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What Is International Relations And Why Is It An Important Study Area?

Updated on 10 May, 2023

Shivangi Mishra

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

Natural calamities, epidemics, poverty, rising living costs, and environmental challenges are plaguing countries and require a collaborative approach to finding solutions. The world needs capable individuals who wish to make an impact and advocate for positive change. Studying international relations is a great option for learning more about global issues and aspects, covering political science, economics, culture, education, and more, along with the how and why of Government and individual responses to these issues.

What Do You Mean by International Relations?

 It is a whole new world of politics and the historical/social impact of development across nations. You’ll also be chuffed to know that several luminaries have studied international relations. The extensive list includes American President John F. Kennedy, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, Astronaut Kevin Ford, and even Indian Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman. Is international relations a good major? You have your answer! If you wish to be a part of this elite list, read on for more details about this fascinating study field. 

What is the Meaning of National and International relations

It means understanding politics, relationships, and ties among countries in the world and the social and historical impact of global development. International relations is about various political systems, governing policies worldwide, and their connection to several global issues like poverty, human rights, global ethics, climate change, and more. The subject covers economics, government and politics, public policy, society, global conflicts, business behavior, global security, environmental sustainability, and diverse other aspects. You also get an opportunity to understand more about global or international affairs. 

Since diplomacy and international relations are often held as synonymous, it should be stated here that the latter is a field of study and practice focusing on the unique and vital relationships between several cultures and nations, affecting politics, economics, diplomacy, security, law, and governance. However, diplomacy is a sub-field within international relations which is usually more concentrated on the negotiations between various country representatives or corporations on specific aspects. 

Importance of International Relations in the Modern Globalized Times

Why should you do a bachelor's or master's in international relations? The importance of the field is unparalleled, assuming more importance in an increasingly interconnected and digital world. There are several other reasons which make this an important field at various levels: 

  • International relations are what enable the promotion of successful trading and other policies between countries. 
  • It encourages travel for tourism, business, and immigration, offering life-enhancing opportunities to people. 
  • International relations enable cooperation amongst nations while helping them chalk out resource and information-sharing strategies, along with tackling worldwide issues together. 
  • International relations facilitate societal and human culture advancement through cultural collaboration, exchanges, policy creation, and diplomacy. 

Why Study International Relations? 

Here are some reasons why you should consider studying international relations: 

  • Tackle modern issues- Hunger, poverty, environmental challenges, inequality, sustainability, human rights, human trafficking, and other aspects are still omnipresent, despite the world advancing in multifarious ways. International relations will help you get the academic standing and foundation to work with governments, NGOs, and other public/private institutions for tackling these issues. You can also work in public policy or work for various welfare projects. International relations will be the springboard that you need to work on solving the world’s biggest problems. 
  • Build crucial transferable skills- You will inculcate and develop multiple skills while studying international relations. These are vital transferable skills including written and verbal communication, public speaking, data collection, analysis, and organization, cooperation across various sectors, evaluating proposals, concepts, and ideas for feedback and implementation, problem-solving, multicultural and diverse solutions-finding, teamwork, and tackling conflicts, along with diplomacy and negotiations. These are skills that will give you a boost in any field that you choose. 
  • Expect a fulfilling career ahead- International relations professionals are highly in demand throughout various global organizations. You can expect a stable and rewarding career. The Bureau of Labor Statistics has estimated job growth of 5% for international relations linked positions till 2028. 
  • Gain invaluable global exposure and experience- Studying international relations is not just about politics and diplomacy. You can work in areas like climate change, negotiations, environmental problems, conflict resolution, science and technology, global health, human trafficking, preserving cultural and historical properties, and more. You will get an opportunity to make a positive impact through policy implementation, coordinating efforts against terrorism, offering help during disasters, promoting child and woman rights, and tackling issues like nutritional deficiencies and food insecurity. Get multicultural and global exposure alongside. 

Master's in International Relations 

Before you chalk out which university is best for international relations, it is important to understand the nuances of a masters degree in the subject. 

Degree awarded: 

A masters program may be provided either as an MA (master of arts) or MSc (master of science) program. The subject may be called international affairs, international relations, or even global affairs among other names. 

Modules taught: 

International relations may sometimes be combined with related specializations like governance, diplomacy, conflict resolution, law, business, politics, and development. These courses draw people from diverse educational backgrounds, although most candidates come from social sciences, humanities, and arts fields. 

Admission criteria: 

Some courses may have specific admission needs including completion of a basic course in economics or any other related subject prior to enrollment. 

Standardized test scores like the GRE may also be needed. English language proficiency and professional experience in relevant roles, academic performance, relevant knowledge and skills, and grades may also be needed. 

Choose your master's program, depending on the specializations and interests that you are passionate about. Some courses focus more on global international relations-related subjects while others focus more on a more holistic approach towards the subject. Some programs may have project work, internships, and other independent research activities. International relations is a field which imparts several vital skills to candidates. These include the following: 

  • Knowledge of modern foreign policies and global politics. 
  • Collaboration and communication skills. 
  • Analysis and research skills. 
  • Abilities for presenting logical arguments. 
  • Abilities to evaluate arguments and evidence stringently. 

Top Universities to Study International Relations 

Here are the top universities as per the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023: Politics. 

University NameQS World University Ranking by Subject 2023: PoliticsQS World University Ranking (Global)Location 
Harvard University15Cambridge, USA
University of Oxford24Oxford, USA
Sciences Po3259Dijon, France 
The London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE)456London, UK
Stanford University53Stanford, USA
University of Cambridge62Cambridge, UK
Princeton University716Princeton, USA
Yale University818New Haven, USA
University of California, Berkeley (UCB)927Berkeley, USA
Australian National University (ANU)1030Canberra, Australia 

Career Prospects with expected salaries 

A degree in international relations can open doors to several global career opportunities. Some of these jobs are listed below with their average salaries: 

  • Reporter- $76,803 per year
  • Intelligence Analyst- $88,268 per year
  • Researcher- $87,330 per year
  • Economist- $89,018 per year
  • International partnership manager- $89,340 per year
  • Business consultant- $96,645 per year 
  • Chief policy officer- $97,426 per year
  • Policy analyst- $99,425 per year 
  • Lawyer- $101,344 per year
  • Risk analyst- $102,846 per year
  • International relations lecturer- $103,448 per year
  • Advocacy manager- $103,893 per year
  • Political affairs officer- $109,010 per year
  • Security analyst- $115,768 per year
  • Risk manager- $123,480 per year 


Studying international relations is thus a gateway to a fulfilling and rewarding career across diverse professional spheres. These professionals will witness sizable demand in the future, going by several reports. If you have the aptitude and interest, then you can gear up to make it your preferred career. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is international relations a good major?

International relations is a good major since it ensures an opportunity to build transferable skills like teamwork, collaboration, policy drafting, governance, communication, and more. International relations offer a window into a lucrative global career ahead. 

Is international relations a hard degree?

International relations degrees can be challenging in terms of vast knowledge acquisition, projects, collaboration and communication-driven initiatives, and more. However, the end-results are always worth it! 

What is the definition of international relations?

Britannica encyclopedia defines international relations as “the study of the relations of states with each other and with international organizations and certain subnational entities (e.g., bureaucracies, political parties, and interest groups)”. It is a multidisciplinary subject entailing political science, history, geography, law, economics, sociology, psychology, and philosophy.

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

She is an experienced writer and journalist who has extensively covered the education sector in India and Abroad. Now helping Indian aspirants realise their foreign education dream by providing them with relevant content and information through upGrad Abroad. Amateur traveller, loves to read Architectural Digest!

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