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The 10 Best Online Master’s of International Affairs Graduate Schools

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Updated: February 23, 2024, Reading time: 37 minutes

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In 2022, the global community faced new challenges. Whether one is considering International Affairs in health policies, global finance, border crises, the needs of refugees, or potential military conflicts, experts in International Relations will be needed in the future decades, likely, much more than in previous decades.

Earning an online Master’s of International Relations provides entry into leadership positions in this rapidly changing field.


Overview:
Are you ready to change the world? International relations are as important now more than ever before. By earning your International Relations degree, you can gain the skills needed for a leadership or management position. International law, international economics, and international business are all areas of concentration to consider in the field of International Affairs.

Quick audio summary:


Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

International Affairs: AKA…

online master's of international affairs

Possible confusion might arise on account of the many names that International Affairs might go under and the degrees that are offered in this discipline. There are actually three main titles for this degree:

Some of the programs listed below are MS, while most are MA. An MA in International Relations or International Affairs will normally be awarded by a Liberal Arts faculty, while an MS is awarded by a science faculty. Science offerings of this degree are becoming more common as International Relations become more deeply rooted in the methods of the empirical sciences.

The development of data and forensic technologies and the growing complexity of the field have spurred some programs to shift the focus of their programs. These online Master’s of International Relations degree programs tend to highlight research methods, courses on statistics and analysis, economics, and cyber education.


Advantages of Pursuing an Online Master’s in International Relations

International Relations, or IR, is a broad field. While schools offer graduate degrees on more specific but relevant topics like diplomacy or regional-based studies, the good thing about an IR degree is that it is similar to what an MBA is for the business field.

It takes a little of everything – the fundamental concepts mixed with relevant topics and skills and current case studies – all rolled into one neat master’s program.

This benefits the students greatly as it opens doors for them career-wise across industries (business, finance, public administration, data analysis, research, public office, academe, military) and sectors (private, non-profit, federal, or state work) across countries.

Students gain both hard and soft skills that are transferrable to any line of work with the advantage of starting at the middle level because of the conferred master’s degree.

As with any online degree, it allows students greater flexibility to still work, manage another priority like a business, or take care of their families while attending classes on their own time and completing the degree at their own pace.

Most online Master’s in IR degrees allow students up to 5 to 6 years to complete the entire program, which is more than enough leeway to juggle other adult-life priorities. 


Methodology

Prospective International Relations or International Affairs professionals wishing to prepare for a rewarding career in academia, research, and professional leadership will find the most comprehensive education and training in an online master’s in International Relations graduate program.

The best online and hybrid programs on our list are considered excellent Master’s in International Relations options because of these features:

Read our Methodology page to discover more about our ranking process.


Best Online Master’s of International Affairs Graduate Schools

Master's of International Affairs Graduate Schools

Arizona State University – ASU Online

international affairs

Tempe, AZ

Master of Arts in International Affairs and Leadership
(Online)

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences of Arizona State University is home to the International Affairs and Leadership Master’s degree.

Aside from this program, the college’s varied and deep post-graduate catalog of almost 70 programs at the master’s level, more than 60 programs at the doctoral level, and almost 30 certificate programs allow students to learn almost anything from various disciplines to upskill themselves and have a greater impact in the workplace, whether locally, nationally or on an international scale.

Standout Features:

An elective internship or immersion program is open to students who would like to spend a semester in an internationally recognized organization, regardless of location. The student should demonstrate their ability to integrate themselves into the organization through the skills learned in the program.

They should also demonstrate leadership, collaboration, and coordination skills and work towards realizing its vision and mission.

ASU and its online arm, ASU Online, have also launched ASU Prep Digital in their commitment to innovate education in 2017. It is an accredited K-12 online learning pathway for high schoolers to dip their toes into the college academic experience, albeit remotely.

Middle schoolers can also take high school courses through Prep Digital for high school credits to accelerate their studies. The portal aims to fast-track young learners for the next level and keep them abreast with new topics and areas of learning, something that ASU has always been successful at all levels of academia.

