An online Master’s in International Relations degree is all about understanding history, politics, anthropology, current events and applying this knowledge in solving real-world problems in business, politics, and humanitarian sectors. Typically, this Master’s Degree gives students the skills they need to maintain good diplomatic relations with other countries and avoid international conflicts while fostering cross-border business ties and promoting international trade.
Additionally, graduates of a Master’s in International Relations will be adept at giving recommendations on public policy or framing policy, based on a firm understanding of international politics, global security, and governance. From a wide range of professions in areas such as diplomacy, foreign service, federal civil service, international business, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), international aid and development, or journalism, an online Master’s in International Relations opens up a host of career possibilities for those who enjoy traveling, politics, arbitration, and negotiation.
The Master’s in International Relations is designed for working students or intend to work in fields such as diplomacy, international development, international business, and global peace.
Masters in International Relations Degree Types
There are largely three types of degrees students can choose from for an online Master’s in International Relations – a Master of Arts or MA International Relations, a Master of Science or MS in International Relations, or a Master of Business Administration or online MBA International Relations. While all the three-degree types are based on International Relations, each degree has its unique flavor and approach to teach the subject.
MA International Relations
The Master of Arts or MA in International Relations takes a multi-disciplinary approach to International Relations by integrating history, anthropology, political science, philosophy, law, religion, etc., necessary to understand the complex nature of global issues and events.
MS in International Relations
The Master of Science or MS in International Relations emphasizes the technical aspects of International Relations and its relevant subjects and teaches students how to navigate complex challenges at the intersection of foreign policy, global affairs, culture, communities, human resources, and business.
MBA International Relations
The Master of Business Administration or MBA International Business approaches International Relations from a more commercial perspective. It caters to International Business based on an understanding of a growing global market, evolving markets, emerging global trends, real-world business problems, and international trade and law. The program also usually covers business management, project budgeting, office management, finance, and decision-making.
International Relations vs International Affairs vs International Studies
Some schools offer degrees not only in International Relations but also in International Affairs and International Studies. So, what is the difference between an online Master’s in International Relations vs. a Master’s in International Affairs vs. an International Studies Master’s?
- International Relations focuses on law, politics, and economics, looks at how they connect globally, and how nations interact with them independently and collectively.
- International Studies focuses on other countries’ cultural and social dimensions and how economic and political problems impact their people.
- International Affairs programs tend to be structured similarly to International Relations programs. Still, the difference is that International Affairs concentrates more on national security and international organizations and current events on a global level.
Specializations in Masters in International Relations Programs
An online Master’s in International Relations may sometimes prove too broad-based, making it difficult to find jobs in certain sectors. Specializations dive deeper into specific aspects of International Relations, which can prepare students for jobs in related fields. Most Master’s in International Relations offer concentrations or specialized degrees that reflect the utility of the chosen career path. Some options of such specializations include but are not limited to:
- Master of International Affairs
- Master’s in Diplomacy
- Global Studies Master’s
- Master of Science in Public Health
- Master’s in Foreign Policy
- Master in Geopolitics Online
- Online Master’s in International Relations and Diplomacy
- Online Master’s in International Law and Diplomacy
- Master of Public Affairs
- International Relations and Journalism Master’s
Students can often also choose to extend their credit hours concentrating on a subject from within a specific department. Examples of such concentrations are:
- Global Environment and Natural Resources
- Security Policy
- Word Trade and Development
- International Development
- Sustainable Development and Conflict Transformation
- Political Science
- Public Administration
- Global Peace Studies
- Urban and Regional Planning
- Unique Option: Global Strategic Communication Specialization
A primary focus of this specialization program is teaching students how to communicate successfully across cultural and geographic boundaries in order to offer solutions to global concerns such as climate change and immigration. Through strategic interpersonal communication skills and cultural considerations, students are taught how to deal with these and other global issues. This concentration equips students with the skills and knowledge they need to address some of the world’s most pressing challenges through intelligent and strategic communication. One of the top-rated universities to study this area of focus is the University of Florida.
