Top 10 Careers in International Relations

Students sitting at a table together in campus library

International relations explores the ways that different nations interact with each other on a global basis. The scope of international relations is vast – careers in international relations entail understanding the differences between countries in terms of finance, welfare, education, legal systems, security, the environment, and more. It also means understanding the implications of these differences for foreign policies and maintaining positive relations between countries, governments, and international businesses.

Careers in international relations therefore require a broad range of knowledge and skills. You’ll need a thorough knowledge of the range of subjects needed to understand the way the world works on an international scale, including politics, history, economics, philosophy and geography.

So, why study international relations? You’ll gain in-depth knowledge of the academic subjects you’ll need to succeed, as well as a deep understanding of the global influences on international relations. Gaining a degree in international relations offers an important first step on your path to finding jobs in international relations. Studying such a diverse range of subjects means that you’ll also develop a wide range of transferable skills, such as analysing complex information, having difficult conversations on complex subjects, problem solving, and working as part of a team.

For those who really want to understand how the world works and make a difference on a global scale, jobs in international relations can lead you to a variety of roles around the globe.

Top careers in international relations

Careers in international relations involve working in an exciting, challenging, and rewarding field. Here are some of the jobs in international relations you might want to pursue – including some of the highest paying jobs in international relations.

International lawyer

International lawyers work on international legal matters such as agreements, disputes, crimes, and treaties. They are responsible for ensuring compliance with international law and represent clients in cross-border legal matters. International lawyers may specialise in areas including human rights, maritime law, international trade, or environmental law.

Working as an international lawyer involves preparing legal papers, negotiating contracts, and preparing legal advice for individuals, businesses, or governments. As you might expect for a highly trained profession, this is a high-paying job in international relations.


Lobbyists advocate for specific policies on behalf of individuals, organisations, or businesses to influence the decision-making process of governments, international institutions, or foreign governments. Possessing a sound knowledge of the current policy landscape, lobbyists aim to use that knowledge to influence the proposal of new policies, changes to regulations, or amendments to specific laws.

Working as a lobbyist requires a thorough understanding of how governments work as well as current governmental priorities and individuals involved in a political system. This means you’ll need excellent research skills and interpersonal skills to succeed in this role.

Immigration specialist

Immigration specialists provide legal guidance and support to individuals navigating immigration processes. They serve as a point of contact for individuals, lawyers, and organisations for all matters concerning immigration, and may be based either within an agency that assists individuals immigrating to or emigrating from a country, or within a company employing foreign workers.

Work includes assisting with visa paperwork and citizen applications, ensuring these comply with national and international immigration laws, teaching on immigration legal regulations, and simplifying complex legal information so that it can be clearly communicated to those going through the immigration process. 


Economists analyse economic data and global markets to inform decision-makers about economic policies, trade strategies, and the financial impacts of international relations. They might be employed by a private company, work for a government, or be based within a university.

The duties of an economist include using software to collect and visualise data, conducting economic research, compiling reports of research findings, and providing advice on economic matters.


Diplomats serve as official representatives of their country in assisting with foreign relations. This typically involves working in a different country to build relationships, represent national interests abroad, and promote peace. As the name suggests, a diplomat’s primary role concerns diplomacy.

This is another high-paying job in international relations, and responsibilities include negotiating global treaties and agreements, managing embassy operations, promoting their nation’s heritage and culture within their host country, and helping stranded citizens in emergencies.

International logistics manager

International logistics managers oversee the transportation, processing, and distribution of goods and services across borders. Their role is to ensure an efficient and cost-effective supply chain that operates on an international basis.

International development consultant

International development consultants design and implement projects for international organisations such as private businesses, third-sector organisations, and government agencies. Typically, these projects take place in developing countries and aim to promote economic growth, reduce poverty, and improve living conditions.

The duties of an international development consultant include assessing organisations for their strengths and weaknesses and writing reports in order to recommend changes.

