The world is a big place, but studying a subject such as International Relations can help to understand the way the world works, and how nations and large international organisations operate. Sound interesting? Keep reading!
International Relations is a wide-ranging subject that allows students to investigate and research the relationships between countries and governments. Sometimes it’s called international studies, international affairs, or global studies, and it can be spread across a university’s humanities and social science departments.
When you study for an International Relations degree, the focus lies on relationships between nation states and large intergovernmental organizations like the EU, UN or World Health Organisation. The subject is often categorised as either political science or interdisciplinary. These degrees cover areas of politics, law, history, geography and economics.
Many European universities offer International Relations degrees, either at Bachelor’s or Master’s levels. And going abroad to study this subject is the smartest move you can make: You will get first-hand experience of what it means to live abroad and interact with people from different backgrounds and cultures! What better way than that to understand how different nations work?
Universities that offer International Relations Bachelors:
Universities that offer International Relations Masters:
International Relations is a wide-ranging subject, so many degrees come with a high amount of modularity - meaning students can choose the areas they want to focus on.
The majority of courses start with modules on theory. This is very important to understand, as much of IR or global studies is theory-based. Whatever you might later focus on, be it European politics since 1945, diplomacy in the Middle East, or gender politics; International Relations relies on theoretical knowledge to explore and understand these issues.
Most Bachelor programmes take three to four years. The first year is often an introduction to the topics - politics, law, economics. After that, students can likely choose which areas they want to study. Many courses offer a third year abroad - sometimes this is optional, sometimes it’s required. Some universities include language specialisations, which can be linked to studying overseas.
The final year of most International Relations Bachelor’s degrees will require students to write a dissertation, though this isn’t always the case, and some degrees focus more on optional courses covering wider areas of study.
The topic areas in an International Relations Bachelor’s and Master’s may seem similar on the surface, but dive a little deeper and the differences become clear. In fact, diving deeper is the key.
To qualify for a Master’s in International Relations, prospective students will usually need a good degree in a relevant field. This often means a Bachelor’s in international relations, history, politics or economics.
An international relations Master’s last one to two years; some universities also offer part-time programmes where you can spread the coursework to four years, allowing you to work on the side.
When you’re applying to these courses - especially in the UK -, you should check if they are “research” or “taught” as this will change the contents of the courses. Most research courses will require students to come up with their own research area, and write a dissertation, with a supervisor as a guide.
Taught Master’s on the other hand are more like Bachelor’s degrees in their structure, but may still require significant self-reliant research projects such as a dissertation.
Many of the world’s top universities for International Relations are located in Europe. A good place to look is the Shanghai Global Ranking for Political Sciences. Most recently, these universities were ranked best in their respective countries:
International Relations will nearly always include some focus on politics - but that’s only scratching the surface!
International affairs is a much bigger subject than politics. While the relations between nation states are covered by international or global studies, there are wider subjects studied, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), world wide organisations, and the foreign policies of many nations and blocs, which help inform the interconnectivity of the world today.
Anthropology, demography, terrorism and human rights may be topics in both politics and international relations courses, but the focus will be wider in international relations - and look at the different ways nations try to solve these issues.
In an increasingly global world, there are many great reasons to choose a Bachelor’s or a Master’s in International Relations; but these are the top ones:
There are many routes an International Relations degree may take you down, when you want to start your career. We’ve listed a few of the jobs and areas you may want to look into, but many international employers in all sectors value the skills of International Relations graduates:
There’s no scientific way of predicting the salaries International Relations graduates can expect, and it varies widely by location, as well. But the table below shows the average entry-level salaries for typical jobs that IR graduates qualify for:
|Average annual salary as a...||London / UK||Berlin / Germany|
|Policy Analyst||£32,000||45,000 EUR|
|Intelligence Analyst||£30,000||50,000 EUR|
|Publishing Editor||£26,000||30,000 EUR|
International Relations is a diverse interdisciplinary degree, meaning it is built of many different topics and you can choose which bits interest you.
But it is closely linked to Politics, Economics, Law and History. More specialised degree programmes may also focus on specific cross-disciplinary topics, e.g. Public Administration, Governance or International Development.
Many universities will offer dual degrees, especially at the undergraduate level. This means you can combine International Relations with another subject like Economics, or maybe even a language.202 International Relations Programmes in Europe