How do I Earn an International Relations PhD?

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Those hoping to work as a diplomat may work toward a doctorate in international relations.
Those hoping to work as a diplomat may work toward a doctorate in international relations.

An international relations PhD is attractive to many students due to its diverse career potential. With a strong emphasis on study and research, many PhDs in this field choose careers in academia, but there are certainly other options that include working as diplomats or in high-level jobs that concern international business relationships. Exactly how to earn an international relations PhD is usually dependent on each individual school’s requirements. A summary of typical requirements for admission to PhD programs and for completing a degree shouldn’t replace the information that each university offering such a degree provides.

After students have successfully been accepted to an international relations PhD program, the work really begins.
After students have successfully been accepted to an international relations PhD program, the work really begins.

For any form of doctoral studies, minimum requirement for entry is a completed undergraduate degree. Colleges offering the international relations PhD accept some students that possess only a bachelor’s degree, but may be more likely to take students with a master’s. The specific field of any bachelor or master studies is important. Students usually will have studied in a related field, such as political science, business, law, economics, and finance. Again, applicants should refer specifically to each college to determine eligible degrees.

Students earning a PhD in political philosophy may work closely with an academic advisor.
Students earning a PhD in political philosophy may work closely with an academic advisor.

In addition to degree suitability of any graduate or undergraduate study, applicants to an international relations PhD program generally are required to have competency in at least one foreign language. Universities may test competency via examinations.

Other admissions requirements from most schools include strong grade point average (GPA), usually exceeding 3.0, and letters of recommendation of a professional or academic nature. Students might need to prove readiness for PhD studies by taking standardized tests, like the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Most schools also ask for a personal statement, which should be very well written, to showcase writing strengths.

Prospective international relations doctoral students may need to prove that they are ready for the program by taking standardized tests.
Prospective international relations doctoral students may need to prove that they are ready for the program by taking standardized tests.

After students have successfully been accepted to an international relations PhD program, the work really begins. Two to three years of classes, generally followed with comprehensive exams, are expected. Doctoral candidates complete a lengthy piece of original scholarship called a dissertation. This usually takes a couple of years to prepare from the first proposal of a topic to the final presentation. Students present their final work to a faculty committee and must orally defend it before it is accepted as completed.

Between classes, dissertation preparation, and other possible requirements like working as a teaching or research fellow, finishing the international relations PhD program can take at least four years. Many students need more time, and might take five to six years to complete all of their work. In most cases, the last thing completed is the dissertation, and once the faculty committee has approved this, students are eligible to graduate and receive their degree.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

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      Prospective international relations doctoral students may need to prove that they are ready for the program by taking standardized tests.