The relationships between different countries are constantly evolving, demanding advanced skillsets and adaptability. With a changing world and complex challenges like the climate crisis and rapid technological advancements, working in the field of international relations requires the latest knowledge, resources and tools. There are many new questions to answer: what is the contemporary understanding of racial, ethnic, gender and socioeconomic inequalities and injustices? How do equity and inclusion factor into current societies and businesses? What are the salient issues in international development and which take top priority now?
The best master’s degrees in international relations today provide answers to these questions — and prepare graduates for a wide range of careers, from roles in intergovernmental organisations (IGOs) such as the United Nations to a think tank specialising in a niche area of research. However, you are not limited to just these career pathways. The skills you gain — public speaking, writing, creating persuasive arguments and being able to collaborate with a team effectively — are not only transferable to other jobs but also empower you to make headways in your current role.
The world is your oyster with a master’s in international affairs. If you want to expand your horizons, here are four universities with international relations master’s programmes that will set you up for success.
Texas A&M University
The Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University is a top-ranked institution found in the top 10% (28th overall) for Public Affairs Programmes, according to the US News & World Report 2024. The school is one of a dozen presidential colleges across the US and is named after President George H. W. Bush, a life-long public servant who founded it in 1997 under his philosophy that “public service is a noble calling.”
The nonpartisan school is dedicated to nurturing students to become principled leaders who can make a difference in their communities and their nation. Engaging programmes have achieved this since the school’s founding — and have done so without burdening students with expensive school loans and debt. Many forms of financial assistance are available here. Scholarships support the majority of students in the Bush School’s flagship programmes, and non-resident tuition waivers enable out-of-state students to pay close to Texas rates, which keeps their debts low so they can pursue careers in the fields they desire.
Bush School master’s programmes prepare students for careers at all levels of government, nonprofits/international non-governmental organisations, policy areas, security agencies, consulting, international development, and more. Employment rates are strong, averaging over 90% within six months of graduation.
Central to their success is the healthy mix of accomplished practitioners and academics who lead these programmes. The Master of International Affairs features a former ambassador in the Foreign Service, CIA deputy director for operations, administrator of USAID, and renowned academic experts. Whereas the Master of Public Service and Administration counts former city managers, auditors and managers, nonprofit leaders, and economists among its faculty lineup. Both programmes provide flexible curricula that students can tailor to their interests, as well as professional networking opportunities and student/career assistance. Additionally, through internships and a client-based capstone consulting project, students receive a purposeful and professional education. Discover more about the Bush School here.
London School of Economics
Now celebrating its 96th year, the Department of International Relations at the London School of Economics (LSE) is one of the oldest and largest international relations departments in the world. The department is ranked second in the UK and fourth in the world in the QS World University Ranking by Subject 2023 league tables for Politics and International Studies.
LSE’s international relations education is one of the best, attracting about 500 students from over 30 countries each year. In fact, it was recognised in the most recent National Research Assessment Exercise when the IR and Government Departments, assessed as one unit, received one of the highest rankings. “The department also has a vibrant research culture which enhances our teaching programme,” says Professor Jeffrey M Chwieroth, Head of Department.
The department runs five MSc programmes — International Relations, International Political Economy, Theory and History of International Relations, Political Science (Global Politics) and an Executive MSc International Strategy and Diplomacy.
“LSE’s reputation as one of the top institutions to study international relations is what attracted me to the programme. Being taught by leading world specialists who live and breathe their subject is really inspiring,” says MSc International Relations student Leen Aghabi. “It makes you feel like you’re involved in a place where world changes are being influenced. After I graduate, I hope to work in an international organisation such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of United Nations.”
University of Toronto
The University of Toronto has over 70 professional graduate programmes in health sciences, management, engineering, and more. With about 140 combined degree programmes, 14 dual degree programmes, over 40 collaborative specialisations, and four diploma programmes for professionals, there are endless choices in the School of Graduate Studies. No matter what you choose, the university will give you the tools to drive change and excel in virtually any industry.
If you are looking for a programme aimed at training the next generation of global leaders of international institutions, global civil society, and business, check out the Master of Global Affairs (MGA). This two-year professional programme provides an outstanding professional, multidisciplinary education and is open to applicants from all disciplinary backgrounds. The MGA includes four sessions of coursework and a compulsory summer internship.
Your first year will feature five pillars of the programme: Global Security, Global Development, Global Justice and Human Rights, Global Markets and Innovation Policy. There are also combined degree options such as the Law, Juris Doctor / Master of Global Affairs (JD/MGA) or the Master of Business Administration / Master of Global Affairs (MBA/MGA).
A graduate degree that will give you a strong foundation of analytical and quantitative skills, core policy concepts, and overall management and leadership skills is the Master of Public Policy (MPP). Also a full-time two-year professional programme, the MPP includes a mandatory and comprehensive policy internship. This is so you can take your classroom theory into a practical experience by developing and implementing policy.
The University of Melbourne
The University of Melbourne’s School of Social and Political Sciences aims to change what matters. “Our work is underpinned by our values of intellectual freedom, integrity, social justice, diversity, and environmental sustainability,” Professor Jennifer Balint, Head of School of Social and Political Sciences. “Through our research and teaching, our ambition is to redefine the world and change what matters.”
Part of this school, the Political Science department features one of the top-ranked programmes for studying political science and international relations in the region. “Political science at Melbourne will expose you to the most compelling ideas about power, politics and policy at a time of rapid social and political change,” says Professor Sally Young, Chair in Political Science.
In the Master of International Relations programme, you learn how the US, China, the European Union, and the United Nations operate in our global community and acquire knowledge of key developments within international relations. Students engage with theory, international governance and law, international security, international political economy and international history. This is the right degree for you if you want to explore a career in government, the private and NGO sectors or academia.
If you want a career in national and international leadership and government roles, opt for the Master of Public Policy and Management. Here, you will refine high-level analytical skills that meet the demands of complex public policy-making. Students benefit from the expertise of senior leaders from state and federal government and public service delivery organisations.
*Some of the institutions featured in this article are commercial partners of Study International