Typical concern of liberal arts students, but especially those in a broad interdisciplinary program like International Relations, is career possibilities. Like all liberal arts programs, the IR concentration provides students with a broad background and an opportunity to develop analytic tools that will be useful in virtually any professional activity.
Indeed, many IR students pursue more “vocational” training in graduate school to complement their undergraduate studies. This may include study in law school (perhaps with a focus on international law), in business school (especially for those interested in work in multinational corporations or international business or finance), schools of public and/or international affairs (for those interested in government service, working in international organizations, or international relief and development work), schools of journalism (for students interested in international reporting), medical school (for those interested in global public health or international relief and development), or disciplinary graduate programs (primarily for those students interested in pursuing academic careers).
Many graduates pursue careers immediately upon graduation in a wide variety of fields, others apply to training programs or internships in international organizations such as the World Bank or United Nations, while others choose to spend some time in volunteer activities such as the Peace Corps to deepen their international experience.
Government service. A popular career path among IR concentrators is some form of government service. Most often this includes careers in the diplomatic service of the student's country, but it may also include work in other governmental agencies. For example, in the United States, students with an IR background might pursue careers in the Departments of State (the Foreign Service or the State Department in Washington), Defense, Health and Human Services, or Homeland Security; the armed services, the CIA or other intelligence agencies; or other branches of government with important international divisions (e.g. the Departments of Commerce, Energy, or Agriculture).
International organizations. Many students are interested in careers in the UN and its specialized agencies, for example, in the fields of diplomacy, human rights, or humanitarian affairs, or in the World Bank and other international financial institutions. However, national quotas and the small number of positions relative to the number of applicants often make such positions highly competitive. Prior work experience in a relevant nongovernmental organization is often a route to obtaining positions in international organizations.
In all such work in both national and international bureaucracies, an advanced degree at the M.A. level in an interdisciplinary program in public and/or international affairs is often required. Please note that many professional Master’s programs require applicants to have a solid background in economics consisting of at least one semester each of microeconomics, macroeconomics, and statistics, along with relevant real-world experience.
Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs). An increasingly popular career path is working with nongovernmental organizations engaged in research or advocacy. Examples include human rights and environmental groups, international affairs and public policy research institutes, or development and aid organizations. Because advanced training is often not necessary, many students find NGOs a good place to gain valuable experience and get their start in a field. Positions with NGOs often entail significant responsibilities right from the start and room for quick advancement if not much in the way of remuneration. A background in the substantive area, along with good writing, research, and speaking skills, is generally desirable.
Business. A fourth popular career option for IR graduates is business, especially work with multinational enterprises, banks, and businesses dealing extensively in international trade and finance. Obviously, a good undergraduate grounding in economics is especially helpful for students considering this career track. Many students find employment as analysts or researchers in business immediately upon graduation. However, the best jobs are usually obtained by those students who have complemented their undergraduate liberal education with additional training in a school of business or management, after several years of work experience.
Academia. A fifth area of frequent interest is the academic profession at the secondary school level or at the college or university level. Careers in this area generally require graduate study, and those interested in college or university teaching should plan to pursue a Ph.D.--normally in a specific discipline such as political science, history, economics, anthropology, or sociology. Since all of these disciplines have strong international components, a broad undergraduate training in international relations is often as useful as specific training in that discipline in preparing for graduate study; indeed, given the disciplinary narrowness of most graduate programs, the interdisciplinary breadth of an undergraduate program may be extremely valuable.
Finally, International Relations leads to many other careers including those in the media, journalism, law, consulting, and international development. The breadth of the concentration provides a good basic background for those careers mentioned here and many other related fields. Further information about any of these careers may be obtained from Career Development Services.
Although it is important to achieve breadth in one’s undergraduate education, it is also useful to develop some specialized skills or knowledge that give one an edge in specific areas. This might include developing particular skills in a foreign language or area studies or in particular research methods such as statistics. Such skills may enhance the breadth of a strong liberal arts education by providing students with unique attributes that will make them particularly attractive candidates for graduate schools and/or prospective employers.
However, students should not focus too heavily in their undergraduate study on preparation for specific careers. Often one’s plans change with time, and too narrow a focus too early in one’s study may preclude options that later appear attractive. The main function of a concentration in International Relations is that of any liberal arts education: to prepare students in a wide range of fields, to provide a broad knowledge base about the world, and above all to provide a good set of critical and analytic tools that may serve students well in any career.
depending on the career paths that you choose (and the one that you are interested in) will mean that the amount of travel will differ. there are many local IR jobs in India, and if you just look hard enough, you may actually find one that is local and suits your interests so that you can do well.
thanks for asking the question, and i sincerely hope that i have helped.
Answered By: fiSh - 11/30/2007