Careers in International Relations and Global Affairs

Majoring in international relations and global affairs will help you acquire several skills that will be important in developing future employment opportunities. Proficiency in a foreign language, critical thinking, and enhanced research, writing and oral communications skills are necessary for internationally oriented careers. The International Practicum, a required internship for the major, will provide you with international work or service experience that will be extremely valuable for developing future job opportunities in a variety of fields. Majoring in international relations and global affairs will prepare you for careers in such areas as government, international organization, the non-governmental or non-profit sector, education, law, journalism, business, and further work in graduate school.


A traditional path for those interested in international relations has been to turn to the U.S. Foreign Service. Many professional opportunities exist within the State Department, the Commerce Department, and other federal agencies engaging in the nation’s foreign policy. These careers require passing the highly selective Foreign Service Exam, usually after acquiring a master’s degree or other significant work experience. Many other exciting government job opportunities relating to international affairs are emerging at the state and even local levels.

International Organization

Career opportunities exist with international governmental organizations (e.g., the United Nations) and related agencies focusing on a wide range of global issues, such as third world development, education, the global environment, food and population, public health, science and technology, and arms control, amongst others.

International Non-governmental Organizations

Since the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, well over 15,000 non-governmental organizations have formed throughout the world focusing on environmental issues alone. There has been a similar explosion in recent years of non-profit and private organizations focusing on other global issues such as world hunger, human rights, third world development, international women’s rights, and so on. Many new and meaningful job opportunities are opening up in these organizations, which bring individuals–not just governments–together in unprecedented ways and involve them in international relations. Many important volunteer opportunities exist in these organizations as well.


Opportunities in teaching about international affairs exist in primary and secondary schools as well as at the college level. Opportunities for people trained in international relations also exist in school administration, curriculum development, and international education (study abroad) programs.


Most lawyers engage in international law work in private firms handling international business transactions. American lawyers who describe themselves as “international lawyers” actually practice a great deal of American law and typically work with their counterparts overseas to facilitate their clients’ foreign business. A few specialists in international public law work for Federal government while others trained in law may find legal positions in international agencies or with certain nonprofit organizations focusing on human rights or other global issues.


The best journalists today were trained not so much in writing as in the subjects about which they write. The New York Times now rates the qualifications of potential foreign correspondent in the following order:

  1. journalistic experience;
  2. foreign language ability; and
  3. familiarity with international affairs.

Many journalists find excellent opportunities for covering international affairs for less renowned newspapers and broadcast media across the country. Major news services need individuals trained in international relations and fluent in foreign language to gather, analyze, and disseminate the news.


As the global economy expands, many different career paths can be found in business firms engaged in international trade, finance and banking, and international consulting. Many firms are interested in hiring at the undergraduate level at liberal arts colleges and show a preference for bright graduates with well-rounded liberal arts educations.

To help with career planning, our Career Center connects majors to careers