Study International Trade: Master's Degree & PhD Info

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Master's and PhD degrees in international trade can lead to careers in and out of academia. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and career options and find out what you can do with your degree.
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International Trade Master's and PhD Degrees: At a Glance

Graduates of international trade PhD programs typically pursue careers in academia, while master's degree holders may work in various positions in government, business or finance. Employment prospects may vary depending on your career path. For example, international trade graduate degree holders who work as financial analysts may focus on a particular commodity, product or geographic region. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of financial analysts was expected to grow 32% from 2010 to 2020, which is faster than average for all occupations.

Despite positive job growth, competition is expected to be strong among applicants. Individuals who possess a strong educational background and relevant professional experience are most poised for success, according to the BLS.

Master'sPhD
Who is this degree for? - Individuals with a background in business, economics or related fields who want to specialize in international trade- People who want to work in academia
Common Career Paths (with approximate annual salary) - International trade specialist ($80,000)**
- Financial analyst ($88,000)*
- Postsecondary business professor ($87,000)*
Time to Completion Typically two years (full time)Typically four to five years (full time)
Common Graduation Requirements - Complete coursework
- Maintain GPA standards
- Satisfy thesis requirements, if applicable
- Satisfy foreign language proficiency
- Complete coursework
- Research, write and present dissertation
- Pass qualifying exams
Prerequisites - Undergraduate transcripts
- GPA standards
- Recent GRE scores
- Prerequisite courses in economics, business or finance and a foreign language may be encouraged or required
- All of the master's requirements plus
- Graduate transcripts, if applicable
- Prerequisite courses in statistics and mathematics, if applicable
Online Availability YesRare

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 mean figures), **Salary.com (median salary figures Dec. 2012).

Master's in International Trade

As a student in a typical master's degree program, you will learn advanced economic skills, which will prepare you for a career in the public or private sector. Degree programs may vary with each school, but they are generally formatted as a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Arts (MS) in International Trade, or similar titles. Depending on the nature of your program, you may have the opportunity to specialize in a particular concentration, such as banking or marketing.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Individuals with advanced degrees, knowledge of business concepts and professional experience are poised for the best job prospects.
  • Increasing use of financial products and the need for in-depth knowledge of geographic regions will fuel strong employment growth.*
  • Emerging markets throughout the world are creating new trade opportunities, which will need oversight by professionals who have expertise in those geographic regions.

Cons

  • Despite employment growth, competition is expected for these high-paying jobs. Growth in financial services should create new positions, but there are still far more people who would like to enter the occupation than there are jobs in the occupation.
  • Jobs in international trade can be stressful, particularly because many professionals work more than 40 hours per week, frequently travel and face deadline pressure.
  • Careers in the financial industry may require additional licensing and certifications.

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Common Courses and Requirements

In a typical international trade master's degree program, courses may include the following topics:

  • Economic theory
  • Advanced statistical methods
  • Global economics
  • Public finance
  • Monetary policy

Depending on the nature of your program, you may be able to choose a concentration or specialization. Some programs may require students to study a foreign language and complete some prerequisite courses before enrolling in upper-level graduate courses. In addition to academic coursework, students in an international trade master's degree program will likely submit a final research paper, or thesis, that demonstrates their ability to perform economic research. Some programs allow students the option of choosing a thesis or non-thesis track; non-thesis curricula typically require additional coursework.

Online Degree Options

Online international trade degrees are available. Keep in mind that program structures will likely vary with each school; some may offer fully online programs, while others offer hybrid on-campus/off-campus options. Regardless of structure, online programs generally feature curricula and coursework requirements that are similar to traditional on-campus programs.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

To get ahead in the field of international trade, consider specializing in a particular geographic region or country. Potential employers may expect applicants to be familiar with the languages, customs and business environments (in addition to economics) of the regions they deal with. Specializing in an emerging market can give you an edge over other applicants and help you stand out from your peers.

Alternate Degrees

Students who wish to pursue the management and business aspects of international trade may want to consider an alternate degree known as the Master of Business Administration (MBA). MBA programs typically emphasize how to manage projects, staff and budgets, skills valued in many industries. Some schools offer a dual degree that allows students to earn a Master of Arts degree and an international MBA simultaneously.

PhD in International Trade

International trade PhD programs aim to prepare students for careers as researchers, policy experts and academics. Some schools may require applicants to have previous master's degrees in business, finance or a related field, while other schools may admit students who have bachelor's degrees. Although specifics vary with each school, international trade PhD programs are typically designed for individuals who want to study applied economics and advanced trade policy.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Depending on the nature of your program, you may not need a master's degree prior to enrolling.
  • Teaching assistantship opportunities, though possibly competitive, can provide experience in all aspects of teaching, from exam preparation to lecturing classes.
  • Careers in postsecondary academia generally require a PhD degree.

Cons

  • The requirements for a doctoral degree are usually more rigorous than those for a master's degree.
  • Acceptance into a PhD program can be competitive because programs are generally smaller than master's and bachelor's degree programs.
  • A PhD is typically not required for careers outside of academia.

Common Courses and Requirements

As a PhD candidate, you will likely complete academic coursework, pass preliminary examinations and prepare for your doctoral dissertation (which you must research, write and present to a faculty panel). Depending on the nature of your program, you may be required to serve as a teaching assistant.

In a typical international trade PhD program, you can expect courses in advanced macroeconomics, advanced microeconomics, international trade and foreign investment, labor economics and trade policy.

Online Degree Options

Currently, online PhD degrees in international trade are not widely available. Like on-campus degree programs, you may find that there are different, but similar, options if you expand your scope. For example, while international trade PhD programs may be rare, economics or business PhD programs with a focus in global trade issues may be more widely available. Accredited online programs generally include coursework requirements that are very similar to their on-campus counterparts.

Getting Ahead with this Degree

If you plan to pursue a career in academia, consider opportunities that augment your studies. For example, if you want to teach, consider assistantship opportunities that are offered through your school. If assistantship opportunities are not an option for you, you may be able to secure a volunteer experience at a local school or community organization.

Alternate Degrees

Another degree at the doctoral level is the Doctor of Business Administration in International Business. DBA degrees are the professional counterpart to the PhD, typically emphasizing the real-world application of global business issues and trends. Alternatively, PhD degrees emphasize theory and research.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Johns Hopkins University

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      • Master : Business Admin
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    3. University of Delaware

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    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - International Business
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    4. Grand Canyon University

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      • MBA
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    6. Herzing University

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    Master's
      • MBA
      • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.
      • MBA Dual Concentration: BS Mgmt. & HR
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    7. Keiser University

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    Master's
      • Master of Business Administration - International Business (Spanish)
      • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)
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    8. Colorado Technical University

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      • Master of Business Admin
      • Master of Business Administration - Global Leadership
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Featured Schools

Johns Hopkins University

  • Master of Science in Applied Economics

What is your highest level of education?

Kaplan University

  • Master : Business Admin
  • MBA: Finance

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University of Delaware

  • Master of Business Administration - International Business
  • Master of Business Administration

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Grand Canyon University

  • MBA

What is your highest level of education?

Full Sail University

  • M.S. - Entertainment Business
  • M.S. - Internet Marketing

What is your highest level of education?

Herzing University

  • MBA
  • MBA Dual Concentration: Business Mgmt & Project Mgmt.
  • MBA Dual Concentration: HR & Project Mgmt.

What is your highest level of education?

Keiser University

  • Master of Business Administration - International Business (Spanish)
  • Master of Business Administration - Management (Spanish)

What is your highest level of education?

Colorado Technical University

  • Master of Business Admin
  • Master of Business Administration - Global Leadership

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