International summit delegates listen to an address.

Want to Impact American Foreign Policy? Careers in the Field

International Relations

From its earliest roots, U.S. foreign policy focused on isolation in peace and neutrality in war. George Washington indicated this preference in his 1796 Farewell Address. Thomas Jefferson agreed. “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none,” Jefferson said in his 1801 Inaugural Address.

American foreign policy has changed significantly since then, as historical events and leaders of foreign policy-related roles reshape it. Professionals interested in having a role in shaping American foreign policy can benefit from an advanced degree that specializes in international relations.

American Foreign Policy at a Glance

American foreign policy focuses on providing leadership to “a coalition of strong and independent nations to promote security, prosperity, and peace both within America’s borders and beyond,” according to the White House. The U.S. Department of State, established by Congress in 1789, is charged with implementing U.S. foreign policy and advancing it in multiple ways, including the:

  • Promotion of American values to advance liberty.
  • Strengthening alliances and security partnerships throughout the world.
  • Enhancing international cooperation to promote peace and counter adversaries.
  • Creating economic opportunities for developing nations.

From Isolationism to Global Leadership

Today, American foreign policy runs counter to the Founding Fathers’ original views of isolation and neutrality. The First World War played a large part in the evolution of U.S. foreign policy as the nation became entangled with events in Europe amid Germany’s rise as a global power. Neutrality gave way to cooperation with like-minded nations. America aligned itself with an old foe, Great Britain. By the end of the Second World War, America became fully involved in international conflicts, serving as the global leader after the defeat of the Axis powers.

After the Second World War, several U.S. agencies, such as the National Security Council, formed to help lead the execution of American foreign policy across the world. Congress also plays a role in American foreign policy, advising on treaties and overseeing foreign affairs.

Internationally, the United Nations and other organizations contribute to advancing the cause of liberty throughout the world, which remains a core component of modern foreign policy in the U.S.

Trends Impacting American Foreign Policy Goals

Past events, such as the Cold War, still define current U.S. policy. With increased tensions and the expiration of the 2010 New START nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia, nuclear concerns are top of mind for the nation’s leading policymakers. Today, American foreign policy must consider strategies that deter additional actors with nuclear weapons from expanding their stockpiles and stop the ambitions of states looking to build their nuclear arsenals.

Current trends impacting American foreign policy goals include the rise of state-sponsored cyberattacks. Cyberthreats have significant global implications. It’s made cybersecurity one of the most integral elements of American foreign policy. New U.S. policies look to punish states behind the attacks to deter future activity.

Future trends, such as global economic power shifts, also affect American foreign policy. For instance, the International Monetary Fund predicts that India will become a top-five global economic power soon. This trend further supports America’s foreign policy shift toward Asia.

Refining Key Skills with an Advanced Degree

The international relations field is dynamic, which requires today’s international relations professionals to work autonomously and remain flexible to adapt to constant change. Thinking critically and nurturing positive relationships across cultural and political divides are essential skills for earning trust and advancing policy goals. Additional core competencies associated with foreign policy careers include cross-cultural management, teamwork, negotiation, analytical, and communication skills.

Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations program can help students strengthen these skills. The program offers five concentrations: International Security, National Security, Cyber Diplomacy (Policy and Technical tracks), International Development, and Regions of the World. The following is a selection of core and concentration courses:

