International Trade Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

About this article
Learn about the job description for an international trade specialist, as well as the salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of a career in this field.
View available schools

Pros and Cons of a Career as an International Trade Specialist

International trade specialists analyze and oversee the importing and exporting of goods for a business on a global scale. Read on to decide whether the pros outweigh the cons so you'll know if this career is right for you.

Pros of Becoming an International Trade Specialist
Potential for high salary ($95,710 median salary for economists in 2014)*
Average job growth (14 percent expected between 2012-2022 for economists)*
Bachelor's degree may be enough for some entry-level positions*
Ability to help businesses make improvements on a global scale*

Cons of Becoming an International Trade Specialist
Pressure from working long hours under deadlines*
Graduate degree strongly preferred for many positions*
Possibility of intermittent global travel*
Must be highly organized (may often be working independently)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information

Job Description

International trade specialists study the development and distribution of a wide array of goods and services for which transactions take place between countries. If you decide to become one, you'll spend the bulk of your time analyzing the impact of globalization on the particular business you work for. You'll investigate the financial markets abroad in which your company does business (or is thinking about doing business). You'll need to make sure you and your company are aware of customs and exchange rates for the countries in which transactions are made. Ultimately, with the knowledge you possess and data you acquire, you'll be expected to make presentations, provide interpretations of the data and make recommendations regarding the next actions your company should take to improve its operations.

Salary Info

Economists in general, of which trade specialists are a part, earned a median annual salary of $95,710 in May of 2014, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The job outlook is also strong, with growth of about 14 percent expected between 2012 and 2022, slightly over the national average for all professions. This is despite the fact that the bulk of economists are employed by the federal government, which is expected to decrease the hiring of workers in this field significantly. Private industries, however, are actually primed for very solid growth here as organizations rely increasingly on analysts to observe and predict trends in the marketplace. Such businesses may be home to your best opportunities for ongoing work as an international trade specialist.

Requirements

Education

You'll need to gain at least a bachelor's degree in order to become an international trade specialist, and that degree may only be enough for some entry-level positions. A master's degree or doctorate may be required for more prominent positions in the field. Employers often desire candidates with extensive training for the in-depth type of research and analysis they'll need to do regularly. As part of your education, you should focus on a curriculum highlighting advanced mathematics and statistics, as well as general principles of business and finance. You'll likely want to engage in internships and related entry-level business positions while you prepare for a career as a trade specialist.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Experience will be critical to your standing with potential employers since they'll want to hire someone with a proven track record of understanding how to effectively deal with clients abroad. Here are some job postings from actual employers in May 2012.

  • A company in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that made paints, varnishes and other coatings was searching for an international trade specialist to oversee the importing and exporting of goods at its North American location while assisting other global locations. They required 2-3 years of experience, as well as a bachelor's degree in business administration, supply chain management or a related field.
  • A manufacturer of chemicals, fertilizers, plastics and metals based in Saudi Arabia with an office in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, was seeking a trade compliance analyst with a degree ranging from bachelor's to doctorate (the higher the better), five years of experience in its industry and an understanding of all global trade regulations that apply.
  • A large company that made office supplies was searching for a global trade compliance specialist for its location in Naperville, Illinois. The position would involve observing and recommending procedures involving international importing and exporting and required a bachelor's degree or substantial work experience in the field.
  • A supplier to homeland security, defense and aerospace fields with a location in Cleveland, Ohio, was searching for an international trade compliance specialist who had hands-on training handling the importing and exporting of various goods. A bachelor's degree in international business, international trade or a similar field was required.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Get More Education

To gain an edge in the job market as an international trade specialist, you'll want to show that you are exceptionally thorough in your research and that you know how to analyze and apply it effectively. If a graduate degree isn't required for positions you may be interested in, you still may want to consider pursuing the advanced degree in order to improve your potential for employment and greater income. If you're not able to immediately acquire a position devoted to international trade, you would do well to obtain work related to general business or finance, which will bolster your level of relevant experience in the eyes of employers.

