Free Online Lectures and Courses for International Relations

Men and women who earn college degrees in International Relations will study the cultural, political, and economic factors that play a role in global society, as well as strategies for protecting domestic interests while traveling abroad. Some will focus on international trade and commerce, while others will concentrate their studies on diplomatic relations. What all IR students have in common is their desire to improve the world through impactful change and positive dialogue. To see if this field of study is right for them, students today can enroll in free, online open courses that explore various topics associated with international relations.

Many international relations degree-holders will complete the Foreign Service Exam and work outside the United States at embassies, government offices, educational institutions, and private company facilities. On the other hand, a considerable number of these individuals will remain on the homefront and communicate with international counterparts using remote technology. Where they end up largely depends on their academic specialization, although the overall course of study will generally follow the same pattern.

Sample Courses

International relations majors must study subjects like history, economics, political science, and anthropology. Many undergraduate courses (known as ‘comparative courses') will discuss the similarities and differences between various groups. Additional coursework will explore philosophy, literature, art, science, and other academic fields with universal applications. Topics of contemporary interest ― such as environmental science, information technology, and global security ― will likely be addressed at length. And any student who wants to get a leg up on competition in the workforce is encouraged to study at least one foreign language at the college-level.

Possible Specializations

Since international relations is such a broad field, specializations for undergraduate or graduate-level majors are restricted to certain fields of study and, often, to certain historical periods and countries/regions of the world. Examples might include 20th century European business, Japanese history, or contemporary Latin American culture. Advanced foreign language courses may be required, depending on the specialization. International relations students should choose a specialization that not only reflects their areas of academic and cultural interest, but also stands to help them pursue a successful career.

Degree Types

In addition to their specialization, students who major in international relations must decide which degree level will be most beneficial to their career prospects.


A two-year associate degree is the crucial first step toward higher education, but this credential alone will probably be insufficient for anyone who hopes to land a long-term career in the field of international relations. In some cases, an associate degree supplemented with career experience (such as military service) might be enough to merit consideration for an entry-level position.


The length and curriculum of an undergraduate program in international relations will greatly vary from institution to institution, but the majority of these programs last four years and are designed to introduce students to the fundamentals of world affairs. While an advanced degree is the most effective way for students in this field to outshine their competitors in the workforce, a bachelor's degree is all it takes to land a job with many companies, agencies, and nonprofit organizations that operate on foreign soil (as well as volunteer outfits like the Peace Corps and VISTA).


A master's degree will generally be required for individuals who want to pursue executive or upper-level careers in international business or foreign relations. Most programs last between one and two years ― and although a bachelor's degree in international relations will increase their chances of acceptance, students who pursued different majors as undergraduates (such as political science or economics) may also be admitted into a master's program. The master's degree, coupled with a specialization, will often be sufficient for finding a competitive job within the international relations sector, but some students may opt to receive a Ph.D. or doctoral degree to further boost their chances.


The Ph.D. (or doctorate) is a terminal degree that typically requires students to complete two years of coursework that includes a dissertation, clinical research, and/or an extensive internship. Certain professionals will be required to obtain doctoral a degree before finding work in this field, such as international attorneys or doctors who plan to treat patients in foreign countries. However, a Ph.D. will be unnecessary for most careers in the international relations sector.

As an alternative to the traditional degrees listed above, students may opt to receive an advanced certificate. This credential may focus on studies related to a particular region or cultural group, or specialized areas like ‘International Business Diplomacy' or ‘Refugee and Humanitarian Emergencies.'

Ideal Candidates for International Relations

Love of travel and an interest in foreign culture are two fundamental requirements of anyone interested in pursuing a career in international relations. As representatives of the United States, these individuals must understand the importance of diplomacy and etiquette if they wish to project a positive image of their country to those who might not otherwise be familiar with American culture. Another important quality is flexibility; the willingness to adapt to one's foreign surroundings and approach problems with patience and resourcefulness is of great importance in the field of international relations.

Career Pathways

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the career outlook for professions related to the field of international relations will vary by their specialization of study. For example, the number of jobs for political scientists is projected to grow 21% between 2012 and 2022, which represents a difference of roughly 1,400 people. The number of economists, on the other hand, is projected to grow 14% during that period (which matches the average rate of growth for all professions), while the number of historians will only rise 6%. Regardless of specialization, salary rate will be almost always be higher for employees who have earned a Ph.D. or master's degree than those who completed their education with a bachelor's degree.

An additional consideration for international relations majors is where they plan to seek employment, as hourly and annual compensation will vary from country to country. The BLS notes that the average salaries in countries like Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, and Denmark provide exceed earnings in the United States by a considerable margin, but the cost-of-living in these places is also significantly higher. On the other hand, countries where the average salary is lower than in the U.S. (such as Brazil, South Korea, and Mexico) are also much cheaper for residents.

If you want to learn more about career opportunities for international relations professionals, a good starting place is your college campus. If your school does not host a department exclusively dedicated to international studies, then you may be able to obtain membership to a student organization or club (such as Model U.N.) that focuses on world affairs.

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International Relations Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • European Journal of International Relations

      This is the journal of the Standing Group on International Relations of the European Consortium for Political Research, and is peer-reviewed.

    • International Relations

      "An explicitly pluralist peer-reviewed journal, favouring variety in both subject-matter and method. IR welcomes articles from all perspectives and all subjects pertaining to international ...

