International Studies

Find out what the field of international studies entails and what training programs are available. See career options and employment projection information, along with potential salaries for various position.

Is International Studies for Me?

Career Overview

International studies is a field that deals with issues in economics, security, health, technology and law, among others, as they relate to the world as a whole, affecting the interactions and relations among nations. You can find bachelor's, master's and doctoral degree programs in international studies at many universities.

Graduates with bachelor's degrees in international studies often find opportunities in media, government, international organizations, businesses and embassies where they perform roles such as cross-cultural trainer, humanitarian aid worker, diplomat and public relations specialist. Some careers, like international law and international research, may require graduate-level degrees with a focus on international studies.

Employment Outlook and Salary Statistics

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), if you want a career as a public relations specialist, you will need to possess excellent communication skills and the ability to work in a busy office environment for an often irregular 35- to 40-hour work week (www.bls.gov). Employment in this field is projected to increase by 12% between 2012 and 2022. In May 2013, the mean annual wage for these professionals was $63,020.

If you wish to work in academia, you will need to obtain advanced degrees. As a professor you will need at least a master's degree, although most universities prefer to hire those in possession of a doctorate degree. In May 2013, postsecondary teachers of area, ethnic and cultural studies earned a mean annual wage of $77,550, per the BLS. Employment opportunities for these teachers are expected to increase 16% between 2012 and 2022.

To work as a lawyer, you will need to attend law school and earn a Juris Doctor (J.D.). Lawyers earned a mean annual wage of $131,990 as of 2013; these professionals should see employment opportunities increase by 10% from 2012-2022, which is about average.

How Can I Work in International Studies?

Undergraduate Education

As an international studies major, you would experience an interdisciplinary curriculum involving the contemporary and historical issues of multiple societies and cultures. You can expect courses in global economics, history, politics and society. Upper level courses at the undergraduate level could introduce you to the subjects of international law, transnational organizations, international finance and public health. In most cases you will be required to choose a region of focus such as Europe, Asia, Africa or the Middle East. In addition, degree programs in international studies usually require courses in the modern languages. Foreign language courses should be significant to your regional focus. Studying abroad is also recommended.

Graduate Programs

A Master of Arts in International Studies program may cover subjects such as human rights, political economy and environmental protection in great detail in order to produce graduates able to work in a global civil society. A thesis is typically required in order to earn this degree and would prepare you for additional study.

A doctorate degree (Ph.D.) would allow you to conduct intensive independent research in your specific area of focus, although you may want to consider earning a Ph.D. in a related field, such as international affairs or international relations. Some programs may also require fluency in a foreign language prior to admission, while others simply require foreign language study during the program. Expect to have a primary and secondary field of concentration that will enable you to create and defend a unique dissertation.

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