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What would you advise a college senior applying for a Master's or PhD in International Relations immediately after undergrad Is it better to work first? If yes, what jobs in the international relations field pay decently? Personally, I am interested in global politics (especially with a focus on Sub-Saharan Africa), foreign policy, research, and diplomacy.

I am rising senior majoring in International Relations with a minor in Economics. I've been thinking about the Think Tank world because I like doing research but I also like the idea of the foreign service (I still struggle with learning French). I would love to do diplomatic work, maybe more in the political side of things. Sorry if this is all over the place.

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Jason’s Answer

Hi Chekwube,

I was in the same boat going into my Senior year in college and thinking about a master's program. I enjoyed the theory, research and application involved in international relations. I would just make sure that you're up for another 2-4 years of school. I was a little exhausted at that point and chose to get experience over getting my Master's right away. It also helped me focus on private sector roles and learning what exists. The only thing to consider as you know is that Master's and PhDs are pretty much standard for diplomats and think tanks so if that's you're ultimate goal, it may make sense to get all of the educational requirements out of the way and look for internships or assistantships that give you some level of real world application.
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Mie’s Answer

Hello Chekwube!

Your passion for global politics and economics, combined with your knack for thorough research, could pave the way for an exciting career as a political analyst in the foreign or civil service. Your specialized knowledge could lead to a fulfilling career in the State and Defense Department, even without proficiency in multiple languages.

Why not challenge your research abilities and explore the websites of these agencies for potential opportunities? Many of them collaborate closely with university career centers to reach out to and attract soon-to-be graduates. Keep an eye out for their visits to your campus and seize the chance to get your questions answered.

As for your graduate studies, consider pursuing both paths. Depending on your future employer, you might even be eligible for tuition reimbursement for some, if not all, of your classes. Your journey is just beginning, and the possibilities are endless. Embrace the opportunities that come your way, and remember, the world is your oyster!
Thank you comment icon Hello Mie, Thank you so so much for this advice. It definitely gives me more clarity and answers questions I've had about potential career paths given my experiences. I'm definitely going to take this all into consideration. Chekwube
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Jesse G.’s Answer

I love this question and it's one that I get all the time. Do I get the theoretical or practical knowledge first. I can only offer advice from my experience, so I'll give it a shot.

I chose the path of practical real world knowledge right after undergrad. I worked 5-years before going back to school. In that time I had the opportunity to work on Capitol Hill for two lawmakers and transition to a lobbying firm representing a dozen public companies. The experience was invaluable because it allowed me to hone in what exactly I wanted to refine and focus my studies to be. I went back to school and received my Masters in public policy doing part time night classes, while working. Certainly tough, but it allowed me to apply the lessons of classroom in my real world job.

As for your specific question, I think a wonderful place to apply your knowledge would be at a think tank focusing on foreign affairs. You'll gain an incredible amount of information on researching and reporting on international events, while working to educate government stakeholders. If you go down this path, I would try and work at a non-partisan think tank (CSIS, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace,
Pew Research Center, Council on Foreign Relations, etc). Building up a profile of work will further strengthen your application to any foreign service or political endeavors you may have later down the line.
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Jacob’s Answer

Your interests in International Relations, global politics, foreign policy, research, and diplomacy offer a wide range of career opportunities. Deciding whether to pursue a Master's or PhD immediately after undergrad or gain work experience first is an important decision. Here's some advice to help you navigate this choice:

**Advantages of Pursuing Further Education Immediately:**

1. **Specialization:** Advanced degrees like a Master's or PhD can provide you with specialized knowledge and skills in your field of interest, which can be valuable for certain roles, especially research and academia.

2. **Networking:** Graduate programs often provide opportunities to build a professional network that can be beneficial for your career.

3. **Research Experience:** If you enjoy research, pursuing a Master's or PhD can allow you to dive deeper into your chosen topics and gain research experience.

**Advantages of Gaining Work Experience First:**

1. **Real-World Application:** Practical work experience can help you apply your theoretical knowledge and gain a better understanding of how international relations operate in the real world.

2. **Skill Development:** Jobs in the international relations field can help you develop practical skills such as negotiation, communication, and problem-solving, which are highly valued in the industry.

3. **Clarity of Goals:** Working in the field can provide clarity about your long-term career goals and whether a graduate degree is necessary for your desired role.

Given your interests, here are some job options in the international relations field that pay decently and align with your preferences:

1. **Think Tank Researcher:** This role involves conducting research on global issues, policy analysis, and publishing reports and recommendations. It's a great fit if you enjoy research and want to influence policy decisions.

2. **Foreign Service Officer:** As a diplomat, you can work in various roles within foreign affairs, including political and diplomatic positions. While French language skills can be helpful, it's not always a strict requirement, and you can improve your language skills on the job.

3. **Political Analyst:** Political analysts analyze political developments, elections, and foreign policy decisions. They often work for government agencies, think tanks, or media organizations.

4. **International NGO Roles:** Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) focusing on global issues often hire professionals for roles in project management, policy analysis, and advocacy.

5. **Intelligence Analyst:** Government agencies and private organizations employ intelligence analysts to assess international threats and provide security recommendations.

In terms of pursuing further education, consider your long-term career goals. If you're interested in research or academia, a Master's or PhD may be beneficial. However, if you want to work in policy, diplomacy, or related fields, gaining practical experience first can provide you with valuable insights and make you a more competitive candidate for graduate programs later on.

Remember that your career path can evolve over time, and there's no one-size-fits-all answer. It's essential to assess your goals, interests, and opportunities as you approach graduation and make a decision that aligns with your aspirations.
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