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Description of MajorThe International Affairs major is an interdisciplinary major offered through the College of Arts and Letters. It is a liberal arts program that draws upon course offerings from academic departments throughout the university. International Affairs provides an interdisciplinary understanding of foreign cultures and societies, the dynamics of world politics, and how other nations perceive the world and why they act the way they do. Students must choose a foreign language relevant for their concentration and develop a competency in this area. Individuals majoring in International Affairs may also incorporate a minor in Africana, Asian, European, Latin American, Middle East, or Russian Studies. Complementing this major with a minor in a Modern Foreign Language is strongly encouraged. International Affairs is a Bachelor of Arts degree program. It is offered through the Department of Political Science at JMU. This department also offers a major in Public Policy and Administration, a major in Political Science, and minors in Political Science, Public Policy and Administration, and Political Communication (in coordination with the Department of Communication Studies.
Tell me more about this field of studyThe field of International Affairs is broad and flexible; it does not steer individuals toward one particular career but instead exposes them to different cultures and societies and the international dynamics among societies. The global community is in need of new professionals who have an international outlook. Due to the flexibility of the field individuals may pursue various career paths. Usually students in this field will study areas such as history, political science, economics and foreign languages to learn about other countries and the international community. Students tend to concentrate on one geographical region or on the dynamics of the entire international system for more in-depth study.
Tell me more about specialization
Specializations in the study of International Affairs enable students to combine interests in particular portions of the global community with a desire to work on particular global issues faced by people around the world. On the first front, students and professionals in International Affairs tend to focus either on the dynamics of a particular geographic region (such as Africa, Asia, Europe, etc.) or on the dynamics of the global system (such the International Court of Justice, the United Nations, the World Bank, etc.). In turn, issue-oriented specializations are as numerous as can be. International Affairs students can focus on conflict resolution, democratization, economic development, education, the environment, poverty reduction, public health, women’s rights, and many other issues. Training in the dynamics of individual countries and global systems helps to prepare students for a variety of careers in government agencies, international organizations, non-profit organizations, global divisions of multinational firms, journalism, law, and cross-cultural communication.
Common majors or minors that complement this major
International Affairs majors commonly major or minor in a Modern Foreign Language. Some other combinations might include: Africana Studies, Anthropology, Asian Studies, Communication Studies, Conflict Analysis and Intervention, Criminal Justice, Cultural Communication, Economics, Environmental Studies, Health Communication, History, Humanitarian Affairs, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Middle Eastern Communities & Migrations, Modern European Studies, Nonprofit Studies, Political Communication, Political Science, Public Policy and Administration, Religion, Russian Studies, Sociology, Telecommunications or Women's Studies.
Communication skills, especially interpersonal, are extremely important. Ability to learn another language and adapt to other cultures is also very important. International travel and exposure to different cultures is essential in this competitive field.
Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose unrelated careers that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
Advocacy Groups, Banking Institutions, Colleges/Universities, Consulting Firms, Educational Organizations, Federal Government Agencies (i.e. Department of State, Immigration & Naturalization, Foreign Claims Settlement Commission, Intelligence Agencies), Foreign News Agencies, Import/Export Companies, International Development Programs, Lobbying Organizations, Nonprofit Organizations, Research Institutes, and the United Nations.
A variety of opportunities exist. Students may wish to complete a semester or summer abroad through one of the JMU sponsored Study Abroad Programs to gain exposure to a different country and its culture. Students may also apply for internships through the Department of Political Science’s internship program or by participating in the Global Affairs component of the Washington Semester program.
View our list of internship coordinators for each major.
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