Online International Studies Degree for an International Relations Career in Illinois

International relations efforts in Illinois involve professionals from the government, nonprofit, and private sectors that foster mutually beneficial relationships between the state and foreign partners around the world. Foreign outreach is particularly important to Illinois’s economy, as the state’s $66 billion in international exports supported 339,421 jobs in FY (fiscal year) 2014 alone. These product and service exports originated from some 223,060 Illinois-based companies, many of which were small-to-medium sized enterprises.

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The benefits of Illinois’s foreign outreach efforts extend far beyond economic gains, however. International relations professionals in the state also lead humanitarian, educational, and cultural initiatives around the world.

Among the many efforts that take place within the state:

  • Chicago TechWeek works with the The U.S. Mission to Poland-sponsored program “Do IT with Poland.” The initiative aims to foster ties between American companies and Polish technology start ups.
  • The Argonne National Laboratory, operated by the University of Chicago Department of Energy, was granted $1,974,750 to provide six International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) cost-free expert positions. The intention behind this collaboration is to champion peaceful global uses of nuclear energy, including sustainable nuclear power.
  • Illinois-based Kraft Foods participates in the “Feed the Future” program in collaboration with the Office of Global Food Security. The initiative aims to provide sustainable food for communities all across the globe through farming and nutrition education.


Choosing the Right Degree for a Career in International Relations

Studying international relations gives students the education and credibility to work in a variety of professions:

  • Foreign policy advisor
  • Ambassador
  • Foreign Outreach Worker
  • Diplomat
  • NGO Program Director
  • Humanitarian Aid Program Director
  • Security Analyst
  • Immigration Specialist
  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Diplomatic Service Officer
  • Interpreter/Translator

The U.S. government, nonprofit organizations, and private businesses all require the expertise of foreign outreach specialists, creating a diverse array of opportunities for graduates of these programs. Because of the field’s diversity, many schools allow students to customize their degree to prepare for specific careers. Further, many schools require students to study abroad, allowing them to blend classroom learning with real-world experience.

Many programs allow students to take classes online, either exclusively or in combination with on-site coursework. This option is often popular among working professionals.

Many students enter into international relations programs for the chance to work with some of the world’s most renowned organizations. For example, a foreign outreach job with the U.S. government could require collaboration with the United Nations, the European Union, or NATO. In the nonprofit sector, the Peace Corps and Amnesty International often require the expertise of international relations gurus.

Bachelor’s Degree Programs in International Relations

Through a heavy emphasis on liberal arts coursework – including core courses on political science, economics, languages, communications, and conflict – undergraduate programs serve as a first step to a career in international relations. Examples of bachelor’s degrees with majors related to international relations include:

  • Bachelor of Arts in International Relations and Diplomacy
  • Bachelor of Arts in International Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Military Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science
  • Bachelor of Arts in Middle Eastern Studies
  • Bachelor of Arts in Intelligence Studies
  • Bachelor of Science in International Affairs
  • Bachelor of Science in Diplomacy

The specificity of different tracks within international relations allow students to focus on a particular area of specialty or region. A few examples of these tracks include:

  • Culture, Media, and the Arts Track
  • Governance of Nations Track
  • International Security Track
  • Science, Technology, and the Environment Track
  • Muslim World Track
  • Europe Track
  • Foreign Policy Track
  • World History Track
  • International Systems and World Order Track
  • Regional Politics and Cultural Anthropology Track
  • Security Studies Track
  • Economics, Business, and Politics Track

Track-specific courses help students develop specialized expertise in key areas related to humanitarian work, foreign policy, global security and business, among others:

Environment and Development Track

  • Economic Geography
  • Economic Development and International Institutions
  • Science, Politics, and Climate Change
  • Sustainable Energy: Technology, Resources, Society, and Environment
  • Nature’s Past: Histories of Environment and Society
  • Global Justice
  • Energy Transitions

Foreign Policy and Security Studies Track

  • Diplomatic Practice
  • Congress and National Security
  • Current Intelligence Issues
  • Japan in International Politics
  • Introduction to Security Studies
  • American Foreign Policy: Practice and Process
  • Nuclear Security
  • Southeast Asia in World Politics
  • Islam and Politics

