6 Exciting International Studies Jobs

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In today’s global marketplace, international studies graduates may have an advantage over the competition in their career search. Whether in the public or private sector, employers are experiencing an increased need for culturally aware and knowledgeable personnel.

Knowing a second language, understanding foreign governments, and being familiar with cultural nuances are invaluable tools that help can help you secure international studies jobs.

International Studies Student at Busy Train Station

Which industries are seeking international studies graduates?

As more industries expand into global markets, the number of them seeking graduates with online bachelor’s degrees in international studies is increasing. Some common fields where international studies graduates can find work include:

  • Government
  • Non-governmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Finance
  • Journalism
  • Marketing
  • Law
  • Intelligence and law enforcement

What are some popular jobs for international studies majors?

While the United States government offers many jobs that appeal to international studies graduates, more and more companies in the private sector are expanding across borders and increasing their need for employees with global insights.

Whether you want to work as a diplomat, find solutions to worldwide issues, or contribute to your business’s or organization’s success through your cultural insights, earning an international studies degree is a good first step. Doing so can help you build your proficiency and guide decisions for a future career in foreign policy, international relations, relief aid, and more.

Foreign Service Officer

Foreign service officers are passionate about public service, and they represent the United States around the world. They work at embassies, consulates, and on other government-led diplomatic missions. It’s no surprise that due to the nature of the work, international studies graduates are often drawn to foreign service careers.

These individuals are sometimes required to work in high-stress situations or disaster areas, providing leadership in challenging and sometimes dangerous environments. For this reason, the selection process can be long and thorough.

Growth and Salary

According to the Path to Foreign Service blog, the expected salary for foreign service officers depends on factors such as education level, experience, and dispatch location. The U.S. Department of State’s 2018 pay schedule indicates the salary for foreign service officers starts at $45,000 for candidates with a bachelor’s degree and no professional experience. Salaries can range as high as $136,000 for those with significant education and expertise.

Recommended skills to succeed, according to the U.S. Department of State:

  • Composure in high-stress situations
  • Flexibility
  • Communication
  • Foreign language
  • Leadership

International Trade Specialist

International studies graduates who have an interest in global economics may look to work as international trade specialists. International trade specialists are high-level economists responsible for ensuring the success of a company in different global markets based on their research, analysis, and predictions. These professionals must consider current market trends, currency exchange rates, and foreign policy.

As an international trade specialist, you’ll be expected to have the expertise to make recommendations and projections for potential business success abroad. Generally, those in this role work independently or with a small team, spending many hours crunching numbers, evaluating data, interpreting trade regulations, and comparing figures.

Growth and Salary

International trade specialists often work with the federal government, although additional jobs are expected to open up in the private sector as more companies look overseas for increased global market share and profits.

Based on data compiled by PayScale.com, the average salary for trade specialists is around $60,000 per year, but it can range from $40,000 to $90,000, depending on factors like location, education, and experience.

Recommended skills to succeed:

  • Mathematics and statistical analysis
  • Communication
  • Public speaking
  • Being detail-oriented
  • Foreign language

Political Analyst

Political analysts come from a variety of backgrounds and can specialize in different aspects of politics, from foreign policy to national elections and political trends. While some analysts are journalists, others are experts in philosophy and international relations.

For international studies graduates, positions often involve serving in an advising role, whether by working in intelligence for the federal government or serving government departments in assessing global reaction to newly implemented legislation. For example, the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) looks for workers skilled in understanding both domestic and foreign policy, who can analyze the stability of governments and help guide decisions based on current political and social climates.

Growth and Salary

The CIA reports that the salary for those in government intelligence can range from $54,000 to $81,000, depending on experience, location, and education level, although there are many independent political analysts who work on a freelance or contract basis, providing as-needed counsel for news publications, elected officials, and political candidates.

Salaries for these contract jobs are as varied as the functions involved, but if you choose to pursue a job in this domain, you should work on building skills in foreign policy, international affairs, and at least one other language besides English.

Per O*NET OnLine, the demand for political analysts remains steady, with anticipated growth of 7,500 positions from 2016 to 2026, and with positions remaining highly competitive.

