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  #1  
Old 06-20-2007, 12:35 AM
yaybuffalo yaybuffalo is offline
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Can I do anything with a Masters in International Relations/Politics?

So I just graduated college and have been doing a sales job for experience and to pay for the possibility of grad school. I am a political science grad and I really have a passion for international relations/current events.

What sort of things can I do (realistically) if I go to grad school for International Relations or International Politics or something like that?

I am preparing to take the Foreign Service Officer exam, and I received great advice regarding that route, but I want to know if anyone knows of a few other options? Should I just stick with sales and accept the fact that Poly-Sci is a waste hehe?

It's hard because I have a job now, that pays reasonably well, and to quit to go to grad school to go after what interests you is scary when you are not sure if you will be able to find a related job after.

Would teaching, working for the CIA, an NGO, etc be realistic paths? What else is out there? Any suggestions on what else I should do, etc?

Thanks!
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  #2  
Old 06-20-2007, 01:32 AM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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I have an MA in int. relations and work for an NGO. You should know that if you are serious about NGO work as a career, you really should be committed to living overseas. The real work happens in the field whereas NGO jobs based in the US are usually tracking budgets and making sure people like me get their timesheets in on time (I don't). If you have questions about the work, I'd be happy to tell you more via email.
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  #3  
Old 06-20-2007, 06:59 AM
yaybuffalo yaybuffalo is offline
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great my email seanthomps at gmail dot c0m

I would love to learn about what you do. Are there other things folks with your degree can realistically do as well? I am curious.
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  #4  
Old 06-20-2007, 08:24 AM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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I just sent you an email, feel free to ask follow up questions. I know a lot of people get joint MAs in IR and law degrees or MBAs. There are also a lot of people in international business with such degrees. In my email, I link to a couple of employment websites that give you a sense of the market.
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  #5  
Old 06-20-2007, 08:36 AM
Ravenman Ravenman is offline
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I have a BA in IR, and a MSc in international history. I've worked for Uncle Sam in related fields for a good few years now, and I think it has helped me out.

In addition to the jobs you listed, there are lots of thinktanks and international consulting firms who seek people with these sorts of degrees. Although there are a lot of these institutions in DC, they are also located around the country, so you're not necessarily limiting your career geographically. State governments and large cities often have a business development office to help promote international trade and link up businesses with foreign customers. You could use your sales experience in such a position if that's what you're really interested in.

One word of advice: for folks who are really interested in foreign affairs as a career, the return on learning a foreign language -- especially a "hard" one, like Chinese, or Arabic, or Korean, or whatever -- is probably the best use of time and money I can imagine. There really are not enough people who take the time to do this, and, IMHO, makes you much, much more sought after. However, unless you go to some place like the Monterey Institute of International Studies (link) which has a language immersion program, you're not going to learn a language well in the standard two years it takes to complete an MA. But I really can't emphasize this enough to people in college who are interested in these fields: languages are gold.
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  #6  
Old 06-20-2007, 10:02 AM
Carol the Impaler Carol the Impaler is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madmonk28
I just sent you an email, feel free to ask follow up questions. I know a lot of people get joint MAs in IR and law degrees or MBAs. There are also a lot of people in international business with such degrees. In my email, I link to a couple of employment websites that give you a sense of the market.
Could you link those sites here? I'd be interested in taking a look.
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  #7  
Old 06-20-2007, 10:29 AM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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Sure, right now one of the most popular is www.developmentex.com, some of the postings are for subscribers only, but you can get a good sense of the kind of jobs that are out there. There is also www.internationaljobs.org which breaks down jobs by sector (vs. by country), this site used to be more popular than it is now and has been slightly eclipsed by developmentex; it is a pay site, but there is a hot jobs this week section that is free and I think they have a large sample of typical postings. There is also www.reliefweb.int which lists a lot of almost strictly NGO type jobs.

Developmentex and International Jobs are US centric sites with lots of American employers, they also carry for profit international jobs. Relief web has a lot more European and Asian employers listed and heavily skews to not for profit jobs.
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  #8  
Old 06-20-2007, 03:35 PM
gigi gigi is offline
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I have a Master's in Public Policy and am doing non-related admin stuff. But don't look at me; I didn't do what I "should have" with the degree.
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  #9  
Old 06-20-2007, 03:37 PM
yaybuffalo yaybuffalo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madmonk28
Sure, right now one of the most popular is www.developmentex.com, some of the postings are for subscribers only, but you can get a good sense of the kind of jobs that are out there. There is also www.internationaljobs.org which breaks down jobs by sector (vs. by country), this site used to be more popular than it is now and has been slightly eclipsed by developmentex; it is a pay site, but there is a hot jobs this week section that is free and I think they have a large sample of typical postings. There is also www.reliefweb.int which lists a lot of almost strictly NGO type jobs.

Developmentex and International Jobs are US centric sites with lots of American employers, they also carry for profit international jobs. Relief web has a lot more European and Asian employers listed and heavily skews to not for profit jobs.

Cool links, your email never came Maybe try yaybuffalo@yahoo.com if you don't mind? I was looking forward to it heh.

Thanks again guys. Overall would you say it is fairly likely that if you graduate with this type of grad work that you will find a job in the field that does not leave you dirt poor? heh
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  #10  
Old 06-20-2007, 03:47 PM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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Try www.defensejobs.com
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  #11  
Old 06-20-2007, 08:30 PM
Alan Smithee Alan Smithee is offline
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Are you kidding? There are lots of jobs you can get with that degree. Why, almost any of the jobs you can get without it! (Not quite any of them--you'll be overqualified for a few.)