Curriculum and Skills Gained in Online Masters in International Relations Programs
Depending on the degree one pursues, specific courses of an online Master’s in International Relations may vary. Master in IR subjects or core courses are generally similar and prepare students to apply theory and practice to real-world situations and issues. In most cases, diplomacy and International Relations courses stem from various disciplines such as history, law, political science, economics, anthropology, and more. Sample courses might include:
- Nonviolent Conflict Resolution
- Theories on the Causes of War
- International History
- International Relations Theory
- International Security
- European Studies
- Geography and Ecology
- Conflict Transformation and Peace Studies
- Sustainable Development
- Environmental Policy
- Anthropology and Cultural Studies
- Inter-American Security Issues
- International Economics
- International Political Economy
- Foreign Policy
- Current Affairs
- Economics and Global Markets
- Mediterranean Studies
- Conflict Analysis and Resolution
- International Political Economy
- Foreign Language
- Diplomacy and Statecraft
- Comparative International Development
- Theory and Research on Nonviolence and Peace
International Relations Master’s Degree programs also offer many elective courses that allow for a more customized program. While some electives focus on certain regions or countries, others look at specific aspects of International Relations. Students usually find options for electives in topics such as:
- The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict
- US Foreign Policy
- The European Union: Integration, Enlargement, and Unity
- North Africa and Colonial History
- Muslim Presence in Europe
- Ecology of Mediterranean
- Conflict Resolution and International Security
- International Law
- Global Environmental Politics
- Politics and Diplomacy
- Trade and Finance
- Human Rights
- Geopolitics in The Mediterranean Basin
- Ethics of War and Peace
- Corporate Management
- Media and Conflict
- International Economics and The European Union
- Democracy and its Critics
- International Ocean Law
- Scope and Methods of Political Science
- Global Politics of Work and Social Welfare
- Political Violence and Conflict Resolution
Note: Curriculum and courses can vary by region, college, and program. Therefore, it is important to research each program’s curriculum to find one that relates to the individual’s career goals.
In addition to learning the fundamentals of International Relations, graduates of a Master’s in International Relations will exhibit the following skills:
- Effective written and oral communication.
- The ability to recommend policy and also make policy.
- A deeper understanding of economic principles, international trade and laws, developing markets, and the global market.
- The ability to analyze various political structures, world events, foreign policy, and their influence on International Relations.
- Wider awareness of cultures, communities, and social fabrics of various nations that are becoming increasingly interconnected.
- Demonstrate the ability to apply theory and practice and work in various areas such as international business, foreign service, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), humanitarian sectors, media, journalism, etc.
- Exhibit knowledge of how humans communicate in a global market and create effective ways of cross-border communication.
Accreditation for Online Masters in International Relations Programs
As with all Master’s degrees, Accreditation for an online Master’s in International Relations is an absolute requirement for the degree to be of value and considered by the job market. Accreditation agencies lay down standards for schools to conform to and ensure that these standards are being met and maintained throughout. While some schools may have specifically accredited programs (programmatic), most schools are regionally accredited, which is just as good an option. Some of the regional accreditation bodies in the United States are:
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools (MSA-CESS)
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission
Students are advised to always look for accredited colleges or programs while applying for an Online Masters in International Relations. More information on Accreditation is available in our Accreditation Guide.
Timeline for graduation from Online Masters in International Relations Programs
Most online Master’s in International Relations programs require about 36 credit hours or about 18 to 24 months to complete the program. Part-time programs will require longer durations, generally taking anywhere from 24 months to 48 months to complete. In some cases, and depending on the type of Master’s program (MA, MS, or MBA), additional internship, fieldwork, or Thesis may add to the duration of the degree.
Online Masters in International Relations Programs Admission Requirements
The Master’s in International Relations eligibility criteria is rather straightforward. Along with the customary application form and requisite application fee, most colleges require students to submit:
- Official Academic Transcripts
- At least 2 Letters of Recommendation
- A Resume
- A Personal Statement
- Proof of proficiency in English (if necessary)
While a Standardized Test Score of GRE is not usually mandated, some colleges require a GRE score for applicants whose cumulative undergraduate Grade Point Average (GPA) is below 3.0.
Additionally, students must have completed a Bachelor’s degree (or its equivalent). Having some proficiency in at least one language other than English and some international experience and/or knowledge of other cultures is highly recommended.
Since admission criteria vary by college and program, it is best to check with the college’s admissions office being applied to or read the program guide for specific and fuller information on admission requirements unique to the program.