The following books and websites present good starting points for researching careers in International Affairs.
Generally, areas of employment fall into three sectors: Public (government), Private (business) and Non-Profit / NGO. Studies in international affairs (particularly at the graduate level) can prepare you for careers in all three sectors depending on your degree focus.
Capitol Hill offers a wide range of exciting and demanding employment opportunities. Employment on the Hill generally refers to positions available in one of the 535 Congressional offices (100 Senate and 435 House of Representatives) or 300 committees and subcommittees. Most committees are divided into majority and minority staffs that perform several different functions including:
Research and subject specialists who conduct legislative research, draft bills, and follow upcoming legislation; Ombudsmen who respond to constituent inquiries, handle general administration, or promote the public image (and future election) of their representative; and Committee staff who support the legislative process, by drafting legislation, preparing background reports, arranging for expert testimony, and serving as the liaison between Congress and the administration on policy matters.
Congressional staffers perform a variety of different functions, so there are opportunities for persons with varying interests and capabilities. All Congressional offices need the administrative support personnel as well as public relations staff who may respond to constituent issues and/or promote the elected officer’s public image. Many APSIA graduates seek positions as issue specialists, working in the legislative area, conducting research, preparing background reports, drafting bills, following legislation, and arranging for expert testimony.
Interested in a career in the Foreign Service? Check out DOSCareers, an app by the Department of State. DOSCareers provides access to more than 500 retired FSOT questions that test your knowledge of U.S. government and culture, world history, technology, economics and many other topics. You can learn more about the opportunities and experiences of those who have chosen this career, as well as find a recruitment event, or contact a Diplomat in Residence near you.
The US Federal Government is the largest employer in the United States, with presently 1.8 million civilian employees. International affairs positions in government do not just exist in agencies such as the Department of State and the Agency for International Development as almost every federal department and agency maintains an international affairs division. Federal job hunters are encouraged to explore a wide variety of agencies that may be involved with international policymaking.
Hiring within the federal government is decentralized. Each agency manages its own hiring and is best viewed as a separate employer. However, there is an official job website for the Federal Government called USAJOBS. This Website is the centralized site for most Federal agencies to post vacancy announcements, and the site provides extensive information about working for the federal government and the application process.
Management consultants are professionals who are trained to solve problems, devise strategies, and improve the general health of their clients no matter what the industry. Management consultants help clients solve specific problems (usually focused on the short-term), while a strategy consultant researches and develops strategies for improving the long-term goals of the company. Companies hire consultants not only for their problem solving abilities, but also for their objectivity.
Typically, consultants conduct research, analyze data, prepare reports and present findings; less frequently a management consultant will become involved in the actual implementation of the plan. Profits are derived from fees to clients, which consequently breaks down to “billable hours.” In general, the work environment is fast-paced and stimulating and involves long hours. Work weeks of between fifty to seventy-five hours are not unusual.
Management consultants tend to work in teams of 3 to 4 individuals with one person assuming the leadership role. Travel is another important aspect of a management consultant’s professional life. Spending time with clients on the premises is an essential part of the consultant’s responsibilities. If you are working a management case, you may spend three to four days at the client site. It is not unusual for a consultant to fly out every Sunday night and fly home every Friday night until the project is finished.
The world has become a global marketplace, and all types of businesses are seeking to expand their operations across national borders and into the world. Multinational corporations, joint ventures, financial institutions, law firms, consulting firms and manufacturers of both goods and services cater to an international clientele.
Most internationally-oriented jobs in the business world involve marketing, sales, finance, operations and strategic planning and are found in the United States; although some positions might involve working abroad. Typically, businesses with overseas operations will hire foreign nationals rather than expatriate Americans.
Likewise, few corporations have “international departments.” Instead, their international work is shared among various departments such as marketing, sales, legal, or finance. International positions are available within subsidiaries of foreign companies operating in the United States. International professionals also play an important intermediary role between Federal agencies in matters of trade regulation.