Recommended skills to succeed:

  • Analytical and critical thinking skills
  • Foreign language
  • Data analysis
  • Research
  • Communication

Market Researcher

As the need for skilled global business professionals continues to increase, international studies graduates may have opportunities to work in market research. Market researchers analyze current market conditions to determine if a product or service would be commercially successful. This position can take on an international element as more companies expand sales and services overseas.

Researchers determine the selling points of a product or service, identify competition, and analyze supply and demand. Having knowledge of international business increases a candidate’s appeal in applying for this type of career.

Growth and Salary

Depending on factors such as location and level of experience, the average salary for market researchers is $63,000, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS indicates an employment outlook that is growing much faster than the average across industries. The increased need for market and data analysis is expected to drive demand for market researchers up by 23% from 2016 to 2026.

Recommended skills to succeed:

  • Resourcefulness
  • Data analysis
  • Attention to detail
  • Mathematics
  • Computer skills

Foreign Correspondent

Foreign correspondents are typically journalists who are assigned overseas by their home office. However, with an international studies degree, graduates who choose to utilize their knowledge of local culture, language, and politics may be able to move to their country of expertise.

Foreign correspondents have the responsibility of conveying the realities of life in one culture to those living far away. They do this is by writing articles, filming local happenings, and commenting on current events. The focus is sometimes political, which gives graduates an opportunity to put their knowledge of international affairs to good use.

Growth and Salary

Average salaries for correspondents in the broadcasting industry are listed by the BLS as around $41,000, with an expected slight decline in job growth due to the competitive nature of news media and information sources. However, if you thrive on adventure, a career as a foreign correspondent could provide an equal dose of challenge and reward.

Recommended skills to succeed:

  • Communication
  • Storytelling
  • Time management
  • Foreign language
  • Risk-taking

International Aid Worker

If you’re interested in a career serving overseas in humanitarian aid, your international studies degree can help you tackle issues like alleviating world hunger, ending poverty, and fighting for gender equality.

This can be an especially rewarding career if you value a sense of adventure and the potential to effect positive change, because this field may lead you to harsh, stressful, or even dangerous working conditions. Often, the first step requires interning with a non-governmental organization (NGO), which allows international studies graduates to get needed experience for moving up the career ladder.

Growth and Salary

Like many international studies jobs, being an international aid worker takes a strong commitment to a cause. As employees gain experience and earn additional degrees or certifications, their compensation rises.

Depending on a number of factors like experience and location, salaries can range from $30,000 for entry-level positions to more than $150,000 for program directors, according to the BLS. Some assignments pay more to compensate for being in a more dangerous location, while others offer housing and vacation allowances.

Recommended skills to succeed:

  • Flexibility
  • Composure in high-stress situations
  • Sense of adventure
  • Strong commitment to a cause
  • Leadership

Prepare for a job in international studies.

In an increasingly borderless world, there are many exciting and rewarding jobs for international studies majors to consider. At Maryville University, our online bachelor’s in international studies degree can help you prepare for jobs that allow you to use your analytical skills and knowledge of different cultures and global affairs to help people around the world stay safe and well-informed.

Learn more about how our online Bachelor of Arts in International Studies program can help prepare graduates for a variety of global careers.


CIA, Political Analyst

College Foundation of North Carolina, Foreign Correspondent: What They Do

Forbes, “Seven Tips For Becoming An International Aid Worker”

Good Money, “Aid Workers Can Make A Surprising Amount Of Money—If They Work For ‘Danger Pay’”

Houston Chronicle, “Do People Get Paid for Being Humanitarians?”

Maryville University, Bachelor of Arts in International Studies

O*NET OnLine, Summary Report for: 33-3021.06 – Intelligence Analysts

Path to Foreign Service, “Foreign Service Officer Salary: A Comprehensive Guide (2017 Update)”

PayScale, Average International Trade Specialist Salary

Poynter, “Want to be a foreign correspondent? She’s got some heartfelt advice to offer”

Reference.com, “What Does a Political Analyst Do?”

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Careers in Disaster Relief

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Market Research Analysts

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Reporters, Correspondents, and Broadcast News Analysts

U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer

U.S. Department of State, Foreign Service Officer Benefits

U.S. Department of State, 13 Dimensions: Foreign Service Officer Qualifications

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