Top 15 US Colleges for International Relations

Disclosure: International Relations Careers may be compensated by course providers.

International relations is an interdisciplinary academic field that studies the interactions between different countries, their governments, cultures, and peoples. It encompasses a range of academic disciplines, including political science, economics, history, geography, international law, and sociology. For students looking to specialize in international relations, there are a number of colleges in the US that offer a comprehensive education in this field. Here is a list of the top 15 ones:

#1 Georgetown University
#2 Yale University
#3 Brown University
#4 Stanford University
#5 Harvard University
#6 University of Pennsylvania
#7 University of Southern California
#8 John Hopkins University
#9 George Washington University
#10 Washington University in St. Louis
#11 University of Michigan – Ann Arbor
#12 University of Virginia
#13 Pomona College
#14 Northwestern University
#15 Swarthmore College

#1 Georgetown University

The graduate program in International Relations at Georgetown University emphasizes research and training to prepare students for successful careers in IR. The program boasts a distinguished faculty of experts and practitioners, offering students unparalleled access to their insights and experiences. Furthermore, Georgetown’s strategic location in the heart of Washington, D.C. provides students with access to policymakers and offers a multitude of opportunities to engage with international organizations through internships and networking.

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The programme concentrates on topics such as international security, international political economy, international law and organizations, and methodology. Students gain access to the expertise of many departments and schools within the university, especially from varied areas such as history, global legal studies, energy, and economics, among others.

The program also features a access to the Georgetown University International Theory and Research Seminar (GUITARS) – a platform for intellectual exchange and collaboration among participants who share an interest in the study of international relations.

The total tuition and fees for each graduate program range from $44,005 to $57,673 per year for full-time students.

#2 Yale University

The Global Affairs major at Yale University includes an interdisciplinary curriculum to prepare students for global citizenship and service. The program has strong foundations in social sciences, and students are able to customize their course planning based on interests and ambitions. For example, they can focus their studies on economic development, global health, climate policy, international relations, or/and foreign policy and diplomacy.

Global Affairs majors are required to take a course in a modern language other than English. In exceptional cases, a demonstration of proficiency can fulfill this requirement.

The cost of attendance for the 2023-2024 academic year, which covers a period of 9 months, includes tuition fees of $58,400.

#3 Brown University

Brown University’s International Relations (IR) concentration is an interdisciplinary undergraduate program providing a holistic view of global issues. The concentration encompasses three distinct tracks: Development, Policy & Governance, and Security. Across all of these tracks, the aim is to actively involve students in the classroom, facilitate research opportunities alongside faculty members and in real-world settings, and to foster experiential work opportunities to enhance student’s learning experiences.

The concentration emphasizes critical thinking, empirical and normative analysis, along with advanced language proficiency. A capstone project integrating research in a second language and a senior honors program is also available.

The total cost per year, including tuition fees, housing, food, books & materials, and personal expenses, is $88,948.

#4 Stanford University

At Stanford, the International Relations (IR) major offers a wide variety of courses focusing on many disciplines, such as political science, economics, history, environmental policy, and languages. Students can choose to study different aspects in this field, including international security, trade and finance, development, human rights, democratization, climate change, and/or global health. They also learn about politics, history, as well as cultures of several countries and regions.

Besides, if you are an International Relations (IR) major at Stanford, you must spend at least one quarter abroad as part of your studies. This is usually done through the Bing Overseas Studies Program, which allows you to study at an overseas campus while still enrolled at Stanford. The program offers quarter-long opportunities in various cities around the world, including Australia, Berlin, Cape Town, Florence, Istanbul, Kyoto, Madrid, Oxford, Paris, and Santiago. Stanford also has consortium programs available in Kyoto and Barcelona.

The annual tuition cost for international students enrolled in the BA of International Relations program at Stanford University is approximately $55,473.

#5 Harvard University

International relations at Harvard University is a prestigious and influential field of study, attracting top scholars, students, and practitioners worldwide. There are two types of programs for undergraduates and graduate students who want to undertake international relations studies.

