Diplomacy Degrees: Master's, PhD & Online Course Info

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Master's degrees and PhDs in the field of diplomacy can lead to careers in and out of academia and government service. Get the truth about the requirements, courses and online options, and find out what you can do with your degree.
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Studying Diplomacy: Programs at a Glance

In a graduate curriculum, you may gain an interdisciplinary perspective on diplomacy in world affairs. Programs with this specific name are available but uncommon at the master's level, and rare to nonexistent at the doctoral level. Relevant topics may be more often covered in political science, history or international affairs programs.

Master's degree holders in diplomacy might seek careers in military or foreign government service or public, non-profit or business organizations concerned with intelligence, information analysis or international affairs. With a PhD, you might additionally work for a college or university as a professor or for think tanks, political groups or labor organizations.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for postsecondary teachers are expected to grow by 17% from 2010-2020, which is about as fast as average for all occupations. The BLS also predicted that jobs for political scientists would see an 8% increase from 2010-2020, which is slower than the national average. Your salary could likewise vary depending on whether you choose academia or a different career. For example, the BLS reported that political scientists as a group earned a median annual salary of roughly $107,000 in the spring of 2010. However, postsecondary political science teachers earned a median annual salary of about $71,000 in 2011, also according to the BLS.

Master's PhD
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in a professional position in a diplomacy-related field Individuals interested in an advanced professional position, consulting, research or academia
Common Career Paths and Salary - Foreign service officer ($48,000 - base pay)*
- Diplomat (salary unavailable)
- Postsecondary history teacher ($66,000)**
- Postsecondary area, ethnic and cultural studies teacher ($69,000)**
- Postsecondary political science teacher ($71,000)**
Time to Completion Approximately two years, full-time
4-6 years, post-bachelor's
Common Graduation Requirements - Typically 30-40 credits
- Internship
- Thesis
- Approximately 70-80 post-baccalaureate credit hours
- Internship
- Thesis or final project
Prerequisites Bachelor's degree Bachelor's or master's degree
Online Availability Available May be available in related disciplines

Sources: *U.S. Department of State (2010 Foreign Service Salary Table), **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (2011 median annual wage).

Master's Degrees Covering Diplomacy

A master's degree program in this field may focus on national security, statecraft and international affairs or strategic intelligence studies. You might learn about communications; diplomacy; cultural diplomacy; economic, political and psychological strategies; intelligence and counterintelligence; and the need for skills and personal qualities such as rhetoric, will-power and moral leadership.

Universities may offer diplomacy studies through named programs or institutes or departments such as history, political science or international affairs. Your school might award dual master's degrees in law, public administration, business, language and literature or area studies. Some may offer double-degree programs with foreign universities.

Pros and Cons of a Master's in Diplomacy


  • This degree could qualify you for a position with an international entity.
  • Credits may be acceptable in doctoral programs if you pursue further studies.
  • Internships that might enhance job prospects may be available in intergovernmental or non-government organizations, diplomatic missions and U.S. government international agencies.


  • On-campus programs are not available in all locations.
  • Depending on timing, world circumstances and politics, you may find more or less demand for your specialty when you graduate.
  • With average or below-average growth in some fields, you may need to be flexible about career options.

Courses and Requirements

You could learn to interpret and integrate complex historical, social, philosophical and cultural issues. A typical program might include core courses in history, politics, international relations or military thought. Elective coursework will likely vary, depending on your objective. Competency in one or more foreign languages might be required. You may need to complete an internship, a thesis or both.

You might take electives like these:

  • U.S. diplomatic history
  • Power and social systems
  • Global competition and strategy
  • Global governance
  • National and international security
  • Politics of terrorism
  • Democratization and human rights

Online Options

Fully online degrees focused on diplomacy are available, as well as individual courses. In a virtual program, you would interact with your professors and fellow students over the Internet, using conferencing platforms. You would meet similar requirements as students who attend a program on-campus, but have more schedule flexibility. You could be located anywhere in the world.

Getting Ahead with This Degree

Attending a school that has relationships with federal agencies such as the Department of State, USAID, the Foreign Agricultural Service, Foreign Commercial Services or other organizations in your field may help you get a quality internship in Washington, D.C., or elsewhere. Programs could include study abroad options. Schools may have graduate student organizations for diplomacy that provide leadership opportunities.

Some schools have one or more institutes or centers that coordinate seminars, workshops, interdisciplinary research and other activities related to diplomacy studies. These institutes may provide students with networking opportunities.

PhD Covering Diplomacy

PhD students interested in diplomacy may find faculty supporting their interests in various departments, especially political science, history, international affairs and area studies. Doctoral candidates may be headed for high-level international careers in diplomacy, business, media or academia.

Doctoral programs could take 4-6 years to complete beyond the baccalaureate. History programs might focus on diplomatic and military history. An international relations program could support interdisciplinary research combining international affairs and political science. Concentrations might include diplomacy, history and politics, international law and organizations or economics and international business.

Pros and Cons of a PhD in Diplomacy


  • This degree could lead to a range of careers in academic, public service, for-profit and nonprofit organizations.
  • The flexibility of a doctoral program could permit secondary specializations that enhance employability.
  • Degree candidates committed to working abroad may find these programs to be personally gratifying.


  • Academic positions are likely to be highly competitive.
  • This 4-6 year program may be too intensive to permit outside employment.
  • If they have no previous work experience, PhDs may be competing with master's degree recipients for some types of positions.

Courses and Requirements

Your curriculum may depend on your title of your degree and your concentration. Programs may involve several core courses including research methodology. At the doctoral level, you might choose electives that support your research topic. Oral and written examinations will be required at various points, including those qualifying you to write your dissertation.

With a focus in diplomacy, you may study the history of the U.S., American foreign policy and diplomatic practice. You might consider the question of American exceptionalism, national interests and democratic values.

Courses such as these might be included in a doctoral program covering diplomacy:

  • International treaty behavior
  • U.S. public diplomacy
  • Evolution of strategy
  • Foreign relations and national security law
  • U.S. foreign relations

Online Courses

Although some courses particularly at the master's level may be available online, a fully-online doctorate program may be hard to find. You may be able to complete some independent studies virtually, or with prior permission, transfer some credits taken remotely elsewhere. Schools with online master's programs may offer some appropriate doctoral opportunities.

Standing Out with a PhD Degree Program

Graduate students bound for academia may be eligible to win various awards and fellowships that demonstrate their ability to attract recognition and funding. Student-run journals may provide opportunities to present research.

Schools might provide special mentoring opportunities to graduate research and teaching assistants. Research centers permit networking and interaction with resident and visiting faculty and future colleagues. You might find a school offering dual degree options that could enhance your marketability.

Popular Schools

  • Online Programs Available
    1. Liberty University

    Program Options

      • DPA: Public Administration
      • PHD: Public Policy
      • PHD: Public Policy: Economic Policy
      • PHD: Public Policy: Foreign Policy
      • PHD: Public Policy: National Security
      • PHD: Public Policy: Social Policy
  • Online Programs Available
    2. Northcentral University

    Program Options

      • DMFT - Military Family Therapy
      • Doctor of Public Administration (DPA)
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Northcentral University

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