Journalists report on current affairs and other events for publications in print and electronic media, or for broadcast on radio or television. Reporters are sensitive to news of breaking events, often observing such events, examining documents, interviewing people, and writing stories on laptops to be submitted electronically. At a subsequent state prior to publication, news writers may re-write the information submitted by reporters.
News reporters may specialize in fields such as politics, foreign affairs, business, arts, sports, health, or science. Increasingly, the work is being done by news teams encompassing reporters, editors, photographers, and graphic artists.
The term ‘political risk’ refers to the possibility that investors will lose money or make less money than expected due to political decisions, conditions, or events occurring in the country or emerging market in which they have invested. Specific problems include government instability, currency inconvertibility, nationalization, and expropriation. Additionally, political risk analysis examines social conditions such as crime levels – the number of recent kidnappings, for example – and land rights issues when evaluating the level of risk associated with any investment.
Typically, ‘political risk analysts’ gather information on an area or a country, determine the causes and sources of any related risks and forward their findings to those making investment decisions. Analysts may also be asked to prescribe risk management solutions and to offer recommendations to clients hoping to invest in a specific area of the world. Although political risk analysis has been developing as a field since the 17th century, it has seen a dramatic increase in importance only in the past 20 years.
While the political risk divisions of large consulting and insurance companies have traditionally been most involved with this field, today’s analysts may find employment with international organizations, smaller financial companies, rating services, energy firms, and online sites specializing in the sale of political risk information. Additionally, three departments within most large banks perform political risk analysis: Credit, Fixed Income and Equities. The Equity Department support Equity Research Analysts by forecasting key economic variables and may require advanced economic skills, often on the PhD level.
Those employed in rating agencies, lending institutions and organizations such as the State Department may be required to make in-depth economic analysis and would be classified as ‘specialists.’ Analysts with more general knowledge about countries, legal systems and business practices may find employment with smaller consulting companies that gather and analyze information and then sell their findings to others.
Associations are grouped under the headings of professional associations (existing to serve the interests of a professional group), trade associations (serving business interests), or groups of individuals with a common interest (such as philanthropic and charitable associations). There are approximately 22,200 national associations and 115,000 associations with state, regional, or local scope in the United States. In addition, approximately 22,300 multinational, binational, and non-U.S. national associations operate internationally. The majority of associations in the US are headquartered in Washington, DC, New York, or Chicago.
Associations serve to:
A foundation is a non-governmental, nonprofit organization with its own funds (usually from a single source, either an individual, family or corporation) and program managed by its own trustees and directors established to maintain or aid educational, social, charitable, religious, or other activities serving the common welfare, primarily by making grants to other nonprofit organizations (Foundation Center).
According to the Foundation Center, in 2003 there were nearly 35,000 grant-making foundations in the U.S. The total paid in grants amounted to $23.2 billion. The 2003 edition of the Foundation Directory lists more than 8,000 foundations that meet its financial criteria of at least $2 million in assets or $200,000 in annual giving. Foundations are categorized as independent foundations, company-sponsored foundations, community foundations, and grant-making operating foundations. Operating foundations sponsor research, social welfare or other programs as determined by their governing bodies or charters. Most award few or no grants to outside organizations and are not listed in the Foundation Directory. Community foundations derive their funds from many donors rather than a single source. These are usually classified under the tax laws as public charities, and are therefore subject to different rules and regulations than either independent or company-sponsored foundations.
The less developed parts of our world are plagued by famine, malnutrition, poor water quality, and poor sanitation, as well as AIDS, TB, malaria, and other deadly diseases. These problems frequently overlap, particularly in the poorest regions of Africa, India, and South America, and when combined with weak education systems, corruption, or civil war, these problems become even more difficult to solve. In addition to health and social dilemmas, extreme weather conditions also greatly harm the global poor. A region with drought or flood conditions will be unable to effectively grow crops and oftentimes the starving citizens will even resort to eating their seed stocks – hurting the next year’s planting season, and reinforcing the cycle of poverty and suffering. While the Western world only reads about or sees these horrific humanitarian situations on TV – they are everyday reality for many millions of our fellow humans (www.relief.org).
