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How to Become an International Relations Specialist

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International Relations is a social science field that deals with the relationships between different countries. Specialists in the field are responsible for managing diplomatic, political, and economic affairs between one country and others. International Relations specialists equally function as relationship managers for multinational organizations, Non-Governmental Organizations, and other companies who do business beyond the shores of a country. International Relations cuts across different sectors, making it arguably the most lucrative field in social sciences.

Basic duties of International Relations specialists

Once you begin to work as an International Relations Specialist, the following will be your routine activities.

  • Engaging government officials, agencies, media houses, civil organizations on foreign issues.
  • Reviewing and explaining the policies of international organizations.
  • Analyzing policies of foreign countries.
  • Carrying out researches on economic and political issues that may affect the organization you work with.
  • Advising your employer on diplomacy issues.
  • Studying the social trends of countries.
  • Conducting surveys and interpreting the data.
  • Managing your employer’s international reputation.
  • Creating foreign policies for government institutions
  • Predicting social trends and political outcomes.
  • Gathering and analyzing the election data.
  • Conducting surveys to know public opinions and reactions to some policies.
  • Recommending how institutions or organizations can progress.
  • Formulating foreign policies for the government.
  • Publishing the outcomes of your researches through different media channels,
  • Writing reports of your meetings and agreements with foreign government officials.
  • Taking part in media discussion to make commentaries and give updates on the plans of the government or your employers.

Careers in Humanities: International Relations

Important skills for International Relations Specialists

Language skills

As you may have thought, one of the crucial skills you will need to excel as an International relations expert is the impeccable use of language. You have to be fluent in  English, even though it is not your mother tongue. Also, since English is the most widely spoken language around the world, it comes in handy even when your organization’s primary language of communication is not the English Language.

Nonetheless, good knowledge of your local language is necessary. Sometimes, you may have to use it in communicating effectively with your local clients.

Your choice of language can undermine your effectiveness as an International Relations Expert. But then, it can also make you unique in all aspects of your career.

Organizational skills

Being an International Relations Specialist, your organizational skills have to be topnotch. You will most likely have to take on two or more assignments at the same time. The workload is usually above average, so you must learn how to prioritize tasks.

Analytical skills

The ability to analyze data and situations is quite valuable for every International Relations Specialist. You will be introduced to the basics of proper situation analysis during the academic phase of your career. However, you must learn how to analyze data consistently on your own. This helps you perfect the skill and makes you spontaneous in handling such tasks at work. On some occasions, your analytical ability can be put to test by just reading an article in order to identify its key points and how they can help you have an edge during a negotiation process.

Interpersonal skills

International Relations revolves around maintaining good relationships with organizations, and countries, Yet, all these begin with the interactions between you and individuals who are stakeholders in such institutions. Some instances of good interpersonal skills are when you ensure that guests find every part of your events or meetings interesting, engaging, and valuable. Convincing your clients by helping them understand the benefits of your proposition also requires commendable interpersonal skills. Relationship management is at the center of International relations activities.

International exposure

Schooling in a foreign country is undoubtedly one of the best ways to quickly prove your level of expertise in International relations. The experience of foreign cultures and traditions is very useful in your career growth. More importantly, being familiar with the countries whose languages you intend to use as your primary mode of communication will go a long way in making you desirable to potential employers.

The academic phase of your career does not necessarily have to be in a particular country. For instance, your undergraduate degree can be from a reputable local institution with accredited courses, then you can travel to English/ French/ Portuguese/ Spanish speaking countries to bag your Masters and Ph.D. degrees.

Other relevant skills for every International Relations Specialist include:

Research skills: Understanding of social and economic trends is crucial and that is only possible through quality research.

Tech-savvy: Being familiar with tech tools will help increase your productivity.

Do note that your schedule will be filled at all points. Learn all the necessary skills in the field. That way, you will get your work done faster and easier.

Careers in Humanities: International Relations

Workplace for International Relations Specialists

As mentioned earlier, the field cuts across different sectors. Brands and government boards will need your services for different reasons. However, organizations such as Government Agencies, International Corporations, Law Firms, Media, Research centers, IGOs like UNICEF, The World Bank, WHO, and the UN, as well as Charity Organizations, are the largest employers of International Relations specialists.

Interestingly, there are a good number of career options you can pursue within the field. These careers are typically narrower in scope and are especially fine-tuned to suit specific job descriptions. You just need to get relevant certifications to place yourself as the ideal candidate for employers who need experts in these particular career paths.

Intelligence Specialist: Being an Intelligence Analyst, your services will be required in National Security, Military, Naval sector, and government agencies.

Some day-to-day responsibilities in this specialization are gathering and processing intelligence data for your employer, managing the organization’s intelligence documents and its entire database, compiling and writing reports, and creating charts and maps to explain the reports clearly.

Diplomat – Maintaining good relations between countries. Another career option you can pursue within the field of International relations is becoming a Diplomat. Being a Diplomat, you will stand as a representative of your country’s leaders in conferences, meetings, trade agreements, inter-country politics, among other roles.  Usually, a diplomat spends an average of three years in a foreign country in a bid to maintain a smooth and working relationship between that country and his or her native country. Some responsibilities you are likely to have are:

Acting as the bridge between your country and another foreign country, gathering the necessary information on the policies of the foreign country which may affect your native country, organizing meetings to discuss issues relating to peacemaking, trade disputes, cultural differences, and ensuring that the national interests of your home country are considered at every point.

