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Overview of International Relations
International Relations is a subfield of political science and concerns itself with the relationship between nations in the areas of politics, economics, cultural exchange and more. Individuals in this field are responsible for analyzing trends and data, as well as having a comprehensive understand of a given culture or society, including how their government operates on the international stage.
International Relations, or IR, is an interdisciplinary college major integrating the ever-evolving cultural, political, military, technology, social, and economic dynamics of an international system. Undergraduate programs provide students with an integrative approach to meld the geographic factors of a region with global influences as it relates to domestic objectives.
The study of the interactions between international players requires students to be well-versed in a number of areas of study such as international politics, foreign policy, international conflict resolution, terrorism, cybersecurity, international trade, nuclear proliferation, economics, war, international development, cultural norms, and military capabilities. With the broad subjects an international relations manager must understand, course work in college will include a variety of fields of study.
What is International Relations?
International relations are the highly complex, interdisciplinary study of people, entities, and groups of people as it relates to other entities and groups of people. Dating back to 460 BC, international relations is a highly relevant and fascinating area of study. As IR has evolved through the ages, professionals and academics have constructed working models to describe events or phenomena. While not perfect theories of human behavior, the following models provide insight into activities and motivations behind actions. In turn, these can be used to help propel an agenda or provide working knowledge to IR practitioners. Widely help theories within international relations include:
Epistemology – A theory that attempts to replicate methods found in the natural sciences and measure the impact of relevant forces.
Realism – Emphasizes the power and security of a state or nations above other factors. This theory is built on the premise that nations are self-interested and motivated by power to seek to maximize longevity and security.
Normative – The normative field of IR is rooted in the belief the implicit and explicit assumptions used to make the world a better place.
Liberalism – The liberalism axiom holds that people are inherently good and motivated by cooperation and collaboration to create positive outcomes.
Regime Theory – The regime theory is closely linked to the liberal tradition and postulates the behavior of states is directly tied to the international institutions which they belong.
Neoliberalism – Neoliberal theory of international relations seeks to extend liberalism to hold states as the key pieces of IR but are influenced to varying degrees by government organizations and non-state agencies.
Social Constructivism – Social constructivism is a social theory created to address investigations into ontology and epistemology to assess material forces as related to IR concepts.
International Society Theory – The international society theory or English School is a theory that views collective values and norms & that interrelationship juxtaposed with international relations.
Marxism – Theories of IR known as Marxism emphasize the superior effect of material and economic forces at play over other sources of motivation.
Feminism – Feminist concepts within international relations pays specific attention to gender within the political landscape and effects of these decisions by both men and women.
Ways to Assess International Relations
There are a number of levels that can be constructed and deconstructed to analyze the real or potential implications involved in international relations. Depending on the lens used, practitioners and academics can derive a variety of conclusions and recommendations. The most common systemic levels analyzed by international relations professionals include: power, national interest, sovereignty, non-state agencies, polarity, power blocs, dependency, and interdependencies. With each type of level of analysis, you can quickly see the varying degrees of conclusions a person can draw from the same set of data. Thus, teams are created to help sift through the data around international relations to extract pertinent kernels to utilize as applicable.
Education and Schools
Individuals will typically specialize in international relations during their graduate studies. Programs in this field will provide general principles in a variety of topics and disciplines in order to create a framework of understanding as to how countries may interact. Differences in types of government, economies, laws and other factors, and understanding the interplay of such factors is the cornerstone of this field. As such case studies and current affair review are common in this field of study.
A curriculum may include:
- Political Science
- International Law
- Macroeconomic Principles
- Game Theory
Schools that can provide internships, research projects, and have notable graduates are often considered the most desirable when determining which school to attend. Internships and research projects allow students to obtain practical experience, while notable graduates and even published and experience professors can be crucial in establishing early contact with potential employers and persons of interest, which greatly assist in career advancement.
International Relations Courses Involved in Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctorate Degrees
- United States Politics
- International Politics & International Development
- Economics: Macro, Micro, International, Development
- Global Security
- Qualitative Data & Research
- Politics of Nations: First, Second, Third World Implications
- Globalization: economic, political, religious, health, innovation, technology
- Geography and Governance
- Integrated International Systems
- Public Policy: Local, Regional, Area Studies
- International Finance and Power
- Human Rights & Negotiating
- Non-Government Agencies
- Foreign Law Studies
What Jobs Can I Get in International Relations?
As an interdisciplinary study, the number of job titles of an international relations major can be vast. With skills in politics, culture, economics, history, world affairs, psychology, religion, and language the career trajectory within IR is quite robust. From a career in government to business, samples of job titles include:
- Social Media Manager
- Political Analyst
- CIA Agent
- Foreign Affairs Specialist
- Immigration Officer
- Intelligence Specialist
- News Reporter
- Research Analyst
- Non-profit Program Manager
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
The demand for international relations specialists is strong and expected to be robust for the foreseeable future. For example, a Political Science teacher is strong with an estimated growth of 13% for the next decade with a median annual income average of $79,210 during the same reporting period. Individuals specializing in international relations will be able to find work in the foreign affair department, research agencies, non profit organizations , and in the private sector as consultants and liaisons. Job growth is expected to increase greatly over the next decade, due primarily to the increased necessity for educated individuals working to establish understanding and relations with other governments in an increasingly interconnected globe. International relations is also a solid background for individuals wishing to consider a career in international business or international law.
Additional Resources for International Relations Students
- The United Nations
- International Labor Organization
- Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA)
- Global Studies Consortium
- International Studies Association
- American Foreign Service Association
- The Peace Corps
- International Law and Public Policy Jobs
- U.S. State Department Career Opportunities