The 9 Best Colleges for International Relations Majors

February 8, 2022
By AdmissionSight

The 9 Best Colleges for International Relations Majors

International relations is a popular major among high schoolers and college students who are interested in learning more about how the world works, how different countries operate together, and how things can change for the better.

If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in this field, you should apply to the best colleges for international relations. Some of the most well-known schools in the country don’t have much to offer in this field, while some of the lesser-known colleges offer the best programs.

Two people shaking hands in a room.

Here, we’ll simplify the search process by highlighting some of the best colleges for international relations majors.

1. Harvard University – Cambridge, MA

This one is somewhat controversial for some as at the undergraduate level, Harvard, through its extension program, offers a Bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts with a concentration in international relations.

However, we counted Harvard as among the best colleges for international relations because the extension program caters to working professionals who already have a job related to international relations.

Harvard has one of the best colleges for international relations programs for those with experience, and most people in the program are above 30 years of age.

Yes, students may take more time to graduate, and yes, many of the classes are taught by adjunct professors not necessarily fully attached to Harvard, and yes, you must put Harvard extension on your employment resume, but still, the cachet of Harvard is respected everywhere, and this is one of the best programs anywhere for working professionals.

And note that many experts in international relations do teach part-time at the
extension program.

2. Princeton University – Princeton, NJ

The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs takes a multidisciplinary approach to public policy, according to their site. This comprehensive and challenging liberal arts major is specifically designed for students interested in public relations and public service.

Graduates are equipped with the understanding, tools, and expertise needed to become leaders in the modern world for international and public affairs. What’s fantastic about this major is that it’s self-designed in a large part. In other words, students are given a lot of flexibility to choose their own path to graduation.

Of course, there are some non-negotiable requirements all students must complete to receive a major. However, the specific courses students can take are flexible based on an individual’s personal preference and strengths.

As a leading liberal arts institution, the defining characteristics of a Princeton University education are present in its international relations major.

The unofficial motto of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs is “in service to the nation and humanity” which accurately describes what the degree focuses upon.

The department emphasizes the diversity of thought, encouraging students of varying opinions to speak up to better develop their arguments, critical thinking skills, and debate tactics.

3. Stanford University – Stanford, CA

Stanford is one of the most competitive and selective colleges in the nation and has a fantastic reputation. As most of the trade from China and Japan comes from the ports in and around San Francisco, Stanford is an ideal location for many to obtain their degree in international relations.

Stanford offers a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and a complimentary interdisciplinary honors program in International Security Studies, which greatly expands graduates’ usefulness in the international relations field.

Two people wearing corporate attire while walking.In addition, for those who want to obtain a Master’s degree, Stanford offers a unique International Policy Studies program that is limited to around 25 students.

This is one of the most intense International relations-related programs in the world and students graduating with this program will be well on the fast track to an exciting international relations career. Stanford only accepts around 5.2 % of all applicants, and the tuition rate is high, roughly $55,000 a year just for the tuition.

Stanford is rated number 6 among all US colleges by US News and has a graduation rate of over 97 %. With all its varied offerings, if you want to live on the West Coast, Stanford is an ideal choice to study International Relations.

4. Georgetown University – Washington, D.C.

Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service places this historic university as one of the best colleges for international relations. The undergraduate program offered through this department draws upon the school’s legacy of academic rigor with a focus on commitment to humanitarian focus.

Students have an opportunity to engage with the fundamentals of international relations including geography, theology, philosophy, history, economics, and government.

There are eight total undergraduate majors from which students can choose, allowing for a great deal of flexibility. Each of these undergraduate degrees allows students to approach the complex field of international relations through various angles and perspectives. Here are the eight international relations majors offered at Georgetown.

Culture and Politics (CULP)

Through CULP, students focus on questions of power, culture, and knowledge to gain a comprehensive picture of how these terms have changed over time.

Global Business (GBUS)

This major offers students the opportunity to gain an education in international relations with a business angle focusing on economic,  cross-cultural, language, and economic elements.

International Economics (IECO)

The IECO major focuses on economic analyses to gain a more accurate and complete understanding of global affairs.

International History (IHIS)

Students who are interested in the complex events of world history and how these important experiences inform today’s current state of international relations will want to take IHIS.

International Political Economy (IPEC)

The complex and critical intersection of politics and economics at a global stage has a major impact on international relations which students can explore through the IPEC major.

International Politics (IPOL)

As the name suggests, the IPOL major focuses on the political element of international relations to equip students with the skills and expertise needed to become great leaders.

Regional and Comparative Studies (RCST)

Through this major, undergraduates will explore the diversity that defines the world stage in an effort to understand how to deal with these differences on a global stage.

Science, Technology & International Affairs (STIA)

STIA combines science and technology in the study of international affairs to provide students with a better understanding of how to deal with crucial global topics such as health, security, IT, energy, environment, and more.

