Online Bachelor's in International Studies

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What Is International Studies? A Closer Look at Global Issues

A degree in international studies encompasses politics, economics, communications, art, religion, and even literature. It incorporates foreign languages, policies, and governments, and considers the architecture, legislation, beliefs, healthcare, and business practices of different nations. So what is international studies at its core? It’s the study of people living all over the globe in our interconnected civilization.

An international studies professional walks down a city street carrying two books.

What Is an International Studies Major?

Courses and curriculum for students pursuing an international studies degree prepare them for a career with global impact. Students graduate with broader perspectives, new insights, and increased cultural sensitivity, which helps them avoid misunderstandings and bring diverse people together.

As part of a typical online Bachelor of Arts in International Studies program, students can take courses in foreign language and are often encouraged to study abroad or complete an internationally focused internship. These opportunities give degree-seekers the real-world experience to complement their classroom learning, preparing them not only to pursue graduate studies but also to have the skills and competencies needed to be an attractive candidate in today’s international job market.

Defining International Studies vs. International Relations

There are several options available to you if you’re interested in studying global topics. International studies programs tend to focus on a cultural understanding of the world, whereas an international relations program leans more heavily toward politics. International studies programs encourage students to become active participants in a range of global issues that touch on political issues, but focus on cultural understanding. Some topics you can expect to see in an international studies degree include:

  • Global Studies and Issues. As our world becomes more interdependent, it’s more important than ever to understand the cultural context of individuals, events, and trends. If you’re pursuing a degree in international studies you can expect to learn about a wide variety of political, economic, social, historical, and literary trends that have had a global impact, both in the past and in present day. By building a strong foundation in global culture and issues, you’ll be well-positioned for a career in the field.
  • World Culture. With so many cultures represented on the global stage, it’s more important than ever to develop a deep understanding of different backgrounds. Through a variety of courses that focus on the meeting of cultures, including cross-cultural tolerance and communication, you’ll learn about the foundational belief systems that shape entire societies. According to the Pew Research Center, discrimination and violence against religious groups has risen in many regions. To mitigate this, informed global citizens with a solid knowledge base and a well-respected education contribute to these ongoing discussions.
  • Economic Stability. The global economy impacts every nation, either directly or indirectly. From falling stock prices to a lack of trust in financial institutions, when the global economy isn’t stable, the ramifications are widespread. An international studies program delves into economic topics from two perspectives. At the macro perspective, you’ll investigate the large-scale economic activity and growth of nations. At the micro scale, you’ll learn about the individual structures that allow the economic engine to run, including supply and demand, consumer behavior, market structures, and government regulations of business. While an international relations program may cover the political fallout of economic instability, international studies programs educate students about ways to create progress in these fields, examining topics like commodities, interest rates, and inflation. For those interested in global economies, an international studies degree can be a launchpad for an exciting career in this specialty.
  • World History and Art. Over millennia, each culture has created its own art and literature, often influenced by the region’s history. Past storytellers capture the struggles, triumphs, and values of their time through various mediums, including the written word, painting, ceramics, and more. If you’re pursuing a degree in international studies, you’ll have the opportunity to dive into these topics and learn how different cultures and regions expressed universal human experiences in unique and inspiring ways.

Learn More About International Studies

Today’s international stage is constantly fluctuating, and employers are looking for educated, culturally aware employees who can navigate sensitive issues and interpret current affairs through a lens of tolerance and understanding. Whether international studies majors focus on language, religion, economics, or global issues, the scope of their education can prepare them to be competitive in today’s global job market.

What is an international studies major? It’s a ticket to a world of opportunity. To begin your journey, explore Maryville University’s online Bachelor of Arts in International Studies program.


Deutsche Welle, “Religious Conflicts On the Rise in Africa”

Global Commission on the Security of Cyberspace, “Call to Protect”

Global Water Partnership, Water and Food Security

Maryville University, International and Cultural Studies

Maryville University, International Studies

The Telegraph, “Religious Conflict in Global Rise – Report”

Tony Blair Institute for Global Change, “Religion, Conflict, and Geopolitics in 2017”

United Nations, International Law and Justice

World Economic Forum, “Food: How Much Does the World Need?”

World Economic Forum, “What are the 10 Biggest Global Challenges?”