Learn a Foreign Language

Some international trade specialist jobs may also prefer you to have proficiency in speaking a foreign language. Having this skill (or even fluency) can give you a very competitive edge in the job market when seeking positions, especially those in which you would deal directly with investors or other specialists from other countries. You can gain this edge by enrolling in an international trade or economics program in college that incorporates a foreign language requirement into its curriculum.

Add to Your Skill Set

Since you could be presenting your research and insights to others frequently, you might also want to consider taking further courses or training related to public speaking. Writing regularly on your own time can also be valuable since you'll want to consistently improve your clarity in communicating your ideas with others. Because math and analytical skills are vital to the field, you should strive to regularly refresh your knowledge base and better your understanding of all current methods and trends within statistical analysis.

Alternative Career Paths

Public Relations

If working with numbers in an office environment doesn't sound appealing, you may want to consider a career in public relations. You would still consult with clients to determine best strategies for their business needs, but you'd be preparing information to present to media and regularly communicating with clients to help them convey their message to the public. Pay might be comparable (about $93,000 for public relations managers as of May 2011, according to the BLS), and job growth is expected to be higher (a 21% increase between 2010 and 2020) than those of international trade specialists.

Language Translator/Interpreter

If you like the international relations aspect of the job but would rather simply investigate some of the language and cultural barriers between nations, you might want to consider becoming an interpreter or translator. Being fluent in one or more languages can be extremely valuable in a variety of fields and the job outlook is quite strong (42% expected growth between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS). However, the pay will undoubtedly be a good deal lower than for international trade specialists since the BLS also reported about $44,000 as the median annual income as of May 2011.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. American University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Arts in Economics
      • Master of Arts in Economics
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Kaplan University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master : Business Admin
      • MBA: Finance
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Business Admin
      • BSBA - Investment
      • Bachelor: Accounting
      • BBA: Project Management
    Associate's
      • AASBA in Business
      • Associate: Business Admin.
      • AASBA in Sales
  • Online Programs Available
    3. George Mason University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration
  • Online Programs Available
    4. Grand Canyon University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • DBA - Management
    Master's
      • MBA
    Bachelor's
      • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education
      • BS in Applied Management
      • BS in Business Admin.
      • BS in Finance and Economics
  • Online Programs Available
    5. Herzing University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
    Bachelor's
      • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
    Associate's
      • Associate of Science - Business Management
      • Associate of Science - Business Studies
  • Online Programs Available
    6. Keiser University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - International Business (Spanish)
      • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
    Bachelor's
      • B.A. - Business Admin: International Business
      • Business Administration, BA - Management
    Associate's
      • Associate of Arts - Accounting
  • Online Programs Available
    7. Georgetown University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management
  • Online Programs Available
    8. Northcentral University

    Program Options

    Doctorate
      • Doctor of Business Admin - International Business
      • PhD in Business Admin - International Business
      • PhD in Business Admin - Management
      • Doctor of Business Admin - General Business
      • Doctor of Business Admin - Financial Management
    Master's
      • MBA - International Business
      • MBA - Financial Management
      • Master of Business Admin - General Business
      • Master of Business Admin - Accelerated General MBA
      • MBA - Management
      • MBA - Strategic Management
  • Online Programs Available
    9. Johns Hopkins University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Science in Applied Economics
  • Online Programs Available
    10. Saint John's University

    Program Options

    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration: Interdisciplinary Business

Featured Schools

American University

  • Master of Arts in Economics

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master : Business Admin
  • Bachelor of Business Admin
  • AASBA in Business

Which subject are you interested in?

George Mason University

  • Master of Business Administration

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • DBA - Management
  • MBA
  • Bachelor of Science in Business for Secondary Education

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • B.S. - Business Management With No Concentration
  • Associate of Science - Business Management

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - International Business (Spanish)
  • B.A. - Business Admin: International Business
  • Associate of Arts - Accounting

What is your highest level of education?

Georgetown University

  • Masters of Professional Studies in Technology Management

What is your highest level of education completed?

Northcentral University

  • Doctor of Business Admin - International Business
  • PhD in Business Admin - International Business
  • MBA - International Business
  • MBA - Financial Management

What is your highest level of education?