Research analysts discuss global studies

A Difference in Degrees: Comparing International Relations and Global Studies

International Relations

The rise and fall of political beliefs, systems and rulers around the world result from a confluence of events connected to and influenced by each other in myriad ways. Two distinct areas of study focusing on these types of events and their impact on history are international relations and global studies.

Global studies examine the cause and effect of one system or institution on another. For example, a global studies scientist may try to uncover how a country’s economic performance, international trade agreements and the global food supply impact people at a global level. Through this analysis, global studies scientists look for patterns and trends.

While global studies examine political systems and powers and their impact on the globe, international relations further explore the relationships between sovereign states, political parties, large interest groups, and international organizations, using behavioral theories to interpret those relationships. Studying these international relationships provides a greater understanding of how political decisions are made, who makes them, and how these decisions impact the global system. Knowing these relationship elements, policymakers can create successful foreign and national policies and avoid potential conflict.

Even as global studies and international relations overlap, each framework offers a unique perspective to help the country’s leaders, business owners, and other interested parties create and navigate relationships with other nations.

Professionals who are interested in pursuing a career in international relations or global studies may benefit from earning an advanced degree from a program like Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations.

Common Concentrations

In a Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR) program, students select a concentration of study. Norwich offer concentrations in:

Cyber Diplomacy

As technology blurs the physical borders of nations, protecting a country’s data becomes a top priority for a nation’s leaders. In this concentration, students can follow a policy track that examines how to execute policies that lessen cyber threats and terrorism activities or a technical track that offers instruction on how to run audits, identify breaches, and create systems to protect valuable data. 

International Security

In this concentration, students delve into security at the international level, learning how to prevent or police global incidents. Topics in this concentration include conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction, and international response to transnational terrorism. 

Regions of the World

This concentration delves into the political, economic, and social issues of one of eight regions in the world. Using international relations theories and research methodologies, students correlate these issues to historical events and tensions with other nations. 

International Development

The MAIR international development concentration studies a nation’s development primarily through its economic systems. Trends such as globalization and human rights movements are included to paint a full picture of the nation’s economic growth.

National Security

The national security concentration examines threats to a nation’s security. Risks include natural disasters, such as floods and wildfires, and human-made threats, such as homeland terrorism. Coursework explores how to create, implement, and uphold national and foreign policies that mitigate these threats. 

Essential Skills for Success

Professionals pursuing a degree in international relations and global studies require a specific set of skills to be successful in their roles.

Negotiation skills

During a negotiation, each involved party works to advance their interests. Professionals must determine these interests by actively listening to each party and communicating intended actions. Negotiations often are emotionally charged, particularly if previous agreements haven’t worked or the relationship between the parties is tense. Successful negotiators must remain levelheaded to move the negotiation to a positive outcome for both parties.

Analytical competence

Analytical skills are essential in many international relations and global studies fields. Professionals must use various research methods to collect data on economic output, human rights violations, and cybersecurity breaches. After the data collection and analysis, solutions are developed and implemented to mitigate found risks.

Cross-cultural management

More people working overseas, the expansion of technologies across borders and workforce diversity have elevated the importance of intercultural competence, making it one of the top skills needed for the future workforce, according to a report by the Institute for the Future. In international relations, professionals must quickly identify what connects people—shared values, priorities, and goals—to build effective relationships.


The people and issues surrounding foreign and national affairs are never constant. Tensions ebb and flow as political and business leaders change. International relations and global studies workers must adapt to changing conditions to achieve a broader goal.

Interpersonal skills

Finally, professionals need superior communication skills to listen actively and express positions succinctly. Professionals interact with many different people, such as political leaders, diplomats, business leaders, lobbyists, and nonprofit groups. Some of these groups and people may speak different languages and have different belief systems. Talking and presenting ideas in a language and manner understood by the majority of stakeholders enable professionals to overcome communication obstacles to develop practical solutions to foreign and national issues.

