Description of an International Relations Major


An academic career as international relations major can be rewarding in several ways. Students should be aware of what they are going to be studying when declaring themselves as an international relations major and what they should expect in the way of coursework and possible career choices. International relations majors are becoming more popular with college undergraduates as the relationships between nations become increasingly more intertwined.

Student Attributes

  • International relations students should have a broad interest in both politics and other cultures. Students who are interested in international relations have a strong affinity for history and social studies. One primary interest of international relations students is the political and social relationship between various cultures and the history of those relationships. Students of international relations are often curious about communication and the sociological aspects of politics and utilize those interests in striving toward their degree. The ability to synthesize information and analyze complex political or economic systems is helpful in succeeding as an international relations student. Some mathematical ability may be necessary in order to analyze statistics. International relations students often become involved in student government and policy.


  • International relations is the study of relationships across nations. International relations students study the relationship between countries, governments, people and political and social entities around the world. While most international relations study focuses on the political aspects of relating among different countries, there is also a strong focus on cultural, social, business, economic or even psychosocial relationships among separate nations. The goal of international relations study is to integrate the worldview of diverse populations in order to understand how to reach greater harmony in global interactions.

Topics of Study

  • International relations students take a variety of classes dealing with many topics, including but not limited to the balance of power, world governments, the distribution of wealth, sociology, world religions, political philosophy, conflict and war and the study of global economics. International study students are typically open to taking a variety of courses that will underscore their primary focus, creating a sub-focus (at most major private and public institutions). Some international relations students specifically study war and conflict, while others focus on the distribution of wealth or capitalism. Focus varies depending upon a student's interests.

Potential Jobs

  • International relations majors have a variety of career choices upon graduation. Some students go on to continue their graduate study in a master's or Ph.D. program, but many students seek career placement in government agencies as intelligence officers, policy analysts, United Nations staff, or foreign service officers. Other international relations students go into careers foreign correspondents, social studies teachers, Peace Corps workers, or withr a variety of nongovernmental organizations. Those with a more economic or financial background may seek careers as international business analysts or advisors. Employment in this field is competitive, encouraging many students to seek advanced degrees or internship placement to help secure a good position.

Career Outlook and Salary

  • International relations students often find the need to support their major degree with a minor that has greater earning potential. This has led many students to minors or double majors in economics or political science. The average salary for international relations students (as reported by My Majors in July of 2010) was $41,400, with mid-career salaries at $80,500.

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