7 Hot International Careers

By Mary Thompson-Jones.

Mary Thompson-Jones, Ed.D., MALD, is a faculty member and the academic director of Northeastern University’s Master’s in Global Studies and International Relations. Thompson-Jones has 23 years of experience as a career diplomat and foreign policy practitioner.

The need for professionals with international relations expertise is increasing in the United States and abroad.

Among the many fields that graduates can consider are international business and consulting, international higher education, nonprofit management, and international development, along with traditional work in diplomacy, security, and defense. Jobs can be either in the public or private sectors.

These seven jobs in particular have experienced significant demand lately:

1. Diplomat

As a diplomat, you could be based in the U.S. or abroad to advance American interests in any number of roles, such as a politician, a foreign service officer, economist, or health care specialist. You’ll need to keep up with international current events and perfect your listening, analytical, problem-solving, and communication skills. Salaries depend on your location’s cost of living, plus your job level. Positions range from $30,000- $155,500 a year, according to a special report from the Houston Chronicle.

2. Multilateral organizations

The United NationsThe World BankInternational Monetary FundOrganization of American StatesInter-American Development Bank, are just a few of the multilateral and regional groups seeking skilled professionals with advanced degrees, with the United Nations being the largest. You’ll need a range of skills to help these institutions meet their common goal: facilitating cooperation among several nations. A diverse field, you could work to improve living standards and human rights, maintain international peace and security, promote social progress, or develop relations between nations.

3. Humanitarian worker

The humanitarian challenges we face today are greater than ever, and consequently there is a growing need to address humanitarian crises around the world. There are many positions you can consider—refugee coordinator, human rights monitor, and election monitor are a few. A source you may find useful for humanitarian careers information is Enhancing Learning & Research for Humanitarian Assistance. 

4. Researcher/writer/reporter

Specific outlets for reporters are The Economist (particularly good for those interested in the European Union); international news bureaus (AFPReutersAP), and blogs and social media sites dedicated to international relations. Some researcher/writer positions at think tanks are dedicated to international affairs, such as Atlantic Council. You’ll want to build excellent communication skills, including effective/persuasive speaking, writing articles, simplifying complex data, interviewing, and explaining ideas. 

5. Program officer

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and groups such as Amnesty International, Save the Children, and World Wildlife Fund, and many international development organizations have program officers who tackle strategic issues, managing budgets, and leadership responsibilities. You’ll find that job descriptions vary greatly, as do salaries: A program officer with The Global Fund, for example, primarily manages grants and conducts program analysis and management. Other program managers design and manage unique programs or projects.

6. College or university

You can consider the growing job market for Study Abroad program advisers or directors. There’s also a need for skilled advisers who can work with international students, and international student recruiters. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you can expect to see a 15% growth in the job market for these kinds of school and career counselors between now and 2022. 

7. NGOs

At non-governmental organizations, you can play a number of crucial roles in promoting economic growth, human rights and social progress, at places such as FulbrightAmideastAmerican Councils, the Asia Foundation, and the Institute of International Education. In November 2013, Payscale.com reported that the annual salaries for most nonprofit program managers with this kind of master’s degree ranged from about $41,000 to $71,000.