  • World Politics – International Relations. What shapes international relations on a political level, and how has the discipline evolved? This course exposes students to international relations theories, trends, and developments taking place in global politics.
  • American Foreign Policy. This course covers the most critical cases in U.S. foreign relations history, with emphasis on 1898 to the present. Students learn about foreign policy theories, methods, and decision-making.
  • International Security. This course examines traditional and modern approaches to international security and dives into the key debates impacting security worldwide since the Cold War ended.
  • National Security. Which forces drive national infrastructure and security issues? This course examines the methods, theories, concepts, and instruments that U.S. policymakers and practitioners have used to address significant security threats and events.
  • Intelligence and National Security Policy. This course teaches students about the intelligence community and essential roles in it. Students study the historical role of intelligence in U.S. national security and investigate the structures of the intelligence community.
  • Cyber Policy I. This course enables students to use their critical thinking skills in the study of vulnerabilities across platforms and discuss strategies and techniques for protecting computer networks and data. Topics include symmetric and asymmetric cryptography, secure e-commerce, and privacy and piracy issues.
  • Cyber Policy II. What are the factors that contribute to cybercrime? Students enrolled in this course discuss psychological and sociological factors, examine how these factors may influence protection strategies, and examine real-world examples from various domains.

Career Opportunities in American Foreign Policy

Professionals with an advanced international relations degree can choose from a wide range of American foreign policy positions.

Information Systems Manager              

Information systems (IS) managers possess information technology (IT) skills and focus on overseeing the data management life cycle to ensure the accessibility of mission-critical knowledge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), IS managers earned a median annual salary of $142,530 in 2018. The BLS projects 11% job growth between 2018 and 2028, exceeding the national average (5%).

Information Security Analysts             

From planning and executing security measures to running preventive measures to counter cyber threats, information security analysts are critical to protecting an agency’s networks and critical systems. IS analysts also stay current on the latest methods used by cybercriminals to create stronger defenses against their attacks.

According to the BLS, information security analysts earned a median annual salary of $98,350 in 2018. Given cybersecurity’s urgency, IS analyst positions are predicted to increase by 32% between 2018 and 2028.

Public Affairs Adviser            

Public affairs advisers work in strategic communications. Their responsibilities include preparing speeches; interacting with the media on official agency matters; overseeing the planning and execution of print, digital, broadcast, and other content; and fostering collaboration with other agencies.

According to PayScale’s November 2019 data, public affairs advisors make a median annual salary of around $57,000. In a media world, the need to enhance an organization’s image is a pressing concern. As such, the BLS projects 8% job growth between 2018 and 2028 for public relations and fundraising managers, which include public affairs advisers.


The role of a lobbyist came from the idea that citizens have a right to speak their minds to influence decisions in government. Lobbyists often interact with high-level legislators in Congress as well as the executive branch, representing industry or special interest groups. Lobbyists must be registered and understand restrictions, regulations, and reporting requirements.

According to PayScale’s November 2019 data, lobbyists make a median annual salary of around $74,000. The BLS projects that public relations specialists jobs, which include lobbyists, are expected to increase by6% between 2018 and 2028.

Develop the Worldview to Impact American Foreign Policy

For individuals seeking to help shape American foreign policy, Norwich University’s online Master of Arts in International Relations program helps develop well-rounded leaders with a worldview and a leadership mindset crucial for success in international affairs. The curriculum encourages students to use critical thinking skills to explore past and current events to prepare for a future in foreign policy.

Individuals with a deep understanding of international relations and how different world actors impact American foreign policy can make a positive impact in communities both domestic and abroad. Learn how Norwich University can help prepare you for these rewarding careers.

Recommended Readings

Becoming a Global Leader: 6 International Relations Careers
How to Become a Lobbyist
An Overview of America’s National Security Policy


The Challenge of Global Conflict, 1913-1945, Office of the Historian
Foreign Policy, White House
Researching U.S. Foreign Policy, National Archives
Department of State and United States Agency for International Development,
Visualizing 2019: Trends to Watch, Council on Foreign Relations
Master of Arts in International Relations, Norwich University
Essential Skills for a Career in International Relations, Norwich University
Computer and Information Systems Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Information Security Analysts, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
About the Office of Public Affairs (OPA), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
Average Public Affairs Consultant Salary, PayScale
Public Relations and Fundraising Managers, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Lobbyist Regulation, National Conference of State Legislatures
Average Lobbyist Salary, PayScale
Public Relations Specialists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Learn More Today

Complete the form on the next page to request more information about our online programs.

Request Info