Congratulations on your degree in International Relations, the bold and determined study of the relationships between political entities and the wider world-systems produced by their interaction -- also known as International Relations.
Your studies taught you how to use humanistic perspectives and scientific skills to examine the countries and regions of the world as well as IGOs, NGOs, MNCs, INs and all of the other acronyms for entities -- and you picked up writing, communication, analytical, and data skills along the way.
That's, you know, pretty good -- the better news is that hiring managers know that too: thirty percent of employers in a Millennial Branding survey said they were seeking liberal arts majors, just short of the 34 percent who said they wanted oft-touted engineering and computer information systems majors.
Which is great, but now your cap is tossed and you realize that this was all the easy part, the calm before the storm that is the post-graduate job market.
Well, that's where we come in. We literally created a career map just for International Relations Majors such as yourself -- to aid your navigation of the choppy waters of recent graduation.
Feel free to focus on the map alone -- it's pretty cool, if we do say so ourselves. But for those of you who can't put a good book down, keep reading.
We'll give you the rundown on:
- What skills you'll need
- How to begin
- What jobs you can expect to find as International Relations Major
- Some quick interview tips
- Consider graduate school
- External resources
And now to start where many of the campaigns stories do -- at the beginning.
1. Skills for International Relations Majors
A International Relations degree develops new perspectives for approaching the world, and equally important is the ability to articulate values and alternatives -- to persuade others to share a common vision.
In this interconnected world, being able to communicate ideas clearly and powerfully is vital to success -- particularly and ability to explain theoretical and practical approaches to political and government functions
Applying these skills to real world learning opportunities yields a more robust and balanced career. Here are some of the common skills that you should have when trying to get a job with International Relations degree.
Analytical skills. Political scientists often use qualitative and quantitative research methods. You rely on analytical skills to collect, evaluate, and interpret data -- often collaborating with other researchers when gathering information and opinions through a variety of means and synthesize the findings into a coherent and persuasive argument
Critical-thinking skills and intellectual curiosity. Political scientists must be able to examine and process available information and draw logical conclusions from their findings. You continually explore new ideas and information and stay current on political subjects and come up with new ways to think about and address issues.
Interpersonal communication and writing skills. A little different than outright public speaking, interpersonal skills combines an understanding of how you and the information you're expressing is being interpreted by those around you with a little thing called empathy.
Being intuitive about how another person is going to accept or interpret the things that you say to them is something that may come natural to many folks, but it's also a skill that can be learned through International Relations courses. Learning how to effectively encounter criticism and opposing views is an increasingly valuable talent.
2. Where to Begin Your Career After Getting International Relations Degree
Your adaptable skills as a International Relations Major's makes you suitable for almost every field, so it's up to you to narrow your focus.
And if you aren't fortunate enough to network your way into a position, it might be worth taking a look at what sort of internships you might be qualified for, even if you've already graduated.
A good internship can potentially lead directly to a position, and even if it doesn't it gives you an undeniable edge -- a Millennial Branding survey shows that 91% of employers think that students should have between one and two internships before graduating.
Here are some common types of internships for International Relations Majors:
If your goal is to intern for a politician, your best bet is to apply directly through the local office's website -- good luck with finding a paid one. If you're looking for something a little higher on the totem pole, try the House of Representatives Employment Bulletin and the Senate Employment Bulletin.
Before you settle on an internship, though, you'll want to make sure it's the right fit for you. Ask yourself these questions:
- Where (in the state/the country/the world) do you want to work?
- What size and type of organization do you want to work for?
- Do you need compensation in an internship, or might you be able to consider alternative compensation (experience, work samples, references, networking, etc.)
- Is relocation an option?
An internship will provide you with an understanding of the skills that a career in your field requires -- and with all of the options you have available, the opportunity to learn what it is that you don't want to do in your is invaluable.
3. Available Jobs for International Relations Majors
With a strong foundation in the liberal arts, International Relations majors are suited for a variety of careers: campaigns, public policy, business, government administration, non-profit organizations, and even journalism.
But remember that college isn't job training. You've learned to read, write, and analyze information more deeply than other students, and your abilities are applicable to most positions -- but you need to narrow the focus.
Employ those skills to analyze employer needs and present an argument for why you are the best person for the job. You did this throughout your education, and as a International Relations major, it is your responsibility to sell yourself to a potential employer.
With our career map, you can click the Job Titles and learn more specific information for each position (what their responsibilities are, how much they get paid, etc.).
But here, we wanted to call out some of the common jobs for recent International Relations grads. Here are some of the most interesting entry-level jobs for recent International Relations grads:
Marketing coordinators can have many different responsibilities, from maintaining marketing calendars or customer databases to developing ideas and engaging in research themselves.
In general, though, marketing coordinators tend to in some way be responsible for interpreting information or data for the benefit of other employees and understanding the systems -- something your degree has prepared you for.
A sales associate is responsible for the exchange of a product or commodity for a price. Sales associates are typically selling the goods or services, and are measured with the amount of revenue or sales in a given period of time.
In general, though, people successful in sales tend to be capable of influencing others, speaking well to groups, conveying difficult information, and establishing/maintaining diverse personal relationships -- all of these things can be found on a successful teacher's resume, as well.
