Hi Jasmine! I thought I wrote a longer answer, my bad! Let me add a bit more context.
It really depends on the focus area within international relations. It's such an amazing field to study and go into, but you really need to do some soul searching on what regions and concentrations interest you. If you are clear on what you want to concentrate on within International Relations, look at your school's overall ranking and the International Relations program's ranking. You could also research the professors who teach at those universities and their areas of expertise. If there are are professors whose interests align with yours and you'd like to take a class or be a research assistant for them one day, that is something that you should also consider.
It also depends on if you're getting your Bachelors or Masters degree. Bachelors can be more flexible, as it is a time for you to build a strong foundation in the core themes and and get an good overview of international relations. If you want to go into international relations or foreign policy as a career, you will need at least consider grad school. It's not a necessity but depending on your career choice, it could be very useful. For example, if in the future you want to work in Washington, DC, there is a lot of competition for jobs in this field and will find yourself competing against those with Masters degrees. A Masters degree can be very expensive so look into ways you can get a scholarship. If you want to work in government or nonprofit field one day, there's also the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program as an option to get your loans forgiven after you pay lower increments for 10 years (https://studentaid.ed.gov/sa/repay-loans/forgiveness-cancellation/public-service/questions).
Here's the educational path I took as an example. I went to undergrad at University of CA, Irvine, and started off Undecided and then transitioned into a major in International Studies and double minor in Mandarin and Sociology (also did a Honors Thesis for Sociology, which helped me build up my writing and research skills). I focused on East Asia as my region and found myself drawn to diplomacy and languages. Between undergrad and grad school I went to study abroad in Beijing, China, then interned at the Red Cross in San Francisco for work experience in the nonprofit space and learn community engagement skills, then got a job at an international beauty care company to get a feel for the private sector. I always knew I wanted to go to grad school so I applied to George Washington University and started off in East Asia concentration but then later changed my major to Global Communications because an internship at a public diplomacy organization that worked with the US Department of State made me realize I wanted a role in more public-private sector relations.
I hope you find this context helpful! I'll also add some next steps for you to consider. Best of luck, Jasmine!
yoonji recommends the following next steps:
- Once in college, consider and look into internships with organizations that do work in international relations or foreign policy. If you can intern in DC (or your state's capital) definitely consider this! Local and federal governments are building global relations and they need people like us!
- Build up your language skills, ideally this language should be related to the region of focus. The US Dept. of State has marked some languages as "critical languages." Check out this page for more info on what those languages are (https://clscholarship.org/) and consider applying to this scholarship! (I a similar scholarship for Mandarin in grad school.)
- Browse LinkedIn for people in positions and organizations that you're interested in joining one day. Always good to see their career path as it will give you ideas for planning your own!