International relations is a wide-ranging field that can lead to many different career opportunities. It can even be a little intimidating to narrow down the options! But as ever, Unifrog has your back.
First, let’s look at the skills which you’ll bring into the world of work.
Skills you can gain from this degree include…
Analysis - You’ll be exploring data from a wide range of sources and learning to make sense of it. This will come in useful in any future career which involves looking at statistics.
Problem solving skills - You’ll be exploring ways to solve complex problems, including ethical dilemmas which don’t always have a clear solution. This will encourage you to think more widely and develop an open mind.
Communication skills - You’ll be delivering presentations and taking part in debates, so your spoken communication will be improved on this degree. Essay writing will also strengthen your written communication skills - essential in most careers.
Debating - You’ll be debating a wide range of subjects, including some sensitive topics like war. In order to do this, you’ll learn how to construct an argument, and respond to counter-arguments thoughtfully.
Independent research - Your dissertation, in your final year, will likely include independent research and a bibliography to demonstrate your wider reading around the subject. In this way, you’ll gain knowledge of a key area of interest, which could inform your career choice.
With a degree in international relations, you can become…
These are some common roles that international relations grads find themselves taking up.
In addition to the skills in critical thinking, analysing sources, and writing to deadlines that you’ll gain during your course, your knowledge of world events and ability to think about how different political and social groups interact will give you a huge boost in pursuing a career reporting the news. As a beginning journalist, you may find yourself covering local events, and eventually work your way to writing longer reported pieces, covering breaking stories, or even working in an international news bureau in a different country.
Civil servants fill a variety of roles in government. Unlike more high-profile government figures, they won’t lose their jobs based on changes in parliamentary power or because of new ministerial appointments. People often spend their entire careers working in the civil service. As an international relations graduate, your familiarity with international politics might give you a leg up in certain roles. But whatever the post, you’ll rely on your oral and written communication skills and strong critical thinking.
As a lobbyist, your main aim is to influence the government or to help others to do so. This might include writing press releases, advising government agencies or clients on legal and political processes, or attending conferences. The communication skills gained on this degree will be a huge asset in meetings, and will help you to construct a clear argument in articles or publicity. Plus, your knowledge of international politics could come in useful.
MP (Member of Parliament)
An MP, also known as an elected representative, represents the voice of their local community by engaging in debates in parliament. The role can include voting on new laws, and raising topical issues with government ministers. The debating skills and adeptness at discussing challenging themes which you gain from this degree, as well as your knowledge of political and global affairs, will put you in a strong position for an MP role.
If you’re passionate about helping others, there are a huge range of different roles in nongovernmental organisations (organisations that don’t operate for profit, but in service of a cause). You’ll often need to start out in a local NGO, before turning your international expertise to organisations abroad as you gain more experience. Your experience of learning about and working with different kinds of people will be a huge benefit in this role, as will the skills in written and verbal communication you’ll develop during your degree.
A degree in this subject might also take you to…
Whilst you might expect to pursue one of the above roles after this degree, the excellent negotiation skills and research skills gained means there’s a whole range of careers it could lead you to.
Graduates from Aberystwyth University, for example, have gone on to achieve some of the more unexpected careers below...
International finance advisor
Finance advisors offer guidance on how to invest their money – and international finance advisors specialise in helping people invest their money in other countries. Your knowledge of the global landscape will obviously be very useful in this role, as will the skills in analysing data, finding patterns and making connections, and presenting strong verbal and written arguments that you gain during your degree.
Merchant bankers are sometimes called investment bankers. Rather than helping individuals, they usually help businesses or corporations, or occasionally extremely wealthy people. You’ll help these organisations manage their investments and loans, generally dealing in massive sums rather than small transactions. Your eye for detail will help in this career, as will the skills you’ve gained in tracking international news and communicating in many different styles.
Your experience with reading, analysing texts, and discussing complicated concepts can make you a great teacher in a variety of disciplines. While international relations are rarely taught in school, you could do well teaching history, geography, politics, or similar disciplines. There are also loads of opportunities to teach English abroad, which are often particularly appealing to international relations grads, who can use their knowledge of other places to help settle in.
Museum curators help shape the displays and exhibits in museums. Though you may associate museums with fine art, there are actually many museums dedicated to history and global concerns where your degree will be a perfect fit. In addition to the subject matter expertise you’ll bring, your skills in bringing facts together into a compelling narrative and your research experience can make international relations grads a great fit for this role.
Putting together your own business can be a daunting prospect, but you don’t need a degree in business to manage it. As an international relations grad, you’ll have developed skills in making strong arguments – which will really help you when presenting your business idea to potential customers or investors. Plus, you’ll have the written and oral communications skills you need to share your business plans with others, and the critical thinking skills that will help you evaluate your progress and change your plans when you need to.
15 months after graduating…
The average salary for an international relations student 15 months after graduating is £27,521. According to our stats, roughly 75% of these students have secured a graduate job by this point.
… and long term?
‘You’ll be able to debate major political, societal and economic issues, including those which are highly emotive, and be able to do so in a respectful and yet robust style’ - Alistair Shepherd, Senior Lecturer European Security, Aberystwyth University
Excited about one of these careers? Visit the Careers library to learn all about what they entail, and what you’ll need to do to pursue them.