to involve citizens and international relations professionals in the process of creating foreign policy. 
As an international relations professional, the Foreign Policy Association offers opportunities for information sharing, engagement, and inspiration through continued education, opportunities for direct policy engagement, and networking/career development activities. 
As the principal forum for public foreign policy addresses in New York City, the FPA has been able to attract both national and international attention.  The FPA also offers a World Leadership Forum, which has hosted more than 60 heads of government since 2000. The World Leadership Forum is one way for members to access critical discussion and debate on foreign policy issues. 
The FPA also offers the Great Decisions program, which is a combination of an annual briefing book, which outlines the year’s greatest foreign policy challenges, and a PBS television series.  Considerable continuing educational materials for international relations professionals can also be found on the FPA’s blog network. 
Of interest to international relations professionals who have newly graduated or are seeking new employment opportunities, the FPA hosts a Global Career Boot Camp, which offers educational seminars, opportunities for networking with colleagues and potential employers, and tips for obtaining a global job. 
The World International Studies Committee (WISC) is a network of regional, national and international associations in the field of international relations. Its goal is to bring together international relations professionals at a global level for the exchange of both scholarly and pragmatic information. 
Because WISC brings together professionals in the field of international relations, its conferences and workshops are great opportunities for both continued education and networking, particularly if you are interested in practicing international relations in the global context. WISC states that “over 1000 scholars from close to 70 countries have participated” in WISC events. 
Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.
Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.
You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.
There is no specific certification required to work in the field of international relations, and most career pathways do not require further certification or licensure.
However, one of the most popular career pathways, diplomacy, does require further certification. In order to become a United States diplomat, a graduate of a Master of International Relations program must become a Foreign Service Officer.
If you would like to become a diplomat and serve at one of the many United States embassies around the world, you will be required to become a registered Foreign Service Officer. Becoming a registered Foreign Service Officer consists of several steps: 
h3>Importance of networking
Networking is the process of making connections with people who are involved with the field in which you work, and is a skill that must be practiced. Your network may include people you meet during your education, internships, at association events, or while working in the field. Engaging in networking during all of the above opportunities is strongly recommended. 
Networking is more important in some international relations specialties than others. For example, within the fields of international development and humanitarian relief, the use of your network of contacts to provide references could mean the difference between getting a job and being overlooked, so developing and using your network of contacts “is essential.” 
Although relations between nation-states have existed since the earliest days of human civilization, the field of international relations as it exists today emerged in the early 20th century.  Due to its emphasis on the democratic process, the United States became an important founding nation of the field of international relations, particularly as it gained the power and influence to spread its ideals. The field grew as a result of several factors: 
The increasing interest in foreign affairs led to a perspective that all public education should include some information about international relations. This meant that by the 1920s, information related to foreign affairs was included in most secondary school curricula, and a growing appetite for further studies continued in this area. 
During the 1920s and over the next few decades, new centers, schools, universities, and institutes dedicated to international relations opened. These were often the subject of large philanthropic donations due to national interest, which spurred further growth.
During the post-war period much of the focus of the field of international relations was on diplomatic history, development of peaceful relationships with other nations, and study of the origins of war.  During this period, the social science interests in behavior and relationships were particularly strong influences on the field.  
Globalization began to arise between 1950 and 1970, and it was during this period that the field of international relations broadened to include international trade and business relations. Foreign policy analysis was another important focal area during this time.  
It was in the 1970s that leaders of educational institutions began to discuss how to formalize international relations education, given the significant broadening of the field. Up until this point, education varied widely between institutions, and as the field developed further, there came a call to standardize and define the education process more clearly. 
In 1989, based upon the work of several universities and institutions, the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) was formed with the goal of managing the education needs of a growing field. An early focus of APSIA was knowledge sharing. In order to develop a standardized approach to high quality education in the field of international relations, it was important to figure out what types of programs were being offered, and to allow sharing of ideas among institutions. 
Over the years, in concert with the field of international relations, APSIA has developed standards for quality education in the field of international relations rigorous requirements for membership. Membership has grown, and now includes member and affiliate schools in “North America, Europe, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East,” with most in the field regarding Master of International Relations degrees from APSIA schools as the optimum graduate training for work in the field of international relations. 
There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.
For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.
Since international relations degrees are multidisciplinary, they may appeal to students with a diverse academic background. Students with a particular interest in politics, foreign service, government, international nonprofit work, or prior work history in the international arena may find this degree of particular interest.
There are a number of reasons for choosing an international relations master’s degree regarding outcomes and career potential. Some of these include:
No. The degree’s multidisciplinary approach is ideal for students with backgrounds in a wide variety of academic areas. Most international relations programs to not require a specific degree to be admitted to the master’s program.
Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.
Students can expect to take several courses across multiple academic disciplines. Core courses can vary by program and their chosen concentration, but core courses typically touch on subjects like politics, history, economics, development, sociology, and others.
Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.
Yes. Many institutions offer international relations degrees online.
Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.
Yes, typically schools follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.
Most international relations master’s programs offer several concentrations for students to select and customize their program of study. These can include specializations like area studies, language studies, development, security, and others. Students should check with their program to ensure that the concentrations offered align with their career goals and interests.
International relations programs provide a broad scope of course offerings due to their multidisciplinary approach. Students benefit by choosing concentrations that focus coursework on their interests and career goals. For example, language studies or area studies may prepare students for careers in foreign service, government, or nonprofit work. 
International relations programs can prepare students to work in many industries and organizations. Students are able to tailor their course of study to match career goals and interests. You can find graduates working in top 100 companies, government agencies, nonprofits, consulting firms, military, foreign service, research, and universities.
No — attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.
Accreditation helps determine if an institution meets or exceeds the minimum standards of quality set out by recognized regional or national accreditation agencies. A list of regional and national institutional accrediting agencies can be found at the U.S. Department of Education.
Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.
SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses.
Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. 
Every school has a department or team responsible for online education. This department will be able to answer questions regarding compliance for your home state. Additionally, you can locate the school through SARA (if it is a SARA institution) to confirm compliance.
Generally there are supplementary costs apart from tuition. The tuition does not usually include the cost of books or additional fees. These additional costs will vary from program to program.
The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.
There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded.