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International Relations Masters programs- US and European schools

college_owlcollege_owl Registered User Posts: 17 New Member
edited March 2010 in Graduate School
I'm currently almost a Junior at my university. I am majoring in International Studies with possibly a dual major with Political Science. If not a dual with Poli Sci, then a double minor in Poli Sci and journalism.

Anyway, I want to get a graduate degree in international relations. I want to be focused on Europe and N. Africa/Middle East. I'm learning French right now, and hopefully in graduate school, can take some Arabic classes (they don't offer them at my university).

I've seen some of the posts about the best US graduate schools for IR, I've looked in to the European Studies degree at Georgetown. Does anyone know anyone who has gone through that program?

Also, some of my family still lives in Europe (DK) and I was wondering if anyone knew the best IR graduate programs in Europe. I know Oxford and Cambridge are great but what about others? Oxbridge seems like I probably won't get in. What are some other schools to look at?

Post anything you know about International Relations, or even schools in Europe.
Post edited by college_owl on

Replies to: International Relations Masters programs- US and European schools

  • flowernoseflowernose Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    I applied to IR programs in the UK, Sweden and US and will be getting an MA in International Relations at King's College London this fall. I'd say the best programs in the UK for IR are LSE and King's College (in King's it is under the Department of War Studies, so is better if you're interested in security, conflict resolution, int'l organizations that sort of thing). Both schools are really well known within Europe, LSE has a better international reputation though I've heard the quality of teaching at the Master's level is not as good as King's. If you're interested in the Middle East SOAS's MA in International Studies and Diplomacy is another great option in the UK. Oxford is of course excellent if you can get in, Cambridge does not have a particular focus on IR but the name speaks for itself. You can check out a website called **************, that is the UK version of this website and has tons of helpful information.

    As far as the US goes, you can search on this site and there's a ton of information. Generally Georgetown, SAIS, SIPA at Columbia, Fletcher are considered the best, there are many others that are good though. Personally as I work in the non profit sector it wasn't worth it for me to pay the money to go to these schools so that's why I'll be going to the UK. However you will generally get a more thorough education in the US. That's just my opinion though.

    Good luck!
  • flowernoseflowernose Registered User Posts: 9 New Member
    Oh, just PM me if you want the website. I guess I can't post it on here!
  • sunshadowsunshadow Registered User Posts: 1,182 Senior Member
    Franklin College Switzerland (named after our first US Ambassador - Benjamin Franklin) specializes in International Relations. It is located on Lake Lugano in Switzerland right on the edge of northern Italy and the spoken language in the area is Italian. Great school, small, well known in Europe for IR. Gorgeous area. It is an American school so the classes are taught in English but they offer lots of foreign language as well.
  • al1184al1184 Registered User Posts: 3 New Member
    St. Andrews University in Scotland is worth a look. Great School and great IR program. its also the oldest uni in scotland.
  • tfhagentfhagen Registered User Posts: 1 New Member
    Best IR program in Europe is the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, at their Bologna Campus (www.jhu.it). Hands down. I must admit I have a vested interest, I am both a graduate and work there. But it's true. If anyone has any questions, feel free...
  • samonite16samonite16 Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    Excluding SAIS-Bologna, the best IR Masters in Europe is probably at LSE (London School of Economics). My former boss was a graduate of the LSE program, however, and gave it very mixed reviews. I think HEI in Switzerland is also fairly well respected. In the US, the best schools are SAIS, SIPA, Fletcher, and Georgetown, plus the public policy programs at Harvard and Princeton.

    However, I would seriously consider working for several years before entering any of these programs. Unless you are truly spectacular, you probably won't get into the top tier without work experience. Even if you do, you might face a very tough job market coming out. Nobody will hire someone without experience for anything above an entry level position, but employers also don't feel comfortable hiring a SAIS/Georgetown graduate to make 35k doing data entry and setting up conferences. After my sophomore year in college, I interned with a think tank in DC. There was one girl in my program who had just gotten an MA in IR from American right after undergrad at a top 20 university. She graduated with no job and was temping for less than I made as an intern.

    My advice: graduate, go abroad and get fluent in French or decent in Arabic, and then come back for school.
  • jmleadpipejmleadpipe Registered User Posts: 628 Member
    Samsonite's advice is spot on. Masters degrees in IR, much like in business or public administration or policy are meant to enhance and specialize your knowledge of a specific field AFTER working in it for several years. Completing an IR masters without any relevant work experience beforehand is not the smartest move, either financially or in terms of a career.
  • VolscioVolscio Registered User Posts: 111 Junior Member
    Wait, so you should get work experience BEFORE your IR Master's? How would you do that, without the IR Master's background?

    Oh, but wait again. How would you even get into an IR program without past work experience, unless you were a hotshot undergrad with an interesting background?

    What do the rest of us, unsubsidized by a sponsor govt. position, do?

    (I go to an IR school, most of this is rhetorical...I just disagree with the sentiment expressed here.)

    Better advice is to make sure that you shore up the correct skills you need while in school, in order to get a good job once you graduate...but expecting all that before one even begins their master's is pretty unreasonable.
  • jmleadpipejmleadpipe Registered User Posts: 628 Member
    Although Volscio may believe that you cant get work experience in IR with a masters in IR (a dubious statement at best) consider the numerous fields and areas that have something to do with international relations that are easily and readily accessible to lowlu undergraduates after they finish university or even during their studies as part of internships.
    The fact is that almost any IR program worth a damn will require some work experience in IR before they accept you, and that even if you happen to get accepted to these programs without any prior work experience you are much, much, less marketable then your classmates who had work experience before entering the masters program.
  • VolscioVolscio Registered User Posts: 111 Junior Member
    I was fairly clear in my post, and you misrepresented it (and did you make a typo?). Anyway, it's not important.

    I would say that a lot of the IR folks I know are doing what is essentially a career change. Many had work experience beforehand, but to claim that it was IR-related would be a far stretch of the imagination compared to the kinds of jobs people graduate with. As an example, I have friends who are war veterans, but they weren't attaches or PRT people. I also have friends who are international students coming out of college. And friends from the Peace Corps. That hardly makes them eligible, skill-wise, for IR jobs. They are changing careers at best, and making new careers at worst. Maybe there's a handful continuing previous work, but it's not as cut and dried as you state.

    So that's why I think your advice is a little misleading...or incomplete, at best.
  • kigalikigali Registered User Posts: 156 Junior Member
    This is shaping up to be an interesting debate, and I can see where both sides are coming from. While I don't want to hijack someone else's thread, I have a question within this same vein that's based on my personal experience (though it may turn out to be relevant for others as well) that highlights the Catch-22 Volscio mentioned: I've been a US permanent resident since a tender age, but I attended college in my hometown of St. Petersburg, Russia. Besides the fact that Russian universities structure their timetables in such a fashion that even part-time work (as in, a professional position, not at McDonald's) is literally impossible, the only even mildly decent shot I had at gaining work experience in the field during my degree was to go work for United Russia, which I categorically refused to do for reasons that I hope will be obvious to everyone. With a Mon-Fri 10-5 class schedule and the only option of volunteer work being scheduled during those same hours, I would have been forced to skip class if I'd wanted to volunteer with an NGO (of which, unfortunately, there aren't many for once again obvious reasons), thus significantly damaging my grades and effectively canceling out the possibility of getting into a good graduate program. In short, the situation I found myself in wasn't conducive to any kind of professional development in the field (aside from within the ranks of United Russia, that is!), and I knew I wasn't going to stay in Russia past graduation anyway.

    "Fear not!", I thought, "I'll just go back to the States and get an entry-level position at some thinktank, what with my coveted language skills and international experience and excellent grades!". Ha. Naturally, nobody - and by "nobody" I mean not even Borders, no joke - wants to hire a person who went to school in a scary country and has no relevant work experience. I did spend close to 5 years (the length of my studies) being a top-tier event planner at my department, and I was a private English tutor for a short while, but that's about it.

    I fell in love with American (SIS), which I've always thought was an excellent program, and I'll be starting there in the fall. In the meantime, I'm dabbling in a mix of admin, marketing and research at a small nonprofit in DC that's almost entirely unrelated to IR - a temp-to-perm position obtained through a temp agency, of course. So here's my question - what are people like me supposed to do? Am I just completely outta luck? Is a secretarial position the best I can hope for in life?
  • samonite16samonite16 Registered User Posts: 250 Junior Member
    I'll take a stab at your question, kigali.

    Your best option is to get a part-time internship once you start at American. Even though you don't have much experience, you will be able to find one. Go through SIS's career services, which has all kinds of connections. Your Russian language skills will also be a big help. Finding internships/work in DC is much easier during the fall, after all the college kids have gone back to school. Once you have one on your resume, everything gets easier.

    In a more general sense, you can find entry-level IR work, it just takes some effort. All the major think tanks hire research assistants, and Congressional staffs are young and have very high turnover rates. The intelligence agencies hire entry-level analysts. The Peace Corps is a popular option for people interested in development.
  • jmleadpipejmleadpipe Registered User Posts: 628 Member

    When IR programs ask for work experience, they are almost always reffering to post-UG work experience consiting fo actual full time work in some field related (albeit sometimes vaguely related, as Volscio aptly pointed out) to IR. Although internships and the like are certainly seen as beneficial by IR programs when admitting new students, they mostly expect to admit kids who have already had some full time experience doing something IR related.
  • kigalikigali Registered User Posts: 156 Junior Member
    Samonite - yep, that's my plan. All of the other options you suggested were exactly what I attempted to do, except I hit major roadblocks - no US citizenship effectively cancels out a huge number of jobs (and I have to wait to apply since I wasn't physically present in the US for a good chunk of the time required), and, well, research assistants and analysts are typically expected to come from schools employers have some knowledge of. I do understand (and this leads into jmleadpipe's reply) that the jobs are out there and are usually accessible to people with credentials slightly less cryptic than mine, for instance. That brings us back to the Catch-22 a small portion of people like me find themselves in - no jobs without a degree, no degree without any jobs. I'm elated to have gotten into SIS and I plan on making the absolute most of it, of course, but my marketability could still suffer...
  • RyanJansseRyanJansse Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    What about the International Relations programs at Boston University (Department of International Relations | Graduate) and Northeastern University (Master of Arts in Political Science). At Northeastern IR is a concentration within the Political Science program. Does anyone know how these programs are ranked and what their reputation is?
This discussion has been closed.