International Relations Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Learn about careers in international relations. Get job description, salary and education requirement information. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of an international relations career.
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Pros and Cons of a Career in International Relations

International relations focuses on the political relationships between countries. This field encompasses a variety of professions, ranging from those focused on the political sphere to others involving international trade. Common job titles include political scientist, journalist, management consultant and postsecondary teacher. Compare these professions at a glance:

Political Scientist Journalist Management Consultant Political Science Professor
Career Overview Political scientists study, research and analyze political systems, theories and trends Journalists report the news and current issues to the public through various media outlets Management consultants advise companies on how to reduce costs and increase revenues through effective global business strategies Political science professors instruct students at the postsecondary level, conduct research and publish scholarly papers
Education Requirements Master's degree or Ph.D. Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree, although a master's degree is preferred Doctoral degree
Program Length 2-6 years after undergraduate school 4 years 4-6 years Six years after undergraduate school
Certification None None Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation is available but not required None
Experience Requirement Internship or relevant work experience Internship or other reporting experience Several years of relevant work experience Teaching assistant work
Job Outlook for 2012-2022 1,400 additional jobs expected (21% increase)* 7,200 fewer jobs expected (13% decrease)* 133,800 additional jobs expected (19% increase)* 3,100 additional jobs expected (15% increase)*
Mean Salary (May 2014) $104,000* $45,800* $90,860* $82,670*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Political Scientist

Political scientists study and analyze political systems, theories and trends. They may use their findings to forecast political trends and advise clients, such as governments and international organizations. One subfield of a political science career is international relations. Work in this subfield may involve collecting data, developing and testing theories, evaluating the effects of political systems, monitoring global policy decisions and writing reports on your findings. These professionals use both qualitative and quantitative research methods to gather data and develop theories. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the majority of political scientists work for the federal government. Some are employed by nonprofit organizations, lobbying groups and universities.

Requirements

A master's or doctoral degree is required for employment as a political scientist. Prerequisites for admission to a political science graduate program include a bachelor's degree as well as undergraduate coursework in writing, statistics and political science. Internships or relevant work experience are highly recommended. During graduate school, you could choose to earn your degree in public affairs, public administration or public policy, though more generalized master's and Ph.D. programs in political science are also available. Select colleges also offer graduate degrees in international relations specifically geared toward this career path. Such programs include coursework in contemporary issues, research, theory and political economy relevant to international relations.

In December 2012, some employers of political scientists were looking for the following:

  • An aerospace and defense firm in Alaska wants to hire an intelligence analyst to monitor the intention of foreign terrorist groups. Travel may be necessary. Candidates must have a master's degree, though a bachelor's coupled with significant experience is also acceptable. An additional ten years of experience in intelligence analysis or counterintelligence, as well as Top Secret security clearance, is required.
  • A healthcare services firm in Florida wants to hire a healthcare reform policy consultant with a bachelor's degree in political science and roughly four years of experience in a legislative analysis or regulatory-type role. A master's degree, as well as knowledge of the health insurance industry is preferred. Responsibilities include leading discussions at the federal and state levels, analyzing legislative and regulatory activities, interacting with trade associations and communicating an awareness of political operations.
  • A technology applications company in Kansas wants to hire a human terrain analyst with a master's degree in an area of the social sciences; however, the employer is willing to consider an applicant with a bachelor's degree and applicable work experience. Candidates must have relevant foreign language skills as well as experience analyzing data and working with data analysis tools.

Standing Out

Since this field is growing at a slower-than-average rate compared to other occupations, there is strong competition for jobs. To stand out as a political scientist, you can develop strong analytical and communication skills. You might also consider gaining experience through entry-level positions and internships, preferably in policy analysis. Additionally, by specializing in a specific field of interest, region or political system, you may be able to develop a competitive advantage over other professionals. In fact, some international relations graduate programs allow you to specialize your studies in topics like international political economy or global human rights.