The first awards a Bachelor of Liberal Arts (A.L.B), created specifically for professionals who have been working for several years and wish to continue their education part-time on campus or online. Either way, this degree will be conducted mostly online, with four courses taken on campus.

The second program offered is the Master of Liberal Arts (A.L.M.) and intends to offer students a keen knowledge of up-to-date global issues and an all-round understanding of both factors affecting the relationships between nations and supra nations organizations. Additionally, students will develop effective communication skills for both academic and professional contexts, while honing critical thinking abilities that can be applied across different disciplines. This will enable students to cultivate an informed and independent worldview.

They offer eleven online courses that may be completed synchronously or asynchronously during the fall, spring, January, or summer semesters. For those inclining the campus track, there could be two choices: attend for two weekends or go through three-week summer classes. The tuition cost for each course is set at $3,220.

#6 University of Pennsylvania

Penn’s International Relations Program provides a top-notch, interdisciplinary major to its students, consistently ranking in the top five programs nationwide. The program touches upon the interactions between states and non-state actors, giving rise to a nuanced view of international affairs. The program is known for being competitive and interdisciplinary, offering training in history, politics, economics, and regions.

The program’s objectives are twofold: Firstly, to ensure that majors acquire a strong foundation in the methodologies of international relations, political science, history, and economics. Secondly, to offer students maximum flexibility in their advanced coursework and thesis, allowing them to specialize in their preferred disciplines and regions of interest. Additionally, students can participate in extracurricular activities such as attending guest lectures and going on field trips.

With the flexible curriculum and ability to choose courses, the degree prepares students for both the workplace and further studies at mature stages. The total tuition and fees for the academic year 2022-2023 is $63,452.

#7 University of Southern California

The School of International Relations (SIR) of the University of Southern California has various undergraduate and graduate international relations programs, including specializations, and offers several dual degree options. The range of programs offered includes a BA option in international relations, international relations (global business), and international relations and the global economy.

Minors are also available in three areas of study: international relations, international policy and management, and another field of global communication. The SIR also encourages dual majors with disciplines such as economics, environmental studies, history, journalism, political science, and sociology, to name a few.

Finally, there is also the Master’s degree in International Relations, and as part of its dual degree program, they also offer an MA in International Relations combined with Juris Doctor (JD). All the programs offer flexibility for students to choose courses to acquire a broad understanding of international relations while also specializing in a specific area.

The cost of attending the academic year 2023-2024 is $27,660.

#8 John Hopkins University

The International Studies Program at John Hopkins University was first offered in 1962 and is undoubtedly one of the oldest and most prestigious interdisciplinary undergraduate degree programs in international affairs in the United States.

Since the course of study is more focused and tailored to their interests, students should choose a specialization. This could be an area that pertains to specific matters like international security or global justice, or it could be a general exploration of the specific region. All majors are offered the choice of doing their senior thesis, which would give them the opportunity to delve into their own areas of interest.

This program also provides many choices aside from the major such as five-year BA/MA programs with Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) in Washington D.C. or the Sciences Po in Paris France. Furthermore, it offers several study-abroad options around the globe.

For the 2023-2024 academic year, the cost of attendance varies for different courses. The Master of Arts in International Relations costs $63,802, the Master of Arts in International Economics and Finance costs $86,812, and the Doctor of International Affairs costs $89,840.

#9 George Washington University

George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs prepares about 3,000 students per year for impactful careers in international affairs. It is located in Washington DC’s Capitol Hill, which offers great opportunities to both the students and faculty at this school to engage with global leaders.

The Elliott School has five bachelor’s degree programs and twelve master’s degree programs. There is also a network of visiting scholars and unique international exchange partnerships that help enrich the educational experience.

The Bachelor of Science in International Affairs program requires students to take core courses in humanities, social sciences, math, science, and language during the first two years. During the last two years, students will focus on international issues within their chosen field of study. As per Master’s programs, they offer evening courses and flexible study options, including full-time or part-time enrollment. The cost of tuition is $2,095 per credit, and for non-degree programs, it is $2,080.

