A graduate degree in international relations (IR) or international affairs has long been recognized as a prerequisite for a career in foreign service. But today’s online IR graduate degree programs literally open a world of career opportunities in public, private and NGO sectors ranging from international banking to national security to global health.
Master of International Relations
American University's School of International Service offers an online Executive Master of International Service (MIS) and an online Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR). With curricula designed to develop critical thinking, the programs develop leaders who are prepared to drive change in global communities. The programs’ immersion and practicum component allow students to learn necessary skills and engage with leaders as well as their peers in a real-life setting. The practicum component of the programs allows students the opportunity to research real-world international relations challenges.
Global Security, International Development, International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution, U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security
Varies. The MIS typically takes 18 months to complete, or 24–30 credits. The MAIR typically takes two years to complete, or 39 credits.
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Master of Arts in Social Enterprise
The Social Enterprise Master’s program from American University’s top-ranked School of International Service teaches the principles of social entrepreneurship, innovation, and socially responsible business practices. The online Social Enterprise Master’s program combines courses in management and social change to give students the skills and knowledge to successfully launch or thrive within enterprises that advance a social mission.
Through the Social Enterprise Master’s program, students can take their careers in a number of directions:
- Advance within their current sector. By learning how to create and use business models to advance a social mission, students can equip themselves for leadership roles that enable them to solve international challenges.
- Begin a in social enterprise. Students at the start of their career gain the multidisciplinary knowledge to pursue a role that aligns with their passion.
- Transition to the social impact sphere. By learning innovative approaches to advocacy and development, students can move from a public- or private-sector career to NGOs or nonprofit organizations.
- Start a socially responsible business. Aspiring entrepreneurs can acquire the skills in social innovation, project design, and global policy to start a socially responsible business anywhere in the world.
The Social Enterprise Master’s program consists of 39 or 42 credits, depending on the student’s prior economics background. The program can take 24-48 months to complete.
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Online International Relations Degree Programs
The master's in international relations is a challenging, interdisciplinary degree program that examines the political, historical, cultural and economic factors affecting the relationships between nations.
While admissions requirements vary by school, typical requirements for Executive Master of International Service (MIS) and Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) programs include:
- A bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited college or university
- Prior coursework in micro- and macro-economics
- Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, which are often waived for applicants with significant, relevant work experience
- Standard admissions materials such as application and fee, transcripts, résumé, statement of purpose and letters of recommendation
Executive MIS vs. MAIR
When comparing online programs, prospective students may wish to consider an Executive Master of International Studies (MIS) versus a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR).
An Executive MIS is an accelerated program designed for professionals with significant experience in international service, typically more than seven years. The focus of an Executive MIS programs is on strengthening or expanding existing international leadership skills and knowledge.
The MAIR is a traditional program designed for students looking to transition to or jump-start their careers in international relations. MAIR programs provide a foundational, interdisciplinary overview of international relations as well as coursework in specialized fields of study.
The length of program varies between 18 months for an Executive MIS and two years for MAIR students.
International relations graduate programs are designed to develop the foundational international relations knowledge, analytical and leadership skills and intercultural expertise needed to succeed in international business, diplomacy, global security, foreign policy or international development. The core curriculum typically includes courses in global governance and international economics, as well as quantitative methods and decision-making.
Most programs also offer specializations or concentrations to deepen students' expertise in specific areas:
- Global Security: Students examine the dynamics of conflict and peace and prepare to play a role in preventing, managing or mitigating global conflict.
- S. Foreign Policy and National Security: Students explore the economic, historical and political factors underlying foreign policy formulation to prepare for a variety of roles, including working for or as an ambassador at an embassy in the U.S. or abroad.
- International Development: Students consider how economics, politics and environmental and social issues affect the development of low-income communities around the world.
- International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution: Students focus on identifying and assessing the underlying causes of conflicts and developing the negotiation skills required to resolve those conflicts.
Finding the Best International Relations Degree Program
When comparing programs, prospective students should consider the factors that distinguish top online international relations programs.
Accreditation: Program and university accreditation ensures that the program meets rigorous standards set for the profession and that its degrees will be recognized by current and prospective employers. When considering a program, prospective students should ensure the university is accredited by the appropriate regional accrediting body and the program is a member of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA). APSIA membership is the recognized global standard of excellence in international relations education.
Rankings: These can be useful, if not definitive, tools for understanding the relative strengths of a program. In reviewing rankings, students should note whether the ranking is for the school as a whole or for the individual program. Some rankings specifically rate online programs. While many online programs are identical to on-campus counterparts, some are not, and the on-campus ranking may not apply.
Core faculty: Expert faculty with real-life experiences in the field provide invaluable context to theories learned in class. Top international affairs degree programs are known for faculty with a wide range of real-world experience in foreign service, international business and international development.
Interactive, flexible learning environment: An effective technology platform and engaging, flexible format are essential to the online graduate school experience. When evaluating an online international relations program, applicants should consider whether it offers:
- The flexibility to earn a graduate degree while meeting current career, travel and family commitments.
- Innovative technology that connects students and faculty through live classes and online collaboration tools.
- Opportunities to network, online and in person, with fellow students and international relations experts around the globe.
2U-Powered International Relations Programs
2U partners with top universities to offer their degree programs online, including master’s programs in international relations. Students in 2U partner programs benefit from the highest-quality online learning platform available, with access to an online campus from anywhere they have an Internet connection. University faculty lead all academic issues related to programs, including instruction and curriculum development. 2U-powered programs feature:
created by faculty and available 24/7.
in a collaborative online classroom.
between students and universities.
at field placements or immersions.
from application through graduation.
An IR graduate degree opens a wide range of career opportunities as well as ongoing career development.
Major fields and employers seeking IR graduates include:
Foreign Service: U.S. Department of State, U.S. Information Agency, USAID, U.S. Department of Defense, United Nations, Central Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency, Peace Corps and Agency for International Development. Positions in these organizations include:
- Foreign service officer (The application process for foreign service officers is long and competitive, requiring a rigorous written examination.)
- Intelligence analyst
- International aid director
- Program officer
International business and finance: World Bank, Booz Allen Hamilton, Albright Stonebridge Group. Positions in these organizations include:
- Strategy consultant
- Risk analyst
NGOs/Nonprofits: Catholic Relief Services, Oxfam International, Lutheran Relief Services, International Red Cross, International Red Crescent Society, Amnesty International. Positions in these organizations include:
- Program officer
- Policy coordinator
- Research assistance
- Evaluation specialist