And since courses are delivered online, students can choose to attend their enrolled classes at their best time of convenience without hampering their current schoolwork.


Northeastern University 

international affairs

Boston, MA

Master of Science in Global Studies and International Relations
(Online)

Founded in 1898, Northeastern University is an R1: Doctoral University – Very High Research Activity Carnegie Classification institution. It has a global footprint consisting of eight campuses in the US, two in Canada, one in London, and its online campus.

The online campus, through the College of Professional Studies, facilitates the delivery of the MS in Global Studies and International Relations program, as well as the other 128 fully online and 72 hybrid post-graduate degrees and certificates.

And the 15 fully online and one hybrid undergraduate offerings, all from the university’s nine colleges offer experiential and research-based learnings across industries, disciplines, and rising fields.

Standout Features:

In true Northeastern University fashion, experiential learning is part of the program or any program. For students of the College of Professional Studies, this is called the International Field Study Experience (IFSE, as mentioned above). But university-wide, the program is called Cooperative Education, or Co-op.  

The university provides students with access to about 275,000 alumni contacts and more than 3,000 employer partners worldwide. This includes federal and state employer partnerships, like the Commonwealth of Massachusetts office, partnerships with international organizations such as Education First in Switzerland, and tech firms like HubSpot. To date, it has successfully placed its students in close to 150 countries for Co-op opportunities, even in Antarctica.

Students can alternate their semesters between academia and professional work. Depending on their availability, they can opt for paid part-time work, paid or unpaid internship, or project-based and paid full-time work.

As long as it immerses students in real-life professional experience(s) with a partner-employer that the advising committee approves and the college, the experiential learning will count towards a degree. 

Northeastern University lives up to its Carnegie Classification of being an R1 University. In 2019-2020 alone, it received more than $180 million in the form of pledges and gifts to cultivate the research culture in the university further.


American Public University

international affairs

Charles Town, WV

Master of Arts (MA) in International Relations and Global Security
(Online)

American Public University is almost synonymous with “Online Education.” What started as a way to “educate those who serve” has now transcended beyond that and now encompasses providing distance education to all those who need it, with the wider goal of educating those who wish to serve and serve even further. This is especially true of APU’s School of Security and Global Studies (SSGS), which offers the MA in International Relations and Global Security degree.

The various programs offered by the SSGS focus on justice, emergency and disaster management, homeland security, cyberterrorism, counterterrorism, public administration and policy, military studies, global diplomacy, intelligence, and many more. 

Standout Features:

Classes start monthly, with each class running between 8 to 16 weeks. With the program’s minimum required course load set at 12 courses, students are expected to complete their studies in two years or even less for rigorous and diligent students.

In conjunction with the US Military through Army Regulation 621-5, the American Public University system recently decommissioned the GoArmyEd learning portal for soldiers and replaced it with a more intuitive and customizable learning portal to suit every soldier’s learning needs on active duty.

This is ArmyIgnitED, which houses more than 300,000 courses for every learning level from more than 200 course providers. Depending on the availability, the courses can be taken remotely, in-campus (based on the providers’ physical site), or in education centers located globally. From associate’s degrees to master’s degrees, ArmyIgnitEd has it in store.

Professional certificates and special army programs are also available. If the student is also enrolled at APU or AMU, they can avail of tuition assistantships that can be applied towards courses taken at ArmyIgnitED.


The George Washington University – Elliott School of International Affairs

international affairs

Washington, DC

Master of International Policy and Practice
or Online MIPP

The George Washington University, formerly known in the 1800s as Columbian College, then Columbian University, is a Carnegie Classification R1 institution, which stands for “High Research Activity for a Doctoral University” and is the largest university in DC. The Elliott School of International Affairs (ESIA), housed within the GWU grounds, also holds the same title among its fellow institutions for international relations.