International Relations and Global Studies Career Opportunities

Individuals can attain the skills and knowledge of international relations and global studies through programs such as Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International RelationsGraduates will find many career opportunities available in both fields.

International Relations

Foreign Ambassador

Foreign ambassadors are selected by their country’s leader to represent the interests of their home country in another country or with an international firm. Ambassadors also support the interests of their citizens living in the foreign country. While specific duties can vary, a foreign ambassador must possess strong negotiation, communication, and policymaking skills.

According to the Houston Chronicle, in 2017 a foreign ambassador earned between $124,406 and $187,000 per year, depending on work performance. Many foreign ambassadors start their career in political parties or the Foreign Service as an officer, working their way through the ranks to beomce an ambassador.

Federal Government Analyst

Federal government analysts are responsible for investigating the effectiveness of current government programs and making suggestions for improvement. These analysts must know how to research these programs and analyze the data for solutions. Identified solutions are implemented by the analyst and their team, managing communication to management or the public while measuring the success of the executed strategies.

According to PayScale, annual salaries for government program analysts range from $46,000 to $105,000 with an average of $63,522. Salary is impacted by years of experience, with analysts who have between five and nine years of experience earning $71,000 per year compared to those with between one and four years of experience earning $60,000 per year.

Global Studies

Financial Consultant

Financial consultants are typically employed by banks or financial services companies, such as investment companies. Consultants advise their clients, who can be individuals, businesses, or governments, on how to manage investments. Financial consultants with a global studies degree can use their knowledge of international policy, trade, and political systems to direct foreign investments to reduce risk and increase the return for their clients. Consultants must have an in-depth understanding of financial and data analysis to handle their clients’ investments effectively.

According to PayScale, financial consultants’ annual salaries range from $42,000 to $104,000. Years of experience impact a consultant's salary, with those who have between five and nine years of experience earning $77,000 per year compared to those with between one and four years of experience earning $62,000 per year.

Research Analyst

Research analysts identify, correct, and examine large amounts of data. Each research project begins with a hypothesis. Research analysts use the data to prove—or disprove—the hypothesis and identify next steps. As analysts draw conclusions from many different data sets, they must be analytical thinkers and effective communicators.

Average annual salaries for research analysts range from $40,000 to $79,000, according to PayScale. Research analysts beginning their career with only one to four years of experience earn $53,000, while those with five to nine years earn $63,000.

The Future of International Relations

Global concerns that include natural resource scarcity, technological advancements, and climate change will affect the future of international relations. International relations and global studies professionals are entering a world of complex relationships and issues. Students pursuing a degree in Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations program will become better prepared to address these issues with understanding, patience, and humility as they work to meet the interests of their country and its citizens.

Learn More

As the nation’s oldest private military college, Norwich University has been a leader in innovative education since 1819. Through its online programs, Norwich delivers relevant and applicable curricula that allow its students to make a positive impact on their places of work and their communities.

Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations program offers a curriculum that evolves with current events to help students face the future of international affairs. The program covers many subjects to give participants a look at the internal workings of international players, examine the role of state and nonstate actors on the global stage and explore different schools of thought. Individuals can further strengthen their knowledge by choosing one of five concentrations in International Security, National Security, International Development, Cyber Diplomacy, or Regions of the World.

Recommended Readings

Essential Skills for a Career in International Relations
6 TED Talks for Students Obtaining a Master of Arts in International Relations Degree
What Is International Relations in the Digital Age?


Master of Arts in International Relations, Norwich University
Top Ten Effective Negotiation Skills, Houston Chronicle
Political Scientists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Future Work Skills 2020, Institute for the Future
What Are the Roles of a Diplomat? Discover Diplomacy
How Much Do US Ambassadors Get Paid? Houston Chronicle
Ambassador, College Foundation of North Carolina
Average Government Program Analyst Salary, PayScale
Average Financial Consultant Salary, PayScale
Average Research Analyst Salary, PayScale
What International Relations Skills Will Be Essential in 2019, Get Smarter