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15 Best Schools For International Relations

The field of international relations examines how nation-states (and NGOs) interact with each other. It encompasses areas like trade, history, war, diplomacy, foreign policy, security, and politics. As a practice and scholarly endeavor, international relations increased in significance following WWII. It remains important in our highly-globalized world. Today, international relations professionals work in governments, non-profits, and academia. Schools around the world offer international relations programs for those interested in a career. Here are 15 of the best schools:

Table of Contents

  1. The London School of Economics and Political Science (London, UK)
  2. Stanford University (Stanford, CA)
  3. Sciences Po (Paris, France)
  4. Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)
  5. George Washington University (Washington, D.C.)
  6. Tufts University (Boston, MA)
  7. University of Amsterdam (Amsterdam, Netherlands)
  8. Georgetown University (Washington, DC)
  9. Central European University (Vienna, Austria)
  10. Columbia University (New York, NY)
  11. Yale University (New Haven, CT)
  12. University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
  13. University of California – Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)
  14. University of Oxford (Oxford, UK)
  15. Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

#1 The London School of Economics and Political Science (London, UK)

Programs offered: Undergrad, master’s, joint degrees, doctorate

The LSE has one of the largest and oldest international relations departments in the world. It has a wide range of program options, like a BSc, five MSc programs, and a research option designed as preparation for research work. Multiple joint degree programs are available, too, such as the BSc in International Relations and History; the BSc in Politics and International Relations; and the MSc in Theory in and History of International Relations. The MPhil/Ph.D. program requires students to produce a “substantial piece of work” meant to be published.

#2 Stanford University (Stanford, CA)

Programs offered: Major, minor, honors

The international relations program is available to undergrads as a major, minor, or honors program. Designed with an interdisciplinary approach, students learn how state and non-state actors interact in international politics. Topics include foreign policy, war, international security, international trade, human rights, and much more. IR majors need to complete 30 units of core courses while minors need 30 units, five of which need to be core courses. Qualified students in the honors program must conduct an independent research project with faculty guidance and complete a thesis. The Political Science major also offers an international relations track while the Global Studies division has three graduate programs (East Asian Studies, Latin American Studies, and Russian, East European & Eurasian Studies), which could be a good fit for future IR professionals.

#3 Sciences Po (Paris, France)

Programs offered: Concentrations, 2-year master, 1-year master, dual degrees

Sciences Po’s Paris School of International Affairs offers four ways to study international relations. Concentrations are available to all PSIA students. Students can choose by region (African Studies, the Americas, Asian Studies, etc) or theme (diplomacy, human rights, global risks, etc). With the 2-year master’s, students have seven choices within the international affairs field, including international security, international development, and international energy. The accelerated 1-year master’s is for candidates with an undergrad degree and at least five years of full-time professional experience. The dual degree program is offered in partnership with four French universities and 10 international universities.

#4 Princeton University (Princeton, NJ)

Programs offered: Undergrad and graduate

The Princeton School of Public and International Affairs offers a multidisciplinary liberal arts major. Students take courses on a wide range of topics such as economics, sociology, politics, and more. There are five main graduate programs: Master in Public Affairs; Master in Public Policy; Ph.D. in Public Affairs; a joint degree program in Social Policy; and the HMEI-STEP Fellowship program. Graduate students can also get certificates in health and health policy; urban policy; or science, technology, and environmental policy. The Master in Public Affairs program offers an international relations concentration.

#5 George Washington University (Washington, D.C.)

Programs offered: Majors, master’s, dual-degree, joint-degree, graduate certificates

The Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University offers multiple degree programs for students interested in international relations. There are five bachelor’s programs (including a B.A. in International Affairs, B.S. in International Affairs, and a minor in International Relations), 12 master’s degree programs (including international affairs, global communication, and international studies), and graduate certificates. The school also offers dual-degree, joint-degree options, and accelerated programs for mid-career professionals.

#6 Tufts University (Boston, MA)

Programs offered: Undergrad, master’s, doctorate

 

Tufts offers an interdisciplinary B.A. in international relations, which provides students with a solid background in history, politics, international economics, war, and more as they apply to international relations. The Fletcher School also offers part-time/full-time master’s in Global Affairs, Global Business Administration, Law and Diplomacy, and more. The Ph.D. program in International Relations is best for students with at least 2 years of professional experience.

#7 University of Amsterdam (Amsterdam, Netherlands)

Programs offered: Bachelor’s and master’s

The university doesn’t offer a dedicated international relations undergrad degree, but students getting the Political Science degree will be introduced to international relations. The master’s program (which earns students an MSc in Political Science) covers peace and security, human rights, environmental issues, and much more from a global perspective. It relies on interdisciplinary insights and approaches in the international relations field. The Political Science: International Relations program is two semesters with a total of 40 weeks of courses.

