Careers in International Affairs

Planning a Career through International Studies

This section contains several pieces of information which hopefully will help you to plan for a career. There is life after graduation! I encourage you to explore this page in its entirety.

Life after Graduation

Whether in government, business, non-profit organizations, international media and educational settings, careers with an international scope require certain traits and abilities. These include: a conceptual grasp of history and contemporary events and the ability to relate specific cases to general patterns; basic skills in economic and political analysis; knowledge of other cultures, and languages; ability to analyze events across cultural or national lines; good articulation of ideas; good writing; a professional vocabulary and problem-solving skills.

The IS major will provide you with the tools to develop these skills. But, the program is only part of the process in getting to your professional career. While Knowledge of international relations and knowing you want to work in an international field are absolute necessary, Your task as a student is to research and to accumulate the skills needed to enter the field of your choice. Note also that your first job may still not be the career of your dreams. You must constantly improve your skills and be attentive to new opportunities. The challenge is to respond to the opportunities, making each job a step toward your goal.

You can get the experience you need to stand out after graduation. Below are just a few ideas:

  • Take positions of leadership in campus organizations
  • Volunteer time at community organizations or trade associations
  • Study abroad or intern abroad
  • Participate in internship programs in the U.S.
  • Conduct a research project on a relevant topic
  • Learn a second (or third!) language

Compiled from several sources - Updated July 2008

International Studies:
Careers, Employers and Job Market Strategies

International Business Careers

  • Management; Human Resources; Labor Relations Manager/director
  • Banking and Finance Executive
  • Sales; Marketing; Product Management
  • Agricultural Economics Advisor
  • Travel Coordinator; hotel manager

International Business Employers

  • Domestic and foreign corporations; Domestic and foreign financial institutions
  • International marketing firms; International trade firms
  • Contracting and consulting firms; Convention and visitors' bureaus
  • International airlines; Transportation, travel, and hospitality industry

Career Strategies

  • Learn at least one additional language. Spend a semester studying abroad.
  • Obtain volunteer, part-time, or summer experience at related organizations
  • Learn about NAFTA, WTO, and IMF policies
  • Acquire supervisory skills by taking leadership roles in student organizations
  • Learn about geography; keep abreast of political changes worldwide
  • Sharpen your public speaking skills and communication skills between cultures
  • Make a commitment to continuous growth in understanding cultural diversity
  • Develop an understanding of the international business environment

International Relations/ Government Careers

  • International Law; Diplomacy; Foreign Affairs; Public Service
  • Public Policy Analysis; Government communications
  • Law enforcement; National Security

International Relations Employers

  • United Nations; Aid & Relief organizations; Religious, humanitarian organizations
  • Educational institutions; Peace Corps
  • Research institutes; Foundations
  • Federal, state and city governments

Career Strategies

  • Participate in an overseas mission experience
  • Plan to study abroad or participate in an international work experience
  • Learn a second or third language
  • Demonstrate your depth of dedication, willingness to adapt, and coping mechanisms to combat stress and difficult situations

Language Services/Education Careers

  • Teaching; Curriculum Development
  • Interpreting; Translating
  • Research and Writing
  • International Student Support Services; Study Abroad Programming

Language/Education Employers

  • Community organizations; Federal government agencies
  • English language institutes; Overseas schools
  • Religious and volunteer organizations
  • Colleges and universities; Museums

Career Strategies

  • Gain practical domestic teaching experience and training or certificate to teach abroad
  • Research certification options (TESOL, CELTA, CELTC, TEFL)
  • Consider obtaining intensive TESOL (Teaching English and a Second Language) training
  • Volunteer to tutor children and adults in English.
  • Sharpen intercultural competency, sensitivity, and tolerance
  • Develop superior written and oral communication skills in the English language
  • Notify local hospitals, schools, and chambers of commerce of your availability to translate or interpret for international visitors
  • Minor or double major in another subject that you could also teach
  • Earn a master's degree in College Student Affairs to work with study abroad programs or with international student services.

Journalism, International Communication and Media Careers

  • Foreign News Correspondence; International Broadcasting; Reporting
  • Editorial/Column writing; Investigative Journalism
  • Photography; Freelance Work

Journalism And International Media Employers

  • Foreign news agencies; TV networks
  • Large circulation newspapers; Wire services
  • Trade newspapers; Online publishers
  • Academic journals; international newspapers; magazines

Career Strategies

  • Obtain a summer job or internship with a newspaper
  • Demonstrate curiosity, high energy level, ability to produce under pressure, and withstand criticism
  • Develop excellent grammar and writing skills
  • Create a portfolio of writing samples, especially those that have been published
  • Join a professional journalism organization
  • Research international newspapers; Gain experience with campus newspaper or media
  • Travel or study abroad.

