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What Can You Do With a Master’s in International Relations?

Industry Advice Political Science & Security

There are many reasons to study international relations—making an impact on the world and experiencing cultural immersion, for example. But, with those benefits aside, this field of study can also open you up to many different career opportunities.

If you’re considering furthering your education in an area like global studies and international relations, you’re probably asking, “What will I be able to do with this degree?” To help you answer this question, here is a look into what the field entails, some of the top careers for graduates, and how one Northeastern graduate used this degree to turn his passion into a career.

What Are Global Studies and International Relations?

To understand what you can do with a master’s degree in global studies and international relations, you should first understand what these fields entail.

Global studies is a field which examines globalization in all forms and explores how people products, ideas, and more travel around the globe. This often includes understanding how the political, biological, digital, cultural, and economic issues impact the world as well.

International relations, while linked to global studies, is slightly different. This field of study is focused on understanding the complex relationships between various nations, which can affect politics, law, economics, and much more. The work that is done in global studies thus informs the work that is done in international relations.

Download Our Free Guide to Breaking into Global Studies and International Relations

A guide for what you need to know to prepare for, and work in, today’s globalized world.


Top Careers in Global Studies and International Relations

A master’s degree in global studies and international relations can apply to many different fields of work. Here are some of the top global studies careers that graduates can pursue, as well as the average annual salary for each:

There are also many global business careers that students can pursue with this degree, such as economists, policy analysts, and management consultants.

Depending on the program you choose, it may not be necessary to have a definitive career path in mind at the time that you enroll. At Northeastern, for instance, the main requirement is that you have a passion for understanding how the world works. With that, faculty members work together with students to develop career objectives as they work through the program.

Learn More: What Do Diplomats Do?

How a Master’s in Global Studies and International Relations Shaped One Graduate’s Career

For as long as Jonathan Hoogendoorn can remember, he’s been fascinated with global cultures. Now, with the help of a Master of Science in Global Studies and International Relations from Northeastern, he’s turned his lifelong passion into a successful career as a geopolitical analyst.

“I had a big passion for cultures, particularly international development,” Hoogendoorn says. “Then I came across Northeastern and it seemed to fit my needs.”

In his role as an analyst for Cerulli Associates, an independent third-party research and strategic consulting firm, Hoogendoorn used the expertise he gained in the program to turn quantitative data into actionable industry trends for large banks and investment firms around the world.

It wasn’t until he completed his undergraduate degree that Hoogendoorn set his sights on a career in the international arena. He chose Northeastern on the strength of the international relations master’s program and the considerable experience of the program’s faculty director, Mary Thompson-Jones, PhD.

“I was just coming from a very long trip to Europe and had developed a very distinct interest in the U.S. foreign service, so Thompson-Jones’ resumé really caught my eye,” he explains.

Before joining Northeastern, Thompson-Jones was a career diplomat and foreign policy practitioner with 23 years of experience in the U.S. Department of State.

Thompson-Jones was also instrumental in guiding Hoogendoorn to a new understanding of how international affairs work. “When I started the program, I didn’t understand the relationship of business consulting and investment to international affairs,” he says. “Her teaching really showed me that’s a vital piece of what we would call international affairs.”

Another major influence on Hoogendoorn’s career was his field study, completed under Marissa Lombardi, PhD, an assistant teaching professor in the Master of Science in Global Studies and International Relations program.

The International Field Study Experience (IFSE) is an international, experiential learning program that gives students an opportunity to serve as international marketing consultants.

Hoogendoorn’s project, advising a Tuscan winery on their American marketing strategy, was “monumental” as his first international business consulting role, and had a significant positive effect on the winery’s strategic direction.

“We saw a couple of months [after the project] that they had done something they had never done before,” Hoogendoorn says. “They had catered a party for James Franco and Seth Rogen’s nonprofit and there were pictures of their wine on Instagram and Facebook. It was exactly the type of thing we were trying to push them toward.”

Looking toward the future, Hoogendoorn’s goals revolve around serving and protecting U.S. national interests and security by building upon the relations the U.S. has with the Eurasian region, which includes the 93 nations of Asia and Europe, including Germany, Russia, and China.

To prepare, he’s studying Russian and keeping a close eye on developments in the rapidly evolving countries that once comprised the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc nations—Georgia in particular.

“[Georgia] is the most interesting place in the world to me,” he says. “I would love to go there and see how [Russia-Georgian and Georgian-European relations are] playing out as opposed to studying them from an academic standpoint perspective.”

Earning an MS in Global Studies and International Relations

As demonstrated above, earning a master’s degree in global studies and international relations can have a positive effect on your ability to pursue a globally focused career. In order to fully realize this value, it is important to carefully weigh your options and select the program that most aligns with your personal and career goals.

When evaluating potential programs, you should look for the following characteristics which typically denote a high-quality degree program:

  • Flexible Learning Options: Do you plan to continue working while you pursue your degree? Do you want to take classes in person, online, or through a combination of both? Whatever program you select should be one that will allow you to accommodate your unique situation.
  • Experiential Learning Opportunities: Experiential learning opportunities—such as co-ops, internships, and independent research—allow students to put their education into practice and begin building connections that can be leveraged throughout their careers. 
  • Industry-Sourced Faculty: Professors and faculty members who have spent time working directly in the field of international relations and global studies bring with them unique experiences that can be incredibly valuable for students and which can be difficult to learn from books alone.
  • Alignment with your Goals: If you have a particular career in mind that is spurring you to pursue your MS in international relations and global studies, then you should seek a program that aligns with that goal. Look for a program that focuses on that particular area, or that offers a relevant concentration. 

Northeastern’s Master of Science in Global Studies and International Relations fulfills all of these requirements. Students can complete classes 100 percent online, in-person at the Boston or Seattle campuses, or in a hybrid format. An international field study experience gives students an opportunity to serve as an international consultant for global organizations, providing valuable hands-on experience. Additionally, four unique concentrations—including Global Health and Development, Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, and International Economics and Consulting—allow students to delve deep into their particular area of focus.

Think this is the right degree for you? Learn more about earning an MS in Global Studies and International Relations at Northeastern University, or download our guide to advancing your international relations career below.

Download Our Free Guide to Breaking into Global Studies and International Relations

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in November 2016 and has since been updated.