#10 Washington University in St. Louis

The Global Studies concentration within the International Affairs program adopts an interdisciplinary approach. It presents students with opportunities to explore global issues and processes from diverse perspectives, enabling them to better understand cooperation, compromise, and conflict in the international arena. By equipping students with knowledge and skills, the program prepares them to navigate complex international and cross-cultural challenges encountered by states, societies, and communities.

Furthermore, students must undertake coursework specializing in a specific region e.g. Africa or the Middle East. The total cost for university charges for the 2023-2024 academic year is $83,760.

#11 University of Michigan – Ann Arbor

The U-M International Relations and World Politics program offers courses on various aspects of global politics, such as formal models of human behavior, macroeconomic policy, international institutions, and conflict analysis, among others.

The topics covered by the program include international organizations, foreign relations, economic policies, law, peace, and security affairs. It fosters interdisciplinary study with students and faculty across departments.

The tuition and fees for the 2022-23 academic year in Michigan are different for in-state and out-of-state students and lower and upper-division students. In-state lower-division students (first-years/sophomores) in the LSA program will pay $33,555, while upper-division students (juniors/seniors) will pay $35,655. Out-of-state lower-division LSA students will pay $72,153, and upper-division students will pay $76,031.

#12 University of Virginia

The study of UVA’s International Relations program is covers a wide range of topics in international affairs, such as military conflict and nuclear proliferation, international trade and finance, international institutions and order, and foreign policy.

The scholars utilize statistics, qualitative methods, and game theory to tackle deeper international issues. This program has interdisciplinary linkages that enrich their research along with efforts that make students interact not only with faculty but also renowned scholars, which eventually leads to internship opportunities in academia, government, or even think tanks or the private sector.

The cost of study fees varies from $37,840 up to $50,000 for the different programs.

#13 Pomona College

The International Relations (IR) major at Pomona College integrates politics, economics, history, and foreign languages to prepare students for a rapidly changing world. This program equips students with leadership, analytical, and interdisciplinary synthesis skills. The required coursework includes a semester away from home, completing a thesis and/or conducting additional research, and studying a foreign language.

Possible career paths include public service, NGOs, business, law, and academia. Pomona College has produced career diplomats and is ranked among the top US colleges and universities in this field.

For the academic year 2023-24, the cost of being on campus is $88,168, while off campus is $85,239. The cost of living with parents/relatives is $80,126.

#14 Northwestern University

Northwestern University’s international relations courses cover areas such as international law, state formation, religion and politics, critical theory, and the role international institutions play in the global economy.

Further preparation for comprehensive exams requires that students take at least three Northwestern University International Relations Theory courses in areas such as international political economy, security, organization, law, and critical studies. Additional coursework from international relations faculty is required for primary or secondary field specialization.

The tuition for one quarter in the 2023-24 academic year is $21,629. The approximate total cost for a year, including expenses like housing and meals, is $91,290.

#15 Swarthmore College

The Global Studies Program at Swarthmore College offers an interdisciplinary route to understanding global issues and transitions. It focuses on integrating cross-cultural competence, relationships between locales and nations, and issues concerning engaged global citizens.

The courses offered by this program focus on issues connected with today’s global realities, such as immigration and migration, health disparities among nations, gender inequality as well as women’s rights and perspectives, economic development experiences as well as contextually relevant human rights conditions, climate change responses, and issues dealing with global governance.

To pursue a Global Studies minor, you need to acquire five credits and study a foreign language. These credits will help you to attain a comprehensive knowledge of global issues. It is mandatory to take the Introduction to Global Studies course for one of the credits. For the remaining four credits, you can choose from the list of approved courses, which includes core courses and paired courses.

The cost breakdown for the 2023-2024 academic year is as follows: tuition is $61,992, housing is $9,578, food is $9,386, and the student activities fee is $420. The total cost amounts to $81,376.

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