Political Analyst: A political Analyst helps in creating strategies and formulating government policies, after gathering substantial data and conducting researches. Note that if this specialization fits into your interest, you will most likely work in the public sector. However, some media and research organizations sometimes require your skills when carrying out government projects.

Your responsibilities will include: giving advice to political office holders, analyzing policies, election results, sharing insights on government activities in the country, using the data you must have gathered to predict political reforms.

Lobbyist: Do you constantly try to win arguments and persuade people to see things from your angle? Becoming a Lobbyist may be the perfect career for you. Companies hire Lobbyists to bargain on their behalf and to persuade the government as well as business partners to do business with them. Some basic responsibilities of Lobbyists are:

Organizing meetings with policymakers, communicating the interest of your organization in ways that recipients would find amusing, and representing your employer at decision making meetings. You also need to remain updated about an ongoing business conversation, looking for ways to nail the deal for your employer.

Communications Expert: Another interesting career option within the field of International Relations is becoming a Communications Expert. Multi-national organizations usually need the services of a communications expert with international exposure.

He or she ensures effective communication among staff and with the clients of foreign countries where the organization has its branches. Some of your regular activities as a Communications expert are:

Managing internal communication, developing strategies that can increase the effectiveness of communication, writing reports, as well as engaging content for social media and the web.

Other career options within the field of International Relations include:

  • Public Affairs Consultant
  • Social Researcher
  • Policy officer
  • Broadcast Journalist
  • Solicitor
  • Risk Manager

Education for International Relations Specialists

Different stages of your education will determine the subject areas you have to pay attention to. For instance, during your secondary school days, you must have excelled in subjects such as History, Government, Civic Education, Religious Studies, and other social science coursework before you can progress to the university to study International Relations.

However, you may want to learn the basics of Geography; it will increase your knowledge of foreign countries.

The courses you are likely to take at the undergraduate level are anthropology, International Law, Economics, and Language courses such as linguistics and Grammar. Although, some of these would only be introductory classes.

One great tip that can make you stand out in your career is when you learn another widely accepted international language. It could be French, German, Spanish, or Portuguese. Expertise in one or some of these will increase your value as an IR specialist.

Like many other careers, getting relevant experience is important. This can be volunteering to work with an NGO or any other related organization where you will gain practical knowledge of your roles as an International Relations Specialist.

In addition, a post-graduate degree in International Relations will broaden your knowledge on Economic trends, Foreign Affairs, Social Problems, Law and Legal practices public policies, among many others. (More on this later)

How much can you make as an International Relations Specialist?

The average annual income for International Relations Specialist is about $81,000 (US) while the lowest you can possibly earn annually is $56,000. However, some earn as much as $113,000 in the field. Experience and qualifications are quite important.

The average income in Canada: $81,918

The average income in the United Kingdom: £68,902

Average income in Australia: $86,000

Schools to Study International Relations

International Relations is a very popular field of study in the social sciences. It is being taught in almost every tertiary institution that has a social science faculty or college. However, I have chosen the ones below after careful consideration of how they classified courses in the field. I have equally examined the overall quality of education that they provide.

Graduate Courses that qualify you for the best job offers

An undergraduate course in International Relations plus relevant work experience with NGOs should get you entry-level jobs. But would that do justice to your dreams? Certainly not! You only stand a good chance of coveting top rated positions and mouthwatering job offers when you bag Graduate degrees in relevant fields. In the following lines, I have highlighted some of these courses, as well as the internationally recognized schools where you can study them.

SOAS University of London, England.

  • International Politics (MSC)
  • Global Studies (MSC)
  • International Studies and Diplomacy (MA)

University of Aberdeen, Scotland.

  • Criminal Justice and Human Rights (LLM)
  • International Trade Law & Treaty Negotiation with Professional Skills (LLM)
  • School of Social Science:
  • Global Conflict and Peace Processes (MSC)
  • International Political Economy (MSC)
  • Post-Conflict Justice and Peace Building (MSC)
  • Strategic Studies and Energy Security (MSC)

Aberystwyth University, Wales.

  • Department of International Politics
  • International Politics (Ph.D.)
  • International Politics (MA)

Aston University

  • School of Languages and Social Sciences
  • International Relations and Global Governance (MA)
  • Multilevel Governance and International Relations (MA)

University of Bath

  • Politics, Languages and International Studies (MA)

University of Birmingham, England

  • School of Government and Society
  • Diplomacy (MA, PGD)
  • International Political Economy (MA, PGD)
  • International Security and Terrorism (MA, PGD)
  • School of Philosophy, Theology, and Religion
  • Master of Research – MRes

Cardiff University, Wales

  • Cardiff Law School
  • Legal and Political Aspects of International Affairs (LLM)
  • School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies
  • International Public Relations and Global Communications Management (MA)

City University of London

  • International Politics and Human Rights (MA)

De Montfort University, England

  •  Business Economics and International Relations (MSC)
  • Diplomacy and World Order (MA)
  • Intercultural Business Communications (MSC)

Don’t forget, if you need further guidance on how to get admission into these schools, you send me an email or click on the chat button below this page. I’d be willing to help.



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