Humanitarian relief is an extraordinarily complex subject involving many actors, including governments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and intergovernmental organizations (IGOs), such as United Nations agencies, which seek to respond simultaneously to natural disasters (e.g. earthquakes and hurricanes) and/or complex emergencies (e.g. war and other violent conflicts). These actors bring life saving skills and technologies to re-establish basic services such as water and sanitation, set up schools, and to provide food and medical supplies.
The goal of international development is to alleviate poverty among the citizens of developing countries. Strategies for improvement include investment in the economic, political, and social arenas. Economic development ranges from the creation of sound macro-economic and fiscal policy to the fostering of small-medium enterprise to the introduction or expansion of microfinance. It also involves identifying and creating the necessary infrastructure, energy, transportation, sanitation for economic growth through the provision of technical assistance and access to capital. Political development focuses on the creation and fostering of good governance, including transparent financial systems, an independent judiciary and the active participation of civil society. Social development focuses on the improvement of health, education and the social safety net. Each of the areas is interrelated and interdependent. International development is literally a global topic and professionally a highly multidisciplinary field.
International education encompasses a wide range of careers including teaching, curriculum development, technical assistance, exchange, capacity building, training and the promotion of international understanding. International education professionals work in colleges, universities, governmental agencies, non-governmental/nonprofit organizations, foundations, and private firms.
At the start of this new millennium, the world faces both old and new public health challenges–the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the threat of bioterrorism, epidemics ranging from heart disease to cancer, the health of our increasingly elderly populations, the safety of our water and our food, and high-risk lifestyles, like smoking and substance abuse, which endanger our health (Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health). Infectious diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, have the ability to destroy lives, strain community resources, and even threaten nations. In today’s global environment, new diseases have the potential to spread across the world in a matter of days, or even hours, making early detection and action more important than ever (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
All of these issues make careers in public health inherently multi-disciplinary and international and demand that professional work extends across the biological, quantitative, and social sciences. Public health professionals confront the most pressing diseases of our time-AIDS, cancer, and heart disease–by adding to the knowledge of their underlying structure and function. Because preventing disease is at the heart of public health, one must look towards the social sciences to better understand health-related behaviors and their societal influences–critical elements in educating and empowering people to make healthier lifestyle choices. (www.hsph.harvard.edu/about.html)
There are nearly 1.4 million nonprofit (voluntary, community-based, functional, or charitable) institutions in the United States alone. Nonprofit institutions play an important role in community life and are an integral part of the economic, political, and social structure of our nation. The nonprofit’s primary goal is to advance, advocate, or pursue a cause central to the organization’s existence and mission. These missions can range from women’s rights in the United States to third-world economic development. Workdays in nonprofit organizations are often long, with financial rewards not always matching effort or responsibility. Furthermore, many nonprofits face a continual crisis of resources.
The size, diversity, and activity of nonprofit organizations have grown dramatically over the past decade as a result of government efforts to “privatize” services and programs. This sector employs approximately 12.5 million people, expends $120 billion in annual personnel costs, and represents $340 billion in total annual budget outlays.
Peace studies is an interdisciplinary academic field that analyzes the causes of war and systemic oppression, and explores processes by which conflict and change can be managed so as to maximize justice while minimizing violence. It encompasses the study of economic, political, and social systems at the local, national, and global levels, and examines ideology, culture, and technology as they relate to conflict and change. In different settings, this field of study is known variously as “peace and conflict studies,” “peace and security studies,” “peace and world order studies,” “justice and reconciliation studies,” and so on. What distinguishes this field from others, however, is a concern with the modalities of peace and the methods of peacemaking (Michael T. Klare, Peace and World Security Studies)
Career-related activities within this field include policy research, legislative lobbying, public education, petitioning and protest action, community service, and intercultural diplomacy.
