Study International Relations in the US

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By Sakina Taher
Last updated on May 23, 2024

Gain valuable insights into world affairs, become an expert in foreign policy, and prepare for a rewarding career in the field of international relations.

A group of international students studying international relations stand around a globe.

International relations is the study of political systems, foreign policy, global development, and how countries around the world are connected. The degree explores diverse relationships between economies, cultures, and global organizations, giving you an insight into government, world affairs, climate change, international economics and trade, human rights, and more. If you want to pursue a career in diplomacy and work with global governments and nongovernmental organizations, a degree in international relations may be ideal for you!

Read on to learn more about international relations, Shorelight universities offering international relations degree programs, and the career opportunities you can pursue with a degree in international relations.

Why Study International Relations?

A degree in international relations explores how government and nongovernmental organizations interact with each other on a global scale in areas such as politics, international economics, commerce, law, security, and the environment. The degree is designed to teach you the technical aspects of world affairs: how a country’s micro and macroeconomics, culture, and governance affect the global economy and political policies. You can also look forward to learning key interpersonal skills required for a diplomatic career, such as conflict resolution, communication, negotiation, leadership, and decision-making, while working on real-world issues with professionals in the field.

By studying international relations, students can pursue rewarding careers in diplomacy, policy, economics, philanthropy, and more.

When you study international relations, you can:

  • Access a wide range of career opportunities in the private and public sectors

  • Develop a transferable skillset, including critical thinking skills, teamwork, ability to network, communication, and data analysis, applicable to many types of careers

  • Develop a global mindset by keeping track of world affairs, foreign policy, law, and the performance of key economies and their impact on the world

An international relations degree prepares you to make a positive impact in the world as a diplomat, government official, or changemaker in a nongovernmental organization. Many Shorelight universities also provide specialized programs that provide the technical and practical skills that can prepare you for a variety of growing careers. 

International Relations Degrees and Specializations

International relations degree programs also offer various specializations in international law, international security, comparative foreign policy, human rights, and more. While the exact curriculum will vary, most universities give you the chance to tailor your degree program to focus on specific aspects of world affairs that align with your career goals. 

Here are several international relations degree programs and their specializations you can consider:

  • International relations and diplomacy — This specialization delves into how to conduct diplomatic relations, international negotiations, and conflict resolution. You can gain insight into the roles of international organizations like the United Nations and how they function alongside — and influence — nations and other political organizations.

  • Political science and international affairs — This combined program focuses on how societies govern themselves. The program also covers cross-disciplinary theories in international political systems, global governance, and comparative politics.

  • Global studies — With a specialization in global studies, you learn to understand and develop solutions to address global challenges in poverty, migration laws, gender equality, and more. Some degrees also include an international study requirement to give you firsthand exposure to global community issues.

  • International economics — International economics focuses on trade interactions between different countries. This specialization covers subjects including trade policies, international finance, and economic development, as well as the local and regional impacts of globalization.

  • Foreign languages and cultural studies — With a specialization in foreign languages and cultural studies, you can learn about different cultures and become proficient in another language, as well as enhance your intercultural communication skills.

  • International law and human rights — An international law and human rights specialization covers how human rights have become an essential part of modern international law. It also addresses the importance of building ethical and moral guidelines on how individuals, governments, businesses, and other institutions carry out operations.

  • Environmental studies — Subjects such as ecology, conservation biology, environmental policy, environmental justice, sustainability, and climate change are key areas covered in an environmental studies specialization. The program also addresses the global impact of environmental issues and the role of international cooperation in conservation efforts.

Students pursuing an international relations degree can choose from a combination of these specializations or tailor their coursework to match their career development plans. With the support of a Shorelight advisor, you can work toward a career pathway that focuses on your academic interests and career goals, then choose a university offering a suitable program for you.

Let’s take a look at several Shorelight universities offering international relations degrees.

International Relations Courses at Shorelight Universities

Shorelight universities provide well-rounded international relations degree programs taught by expert faculty who combine in-depth technical knowledge and hands-on learning opportunities. Students also participate in real-world projects and case studies during their program, learning how to apply theoretical concepts to real-world scenarios. The curriculum may also include internships and additional study abroad opportunities for students to gain valuable experience during their studies. 

Here are some Shorelight universities offering prestigious degree programs in international relations.

American University

American University, located in Washington, DC, is a top-ranked research university recognized for its internship opportunities and diverse student body. The Bachelor of Arts (BA) in International Studies offered through the School of International Service is ranked in the top 10 for graduate and undergraduate programs in international relations (Foreign Policy Magazine). Students can also work with government agencies, international organizations, and embassies during their degree program.

