Why Choose a Master’s in International Relations + Online Degree Option

The intent of this article is to describe what a master’s in international relations is, and the best reasons to earn one. The article also describes the different job possibilities with this master’s, and an online master’s program to consider.

What Is a Master’s In International Relations?

A master’s degree in international relations is a program of study that investigates the complex relationships between different countries. This degree may involve the different roles of states, governments and NGOs. It also can involve public policy, international law, economics, cultural studies and more.

A master’s degree in this field can be either a master of arts or a master of science. It also may be referred to as international affairs or global affairs. In many cases, international relations may work in tandem in a degree program with a field that is related, such as business law, diplomacy, law and conflict resolution.

Professionals who earn their degree in international relations may focus on issues of critical importance, such as human rights, public health, organized crime, economic development, climate change, and nuclear proliferation. It is common for graduates of this specialty to work in government, diplomacy, nonprofit organizations and sometimes for private businesses too.

Why Earn a Master’s in International Relations?

Many professionals desire to earn this advanced degree because they want to work on making the world a better place for all of us. With this master’s degree, you will be able to help to keep strong diplomatic relationships with key countries. Also, many people with an international relations degree can help to solve serious international conflicts. Keeping things running smoothly between very different governments is becoming more important in our very interconnected global community.

Some of the other major reasons that professionals want to earn their master’s in international relations are quite varied. The benefits that you will derive from this fascinating major depend somewhat upon your background and your areas of specialty in your career:

  • The study of international relations can provide you with a better grasp of the demographics of vastly different groups. Many parts of the world have extremely different healthcare systems and problems, far different than what you are used to. People who have a medical background often find that learning about the different health disparities and systems in the world can provide a better grasp of critical health and public health issues.
  • Many who get their master’s in this diverse field can get a long term position in the civil service in the US for for a foreign country. These positions offer the major advantage of a solid salary, as well as long term employment. You also may be able to work for nonprofit organizations that work closely with national government agencies.
  • Gain a better understanding of different countries’ economics, histories and political science. This helps people who are interested in an international relations, foreign language and/or diplomacy career to understand better how international relations, trade and even finance operate. You also may have the opportunity to learn a foreign language that can be of immense benefit for a career in international relations or diplomacy.
  • Professionals who are interested in business or law often find that studying international relations is extremely advantageous. Most large companies today have an international presence and often need to expand into different regions of the world. Studying different cultures and languages in an IR program can make you a substantial asset for these companies.

Earning this advanced degree will also put you in a good position to work in the following growing occupations:

Political Scientists

These political professionals focus on the origin, operation and development of many political systems. They also conduct research on political ideas in the US or in foreign countries. In their work for domestic or international organizations and governments, they may perform analysis of government laws, policies and political trends.

Political scientists must be skilled in the use of qualitative methods in their political research as they gather information from many sources. Some political scientists may work as policy analysts for international agencies.They also may research how a proposed governmental law or policy will have an effect on a certain population.

The median salary for political scientists is $114,000 per year.

Health Educators and Community Health Workers

Health educators are involved in the education of those in need about behaviors that promote health and wellness. This role can occur in both US and international communities. Many in this field who have an international relations degree will work for an international aid organization such as USAID or the UN.

Community health workers offer a critical link between health educators, the community and many other healthcare and social service workers. They are responsible for developing strategies that can improve the health of communities all over the world. Also, they will collect health data and talk about health issues with stakeholders in certain communities.

Professionals with an international relations degree may also have a background in public health and work on administering public health campaigns in a variety of communities in the US or in another country.

The median salary in this field is $53,000 per year, and this field will grow by 13% by 2024 in terms of jobs.

Urban and Regional Planners

Urban and regional planners develop programs and land use plans to improve communities, allow for population growth and to revitalize facilities in both US and international areas. Urban and regional planners work to identify community needs here and abroad, and to develop both long term and short term solutions to improve communities.

Some planners in this role will work on large, community based projects in the US or abroad. Others may be focused on certain issues in the community. In the end planners are advocating for the best way to use the land of a community and to use the resources in the most efficient way possible.

Employment in this field will grow by 6% by 2024, and the median salary is $70,000 per year.

Online Option for Master’s in International Relations

American University

American University based in Washington DC provides aspiring global professionals who want to have an excellent understanding of international relations practice and theory. Your coursework will help you to develop the presentation, thinking and writing skills to perform effective analysis of international relations. You also will be able to conduct rigorous policy analysis to effectively evaluate many types of programs that can make a difference in the lives of many people.

This program can be completed in as little as two years, and consists of 36.-39 credits. There is one capstone project and one immersion experience in the program. Some of the concentrations you can choose are:

  • Global Security
  • International Development
  • International Negotiation
  • US Foreign Policy and National Security

The immersion experience is a weekend-long event that will bring all online graduate students to the DC campus to work on a variety of professional and academic professional development opportunities. This meeting will allow students to connect with faculty, staff, and peers, as well as to network with employers and and alumni.

The typical curriculum in this program consists of these courses:

  • Politics of Global Development
  • Foundations of Economic Development
  • Sustainable Development and Global Environmental Politics
  • Global Health Politics and Policy


Earning your master’s in international relations will provide you a major stepping stone into many different careers: politics, international relations, nonprofit organizations, diplomacy, healthcare, public health and much more.

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