5. Columbia University – New York City, NY

For decades, Columbia University has been renowned as one of the country’s best colleges for international relations. Its Political Science department is responsible for the school’s international relations curriculum.

Although the traditional field of international affairs is divided into political economy and international security, Columbia goes a step further by incorporating elements of modern concern including international law, human rights, and the environment.

Three students talking while looking at a document.There aren’t a specialized international relations major offered through Columbia. Instead, it’s offered as a subdiscipline of the school’s Political Science major. This subfield focuses on the relationship between nation-states within the international system.

Students will learn about the roles that laws and norms play in international affairs as well as the impact and purpose of transnational organizations and international institutions.

The international relations faculty at Columbia is composed of leading experts in the field with a wide range of expertise and fascinating research histories. Students will benefit from engaging with and learning from this world-class faculty as they pursue the major of international relations and political science.

For students looking to further their education, Columbia offers a Master of International Affairs which provides a more nuanced and specialized view of this crucial field. It’s an excellent path for people considering a career in the field.

6. Yale University – New Haven, CT

Yale’s reputation is stellar and certainly qualifies a candidate for the best colleges for international relations. Yale University in New Haven offers an undergraduate degree in global studies that is both rigorous and thought-inducing.

Students study micro and macroeconomics, two core courses in international development and security, quantitative analysis, and complete a senior capstone project. Many students also enjoy a semester abroad, and all students are required to learn a foreign language.

Yale is rated #5 of all US universities by US News and World report, and a degree from Yale is respected everywhere. The acceptance rate is only 6.5 %, so it is quite competitive, and tuition is roughly $60,000 a year if a student does not obtain any scholarships or financial aid offers.

Full-time students have a graduation rate of over 97 %, and those who opt not to go on to graduate school usually quickly find jobs in the international field within six months. Even the campus is multicultural, with over 20 % of the student body coming from other countries.

Yale is a center of research for many international conferences, so there are always plenty of activities for students to learn from an internship with so many professional adjunct professors on campus or associated with Yale. Many students also go on to study law at Yale, with an emphasis on international law.

7. University of Chicago – Chicago, IL

The University of Chicago offers a one-of-a-kind joint BA/MA program focusing on international relations. It’s a perfect option for students who are passionate about learning more about the field of international affairs.

If you’re confident that a master’s degree in the field is in your academic future, the University of Chicago just might be one of the best colleges for international relations based on your goals.

The world-class faculty members that comprise this dynamic and comprehensive joint international relations program have expertise expanding across several fields to create an interdisciplinary, dynamic, and effective curriculum.

Some of these areas of specialty include international development, international organization, international law, human rights, U.S. foreign policy, security studies, international relations theory, international political economy, and international history – just to name a few.

These various areas of expertise ensure the international relations education students receive from the University of Chicago is well-rounded and thorough.

This extensiveness prepares graduates for successful roles on the global stage. This is a fantastic school for anyone who is interested in pursuing a degree and profession in the field of international relations.

8. American University – Washington, DC

With perhaps the largest class of international relations students of any university in the U.S., American University certainly qualifies as among the best colleges for international relations.

Foreign Policy Magazine regularly rates the top international relations program and American University, with its 3,000 students in international relations was rated the 8th best Master’s degree program in the country, and their Bachelor’s program came in at #9.

American University had 11 Boren Fellowships awarded, a highly prestigious award and the International School has won many awards, and many students take up roles in government or in public think tanks.

The tuition for most students is around $26,000 per year, and roughly 39 % get admitted. Roughly 75 % graduate after four years, and as the school has 13 % of its graduates and 16 % of its undergraduate students being foreign students, the graduate rate is quite decent.

One of the best benefits of students deciding to go to American University is that they are in the nation’s capital and many adjunct professors are a part of the US State Department or other government agencies related to international relations.

The University has many adjunct lecturers who are experts at foreign relationships and love to share their vast experience with their students.

In addition, students, being at the nation’s capital and with many embassies also being in residence in Washington, have an opportunity to intern as compared to just about any International relations program.

9. UC Berkeley – Berkeley, CA

The international relations curriculum at Berkely focuses on historical and modern problems within world politics with a special focus on international political economy and international security.

The world-class faculty comprising this department is currently focused on a wide range of research questions regarding the consequences and causes of intrastate and interstate war and peace, the political economy of finance and trade, counter-intelligence and intelligence, national security policy, and so much more.

Students pursuing a degree in international relations will have the opportunity to learn from these renowned professionals to gain a multidisciplinary understanding of international affairs and the various subfields undergirding it.

The methodologies behind Berkely’s international relations focus are highly eclectic, drawing upon several specialties including sociology, history, psychology, economics, history, and more.

Students will get a healthy dose of international relations theory but not at the expense of understanding and engaging meaningfully with real-world global issues.

Instead, it’s a multifaceted approach that tackles both halves of the field to produce well-rounded, informed, dynamic, and highly sought-after international relations graduates who can compete in the job market.

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