    • Journal of International Affairs

      Edited at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs, this journal has a single-topic format in each of it's biannual issues and is published in eighty countries.

    • Journal of International Relations and Development

      Published in association with the Centre of International Relations in Slovenia, JIRD "publishes articles on contemporary world politics and the global political economy."

    • Millennium

      This journal on international relations, fully edited by postgraduate students, publishes "innovative critical work by both young scholars and established figures."

    • Wilson Quarterly

      Aimed at the general public, this journal provides both a historical perspective on international relations and distinct views on an issue.

  • Trade Magazines

    • Diplomat Magazine

      "A foreign affairs magazine that provokes intelligent discussion from the heart of the Diplomatic community in London."

    • Foreign Policy

      This magazine, which includes analysis from international relations experts, describes itself as, "A trusted advisor for global leaders when the stakes are ...

    • New Internationalist

      Published ten times a year, this magazine focuses on social justice around the world and is "renowned for its radical, campaigning stance on a range of world ...

    • Rand Review

      This high level magazine is read by foreign affairs leaders and politicians worldwide and is detailed in its analysis of international relations.

    • The National Interest

      Committed to fostering awareness and debate around critical issues of foreign policy, this magazine attempts to provide objective information for the public.

    • World Press

      With sections devoted to each area of the world, this magazine is comprehensive in its news coverage of foreign policy and global issues, providing numerous ...

International Relations Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • Carnegie Foundation

      Deadline: Varies

      Award Amount: Varies

      Among its numerous grants for international relations study, this organization funds professionals and students interested in nuclear security, states in transition, and the dynamics of global power.

    • Henry M. Jackson Foundation International Affairs Education Grant

      Deadline: December 1, March 1, June 1, September 1

      Award Amount: N/A

      Geared toward professors and researchers, this grant from Duke University provides funds for individuals who seek to open up dialogue between citizens and their government, among other goals.

    • Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting: Travel Grants

      Deadline: Rolling

      Award Amount: Varies by project

      Open to professionals interested in covering "international travel costs associated with reporting projects on topics and regions of global importance."

    • Rotary Peace Fellowships

      Deadline: N/A

      Award Amount: Full funding for room, board, and study expenses

      The Rotary funds a wide variety of research on peace and international relations, inviting fellows to come complete studies at one of their worldwide Peace Centers.

    • United States Institute of Peace

      Deadline: Varies

      Award Amount: Varies

      The Institute awards numerous grants and fellowships, to both students and professionals, to foster careers in peacekeeping, use innovative means of effecting international change, and curb violence.

  • Scholarships

    • CIA Undergraduate Scholarship Program

      Deadline: Twelve months prior to desired start date

      Award Amount: $18,000 per year of college

      Open to high school seniors planning to enroll in a 4- or 5-year college and college freshmen and sophomores, this program supports study and careers that ...

    • Government & World Affairs Scholarship

      Deadline: February 1

      Award Amount: $3,000

      Given by the University of Tampa, this scholarship is for incoming freshmen planning to major in government or world affairs.

    • Harry S. Truman Scholarship

      Deadline: February 4

      Award Amount: $30,000

      Awarded to college juniors and seniors, this scholarship funds students interested in going into public service, government, the nonprofit sector, or other ...

    • Monterey Institute of International Studies Kathryn Davis Fellowship for Peace

      Deadline: February 1

      Award Amount: Full tuition, room, and board

      For students interested in attending a Middlebury Language School in Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, or Russian, the Monterey Institute offers this scholarship to ...

    • The Beinecke Scholarship

      Deadline: TBD

      Award Amount: $4,000 upon entering graduate school; $30,000 each year following

      Awarded to highly motivated students going into graduate school studies in the arts, humanities, and social sciences.

International Relations Internships

  • American Defense Institute Internship

    Deadline: December 15, April 15, July 15

    Eligible college sophomores, juniors, and seniors spend a semester in Washington D.C. and conduct research on national defense, as well as assisting with Institute-sponsored programs.

  • American Foreign Service Association

    Deadline: Varies

    AFSA offers internships in advocacy and government affairs, communications, editorial positions, and a host of other areas that might benefit international students in college.

  • Carter Center Internship Program

    Deadline: N/A

    Interns at the Carter Center can be undergraduates or recent graduates and can work in peace programs, health programs, or operations.

  • Center for Strategic & International Studies

    Deadline: May 15, September 10, January 14

    Internships are open to students in their junior or senior year of college who want to gain "practical experience in public policy."

  • Council on Foreign Relations

    Deadline: Rolling

    Open to college or graduate students and recent graduates, internships are geared toward those pursuing a career in foreign policy and involve research, program coordination, editing, and writing.

  • Cross Cultural Solutions

    Deadline: Varies by program and country

    For college students looking to combine study abroad with service, CCS offers internships in countries around the world for students to work in health, social services, and political science.

  • Millenium Challenge Corporation

    Deadline: Varies

    This governmental foreign aid agency has internships for students interested in Congressional and public affairs, risk management, administration and finance, policy and evaluation, and other areas.

  • White House Internship

    Deadline: Three yearly, TBD

    Both for undergraduates and graduates, this internship provides international studies students a chance to see the inner workings of our government, including foreign policy workings.

  • World Research Institute

    Deadline: Varies

    Interns serve in areas connecting to international relations, including external relations, biodiversity or environmental research, or legal work.

International Relations Student & Professional Organizations