Photo courtesy of Evangeline Shaw
By Shabana Bachu and Cara Hutto
International relations is a major that can take you all over the world, touching matters of diplomacy, humanitarian crises, and even protecting national security. IR majors can find work domestically and abroad, but you’re certainly not limited to politics or diplomacy.
Here are nine careers that you can pursue with an international relations degree.
Also known as a foreign service officer, diplomats promote peace and prosperity and are a crucial part of any country’s international relations. You must possess strong written and oral communication skills, be able to adapt easily to different cultures, and have great leadership skills. After graduating, you’ll need to choose a career track like consular officer, economic officer, management officer, political officer, or public diplomacy officer, depending on your interests and experience. From there, aspiring diplomats must pass the Foreign Service Officer test, an online multiple-choice exam with three sections: English expression, job knowledge, and biographical information.
Average salary: $100,000
If you want to become a lawyer, you’ll also have to get a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) degree and pass the Bar Exam, but an international relations degree is a great start. You might enjoy international law, which involves helping states navigate issues involving war, diplomacy, trade, and human rights. Those interested in international relations might find the human rights, immigration, or international crime fields appealing.
Average salary: $104,000
Economists collect and study data about a people’s use of money and evaluate issues related to the country’s resources, goods, and services. Economists generally work for the government or for research organizations, but many newsrooms and publications have an economist on board to provide and comment on statistics regarding the everyday movements of the economy. For most economist positions, you’ll need a master’s degree or Ph.D., but an international relations degree is a great stepping stone.
Average salary: $92,000
Lobbying for a bill, a social cause, public policy, or a politician’s campaign is a great way to raise money and support for a cause you believe in. This is an inherently political role, even if what you’re lobbying for is a non-partisan cause. Learning how politics work, both at a local and international level, can help you approach lobbying and your target audiences more strategically. The best way to get your foot in the door is to begin with a lobbying internship and once you gain that experience, you can fill out a lobbyist registration form.
Average salary: $88,000
5. Academic professor
International relations are always changing, and professors are at the forefront of observing, studying, documenting, and interpreting this change. Teaching is a viable career path for international relations majors who enjoy the academic setting, as it allows them to continue learning about their chosen field and teach from an experienced position. While the salary for an international relations professor varies among universities, it ranges from $76,000 for an assistant professor, to upwards of $190,000 for tenured academics.
Average salary: $93,000
If you never get tired of writing and love being the first to share news, this is the job for you. Journalism has remained an important and integral career field throughout history—now more than ever. Your background in learning about the security, ethics, and legality of international relations will help you think critically and analytically about how we can solve some of the world’s biggest issues.
Average salary: $42,000
7. Communications professional
In companies that have an international presence—nonprofits included—a communication specialist acts as a key liaison within the organization or between the organization and the public. This role’s responsibilities can include translation, processing paperwork, traveling between offices, and content creation. A communication specialist’s main objective is to ensure that a company communicates clearly and remains consistent in its branding and messaging. Beginning with a communications-related internship is the best way to work toward your goal of becoming a communications professional.
Average salary: $81,000
8. International banker
Sometimes called financial managers, international bankers are responsible for the daily performances of a financial institution. These specialized bankers are responsible for producing reports on the bank’s activities, ensuring top-notch customer service, and advising executives. To become an international banker, it’s good to start in a graduate trainee program to gain experience. Depending on your employer, you might need additional certification or licensing in investment funds and financial securities, credit management, or personal financial planning.
Average salary: $44,000
9. Peace Corps worker
The Peace Corps is a program tun by the U.S. government that sends volunteers abroad to offer economic and social aid. You can either apply to volunteer (for which you’ll get a very small monthly stipend), or apply for the administrative positions, like training officer or program director (for which you are paid a salary). This is a great route to take right out of school since you’ll be provided with health care, free housing, travel benefits, and student loans benefits—and you’ll get to travel. Not only that, upon your return to the States, the Peace Corps helps with the financial and professional transition back to domestic life. If you want to travel and improve the lives of others in need, this could be the perfect opportunity for you.
Average salary: Monthly stipend, varies
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