International Relations majors are experts in public relations, and tend to have a lot of responsibility when it comes to managing a company's public image. You're aware of the ways in which opinions are formed and the role of the media as you research current events during your studies.
Entry-level workers usually start off maintaining company files, going through media articles, and compiling information, while higher level employees help to develop strategies for all of a corporation's communication (both external and internal).
What about a career in politics?
Majoring in International Relations can qualify you for many different careers in private for-profit and nonprofit organizations, as well as public sector organizations.
This is another opportunity to remind you that your degree is an education, not job training. If you'd like to work in politics,then you'll need to make those opportunities happen.
Students often pursue careers in business, law, consulting, state, local, and federal government, journalism and communications, international organization, finance, polling and campaign management, community service and non-governmental organizations.
Here are a few options for you that are geared more towards the political side, letting you make use of that major.
4. Some Quick Job Search Tips for International Relations Majors
These are the most important words you're going to hear: never stop hustling.
Chase opportunities that excite you. Follow what piques your curiosity. Start a blog.The path from point A to point B will never be cut clearly for you -- but unlike the narrower majors, you can fit into anything if you just keep working.
Be creative with how you approach job listings
There are many more positions available that demand your writing and analytical abilities, but the ones that read "International Relations Major Wanted" are limited -- so you have to be creative when applying your degree to them in interviews.
Think of it as a prescreening test. If you can convince potential employers to hire you even if you weren't initially what they had in mind, then you've already done an excellent job: show them that they want people who can communicate -- they just may not know it.
This is where your composition talents are not just a marketable job skill, but one that will help you land your cover letter and resume on the desk of the right person. Research the company and tailor your job seeking collateral materials for the application as if it was an assignment.
Network, network, and network
The best thing you can do to get a job in International Relations is and with the degree is, plain and simple, to know somebody who knows somebody -- this can be from internships, courses, or a professional organization on campus.
Reach out to the people you know from college, students or not. If enough time has passed, that classmate you friended on Facebook for one group project three years ago might be your in for a job that just opened.
On a similar note, professors are not only good first references for your resume, but they've also been around students and the professional and academic political world long enough that they might have some good recommendations for you as far as where to look.
Join a good professional organization like some of those listed at the end of this page and take advantage of every resource at their disposal. And wherever possible, just talk to people, and be friendly. You'd be surprised at how far a little relationship goes -- then again, considering the nature of the major, maybe it's not such a shock.
5. Continuing Education and Certifications in International Relations
Unlike certain other fields, there's no real licensure you need in order to write or practice International Relations in some other sense -- typically, you benefit best from getting some experience.
Typically, International Relations advanced degrees come in two programs -- a freestanding program leading to the Master of Arts degree in International Relations and a program leading to the Doctor of Philosophy in International Relations, which is usually finished in around seven years.
Pursuing an advanced degree
Having a Bachelor's degree in International Relations is obviously a great first step regardless of what sort of career you might be considering, but once you've finished that, another question remains: should you go onto further studies?
We did a little research, and while the Master's might be useful to you, you'll want to think long and hard about whether a Ph.D is for you and your chosen career.
Here are common advanced degrees that people with International Relations degree normally consider:
Master's in International Relations
If you're looking to increase your knowledge in a particular aspect of International Relations or improve your research skills (always a useful thing to have), then a Master's might be supremely useful to you.
If you're looking more to increase your earning potential, a Master's can help do that for you too, but you want to be aware of the hefty price tag that might be associated with it. Figure out how long you'll be willing to pay off the debt and compared to how much earnings you can anticipate from it first.
If you can get the Master's without breaking the bank, then go for it, but otherwise it might be worth it to focus on getting more job experience and building your portfolio.
PhD in International Relations
The PhD provides advanced study and research opportunities primarily for students who intend to pursue careers in research, scholarship, teaching, and public life. Expect a lot of reading, a lot of writing, and not much recognition for how long and difficult your eventual book is to read.
But if you're interested nonetheless, here are some tips to get started on as soon as possible -- as in, during undergrad.
- Read actual political science and international relations rsearch
- Learn a language and study overseas
- Write a senior thesis
- Get comfortable with math for the research
- Apply for and win something like an NSF
Depending on when you get started on these, you may or may not have time to finish them all. That's fine, what's important is that you get started and develop an understanding what the academic field will be like.
6. External Resources
If you're still not sure what to do with your degree here are some external sites, to help you with your decision:
American Political Science Association
Go to APSA conferences when you're on the job market and when you're senior enough to be able to just hang out with your friends. Otherwise, it's too big and there's not enough good work there.
The House of Representatives Employment Bulletin
Full listing of all open positions, including internships, in the U.S. House of Representatives. Open positions in committees are also included in the bulletin.
The Senate Employment Bulletin
Full list of all open positions open positions, including internships, in the U.S. Senate. Open positions in committees are also included in the bulletin.
Enter "International Relations" into the search bar and you can get a sense of what kind of government jobs are available to International Relations majors. Find a job title you like and come back here to learn more about it.
Bureau of Labor Statistics
The BLS offers detailed data on pay, location, and availability of different kinds of jobs across the country.
In fact, we draw a lot of our research on the best places for jobs from the information provided on the site.
And if this all seems like a lot - don't worry - the hard part (getting your degree!) is already over.