#8 Georgetown University (Washington, DC)

Programs offered: Majors, minors, certificates, and graduate degrees

Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service offers eight majors related to international relations, such as global business, international economics, international political economy, and international politics. The school also offers minors and certificates in areas like diplomatic studies or regional studies, as well as master’s degrees in foreign service, security studies, and more. The Department of Government also offers a Ph.D. program in international relations. The program’s core strengths include international security, international political economy, and methodology.

#9 Central European University (Vienna, Austria)

Programs offered: Master’s and doctorate

CEU offers a full-time MA program in international relations, which can be completed in 1 or 2 years. The 2-year program is meant for graduates of three-year undergrad programs intending to pursue doctorates. In both tracks, students receive a big-picture view of international relations with a “close focus” on essential elements. Elective courses are divided into three modules: international relations theory and international law; international political economy and development; and international political sociology and history. Class size is small with no more than 20 students. The school also offers a Ph.D. in Political Science with an international relations track. Concentrations in security studies, international political economy, and political and IR theory are available.

#10 Columbia University (New York, NY)

Programs offered: Majors, master’s, and Ph.D.

For students wishing to study international relations at Columbia, their best bet is to go through the Political Science department, which has undergrad programs, master’s programs, and a Ph.D. program. Areas of focus include international security policy; international finance and economic policy; and human rights and humanitarian policy. There’s also a master’s program in Political Science, which has the option of an international relations concentration. The Ph.D. program in political science requires students to first get the MA, then the M.Phil. at Columbia. The School of International and Public Affairs also offers a master’s of international affairs.

#11 Yale University (New Haven, CT)

Programs offered: Major, master’s, joint degree

The Yale Jackson School of Global Affairs is Yale’s home for international relations. Undergraduates can get a B.A. in global affairs, which allows for flexibility when choosing coursework. The school also offers a master’s in Public Policy in Global Affairs (the M.P.P.), which is a small program with just 35 students in each class, as well as the master of advanced study (M.A.S.) in global affairs, which is a 1-year program for mid-career professionals. The Jackson School also has a joint degree program where students can earn an M.P.P. in Global Affairs and the relevant degree (M.B.A., J.D., M.F.S, etc) from one of four other Yale professional schools.

#12 University of Chicago (Chicago, IL)

Programs offered: Majors, joint B.A./M.A.

This school offers an undergrad program in Global Studies, which includes international relations. Students must study abroad for at least one quarter and become proficient in a foreign language. The Political Science major is also an option for students studying international relations. For those interested in a different kind of program, the university allows qualified students to pursue a joint B.A./M.A. in International Relations. It’s provided through the Committee on International Relations and is the first graduate program of its kind.

#13 University of California – Berkeley (Berkeley, CA)

Programs offered: Undergrad, doctorate

The Political Science major is a good choice for students interested in international relations. Coursework varies from large lectures to small seminars. There are six main requirements, including choosing a specialization, so students should choose the international relations subfield. UC Berkley also has a Ph.D. program in Political Science, which consists of coursework, examinations, and dissertation research and writing. Students will need to pass one exam in a major subfield, like International Relations, as well as a second exam in any subfield.

#14 University of Oxford (Oxford, UK)

Programs offered: Master’s and doctorate

The University of Oxford’s main international relations programs are graduate programs through the highly-ranked Department of Politics and International Relations. Students can earn an MSC in Political Research Theory or Politics Research. The MPhil is a 21-month program that blends theoretical and conceptual training with methodology training and original research. The DPhil program takes 3-4 years of full-time study or 6-8 years of part-time study.

#15 Harvard University (Cambridge, MA)

Programs offered: ALB, ALM, and graduate certificate

Harvard University does not have a dedicated international relations program for undergrad majors (the government major is the closest thing), but the Harvard Extension School’s Division of Continuing Education has three options. The Bachelor of Liberal Arts (ALB) in international relations is designed for students around 32 years old who work full-time. The Harvard Extension school also offers a 12-course master’s degree (ALM) in international relations, where students develop analytical skills and build knowledge and understanding of global issues like poverty, human rights, armed conflict, and more. They also have the option of obtaining a certificate in social justice, international security, or nuclear deterrence. The 4-course graduate certificate provides an understanding of international cooperation, conflict, foreign policy, and more.

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About the author

Emmaline Soken-Huberty

Emmaline Soken-Huberty is a freelance writer based in Portland, Oregon. She started to become interested in human rights while attending college, eventually getting a concentration in human rights and humanitarianism. LGBTQ+ rights, women’s rights, and climate change are of special concern to her. In her spare time, she can be found reading or enjoying Oregon’s natural beauty with her husband and dog.