International Studies Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue with a degree in international studies. Read on to learn more about career options along with education and salary information. Schools offering Global Studies degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Can I Do With an International Studies Major?

In an international studies degree program, you will learn about global economics and politics, world religions, languages, and cultures. Depending on your area of specialization, both academically and geographically, you will be qualified for a variety of careers with government agencies or global nonprofits. Foreign service agents are one career option, working with governments and companies to help direct and manage a variety of assistance programs. Interpreters and translators for foreign languages can also find work through this major, working in embassies or for international branches of companies in need of multilingual employees. Marketing managers can use their knowledge of international markets to determine what kinds of products a company offers will sell best in different countries.

See the table below for information about career options and responsibilities as a foreign services officer.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Religion
Language
Economics
Politics
Key Responsibilities Travel; diplomacy; coordinate with government agencies, citizens, corporations, and nonprofit entities around the world; provide expert information about a specific region of the world
Median Salary (2016) $79,681 (for all foreign service officers)*

Source: *PayScale.com

What Does the International Studies Major Include?

As an international studies major, you complete courses in international politics, globalization, and economics. You are required to focus your studies and can choose from peace and conflict studies, world religions, international economics, global politics, environment, and development. In addition, you must choose a specific region to study, such as Africa, Latin America, Asia, or the Middle East. Some programs require that students complete a study-abroad program to experience other cultures firsthand.

What Jobs Could I Qualify For?

With a bachelor's degree in international studies, you may find work as a Foreign Service Junior Officer and be promoted to a Foreign Service Officer after three years, according to USAID, the nation's leading agency for representing foreign policy interests. These officials work with government agencies, citizens, and nonprofit organizations in other countries to manage assistance programs in trade, agriculture, education, conflict management, health, and a variety of other subjects. A Junior Officer completes formal training in Washington, D.C., before their first international assignment for further training, according to the U.S. Department of State.

The U.S. Department of State also notes that individuals with the right credentials can enter as specialists or generalists. A specialist would focus their work in one of seven categories: International information and English language programs, medical and health, administration, construction engineering, information technology, office management, or security. A Foreign Service Officer or generalist would also choose one of five specialty areas: Consular, economic, management, political, or public diplomacy. In each of these specialties, the officer would be responsible for a variety of tasks related to supporting policy and global issues in the U.S.

Individuals with degrees in international studies with an emphasis on a foreign language may also find employment as translators or interpreters, in government, business, or non-profit contexts. Translators and interpreters will serve as a communication bridge between two individuals who do not speak the same language.

An international relations degree may also qualify you for a position as an international marketing manager with a private company. In this capacity, you would oversee and coordinate foreign operations, marketing, and sales, using your knowledge of political, legal, and cultural differences between countries to maximize profits, sales, and/or corporate performance.

You may also find work with a non-profit organization as an international service manager. Here you would use your knowledge of foreign relations to improve your organization's operations overseas.

How Much Could I Earn?

PayScale.com users identifying themselves as Foreign Service Officers report an annual salary range of $50,495-$125,036 as of 2016. According to the U.S. Department of State, several factors determine a Foreign Service Officer's pay. The first is education and experience level. The U.S. State Department also looks at whether a candidate will lose money by joining the Foreign Service. For example, in 2017, an entry-level Foreign Service Officer with a bachelor's degree and no experience would be classified as FP-6, Step 5, and could earn an annual salary of $51,811. Foreign Service Officers may receive other benefits, such as paid holidays, life insurance, and health insurance.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, interpreters and translators made an average annual wage of $48,360 in 2015, with projections that employment would increase 29% from 2014 to 2024. Marketing managers, on the other hand, made an average annual salary of $140,660, with an expected 9% increase in employment over that same time period.

What Are Some Similar Careers?

Advertising and promotions managers work closely with marketing managers. Advertising managers take the information provided by marketing managers and devise strategies to advertise the products in the most appealing way based on the target demographic. Promotions managers invent means of drawing in customers, typically through a combination of ads and purchasing incentives valuable to customers. For fluent English speakers, you could become an English teacher in a foreign country, using your knowledge of the culture to incorporate the best learning strategies into your curriculum. All of these careers will require at least a bachelor's degree, and teachers may need additional education or licensure and certification based on local and national laws in other countries.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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