In Washington, DC and throughout the country, many think tanks and research organizations focus on foreign policy and international issues. These organizations are often supported by contracts from the government, foundations, private businesses, and endowments. Think tanks, in the most traditional sense, are seen as non-partisan organizations that employ interdisciplinary approaches to finding long-term solutions to policy-related issues.
Research organizations vary in perspective and focus: some may be viewed more as advocacy groups which promote a particular agenda, while others may resemble private sector consulting organizations or academic institutions. In addition to their research efforts, many research institutes produce major publications or organize professional conferences, lectures, and policy forums. Think tank scholars testify before Congressional committees, submit articles to major newspapers, and may serve on government task forces.
Government Relations / Lobbying
Government relations, also known as lobbying, consists of individuals and organizations engaged in promoting the interests of their employers or clients. Their activities involve monitoring legislative and executive activities to influence policy, legislation, regulations, or negotiations, on behalf of governments, industries, specific companies, interest groups or constituencies. In Washington, DC, lobbying is regulated by law, calling for disclosure by lobbyists of organizations or clients they represent, LDA (Lobbying Disclosure Act) or FARA (Foreign Agents Registration Act.)
In addition, lobbying may also be carried out by PACs (Political Action Committees) that represent specific constituencies or may simply represent themselves on stated issues. Lastly, there is a subdivision of Executive Branch Legislative Offices that represents various departments and agencies of the Executive Branch of the U.S. Government, charged with the purpose of influencing the Congressional Branch on legislative affairs.
International Law is an interdisciplinary academic field for students who are interested in cross-border issues such as international business and human rights. There are typically two career paths within the field of international law. Students interested in policy making and the evaluation of adherence of countries to international agreements performed by governments and intergovernmental organizations tend to specialize in public international law while those interested in practicing law for private organizations and non-profits on issues ranging from international business, human rights, economic development and the environment tend to go into private international law.
International Security has organizations in every sector: government, private, and nonprofit. The goal of many intelligence service providers is to produce reports consisting of evaluated information and forecasts that political, military, and government leaders can use in decision making. The government is a large employer but opportunities exist at think tanks, defense contractors and NGOS.
Public relations specialists build, maintain, and promote the reputation and image of individuals, organizations, products, issues and events. PR specialists identify problems and make efforts to improve relations between a client and its public, in part by studying the attitudes and opinions of various publics or markets.
PR today is regarded as a subdivision of Marketing and/or Advertising. However, a public relations assignment differs from an advertising assignment in that the PR firm utilizes free opportunities for media exposure, disseminating or creating newsworthy publicity of interest to radio, television and the press instead of producing ads or commercials and purchasing media time or space. While some clients have both public relations and advertising strategies in place, non-profit organizations rely heavily on public relations specialists to promote issues and events because they rarely have much of an advertising budget. For example, Amnesty International is an organization that reaches a large number of people through a combination of news releases to the media, direct mail, and lobbying activities.
Science, Technology, and Public Policy is a maturing field focused on the interactions among scientific developments, technological change, social values, and governmental activities at both international and domestic levels. It is concerned with the ways in which citizens and professionals in industry, government, labor, academia, and non-profit organizations understand these interactions and apply their understanding to solve social, environmental, human health and economic problems, as well as promote and manage scientific and technological systems that could serve as solutions.
Trade policy is becoming an important issue to more businesses in the United States as the barriers to trade and capital movement decline and foreign markets become increasingly interconnected with US markets. With the growth of regional trade blocks and increased membership in international trade organizations such as the World Trade Organization, the impact of US and foreign trade policy on the success of businesses in the United States will continue to increase. Trade policy directly affects virtually all industries.
Trade policy and promotion include a variety of activities such as analyzing markets, increasing attendance at trade events, identifying agents and distributors, and disseminating information on export financing. Additional activities include representing business interests with officials of foreign governments, national government agencies, international organizations, and trade missions; identifying joint venture partners; researching development projects; and understanding foreign standards, testing, and certification requirements.