Journalist

Also known as reporters and correspondents, journalists research stories, interview subjects, interpret data and write articles to communicate information to the public. These professionals work in print, radio, television and online media. Some reporters also work freelance. According to the BLS, reporters, correspondents and broadcast news analysts held roughly 58,500 jobs in 2010, and the majority was employed by newspaper publishers. Journalists spend most of their time working in the field, investigating stories and traveling to meet contacts. Those focused on international relations can expect to spend some of their time abroad. Most journalists work full-time, though this career is fast-paced and demanding and can entail long hours and a constantly changing work schedule.

Requirements

A bachelor's degree in communications or journalism is often required for this profession, although a degree in English may also be acceptable. Additionally, a degree in political science may prove particularly beneficial for journalists focused on international relations. Graduate programs are available for those who have earned bachelor's degrees in another field and wish to begin a career in journalism.

Below is a sample of what real employers were looking for in journalists in December 2012:

  • In Florida, a media and entertainment company wants to hire a television reporter with at least eight years experience and a bachelor's degree in journalism. Candidates must also be bilingual in Spanish and English. In addition, this position requires a willingness to travel to Latin America frequently, maintain a flexible schedule and work within tight deadlines.
  • In Virginia, a broadcasting company wants to hire a multimedia journalist with at least two years of experience and a bachelor's degree in journalism. Candidates with video proficiency are preferred.
  • A broadcasting company in Connecticut wants to hire a multimedia journalist with a bachelor's degree and two years of experience in either print or broadcasting. Candidates must be able to appear live in broadcasts, work in a fast-paced environment, write content and maintain a flexible schedule. Experience with Final Cut Pro is preferred.

Standing Out

Experience in the field is essential for starting a career in journalism. One way to gain an edge over the competition and demonstrate experience to potential employers is to participate in internships with various news organizations. Joining the staff of your college newspaper may also give you hands-on training and provide you with experience to fill out your resume. In addition, you could produce podcasts and create online content through a personal blog to show employers your ability to continually produce content. Due to the nature of journalism related to international relations, you may also benefit from studying abroad during college and gaining proficiency in a foreign language to improve your chances of working overseas.

Management Consultant

Management consultants, also known as management analysts, work with businesses and organizations to improve efficiency and increase revenues. An international relations background would be extremely beneficial for those wanting to work with multinational corporations and international businesses. Duties include organizing information related to problems experienced by the company, conducting on-site interviews, analyzing financial data and developing solutions to recommend to management.

Most management consultants are employed on a contractual basis, while some find stable employment through companies in need of in-house assistance. Work varies on a case-by-case basis, and many professionals specialize in a certain field, such as international business or relations. Many divide their time between their offices and with clients on site, which may require frequent travel. This profession can be stressful, especially as deadlines approach. According to the BLS, most management analysts were employed by the management, scientific, and technical consulting services industry in 2010, although eight percent were employed by the federal government. Professionals usually work full-time, yet long hours are common.

Requirements

The entry-level requirement for a career as a management consultant is a bachelor's degree, although most employers prefer to hire candidates with a Master of Business Administration. In fact, the BLS estimated that, in 2010, roughly 28% of management analysts held a master's degree. A few universities offer degree programs specific to management consulting, but more common fields of study include economics, engineering, business, management and statistics. Professionals are expected to continue their education throughout their careers by attending conferences.

In December 2012, some employers of management consultants were looking for the following:

  • In Philadelphia, a management services firm wants to hire a consultant with at least 20 years of upper-level management experience. Responsibilities include conducting the business survey process and developing business programs that can increase a company's cash flow. Frequent travel is required.
  • A business and strategic management firm in Washington, DC, wants to hire a federal financial management senior consultant to work in the department of strategy and operations. Candidates must have at least six years of work experience in consulting. In addition, experience working with the U.S. government and managing small teams is required.
  • In Virginia, a management consulting services firm wants to hire a federal management consultant with a bachelor's degree in a relevant field, such as economics, business or finance; however, a master's degree is preferred. Candidates must also have at least four years of work experience with the federal government.

