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Online Courses

Nottingham Trent University

Telephone UK: 0800 032 1180 Intl: +44 (0)115 941 8419

How to start your career in International Relations

If you’ve ever dreamed of making a difference through politics or foreign affairs, or by working for a think tank, Non-Government Organisation (NGO) or an international institution like the United Nations (UN), then you’ve imagined yourself working within the sphere of International Relations.

The breadth of career diversity within this area is vast, but it can be tricky to know how to go about establishing an occupation in this alluring field. With the right knowledge and skills behind you, however, you can turn a drive to succeed in this area into a stimulating and fruitful International Relations career.

Whether you’re a recent graduate looking for your first role or you’re looking to make a career move into International Relations, the following tips can help you get a foot in the door.

Build up your experience through voluntary work or an internship

As is the case when embarking on any new career, developing your understanding of the sector and accruing some experience is often the best place to start. This might mean doing some unpaid work, but this can be highly valuable when looking to kickstart your career as employers will appreciate your commitment, work ethic and ambition.

If possible, look for opportunities to volunteer for an internationally-focused non-profit organisation or charity, or an official internship with an organisation like the UN, the European Union (EU) or a transnational corporation. As not everyone can commit this much time due to family and work commitments, volunteering with a local charity or organisation for even a couple of hours a week will also give you invaluable experience and show future employers your dedication.

Employers will look for a good understanding of your chosen career area, so aim for an organisation in a field as close to the area of International Relations you aspire to as possible. Experience like this can offer first-hand insight into how organisations operate, the projects they undertake and the challenges they face. By dipping your toe into the industry in this way you will also start forming a professional network of contacts in the sector you want to enter, which may even lead to opportunities to apply for paid positions in the future.

Explore and engage with current affairs as they happen

International affairs are complex and ever-changing, so keeping up-to-date with what’s happening around the world and the powers that govern it is essential. Expanding your awareness in this way can also help you narrow down the areas of International Relations that interest you the most and give you a direction or cause to pursue, such as diplomacy or working to improve gender equality or human rights. Having this working knowledge of current affairs will enable you to show potential employers that you understand the complicated international landscape and the effects this ever-changing arena has on organisations like theirs.

As well as immersing yourself in news coverage from a range of media outlets around the world, attend seminars and events related to the area you want to work in, both in person and online. For example, TED talks and webinars give an excellent snapshot of current international thinking and popular ‘zeitgeist’ in an easily consumable way. Live events can also provide you with the opportunity to engage in debates with industry experts as well as the chance to connect with people already working in the field, further widening your network. Taking every opportunity you can to strengthen your insight into world affairs and build a related network will help you establish yourself as a driven and well-informed prospect to employers.

Gain a specialist perspective of International Relations through postgraduate study

To achieve an in-depth understanding of the intricate contextual theory, key debates and specialist knowledge you will need to forge a career in International Relations, a postgraduate degree could be the most effective route. An online course in particular will enable you to gain this foundation knowledge while working at the same time, allowing you to apply your learning directly to your current role and demonstrate your understanding and commitment to potential employers.

As part of an online International Relations cohort, you will become a member of a global community of like-minded students, some of whom may even work for the kind of international organisations you’re interested in. For example, among the current students on our Online Masters in International Relations, 8% work for the UN. With interactive and collaborative aspects, such as debates and discussions, group work and student forums, our online course can offer excellent opportunity to widen your professional network.

Our Online Masters covers many highly-relevant subjects at the heart of contemporary International Relations, including Security in the Post-Soviet Space, Women and Global Movements and War and Peace in the Post-Arab Spring Middle East and North Africa. You’ll learn from an international faculty with support from specialist contributors and experts on the ground, ensuring that your learning of these multifaceted issues comes to life. With a solid foundation to International Relations, you’ll be ready to take on a career anywhere in the world.  

Learn more about our Online Masters in International Relations and what it could help you achieve by requesting more information today.