Best Online Master’s Degrees in International Relations

Take the next step in your international relations career. Learn more about the best international relations online master’s degree programs, including how to find the right one, what you’ll learn, and potential careers you can pursue.

Online International Relations Master’s Degrees

There was a time when speaking to someone on the other side of the world meant sending a letter that took weeks or months to arrive. Today, it’s as instantaneous as a text, email, or phone call. While a more connected world is a good thing, it can also lead to opportunities for conflict on an international scale.

International relations affect everything from government and finance to education and hospitality. So it’s no surprise that an online master’s degree in international relations can prepare you to work in almost any field. These online programs allow busy working professionals to enhance their education and broaden their horizons without ever setting foot in a classroom. The curriculums take a deep dive into foreign policy, economics, politics, and diplomacy—all critical topics that can qualify you for a career as a lobbyist, foreign affairs analyst, and much more.

We’ve created this guide to help you find the best online master’s degree program in international relations for your personal and professional needs. Read on to find out everything from what the admissions process is like to what kind of classes you’ll take and what you can expect after graduation.

College Spotlights: 2021’s Best Online International Relations Master’s Programs

There are many online master’s international relations programs to choose from, as well as many factors to consider when narrowing down those options. It’s important to confirm accreditation, look at affordability, and make sure the program has the specialization you desire.

We’ve identified the following top-rated schools to give you a few examples before you start your search. If you would like to learn more about top programs, check back soon, as our entire rankings list will be published later this year.

American University

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One of the primary hubs for foreign policy, relations, politics, and diplomacy in the United States is Washington, D.C. This is one of the reasons why American University’s School of International Service is so well-respected. With its Master of Arts in International Relations degree program, students can earn their degree in 24 months and choose among the following four concentrations:

  • Global Security
  • International Negotiation and Conflict Resolution
  • International Development
  • U.S. Foreign Policy and National Security

The curriculum offers coursework in a blended format, with most classes available online, although students must complete a week-long immersion program at American University’s Washington, D.C. campus. During this immersion, students interact with faculty members, classmates, and professionals. The immersion not only aids in learning, but also provides an excellent networking opportunity. The final curriculum requirement involves the completion project, which can take the form of either a substantial research paper or client-based team practicum.

Seton Hall University

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The School of Diplomacy and International Relations at Seton Hall University gives students the training necessary to excel in a variety of careers, whether human rights work with the United Nations or maximizing shareholder value for private corporations with international business interests. To earn an Online Executive Master of Science in International Affairs degree, students must complete ten classes in both a core set of topics as well as one of the six concentrations listed below.

  • Post-Conflict State Reconstruction and Sustainability
  • International Law and Human Rights
  • International Economics and Development
  • Global Negotiation and Conflict Management
  • Global Health and Human Security
  • Africa

This curriculum was specifically designed for working professionals, so completing courses at a part-time pace is very common. However, students eager to earn their degree as quickly as possible can take classes on a full-time basis, earning their degree in just one year.

Harvard University

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Harvard University’s Extension School makes it convenient for working professionals to earn a degree. The school’s International Relations Degree Program for those seeking a master’s degree is no exception.

This hybrid program consists of 12 courses, at least three of which must be completed on campus. To graduate, students must complete either a thesis or capstone project. The thesis option involves conducting a research project that results in publishing-quality results. Students choosing the capstone option will complete a final paper that reflects policy analysis developed in conjunction with the capstone instructor and classmates.

Students focused on a particular area of study can also earn a graduate certificate in:

  • Social Justice
  • Nuclear Deterrence
  • International Security

Why Earn an Online Master’s in International Relations?

Earning an online master’s degree in international relations has several benefits, including convenience and career advancement. Let’s take a closer look at why the online master’s is a good idea.

  1. Convenient Learning

    Learning online offers significant flexibility. Students don’t have to visit a campus several times a week or be ready to attend a lecture at a specific time or place. This is perfect for working professionals, and that’s who comprises a bulk of students in graduate international relations programs.

