In the modern world, the relationships between and among countries are complex, and there is an increasing role for people who have studied international affairs or international relations. This field of study is wide-ranging, with nearly limitless options for applicability across many different lines of employment. If you are considering a Master in International Relations, this article will greatly inform your decision.
International relations has traditionally been – and still is – a subset of political science studies or programmes. Political science degrees have existed for about a century, but as the world’s nations are now connected to and impacted by other nations in ways far more intricate than politics and trade, international affairs programmes are more common.
Ideal applicants for international affairs programmes
The ideal applicant to an international relations Masters programme is a student who is keenly interested in the world and the global events that precipitate changes in governments, economics, policies and relationships in general among nations. This includes everything from diplomatic relations between warring countries to international business relations in the global marketplace.
Good analytical and critical thinking skills are essential to a role in international affairs. You will need to absorb, analyse and report on information received from multiple sources in multiple formats. Though one need not be fluent in multiple languages or well-versed in cultural differences and similarities, these qualifications would certainly add to an applicant’s credentials.
Good communication skills will be required in virtually any position in international relations. Even if your job is in your native country and you never have to travel or have direct contact with foreign persons, you will still have very close indirect contact with other countries, people and cultures. You will need to interpret information to form hypotheses or draw conclusions based on the data received. This means understanding the significance of international actions and reactions, the repercussions that may occur from them and how to respond.
International relations course content
Typical course content for a Masters programme in international relations will educate and prepare you for careers with governments around the world or the countless organisations that are affected by them or do business with them. These include the following:
- Roles of countries in international affairs
- Strengths and weaknesses of particular countries
- Economic issues of trade and currency
- Global impacts of elections and regime changes
- Political theories like realism, nationalism and liberalism
- Causes and repercussions of international conflict and war
- Diplomatic tactics and techniques
- Governmental structures such as communism, socialism, capitalism, monarchies, democracies, republics, etc.
Programmes that are strictly focused on political relations are usually named International Relations or International Affairs. Some programmes have an international theme, but a regional focus, like a Master in European Studies. Still others focus on the international applications of a specific professional field other than political relations or diplomacy. For example, Jönköping University (Sweden) has Masters degree programmes in International Financial Analysis, International Logistics and Supply Chain Management, International Marketing and International Communication. To understand the differences in various international studies programmes, contact the school or university offering the degree. They will be more than happy to answer any questions you have and help you decide which programme is best suited for you.
Since course content in international relations is so rich and diverse, careers are wide-ranging as well. Depending on your specific interests, you may choose from careers in political service in your own country’s government, foreign service with organisations from your home country, foreign service with international alliances such as NATO or the UN, employment with non-governmental agencies throughout the world, or teaching or university careers both at home and abroad.
If you want to continue to study beyond your Masters programme, you can usually find a PhD programme in political science that includes elements of international relations. Or you could combine two of your interests by obtaining a Masters in International Relations and a PhD programme in finance, for example, which would uniquely qualify you for positions related to global economic issues.
Admission into a university’s Masters programme in international relations or international affairs does not have any unique requirements outside of that school’s typical Master’s degree application process. A Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score is typically desired as part of the entire admission packet, along with transcripts, letters of recommendation, essays, and other materials.
It is important to narrow down your selection of schools to a short list of possibilities. Then a manageable task is to check each school’s programme requirements individually. Not only can these requirements differ among graduate schools and universities, but they can also differ among a school’s own programmes.
The nations of the world in which we live are increasingly interdependent. Information travels nearly instantaneously around the globe. With so many interconnected relationships among businesses, governments, non-profit organisations, media, and civilians, the field of international relations is complex, but extremely vital. It requires experts to skilfully negotiate the turbid waters that can exist around the world. Even in circumstances of peace and prosperity, it is those persons who are highly trained and educated in international affairs who can lead the rest of the world.
For an overview of some of the most popular Masters programmes, click here