International Studies Major

International Studies is an excellent major for students who have an interest in different international topics as they relate to the world today. For example, in the international studies major, students can learn about international studies theory, they can have the opportunity to examine issues related to the current refugee crisis in Syria and Europe, they can discuss Greece’s economic crisis, environmental issues, topics related to human rights, along with analyzing patterns of globalization, international cooperation, and also study conflicts (such as the situation in Ukraine), as well as issues related to international diplomacy (such as the recent international agreement as it pertains to Iran’s nuclear program).

There are many possibilities of study within the international studies major, as well as career prospects that one can purse as it relates to the field of international studies. In this article, I will discuss what exactly is an international studies major. Referencing the specific requirements for the international studies major (or international studies degree) at Butler University, I will also go over various academic requirements that a student must complete in order to receive a degree in international studies. As I shall point out, there are many courses, or combinations of international studies courses that students can take in order to concentrate on an international studies major. In addition, I will discuss the different types of jobs that a degree in international studies can potentially lead to.

What is an International Studies Major?

An international studies major is a program that examines a range of international issues through the intersection of different disciplinary approaches. As explained on Butler University’s page for the International Studies Major,

“The International Studies Program cuts across traditional barriers between intellectual disciplines and draws on the resources of the Departments of English, History, Geography and Anthropology, Modern Foreign Languages, Philosophy and Religion, Political Science, and Sociology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the Department of Economics and International Management in the College of Business.”

An international studies major differs a bit from an international relations major in that the international studies degree focuses more on these questions from different disciplinary lenses, whereas international relations majors may have more of an emphasis on courses and approaches from the field of international relations (and/or political science). With an international studies major, students have the ability to explore different international issues such as globalization (economic, political, and cultural globalization), human rights, diplomacy, population and migration issues, international conflict, international finance, along with many other topics from various disciplinary backgrounds. The international studies major allows students to take courses from various disciplines. In fact, this is one of the many excellent characteristics of studying for an international studies minor; students are exposed to theories and approaches from a multitude of disciplines.

International Studies Major Requirements

Students studying for an international studies degree are expected to not only fulfill the university core requirements, but they are also expected to fulfill specific major requirements. With regards to the international studies major requirement, students are expected to take the necessary courses from the different categories listed under the international studies requirements. These often include thematic courses, regional courses, as well as the choice of studying a foreign language, among other types of courses. While there are many courses to select from, students are also expected to take certain required courses in international studies such as “Introduction to International Studies,” The United Nations and Other International Organizations,” a research methods course, as well as “The Global Society.” In addition, as mentioned, students can choose between various regions of the world for their regional concentrations, as well as having the ability to take international studies elective courses. This gives students the ability to the direction of their international studies major to a great degree.

In addition, along with the insight that students will gain in the classroom, they are also able (and encouraged) to take on internships while studying, and can do additional work during the internship in order to get academic credit for the internship. Interning while studying for an international studies degree is an excellent way to gain work experience related to the major. In addition, students that intern are often able to compare different jobs all within the umbrella of international studies.

Extracurricular Activities Related to an International Studies Degree

Along with an excitement for course content, international studies students also often have a great interest in international affairs, and activities and clubs that allow them to further purse such interests. In fact, there are many excellent clubs and extracurricular programs that are often related to the international studies major. For example, one of the most noted types of programs related to international studies is the diplomatic simulations that take place throughout the country and the world. Simulations such a the Model United Nations or the Model Arab League allow students direct experience working with other students that share similar academic interests. In addition, they help students develop diplomacy skills as they work diligently trying to solve the international problems in the model simulation conferences. Through these simulations, students gain insight into how diplomacy and international interactions work, and they develop skills working with other students. Furthermore, not only do they learn more about international studies issues (as students often spend months preparing and researching international issues for these conferences), but they also gain insight into how international organizations such as the United Nations and the Arab League operate.

Jobs with a Degree in International Studies

Students studying towards an international studies major can apply what they are learning to many professional fields and careers; there exist many possible international studies (and international relations) related jobs. For example, students can work abroad on issues related to international human rights, they can work with organizations that advocate cultural exchange, they can go into international law, international business, as well as careers in NGO work, diplomacy, peace building, among many other careers. They can end up working for organizations such as the United Nations, or human rights organizations. Or, they might use their skills in the business world, working for a corporation that is focused on international trade.


There is so much to be excited about with regards to international studies. If there are any questions about the international studies major, please feel free to send your questions, and I would be happy to answer them. The international studies major offers students the ability to study contemporary themes and topics from many different academic fields and perspectives, which will give them a well-rounded education as they enter into the workforce, or pursue their graduate studies in international studies, international relations, law, international business, or other academic fields.

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