  2. Internship Opportunities

    Internships are an essential component of advanced study in international relations. It’s common for graduates to land multiple internships to learn as much as possible before finding permanent employment. By enrolling in a master’s degree program, students establish connections with classmates, career services, and professors who can help find and set up these important opportunities.

  3. Specialization

    Almost every international relations curriculum at the master’s level will offer several concentrations for focus on a specific area of interest within field. One of the best ways to advance professionally is to specialize, and what better way to do that than earn a graduate degree that focuses on a particular area.

Curriculum Overview for Online Master’s Degrees in International Relations

Although the curriculum for online master’s degrees in international relations varies by school and concentration, all students will complete the same core classes, which cover principles and theories relating to international politics, diplomacy, and foreign policy.

From there, they can choose from a variety of classes covering subjects such as war, conflict assessment, and economic development. Many programs also include a final project that students must complete, such as a thesis or capstone.

Course Examples

  • International Law, Policy, and Politics

    This class examines how nation-states interact with each other, whether it’s through civilians or government representatives. It also reviews the history of diplomacy and foreign as well as how current governments interact with each other and any potential trends that might change the status quo.

  • Causes of War

    Students learn about principles, theories, and paradigms that reflect warfare patterns among nations and civilizations throughout human history. It offers a look at the causes of war on a global and regional scale.

  • Capital and International Development

    This class focuses on how groups of people use resources to develop societies. There’s a special emphasis on what these resources are, how they’re used, and what role international capital plays in eradicating global poverty.

  • Global Governance

    Over time, the world has shifted to a more cooperative form of governing among individual nations. This cooperation has occurred largely at a military and economic level, but also in terms of laws. In this class, students examine how international organizations like the World Bank and the World Health Organization interact with nations to achieve a unified goal.

  • International Relations Thesis

    For this important course, students consult with a faculty advisor to choose a research topic of personal interest within the international relations realm. Then, they write a paper demonstrating their results and methodology for obtaining those results.

Specialization Options

Most online master’s programs in international relations offer degree concentrations. Whether it’s diplomacy during an economic war, rebuilding a war-torn country, or fighting pandemics and famines, there are many different jobs a graduate can pursue, and these concentrations reflect those career paths. Below are a few of the more popular specializations available to international relations graduate students.

  • International Security

    This concentration explores how to maintain peace globally through political and policy means. Most coursework aims to teach students the foundational concepts relating to foreign policy, global politics, and critical issues that many nations face that often result in conflict.

  • Global Negotiation and Conflict Management

    The de-escalation of conflict is a major national concern. Students in this concentration complete courses that identify common areas of conflict among members of different cultures and various tools available to examine and resolve these disputes.

  • U.S Foreign Policy and National Security

    This specialization focuses on how to maintain peace from the United States’ perspective. Topics covered include the multiple forms of foreign policy tools available to the United States government, including military action, economic pressure, political influence, and intelligence gathering.

  • International Law and Human Rights

    In this area of specialization, students learn various laws, treaties, and agreements that make up international human rights law. It covers topics such as the enactment of these laws and methods of enforcement, which is especially important given that parties guilty of human rights violations often use state sovereignty as a tool to avoid punishment.

  • International Development

    This concentration analyzes various forms of development—such as economic, political, and social—within and among nations. Students learn about advancement in international trade through different economic systems and globalization, human rights concerns, and how foreign aid can affect countries.

Accreditation for Online Master’s Degree Programs in International Relations

When choosing an online master’s degree in international relations program, you want to be sure that you’ll receive a quality education. The accreditation process is designed to help you meet this goal.

There are two main forms of accreditation. First, there’s institutional accreditation, which confirms the school as a whole meets a minimum level of education quality. Second, there’s programmatic accreditation, which verifies that a specific program meets educational standards for that area of study.

