A 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.
Includes paid and unpaid internships
Brown Careers in the Common Good Summer Internship Program
University of Pennsylvania International Internships
Russian & East European Institute School of Global & International Studies
Careers in International Affairs
Mount Holyoke College IR career resources
FELLOWSHIPS, GRANTS, SCHOLARSHIPS
PROFESSIONAL SCHOOL – LAW/BUSINESS
GOVERNMENT – FOREIGN
GOVERNMENT – US
NON-PROFIT, RESEARCH AND ANALYSIS
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).
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.
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.
A popular career option for IR graduates is business, especially work with multinational enterprises, banks, and accounting firms dealing extensively in international trade and finance. Obviously, a solid foundation in micro & macro economics and statistics is especially helpful for students considering this career path. Many students find employment as analysts, consultants, 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, management, or international affairs after several years of work experience.
An 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 media, journalism, law, consulting, public health, environment, immigration, and global and regional 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 LAB (Center for Careers and Life After Brown).
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 includes acquiring fluency in a second language, in-depth knowledge of a country or region, particular research methods such as statistics or qualitative analysis, or public speaking. 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 to prepare students in a wide range of approaches and methods, to provide a broad knowledge base about the world and current affairs, and above all to provide a good set of critical and analytic tools that serve students well in any career.