Information compiled by the GradSchools.com team - last updated October 2010
Studying in the field
The world has always been a complicated place, and the interactions of nations on the global stage have always been fraught with risk, misunderstanding and confusion. Now, however, as the world grows ever more interconnected, and as the problems of small nations in what used to be considered out-of-the-way regions threaten to explode onto the world stage, people who understand the ways of the world are more important than ever before. This, then, is truly the perfect time to go into the field of International Relations.
It used to be the case that it was enough for students of International Relations to have a general grasp of the world at large and an in depth knowledge of one or two specific regions in order to successfully accomplish their jobs. But these days, with the interconnectedness of the world an ever more obvious reality, students in this field must have a solid base of knowledge of the entire world, for it is growing ever more difficult to separate and isolate regions from one another. In fact, to do so would not only be foolish, but dangerous.
Students in this field, then, must possess the ability to think incisively, to handle problems in both micro and macro terms, to be able to process information that may seem to be unrelated and find the ties that connect them. And they must also be versed not only in the history and politics of various regions throughout the world, but also in the cultures and social norms of the people from them, especially if the goal of the student is to go into an area of international relations where they will have interactions with people from cultures that differ from their own. On top of that, they should also have a facility with languages, for the ability to communicate in another tongue will be of the utmost help when it comes to not only getting a job in the field, but also to excelling at it.
In terms of studies, classes are likely to run the gamut from politics to culture to language and cover virtually everything in between. Depending upon the program in which you enroll, and the focus of your studies, the classes you take could include, but would certainly not be limited to, the following: "American defense policy...state politics...political development...comparative politics...comparative foreign policy...international conflict...[and] issues in international relations" (University of Alabama). Of course, this list is just an example of the wide variety of courses you are likely to encounter over the course of your graduate education in International Relations. Other classes could include techniques of international negotiations, translation, and conflict resolution, among a wide array of others.
The key here is to go into a graduate program with the goal of improving your understanding of the world, and of applying what you learn, ultimately, to the real world of International Relations.
Job opportunities in the field
Those job opportunities run the gamut from private to public sector work, journalism, and everything in between. In this world, after all, people with a strong understanding of not only how the world works on a macro level, but also of how individual countries and regions go about making their decisions and implementing their policies-both political and business-related-will be the ones who succeed.
In politics, your options include running for office yourself or working as an advisor to those in office. You can also find work with federal agencies that might need people who can help them analyze information of an international nature or negotiate treaties and deals with other countries and their related entities. In government, really, your options are unlimited, and will likely continue to expand in the coming years.
In the private sector, you will likely find work with multinational corporations, as your expertise will be of incalculable use to them in their quest to get into new markets and maximize their capitalization off the ones in which they're already working. Then there is journalism: With the 24-hour news cycle, news organizations are always looking for people who can help set up interviews with international figures, analyze the goings on of the day and report it in such a way that it is understandable to the general public. Your schooling in the field will certainly prepare you for that.
Because of the wide range of job opportunities in the field, your earnings can run the gamut from a solid living (politics) to all the riches in the world (the oil industry, for example). But because there are so many other considerations to going into this field-intellectual challenge, professional satisfaction and excitement, among many others-you should give the direction in which you wish to go a great deal of thought. But as long as you choose the path that is best for you, you will have a career that is rewarding and has the potential to influence people all over the world. And that's what professional satisfaction is all about.
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