Standing Out

To get a competitive edge as a management consultant, you may want to participate in multiple internships and study abroad programs to gain valuable work experience and time overseas. Additionally, while certification is not required, it may help you stand out among the competition. The Institute of Management Consultants USA offers the Certified Management Consultant (CMC) designation for candidates at multiple levels of experience, ranging from three to 20 years, who pass a certification exam.

Political Science Professor

Political Science professors research issues in the disciple and publish scholarly papers while teaching students in colleges and universities. Teaching duties include developing curricula, planning assignments, assessing student progress and conducting lectures. Some professors work for large universities, while others are employed by smaller colleges, community colleges and online universities. Political science teachers at the postsecondary level may also teach classes specifically in international relations.

Requirements

Postsecondary teachers are required to have doctoral degree to teach at universities, although some community colleges hire candidates with master's degrees. In addition, teaching experience is typically required. Most professors gain initial teaching experience by working as a graduate teaching assistant part-time while earning an advanced degree.

In December 2012, some employers of postsecondary political science teachers were looking for the following:

  • A university in New York wants to hire an assistant professor in international relations for tenure track. Candidates must have a doctoral degree in a related area of expertise with evidence of scholarly achievements. In addition, candidates with a qualitative methodological orientation and a desire to focus on the international political economy are preferred.
  • A college in Ohio wants to hire an assistant professor of international relations to work as a visiting professor for two years. Candidates must have a doctoral degree in political science. The ability to oversee independent projects in comparative politics is necessary.
  • A college in Miami wants to hire an adjunct faculty member to teach international relations and political science. Candidates must have a master's degree focused on both political science and international relations.

Standing Out

To stand out as a professor, it's important to publish original research often and contribute to advancements in your discipline. In fact, the BLS reveals that those who publish innovative research in their fields are more likely to gain tenure, which is ensures that a teacher cannot be fired without reasonable cause but is becoming less common in favor of part-time and limited-term positions. With experience, tenured political science professors may go on to become departmental deans, presidents or other administrative professionals.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Political Science
      • B.A. - Political Science
  • Online Programs Available
    2. University of Delaware

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Public Administration
      • Master of Public Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    3. Concordia University Portland

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science - Social Studies
      • Master of Science - Social Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Regent University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Global Consulting
      • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Global Consulting
    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Government - International Relations
      • Master of Arts in Government
      • Master of Arts in Government - American Government
      • Master of Arts in Government - Political Theory
      • Master of Arts in Government - Religion and Politics
      • Master of Arts in Organizational Leadership - International Organizations
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in Government - International Relations and Foreign Policy
      • Bachelor of Arts in International Studies
      • Bachelor of Arts in Government - American Government and Politics
      • Bachelor of Arts in Political Communication
      • Bachelor of Arts in Politics and History
      • Bachelor of Science in Professional Studies - Government
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Colorado Technical University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Management - Global Leadership (Executive Format)
    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - Global Leadership
      • Master of Science in Management - Public Administration
    Bachelor's
      • BS - Business Administration - Public Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy - Therapy with Military Families
    Master's
      • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Public Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Arts in History for Secondary Education (ITL)
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Penn Foster High School

    Program Options

    High School Diploma
      • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
      • HS Diploma
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Abilene Christian University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Global Service
  • Online Programs Available
    10. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Public Administration and Policy

Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Political Science

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University of Delaware

  • Master of Public Administration

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Concordia University Portland

  • Master of Science - Social Studies

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Regent University

  • Doctor of Strategic Leadership - Global Consulting
  • Master of Arts in Government - International Relations
  • Bachelor of Arts in Government - International Relations and Foreign Policy

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Colorado Technical University

  • Doctor of Management - Global Leadership (Executive Format)
  • Master of Business Administration - Global Leadership
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Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Marriage and Family Therapy - Therapy with Military Families
  • Master of Science in Organizational Leadership - Public Administration

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Grand Canyon University

  • Bachelor of Arts in History for Secondary Education (ITL)

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Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
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