International Economics, Business, and Politics Track

  • The Chinese Economy
  • Wealth, Ethics, and Liberty
  • International Political Economy
  • North-South Relations
  • Sociology of Market Transitions
  • Global Governance and International Organization
  • International Management Policy

Regional Politics and Cultural Anthropology Track

  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology
  • Women in the Muslim World
  • Sex and Gender in Anthropological Perspective
  • Anthropology of Globalization
  • China: Tradition and Transition
  • Ethnicity and Identity
  • Coping with Crisis in Contemporary Africa
  • Drugs and Security in the Americas
  • European Politics
  • Cultures of Latin America
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Master’s Degree Programs in International Relations

Master’s degree programs in international relations can serve as a gateway to advanced careers in the U.S. government, nongovernmental organizations, and the private sector. Given the increasing importance of worldwide collaboration, graduates of these programs may find themselves in high demand with organizations looking to fill leadership positions. Examples of these careers include:

  • Intelligence Analyst
  • Immigration Specialist
  • Diplomatic Services Operational Officer
  • International Contracts and Grants Specialist
  • International Trade Analyst
  • International Lawyer
  • International Counselor
  • Global Environment Specialist
  • Foreign Service Facility Manager
  • Program Specialist for Humanitarian Aide
  • Ombudsmen
  • Foreign Service Officer
  • Diplomatic Courier
  • International Lawyer

Many graduate programs allow and even require students to choose a concentration within their major, focusing on areas such as conflict resolution, international security policy, and international negotiation.

To obtain admission to these programs, students must already possess a bachelor’s degree from an accredited four-year institution. Some schools require specific undergraduate degree majors – or at least coursework in – such areas as economics, communication, or languages.

A few examples of master’s degrees in international relations include:

  • Master of Arts in International Relations
  • Master of Arts in International Conflict Analysis
  • Master of Arts in National Security Studies
  • Master of Arts in Global Studies
  • Master of International Commerce and Policy (ICP)
  • Master of Public Administration (MPA)
  • Master of Science in Global Affairs
  • Master of Science in International Trade

Students may specialize their degree further by choosing a specific concentration. Examples of these concentrations include:

  • International development
  • Peace and Conflict Resolution
  • Developing nations
  • Global security
  • International negotiation and conflict resolution
  • Foreign Policy and Diplomacy

Examples of courses related to specific tracks include:

Global Security

  • Causes of War
  • Nonprofit Governance & Executive Leadership
  • Statistics and Political Analysis
  • Time Series Models and Forecasting
  • Big Data Analytics: Tools and Techniques
  • American National Security
  • Intelligence and War
  • Energy and Environmental Security
  • Security from Inside the State
  • Global Political Economy
  • The American Way of War

International Development

  • Empirical Analysis
  • Economics of Development
  • Politics of Global Development
  • Foundations of Economic Development
  • Social Policy and Development
  • Research Methods for Sustainable Livelihoods
  • Sustainable Development

International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution

  • Gender, Culture and Conflict in Complex Humanitarian Emergencies
  • Conflict Assessment and Prevention
  • Post-War Transitions
  • Negotiation and Mediation in the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Past Lessons and Future Opportunities
  • The Art of International Negotiation
  • Religion and Conflict in International Relations: Policymaking Assumptions, Analysis, and Design


How Illinois is Positively Impacting the World

Illinois plays host to a number of companies and organizations who conduct international relations initiatives. The professionals who head these efforts help promote global safety and sustainability, among other challenges facing our future. Just a few examples of foreign outreach taking place in Illinois:

  • Heartland Alliance International in Illinois has received two grants totalling $1,150,000 to fight human trafficking in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Iraq. The organization relies on professionals with job titles such as global fellow, foreign director of operations, and foreign country directors to carry out their initiatives.
  • The Diplomatic Security’s Chicago Field Office is responsible for the safety of international dignitaries who visit the United States. The office utilizes the talents of Diplomatic Security special agents and investigators.
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Illinois Organizations Dedicated to Maintaining Strong International Relations

Departments within Illinois State and city government, along with many international relations organizations, make up the state’s foreign outreach communicy. These departments and organizations include, but are not limited to:



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