ADVICE

Where can a master’s in international relations take you?

SOURCE: Angela Weiss/AFP
International relations studies can prepare graduates for a wide range of roles.


By U2B Staff 

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Global issues affect us in various ways – from the current COVID-19 pandemic that’s paralysing economies everywhere to how trade wars affect the global economy, local companies as well as its citizens.

But for professionals, a deeper understanding of what’s happening across the world can pave the way for a better understanding of the complex interplay between how laws and policies affect society, along with the wider implications that can result from this.

That’s among the appeal that a master’s in international relations can bestow on its students. 

Broadly speaking, international relations is a wide area of study that covers disciplines such as law, economics, international politics and security and defense, to name a few.

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Depending on the programme, students can expect to learn about how strategies and foreign policies are formulated and implemented, develop an understanding of relations between states, societies and cultures, learn practical skills such as how to operate or compose oneself in a hostile place, and in some instances, focus their study according to region, be it the Middle East, Asia, Europe, or the like.

International relations studies can benefit a wide range of professionals, including journalists, academics, those working for the government, think-tanks as well as international businesses or organisations, NGOs, to name a few. Depending on the institution, a postgraduate international relations programme may accept students from all academic backgrounds, or have a preference for those with an undergraduate degree in politics, international relations or other degrees related to the field.

What are some of the potential career outcomes? 

International relations
United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council president Elisabeth Tichy-Fisslberger of Austria talks during a session in Geneva on March 12, 2020. Source: FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP)

A master’s in international relations can help with career advancement, or help professionals pivot their career into a new direction, such as in diplomatic service. Indubitably, positions in renowned international organisations such as the United Nations are highly competitive, but with the right education and professional experience, it is not out of reach.

There are still many positions where a postgraduate degree in the field can help you flourish. 

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For instance, Job Outlook notes that many individuals who work as intelligence and policy analysts – whose task may involve reviewing existing policies, researching social, economic and industrial trends and formulating and analysing policy options, among others – have completed their postgraduate studies. They add that the career has a “very strong future growth”. 

An international relations background can also be useful in roles such as social research officers, political risk analysts and policy officers, or graduates with a related background for the role. A postgraduate degree gives you specialised knowledge that may help you progress to a managerial role or higher.

The degree can also equip graduates with a wide range of transferable skills, including strong analytical skills, verbal and written communication skills, conflict solution, to name a few, which is an asset in many industries. The degree can also provide graduates with an international perspective on things and a better understanding of conflicts as well as their repercussions.