International Trade Specialist Salary, Job Description, and Requirements

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International trade, the exchange of goods and services between countries, is a crucial component of the global economy. It supports 40 million jobs in the U.S. alone, according to Trade Partnership Worldwide; contributes to improved living standards; and enables consumers the world over to benefit from a greater variety of goods and services. International trade creates a more competitive global marketplace, ultimately resulting in less expensive products for consumers.

Participating in international trade gives organizations an opportunity to reach more customers, hire more employees, and increase revenues. Businesses seeking to expand into foreign markets often rely on the expertise of international trade specialists. These individuals research and analyze various data metrics related to the global economy and help businesses develop strategies for engaging in international trade. A bachelor’s degree in business administration can help individuals with an interest in global economics achieve success as international trade specialists.

An international trade specialist shakes hands with a company CEO.

What is an international trade specialist?

In an increasingly globalized world, expanding operations into international trade is imperative for many businesses. As such, international trade specialists are instrumental to helping organizations compete in the global economy. So, what is an international trade specialist, and what do they do?

International trade specialist job description

An international trade specialist is a professional who analyzes foreign trade and the global economy and uses the insights they glean to advise and guide strategic business decisions for a variety of clients. They may work for corporations, nonprofits, or government agencies.

They track global trends and assess demand for an organization’s products or services, as well as identify its competitors and potential customers in international markets. Trade specialists also advise companies on how to develop pricing strategies to maximize profits abroad and ensure that all business transactions comply with international trade laws and regulations.

International trade specialists rely on various metrics to inform their strategic recommendations, such as currency exchange rates, customs, and trade laws and regulations. In the case of exchange rates, for example, businesses can sometimes benefit from currency fluctuations. If the dollar is down, a trade specialist may advise a U.S.-based company to export more of its product, as foreign customers benefit from the favorable exchange rate.

Due to the nature of the role, international trade specialists often work with or for the federal government. The International Trade Administration, an agency in the U.S. Department of Commerce, is the largest government employer of trade specialists, with more than 700 on staff. These individuals provide guidance to businesses involved in, or seeking involvement in, international trade by conducting research into foreign markets, import and export laws, and other relevant data points.

An international trade specialist’s job description may also include the following duties:

  • Interpret, develop, and implement trade compliance policies
  • Track shipment and freight
  • Educate clients and staff about topics such as documentation, classification, and restrictions
  • Conduct research and analysis and present findings to relevant stakeholders

International trade specialist salary

The median annual salary for an international trade specialist was approximately $61,000 in May 2021, according to PayScale.com. Salaries for this profession can vary significantly, with a range of $44,000 to $95,000.

Several factors can influence an international trade specialist’s salary, including education and experience level, as well as job location.

Education

International trade specialists typically need at least a bachelor’s degree in a business or economics-related field to pursue an entry level position. Though not generally required, a master’s degree may boost a candidate’s job prospects and qualify them for more advanced positions with higher salaries.

Experience

An international trade specialist just starting out can make between $50,000 and $60,000 in the first few years of their career, based on PayScale.com’s analysis of current salaries. More experienced specialists — those with five or more years in the field — typically make upward of $65,000. Those with 10 or more years of experience may earn more than $75,000.

Entry-level specialists can improve their chances of earning a higher salary by completing an internship. Internships provide an opportunity to apply academic knowledge and training in a professional setting and gain valuable practical experience in the field.

Location

The federal government is one of the largest employers of international trade specialists. As a result, many specialists work in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area, creating a competitive job market that boasts higher-than-average salaries. According to PayScale.com, international trade specialists working in Washington, D.C., earn an average of 40.4% more than the national average.

Requirements for an international trade specialist

Becoming an international trade specialist requires a broad technical and cross-cultural skill set. Those pursuing a career in this field can develop their expertise through education and training.

Earn a degree

International trade specialists generally need at least a bachelor’s degree to qualify for the role. Common majors for professionals in this field include business administration, international business, international trade, and economics.

A bachelor’s in business administration can provide foundational knowledge in subjects that are directly relevant to international trade, including an understanding of business law, foreign investment, and international trade policies. Candidates can also benefit from learning foreign languages.

Gain applicable skills

An international trade specialist should be skilled in a number of areas that are essential to achieving success in the field. They include:

Analytical skills

Researching and compiling data about domestic and foreign markets and trends is a huge part of an international trade specialist’s job. They’re responsible for critically analyzing data and using what they learn to make strategic business recommendations to their clients.

Communication

Effective written and verbal communication is critical to many aspects of an international trade specialist’s role, including negotiating deals with potential business partners and writing contracts. They also prepare reports and give presentations on expansion opportunities — a responsibility that often entails communicating complex information in a way that is understandable to people in various business roles.

Cultural competence

An international trade specialist regularly communicates with people from other countries and cultures. Possessing an understanding of and respect for cultural differences and customs is important for establishing and maintaining business relationships.

Networking

As in any business profession, international trade specialists rely on networking to form business partnerships, particularly in foreign markets. Understanding how to cultivate and maintain these relationships is critical to an organization’s success.

Pursue certification

Completing the Certified International Trade Finance Specialist (CITFS) certification can help job seekers — as well as working professionals — deepen their knowledge of international trade, including importing and exporting terminology and concepts related to risk, global financial regulations, and the international monetary system.

Though generally not required by employers, CITFS certification can give individuals a competitive advantage in their job search by demonstrating a mastery of these critical concepts.

The CITFS exam, administered by the International Import-Export Institute (IIEI) Certification Board, costs $285 and can be taken anytime. To maintain certification, individuals must meet certain continuing education requirements.

Shape the future of global trade

International trade is vital for the continued growth of the U.S. economy. Through their expertise, international trade specialists can help businesses expand their market reach abroad, maximize profitability, and employ more people.

Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Science in Business Administration program can help equip individuals with the knowledge and skills to prepare for a career in the world of international trade. Learn more about how Maryville can help you pursue your professional goals.

Recommended Reading

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Ethics in International Business

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Sources

American Express, “What Are the Advantages of International Trade?”

Economics Help, “The Importance of International Trade”

FederalPay.org, “Trade Specialist — Federal Salaries of 2018”

IIEI Certification, “Certified International Trade Finance Specialist (CITFS)

Indeed, “How to Become an International Trade Specialist”

Investopedia, “The Investors Guide to Global Trade”

PayScale.com, “Average International Trade Specialist Salary”

Trade Partnership Worldwide, “Trade and American Jobs: The Impact of Trade on U.S. and State-Level Employment Update”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Economists”