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International Relations

The Breakdown

There is no denying we are a global society. Certainly we see the ripple effects on a daily basis, from the Nikkei index influencing the opening bell on Wall Street to the explosion of gas prices around the world when the United States invaded Iraq. The action one country takes can greatly affect another. International relations aims to study this interplay and understand how nations are motivated by domestic, regional and international factors.

Like many liberal arts majors, international relations is an interdisciplinary field. Indeed, as an undergraduate you will analyze the global landscape within political, historical and economic contexts. It is common for some IR departments to have their students select a focus. These can range from specific geographic regions to academic themes like global health or environment, international security or world trade and development. Most international relations programs will also require proficiency in a foreign language. Further, nearly all recommend (and some even mandate) study abroad for their students.

As an IR major, it will be important to have a natural curiosity about the world around you and to seek an understanding for how different cultures can interact and work together. Moreover, you must be able to digest and synthesize different types of information, from statistics to first person narratives and secondary sources. It’s also imperative that you know how to craft effective oral and written communication. Additionally, it’s quite helpful to stay abreast of current events. And, one last tip – make sure your passport hasn’t expired!

Nuts and Bolts

International relations provides students with broad swath of courses and majors can enroll in heady classes such as: International Monetary Systems, Diplomacy and Negotiation, Politics of Divided Korea, Refugees, Security and Cooperation, World Food Economy, Critical Issues in International Women’s Health, Human Rights Reporting, History of Foreign Aid in Africa, Russian History in Film, International Corporate Finance, Political Risk Analysis and Terrorism and Insurgency.

Decisions, Decisions

As a prospective international relations major, we think it’s safe to say that you’re curious about the politics and developments of other countries and cultures. Presuming our assumptions are correct, you might also want to investigate political science, history, American studies, East Asian studies, international business, Latin American studies, philosophy, economics, Spanish, Chinese, Middle Eastern Studies, anthropology, French, sociology and theology.

What's Next

As you probably expected, it’s quite common for IR majors to seek work with an international bent or global component. Fortunately for those who study international relations, there are multiple avenues in which one can seek this kind of employment. Some recent graduates might join the Peace Corps or land jobs with international aid organizations like the Red Cross or CARE. Others, preferring the for-profit route, find positions in international business or finance. Students might also pursue careers in journalism, translation work or in the travel industry. Of course, jobs within government and politics also hold high interest and some IR majors work as legislative aides or conduct research for think tanks. It is also customary, after gaining several years of professional experience, for graduates to apply to either law school or the Foreign Service.


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