International Relations Major

What to Do With Your Degree

International relations majors can work in the United Nations
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The international relations major involves the study of the global community. It covers world societies and the interactions between them. Those who study this subject area develop expertise in diplomacy and foreign policy.

Many colleges and universities offer students an interdisciplinary approach which often includes studying history, politics, economics, world languages, and geography, or some combination of those disciplines. You can earn bachelor's, master's, or doctorate (Ph.D.) degrees in international relations. Master's and Ph.D. programs are usually more specialized than bachelor's degree ones.

Like other liberal arts degrees, a degree in this discipline will not give you entry into a specific occupation. It will, instead, provide you with a broad knowledge base that you can use to excel in a variety of career fields.

What Coursework Can You Expect to Have?

The interdisciplinary approach many colleges and universities favor means those who are working toward this degree take a diversity of courses.  Here are some of the general international relations classes you may encounter as well as the classes you may take in each of the disciplines many colleges incorporate into their curriculum: political science, geography, economics, and history. Some programs also include classes in anthropology, international law, and religious studies. There is often a world language requirement as well.


Specifics vary by school. It is important to investigate several colleges and universities to find the one that takes an approach to international relations that will allow you to reach your career goals.

International Relations

Students who major in this subject will take courses specific to this area of study as well as classes in other disciplines. Here are some international relations course titles at various schools:

  • International Relations: Theory and Practice
  • History of International Relations
  • Globalization and World Order
  • Non-Violent Conflict and Resolution
  • Peacemaking and Negotiation
  • Globalization and International Development
  • Challenges and Dilemmas in American Foreign Policy
  • Schools of Thought in International Relations
  • Global Security
  • Diplomacy and Statecraft

Political Science

Political science deals with domestic and international governance. It is essential for experts in international relations to understand the way in which different countries are governed. Through your coursework, you will analyze governmental systems and political ideologies and behavior in the United States and the international community. Here are examples of some of the classes you may take:

  • Politics in the United States
  • International Politics: Methods of Analysis
  • Politics of Third World Nations
  • Comparative Politics
  • The Politics and Psychology of Persuasion and Prejudice
  • Money and Power in the International Political Economy
  • Middle Eastern Political Systems
  • Human Rights in World Politics
  • Electoral Systems
  • Failed States


The study of geography covers the physical features of the earth and the effects human beings have on it. It is necessary to have a good understanding of this subject matter. For example, you must be aware of the locations of nations around their world and their proximity to one another. Here are classes offered at some college and universities:

  • World Regional Geography
  • Cultural Geography
  • Political Geography
  • Disasters Preparedness and Hazards Mitigation


The study of economics is concerned with the allocation of tangible and intangible resources. An understanding of how this happens will go a long way toward understanding global interactions.

  • Introductory Economics Micro
  • International Trade
  • International Economic Institutions
  • Economics of Less Developed Regions
  • Economic Development in Latin America
  • Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development
  • International Economics
  • China: Economic Development and Reform
  • Economies in Transition
  • History of Economic Thought


Learning about the past is informative. Without an understanding of history, it is impossible to move forward.

  • Historical Intro to Latin America
  • History of Modern Mexico
  • Europe in the 20th Century
  • European Women Since the Middle Ages
  • History of Terrorism
  • History of Germany
  • History of the Modern Balkans
  • Modern Africa
  • History of the Caribbean
  • Traditional India

Master's and doctoral degree candidates will take more advanced, and more narrowly focused, coursework than undergraduate students. In preparation for writing a dissertation, they typically have to take classes in quantitative and qualitative data analysis and research design.

Where Do International Relations Majors Work?

In addition to in-depth knowledge of world affairs, politics, economics, culture, geography, history, and language, you will develop several valuable soft skills during your studies. They include listening, speaking, critical thinking, problem solving, and writing skills. This strong foundation will qualify you to work both in the corporate and non-profit sectors. International relations majors go on to have careers in government, law, politics, business, education, media, and international affairs.

Possible Job Titles

Here are several job titles for which you may qualify after you graduate: 

How High School Students Can Prepare for This Major

If you are a high school student who would like to study international relations in college, make sure to take classes in U.S. history, world history, government and politics, and geography. You should also learn at least one world language.

What Else You Need to Know

  • Other names for this major are international studies and international affairs.
  • Admission requirements for master's degree programs vary, but candidates are typically required to have earned a bachelor's degree first. Your major isn't important, but you should have completed coursework in economics.
  • Doctoral programs, which are research-oriented, usually only admit candidates who have already earned a master's degree in international relations.
  • To become a more marketable job candidate after you graduate, consider studying abroad and becoming fluent in at least one language other than your native one. Internships are also invaluable.
  • If you want to earn a doctorate, expect to spend at least five years studying full time and writing a dissertation. That is a technical work that proves a thesis. It could take a few years to complete.

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