Florida International University

The Department of Politics and International Relations at Florida International University in Miami provides a multidisciplinary political science and international relations degree program covering such topics as global governance, international security, human rights, and regional studies. By studying in Miami, students have the chance to work at the World Affairs Organization and the American Red Cross as well as learn from global leaders and policy influencers. 

Schreiner University

Ranked #8 in Regional Colleges West by U.S. News & World Report, Schreiner University in Texas provides a supportive learning environment for international students. Schreiner’s BA in Political Science encourages students to specialize in one of three concentrations: American government, international relations, and pre-law. The curriculum’s flexible and interdisciplinary approach encourages students to explore global challenges, foster critical thinking, and build problem-solving skills essential for their careers.

University of Lynchburg

The University of Lynchburg in Virginia, is ranked #21 in Regional Universities South and #23 in Best Value Schools by U.S. News & World Report. Through its College of Arts and Sciences, the University of Lynchburg offers multiple degrees in international relations including a BA in International Relations and Security Studies, a BA in Political Science, and more. Students can also participate in the school’s study abroad program, with options including Argentina, Costa Rica, or Spain.

York College of Pennsylvania

York College of Pennsylvania is a private four-year university, ranked #93 in Regional Universities North by U.S. News and World Report. Its School of the Arts, Communication, and Global Studies offers a comprehensive international relations degree that prepares students for careers in diplomacy, international business, and global governance. With a strong emphasis on experiential learning, students have opportunities to engage in internships and study abroad programs; the cutting-edge curriculum includes simulations of real-world diplomatic scenarios.

By studying international relations, students can pursue a wide range of career opportunities, from diplomatic and government roles to international business, journalism, research, and more. Careers with an international relations degree provide rewarding salaries and growth prospects with opportunities to network and learn from professionals around the world. 

Career Pathways with an International Relations Degree

An international relations degree equips students with transferable skills and knowledge that is highly sought after in diverse fields. Here are several career paths you can pursue with an international relations degree:

  • Diplomacy — International relations students graduate with advanced communication and political science skills that qualify them for jobs in diplomacy, where they represent their countries in foreign policy and negotiations. As a diplomat, you will work to maintain strong international relations between nations, foster cooperation, and address global challenges.

  • Government — With an international relations degree, you can apply for roles at government agencies and departments focused on international affairs. You may work in areas such as foreign policy analysis, trade, immigration, and national security.

  • Nongovernmental Organizations (NGOs) —NGOs play an important role in addressing global issues in human rights, climate change, water sanitation, and more. NGO hiring managers often seek individuals with expertise in international relations and those who can bring creativity and thought leadership in areas such as humanitarian aid and environmental protection.

  • International law — Law and security are important components of an international relations curriculum. With an understanding of international law, graduates have the skills needed to enter law school and/or pursue careers in international law, working for law firms, and international organizations dealing with legal issues between countries.

  • Journalism and media — The knowledge you gain with an international relations degree can help you find roles in journalism and media, reporting on global events, international developments, interviewing sources, and verifying facts.

Let’s now take a look at several roles that are available to international relations grads.

Job Opportunities with an International Relations Degree 

As countries around the world increasingly rely on diplomacy to handle global challenges, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that the employment of international relations professionals is expected to grow by 6% from 2021 to 2031. 

International relations graduates can find diverse career opportunities in various industries and organizations, including government agencies, nonprofit organizations, multinational corporations, think tanks, and international development organizations. 

Here are several roles you can apply for, along with an estimate of their potential annual earnings in the US, Brazil, China, and India.

Diplomacy major



Average salary in the US


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Political science major


Political scientist

Average salary in the US


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International law and human rights major


International lawyer

Average salary in the US


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Journalism major



Average salary in the US


Average salary in Brazil


Average salary in China


Average salary in India


Source: Payscale and Economics Research Institute, 2023

International relations is a broad subject, covering many issues in international economics, finance, law, the environment, and more. To help you begin your search for an international relations degree program, Shorelight advisors can guide you toward majors and specializations that best fit your career goals. By working closely with your advisor, you can build a career development plan to identify which courses to take and internship programs to apply for, and also identify schools that match your requirements through the School Match Tool. With Shorelight you will have support throughout your study abroad journey, from application assistance and visa guidance to career development resources and English-language classes.

Explore the world of international relations and unlock your potential for a global career with Shorelight universities. Discover well-rounded programs and begin your journey toward a rewarding future in international diplomacy and world affairs.

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