There is no programmatic accreditation available for master’s degree programs in international relations or affairs. Therefore, students should confirm that the program of interest belongs to a school that has been institutionally accredited. To find out if a school you’re considering is accredited, you can use the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs search tool or visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

What You Can Do with a Master’s in International Relations

An online master’s degree in international relations prepares graduates for careers in the private and public sectors. They are equipped to examine and analyze a wide range of issues, such as foreign and economic policy, international communications, and global security concerns. Graduates often work not just for the U.S. Department of State or federal government agencies but also private organizations, such as auditing and consulting companies and nonprofit organizations. With the expansion of international cooperation among companies and governments, graduates will find themselves making a difference in high-demand careers, often with lucrative compensation, such as those outlined below.

Economist

Economists analyze how goods and services are produced and distributed among society. Economic relationships among nations play a significant role in international relations and affairs. Earning an online master’s degree in international relations provides the political, legal, and foreign policy foundation that helps economists provide thorough analysis.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$59,450 $105,020 $185,020

Source: BLS, 2019

Market Research Analyst

Market research analysts examine market conditions to determine the viability of selling a particular service or product. These professionals gather data about prospective markets, including those in other countries or those affected by international politics. An online master’s degree in international relations allows analysts to give a broader perspective.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$34,350 $63,790 $112,630

Source: BLS, 2019

Foreign Correspondent

Foreign correspondents are journalists who gather and report information concerning international news and topics. A master’s degree in international relations is extremely useful for foreign correspondents because their education helps them seek critical information and properly contextualize that information for news reports.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$24,520 $46,270 $117,170

Source: BLS, 2019

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts examine the business and financial decisions of organizations and businesses. A master’s degree in international relations can complement a financial analyst’s prior education in finance, economics, or accounting by allowing them to tailor their advice to companies and government agencies that deal with foreign counterparties. This graduate degree provides an understanding of the numbers, how they came to be, and why they matter.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$47,230 $81,590 $156,150

Source: BLS, 2019

Political Scientist

Political scientists research and analyze political systems and government structures, including their histories and operations. Most political scientists have at least a master’s degree, which is necessary to provide the background and foundational knowledge of government and political processes. For the international government, such as foreign policy, a master’s degree in international relations or affairs can be quite useful.

10th Percentile Median Annual Pay 90th Percentile
$60,960 $122,220 $164,210

Source: BLS, 2019

Costs and Financial Aid for International Relations

Cost is an important factor in choosing to pursue an online master’s degree in international relations. Program cost depends on several factors, including tuition, fees, and financial aid. This financial aid can take many forms, such as loans, scholarships, grants, fellowships, and employer tuition assistance. The latter is especially convenient, as it amounts to your employer paying all or part of the cost for you to go back to school. Just keep in mind that you may be required to work for your employer for a minimum amount of time after graduation. To find out more about your options, visit our financial aid page.

How Affordable Your Online Master’s in International Relations Could Be

School Name No. of Credits Cost/Credit Total Tuition Cost

Liberty University

36

$565.00

$20,340.00

Norwich University

33

$767.00

$25,311.00

The University of Oklahoma Extended Campus

33

$408.15

$13,468.95

FAQs About Online International Relations Master’s Degrees

What are the admissions requirements for an online master’s in international relations?

Each online master’s in international relations admissions office has its own list of requirements. However, most programs require applicants to provide the following when applying:

  • Application
  • Statement of purpose or personal statement
  • Resume or curriculum vitae
  • Letters of recommendation
  • Official transcript(s) reflecting at least a bachelor’s degree

Most programs do not require applicants to submit GRE or other standardized test scores to apply; however, students may provide the scores if they choose.

How long will it take to finish my master’s in international relations online?

Online master’s degrees in international relations programs usually consist of 33–36 total credits. Depending on the pace of study, students can earn the degree in as little as 12 months. Such is the case for students attending Northeastern University’s Master of Science in Global Studies and International Relations. However, taking 18–24 months is very common. Program completion times depend on whether you take classes as a full-time or part-time student.

Can I earn a master’s in international relations 100% online or do I need to visit campus?

It’s possible to earn your master’s degree in international relations entirely online, without ever going to campus. However, a significant number of hybrid programs have blended curriculums. Depending on the program, most coursework can be completed online, but will also include an on-campus immersion or residency, a study trip, or a designated number of classes that students must complete on-campus.