That's what I used to tell people when I was working on my Masters degree. (And one reason I never finished it.)

Last edited by Alan Smithee; 06-20-2007 at 08:30 PM..
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  #12  
Old 06-20-2007, 08:50 PM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yaybuffalo
Cool links, your email never came Maybe try yaybuffalo@yahoo.com if you don't mind? I was looking forward to it heh.

Thanks again guys. Overall would you say it is fairly likely that if you graduate with this type of grad work that you will find a job in the field that does not leave you dirt poor? heh
I will send to your Yahoo, not sure why it didn't get through. You should know that if you want to work for NGOs the starting salaries are staggering low. They do increase the more skills you build, of course. As I said before, the real work is in the field, overseas and that is where the real money is (makes sense).

I'll give you my brief salary history as an example (don't laugh):

in mid-90s right out of grad school with some relevant internships: $24k year, you read that right;

Then I went overseas first to Siberia low 30s; then to Kosovo, low 50s, etc. etc. and now ten+ years after work in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. etc. I am in Aceh, Indonesia making low 90s. Of course someone with a law degree or MBA will probably be making more by now, but you either love the NGO life, or you don't.

It is also an industry where you jump around employers a lot. You see the same faces in different places all the time. One you bump into a former colleague at a bar in Kabul for example, the first question is "who are you with now?" Changing jobs every year or two is quite common. To suceed, you have to be comfortable with a great deal of ambiguity in your life from employment to personal safety.

For NGO work, a master's degree is almost a requirement. You can find entry level work with a BA, but there is an expectation that you will earn an MA somewhere down the line. Without it, you can expect to plateau at mid-management level. As someone else said, a foreign language is a must, but you will also want to develop your skill set beyond a specific region/language group.

Using myself as an example: I have a BA in Russian studies and started out working in DC supporting projects in the former Soviet Union. I haven't had anything to do with the FSU in probably six years and the last time I used my Russian was dealing with a real estate agent in Iraq who studied in Moscow. Still, without the Russian I never would have got a job in the first place. And I can tell people what Tony's mistress is muttering when I watch the Sopranos.

Last edited by madmonk28; 06-20-2007 at 08:51 PM..
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  #13  
Old 06-20-2007, 08:52 PM
yaybuffalo yaybuffalo is offline
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The above comment is what I hear all the time when I talk about wanting to do something a little more interesting than just a sales or marketing job.

Wouldnt the CIA or some other Governmental organization/Business want someone with the mentioned masters compared to someone without it? Are the jobs scarce in this regard?
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  #14  
Old 06-20-2007, 09:08 PM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yaybuffalo
The above comment is what I hear all the time when I talk about wanting to do something a little more interesting than just a sales or marketing job.

Wouldnt the CIA or some other Governmental organization/Business want someone with the mentioned masters compared to someone without it? Are the jobs scarce in this regard?
The CIA and other agencies do look for the degree, but you will need to pair it with another skillset (like a foreign language) to be truly desirable. Look at www.usajobs.opm.gov for an idea of government jobs. Look at the series listed under international and foreign for a start.
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  #15  
Old 06-20-2007, 11:10 PM
treis treis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madmonk28
in mid-90s right out of grad school with some relevant internships: $24k year, you read that right;

Then I went overseas first to Siberia low 30s; then to Kosovo, low 50s, etc. etc. and now ten+ years after work in Afghanistan, Iraq, etc. etc. I am in Aceh, Indonesia making low 90s. Of course someone with a law degree or MBA will probably be making more by now, but you either love the NGO life, or you don't.
That actually doesn't sound too bad. I mean obviously you aren't getting rich, and your first salary is pretty damn low, but 90k after 10 years isn't bad for a non-technical degree.
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  #16  
Old 06-21-2007, 12:01 AM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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It's even better when you consider that I am exempt from a large chunk of federal income tax, provided I stay out of the US 330 days a year. I am though, going to be hitting the ceiling in another few years on the salary range.
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  #17  
Old 06-21-2007, 04:37 PM
treis treis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by madmonk28
It's even better when you consider that I am exempt from a large chunk of federal income tax, provided I stay out of the US 330 days a year. I am though, going to be hitting the ceiling in another few years on the salary range.
Do you get room and board, or other travel benefits in addition to your salary?

I assume that at some point people get tired of the travel and living in crappy places and move out of the industry. I'd also guess that these sort of people would be desirable in industry because, again I assume, that you have a higher level of responsibility than you would have if you were working in the States. Is that the case?
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  #18  
Old 06-21-2007, 08:11 PM
madmonk28 madmonk28 is offline
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Lodging is covered and some postings have additional perks such as post-differential and danger pay. Some people do leave the work, but I don't have any idea how it compares to other industries. There are jobs stateside with NGOs and what a lot of people end up doing.

The problem is, the work from the US is incredibly unsatisfactory. It results in a lot of what I call "play office" where people have meetings, pretend they are more important than they are and write a bunch of memos to people like me in the field that we promptly ignore.

It is jarring to go from the field back to HQ. Here, I have 140 people working for me. I make a dozen big decisions a day and my nearest boss is 6 hours away by plane, when I go back to DC, I'll have to build consensus with a bunch of twits about what kind of muffins we're going to buy for the big powerpoint presentation.
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