International Relations/Political Science

Although business is currently the most popular major, the social sciences account for the second most frequently chosen major.  The social sciences address the problems and challenges that affect our world today, and the knowledge and skills gained in these areas can be applied to nearly any career path chosen later.  Our increasingly global society provides numerous opportunities for international relations graduates. Political science studies equip students for leadership positions as well as graduate studies in areas such as law.


Majoring in international relations might be a perfect fit if you are interested in history and languages, enjoy foreign travel and learning about different cultures, or find yourself fascinated by the political arena.  Students majoring in international relations generally begin with survey courses in international relations, world history, sociology, anthropology, and micro and macroeconomics.  This is a truly interdisciplinary study, generally taught by professors who specialize in political science, economics, or history.  Since international relations is generally not a free-standing department at most colleges, the programs tend to differ in emphasis from college to college.  Some colleges stress the United States’ perspective while others take a more global view.  In some cases, language, literature and culture receive greater prominence than the more typical emphasis on political science, economics, and history.  By Junior year, students take classes that reflect their program’s direction.  These may include such courses as diplomacy, regional issues, international organizations, U.S. foreign policy, human rights, law, and national security.  When choosing your college for this major, examine the course catalog to determine if that college’s emphasis fits your area of interest.


A political science major might be a better fit for the student interested in current events, politics, social justice, community service, student government, and history.  Political science and government majors study both domestic and international issues such as civil rights, war and peace, economic development, and forms of government.  The major begins with introductory classes in political science or international relations, along with classes in research and analytical methods.  More advanced courses may cover such topics as global political economy, constitutional law, and international security.  In many cases, poly sci majors also minor in a related field such as history, cultural anthropology, or economics.  These courses help to provide a background that explains the factors that influence and shape political institutions.  Capstone or research projects are common, and many students take advantage of opportunities to get practical experience in their field of interest.  Internships in local governmental offices, a “Washington semester” working in D.C., and study abroad experiences all enhance the academic program.


As our society has grown more globally aware, graduates with degrees in international relations have become highly sought after.  Many companies have moved to the international arena, creating a real need for individuals who understand international political, cultural, and economic issues.  Graduates may start with entry level positions in the federal government, work for the United Nations or other humanitarian organizations, find positions with companies engaged in international business, or work in international journalism.  Having experience living and working overseas strengthens the applicant’s resume.


Political science and government majors will find themselves with similar career options.  Many will enter fields such as federal, state and local government, business, public service, the Foreign Service, the diplomatic corps, politics, journalism, and public administration.  Graduates from both of these majors often pursue graduate degrees in their field or go on to attend law school.