Compiled from the University of Tennessee at Knxville and other sources

International Studies: Prospective Employers & Job Opportunities

Foundation Center: Institutes & Non-Profit Agencies

UN & International Organizations

Fulbright Programs: Teach English Abroad

U.S. State Department

U.S. Federal Jobs

Human Rights Watch

Teach for America

National Endowment for Democracy

Guide to Careers in International Affairs (Including Review of Top Job Sites)

By Dr. Craig Zeli

Finding the right job in conflict resolution, international development and related fields requires a combination of the right experience and training, an understanding of the field, developing strong connections and a bit of serendipity. In addition to academic and/or professional training, it is essential to have an understanding of how conflict resolution works in practice. Many people working in conflict related jobs, will not find employment with "conflict resolution organizations" but with organizations in others sectors (international development, education, environment, business) working on conflict related jobs. Thus it is also important in the job search to broaden your scope to include international development organizations, government and intergovernmental institutions, for-profit and business institutions, educational institutions, and more. One of the things that I encourage my students to consider is developing strong skills in conflict resolution processes and theory, but also develop an expertise in a another sector and/or regional area. For more information on careers in the field, see a report I co-authored, Skills, Networks and Knowledge: Careers in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. offers guide to careers in the field based on interviews with over 60 organizations and practitioners. The document also offers 10 pages of resources for finding jobs, internships, scholarships and more. You can download the report for Download Webreport.pdf or at the ACT website. Another great resource is a Career Guide from Sustainability on Corporate Social Responsibility. Idealist has also developed an excellent guide to Nonprofit Careers and a separate Careers Resources Section .

Dr. John Paul Lederach and Kate Mansfield from the Kroc Institute have also developed a wonderful visual representation of possible careers in the field. Here are some additional career development suggestions:

1) Develop a Strong Resume - Make sure you have a strong, clear and compelling resume and cover letter. See the Download TipsforWritingEffectiveResumes.pdf . Many university career centers also offer guidance on resumes.

2) Conduct Informational Interviews - Most people are more than happy to talk about their job and conducting informational interviews can be an excellent way to learn more about an organization and what a career is like in a particular area. Informational interviews are a chance for you to ask general questions of someone already in the field. However, it is very important in informational interviews not to ask for a job or put pressure on the person you're speaking with to help you find a job.

3) Subscribe to Key Web and Job Lists - There are countless numbers of websites that provide resources on jobs and internships in the field (and in related fields). You should get on all or some of these sites as you will get daily or weekly updates of opportunities around the world (note some charge a fee, whiles others are free or provide partial postings for free). Some of the best sites for jobs directly in conflict resolution, development, social entrepreneurship, etc. include:

  • Alliance For Peacebuilding Member Forums - Jobs and Fellowships in Peacebuilding, Conflict Resolution, Development, Social Entrepreneurship and Related Fields
  • UNJOBLIST- A very useful site with jobs at UN agencies and other Intergovernmental Organizations.
  • IDEALIST - Primarily Jobs in International and Domestic Non-profits. Covers many sectoral areas, health, development, etc.
  • INDEED- A Very useful site that searches across many job sites around the world. Searching by conflict and development keywords is best way to use the service.
  • RELIEFWEB - Primarily jobs in International Non-profits and UN.
  • FOREIGN AFFAIRS - Listing of jobs in International Affairs.
  • DEVNETJOBS - Listing of Many Positions in International Development and related fields.
  • JOBS4DEVELOPMENT -List of many jobs worldwide in International Development and Related Fields

4) Use your contacts/networks - One of the key strategies for finding a job/internship is to consult your personal and professional networks. Let your professors, colleagues and friends know that you're seeking an opportunity and perhaps they will have suggestions/contacts. University career centers and alumni can also be terrific resources.

5) Join New Networks- Joining a professional network in the field can also be a useful way to make contacts and learn about opportunities. Some relevant networks include:
Association for Conflict Resolution
Women in International Security
Peace and Justice Studies Association

6) Examine Ethical Practice - When you are researching an organization it is important to make sure that the organization's ethics and practice fit with your values. If you're offered a job (hopefully before this happens) learn about what the organization does, how do they treat their staff, how do they work in they field and with partners, etc.

7) Considering Taking a Job to Get Experience - Although many people would like to obtain their ideal job right away, sometimes it may be worth considering taking a job that will help you develop the necessary skills, contacts and experience that in the future can help lead to more of an ideal job.

8) Explore Fellowship Opportunities - There are many excellent fellowships/scholarships that do provide funding for independent research/volunteer work/study. Thus, fellowships can be an excellent way to get experience in the field. You can find many fellowships/scholarships on this site by searching by various keywords.

9) Explore Organizations that Have Developed Mentoring Programs for New Employees - A number of organizations have developed special entry level positions in which new employees receive extra mentoring. Look for organizations that have Junior Program Officer Positions (some in the UN), Entry Level Fellowships (Catholic Relief Services in the US) and others.

10) Develop an Expertise in a Needed Area - There are number of current areas in which the field is in need of developing further expertise. Developing your skills in this area can make you more attractive to potential employers. Some areas include: Program Evaluation and Monitoring, Conflict Mainstreaming and Conflict Sensitivity (Integrating Conflict Across Sectors), Organizational Conflict Management. Talk with your colleagues and other professionals in the field to see what might be potential growth areas.


International Studies

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