Intelligence analyst

Intelligence analysts collect and analyse information to provide critical insights into international security threats, political developments, and risks. This primarily involves desk work, but might also require fieldwork to get a more thorough understanding of a situation. Ultimately, an intelligence analyst aims to help governments and organisations make informed decisions.

Work includes collaborating with national and international intelligence and law enforcement, gaining a deep understanding of potential threats, offering recommendations on fighting crime, and data management to ensure relevant information is up to date.

Consular officer

Consular officers provide support and assistance to their country's citizens who are living or travelling abroad. Responsibilities include issuing visas, passports and other travel documents, handling emergencies, and protecting citizens’ rights and wellbeing such as assisting in cases when travellers have been arrested or detained.

Public relations specialist

Public relations specialists – also known as communications or media strategists – manage communication strategies for governments, organisations, or international bodies. Their goal is to ensure a positive public image for their employer, enhancing their reputation through disseminating information to various international stakeholders.

Work includes brand management, PR, networking, marketing, and communications.

Study international relations at the University of Aberdeen

If you’ve read this far, you should already know the answer to why study international relations. Careers in international relations can be rewarding, challenging, and well-paid – and a degree in international relations can help get you started.

The University of Aberdeen is ranked 7th in the UK for International Relations and 12th in the UK overall (Guardian University Guide 2024). Staff at the University are experts in their fields, with 77% of research considered ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ by the Research Excellent Framework 2021. In particular, the Politics and International Relations department has a huge number of fascinating research projects underway, ranging from AI and nuclear risk to citizen inclusion in power-sharing settlements.

The University also boasts a flourishing Politics and International Relations society. With around 120 members, it brings together like-minded people to explore international relations and holds academic and social events all through the year. More broadly, you’ll benefit from a thriving, supportive, and multicultural student community based in the 5th oldest university in the UK.

At the University of Aberdeen, international relations is studied alongside a second subject. Just some of the options offered include the following undergraduate degrees:

  • Economics and International Relations MA
  • Geography and International Relations MA
  • International Relations and Legal Studies MA
  • International Relations and Sociology MA
  • Politics and International Relations MA

At a postgraduate level, options for combining international relations with a second subject at the University of Aberdeen include the International Relations and Management MSc, or the International Law and International Relations LLM.

This means University of Aberdeen students gain expertise in another subject area, widening their career options even further. If you need the proof, 93.8% of graduates go on to further education or full-time employment within 15 months (Graduate Outcomes survey, 2019/20 leavers).

If you'd like to prepare for your degree study, the University of Aberdeen International Study Centre also offers three foundation routes that lead into an undergraduate degree in international relations. Which you should pick depends on the second subject you want to study alongside international relations, so it’s worth taking some time to explore all the options that are available. Information about the three undergraduate foundation programmes, and the degrees they lead into, is available here:

Alternatively, if you already have an undergraduate degree and are looking to prepare for your postgraduate degree, the Pre-Masters in Business & Law will allow you to progress to a masters in international relations.

You can also find out more about entry requirements to the International Study Centre, the fees associated with studying, and the visa information you’ll need to know. Studying at the University of Aberdeen International Study Centre is a great first step towards gaining subject knowledge and developing your English language and study skills, before progressing to the University of Aberdeen for your degree study.


Is international relations easy to study?

International relations is a challenging but fascinating subject to study. How easy you will find this depends on your interests and background. This subject involves working with complex concepts, conducting thorough research, and gaining a keen understanding of global politics.

What is the scope of studying international relations?

The scope of international relations is very wide, covering subjects including economics, geography, legal studies, sociology, and politics. Such a wide scope means you’ll be well-placed for a variety of careers in international relations, such as global business, international development, and academia.

Is a career in international relations worth it?

Careers in international relations are rewarding, challenging, and well-paid. This career is absolutely worth it if you have a passion for global affairs, are willing to invest in your education, and enjoy networking.