Interested in majoring in International Relations (IR)? Have no idea what IR, also known as International Affairs, even is? Either way, you’ve come to the right place. International Relations, as the name suggests, is the study of relations between nation-states. However, it is also the study of other “actors,” as they are so called, including nongovernmental organizations, regional bodies, and even individuals, as well as treaties and laws. IR even delves into cultures, gender and feminism, and major global issues such as poverty, global warming, and warfare.
A more in-depth description of IR can be found here.
As an IR major myself, I cannot begin to tell you how great the major is. While I could go on forever about why you should consider a major in IR, I have broken my reasoning down into five main points below:
International Relations, by nature, involves many different subjects, including history, political science, foreign language, geography, as well as topics such as urban development, the environment, and human rights. In order to understand an event, perspective, or country, IR pulls techniques, information, and methodologies from these various social sciences, making it a very interesting and potent subject.
2. Study Abroad
One of the many exciting aspects of international relations is studying abroad. While study abroad is, of course, not an opportunity everyone can participate in, IR has one of the highest study abroad rates of any major. In fact, at some schools, including the University of Rochester, study abroad is actually a required part of the curriculum. Study abroad is a wonderful opportunity for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it exposes you to different cultures and perspectives, which is especially valuable for IR majors. Secondly, it gives you the chance to meet an entirely new group of people. Many people make lifelong friends while they study abroad. Thirdly, studying abroad is a great time to practice and improve your foreign language skills. Often schools will offer IR courses in other languages, giving you the chance to practice language speaking and learn more about IR. Lastly, some study broads include an internship component, giving students a taste of what a future career in their field will look like.
Take a look at a tag on your t-shirt and you will probably see the words “Made in China/Indonesia/Sri Lanka/etc.” We clearly live in a very global world, not only in terms of production, but socially as well. With the advent of social media, it’s easier than ever to instant message someone an ocean away. Transportation improvements have now made traveling more accessible as well. With that being said, international relations is more relevant than ever.
Another great aspect of international relations is how flexible it is. Given its interdisciplinary nature, most IR programs will allow you to take classes in different departments, such as political science, economics, and anthropology. There are also a number of different focuses and concentrations as well. For example, you may pursue a regional focus on Latin America, the Middle East, or the Pacific Rim. You may also concentrate on security matters, gender in IR, or global economics.
The great thing about international relations is that it provides you with the writing, analytical, and communication skills necessary for a huge variety of occupations. IR is also great gateway for a variety of careers, including law and business, and has a high Return of Investment as well. According to the US News & World Report, the median starting salary for an IR career is $40,500, while the median mid-career pay is $79,400.
Not sure what a career in IR actually entails? Lehigh University provides a list of common careers for IR majors. These include:
- foreign service
- United Nations
- international business
- law school
- Peace Corps
- international relations graduate school
- public policy graduate school
- And the list goes on!
Even if you don’t end up majoring in IR, I suggest taking a course or two on an IR related topic. You will find yourself looking at the world in a much different light!