The ESIA, founded in 1898, is proud of its square footage and is hailed as one of the top 50 graduate schools in the world for international affairs studies by the Foreign Policy Association. It is home to 13 master’s degree programs that offer concentrations in regional studies, policies on the economy, science and technology, security, and international studies, and the only program with a fully online option, International Policy, and Practice. 

Standout Features:

ESIA offers its students the opportunity to pursue dual or joint degrees under any of its master’s program offerings, including MIPP. It can be fused with an MBA degree from the GWU School of Business, a JD degree from the GW Law School, or a Master of Public Health (MPH) degree from the Milken School of Public Health. Students have to be admitted to both colleges and schools.

The average completion time for those pursuing a dual MBA degree or MPH degree is three years, while those combining their ESIA master’s degree with a JD normally complete their requirements in four years.

ESIA is also home to the Institute for International Economic Policy (IIEP), an internationally renowned think tank and research hub focused on global economic analysis and policymaking.

Because of its strategic location at the Capitol, it has developed close research relationships with the World Bank, the IMF, and even the center of it all, the White House, to name a few. Its research focuses not only on international economics, trade, and financial policies but also on poverty metrics, development (or lack thereof), and socioeconomic disparity.


Norwich University Online

international affairs

Northfield, VT

Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR)
(Online)

Norwich University in Vermont is a pioneer of experiential learning in higher education. It is a military college established in 1819, and this environment of disciplined and practical training and a deeper and more globalized perspective is what the university brings to its program offerings.

**For the first three concentrations, one elective is required to complete the required hours. The choices of electives include topics on Military Intervention, Conflict Avoidance, Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, Human Rights, and International Response to Transnational Terrorism. 

**For the first four concentrations, one elective is required to complete the required hours. The choices of electives include topics on Military Intervention, Conflict Avoidance, Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, Human Rights, and International Response to Transnational Terrorism. 

Standout Features:

The university is home to numerous research institutes and centers that focus on military and defense technologies, global sustainability, international diplomacy, and intellectual exchange.

Among these is the Norwich University Applied Research Institutes (NUARI) which houses five research centers focusing on cyber relations and security, defense technologies, and sustainability efforts, the Sullivan Museum and History Center, the Military Writers’ Symposium, the Center for Cybersecurity and Forensics Education and Research (CyFER), and the Center for Global Resilience and Security (CGRS).

In 2017, Norwich University was named by the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security as a Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education. The honor ran through 2022. In line with this, the Department of Defense certified the university as a National Center for Digital Forensic Academic Excellence.

These recognitions illustrate the quality of education Norwich imparts to its students, particularly in the field of cyber defense and forensics. Not only is it state-of-the-art and modern, but also nationally recognized and certified. 


Harvard Extension School

international affairs

Cambridge, MA

Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies – International Relations
(Online)

Harvard Extension School (HES), founded in 1910, has always had its sights on non-traditional learners, offering professional course certificates mostly in the liberal arts. Over time, it has evolved to include more formal program offerings at the undergraduate and graduate levels and has gone beyond the traditional liberal arts offerings to include biomedical sciences, information science, biotechnology, and bioengineering. 

Standout Features:

Since students have the flexibility to design their curricula, if their schedule (and finances) permit, they can also take advantage of HES’ Stackable Certificates or take on additional elective courses that lead to a graduate certificate, and therefore, a second degree. There are three programs available:

The beauty of these programs is that each program only requires four courses for completion, with at least one elective that can coincide with the choice of electives in the IR program.

For the Social Justice certificate program, three electives are permitted, while for the International Security certificate program, students are free to choose all four courses they would want to take, so long as it is under the International Security course group, which could also be under the IR course group.

As part of the Harvard Division of Continuing Education’s (DCE, under which HES belongs) efforts to transform online learning for adult and non-traditional learners, turning it into a more interactive and intuitive experience, rather than a dragging responsibility or chore, DCE created HELIX (Harvard Extension Live Interactive eXperience) in 2015, its spin on the popular HyFlex Learning Model, wherein classes are presented as either:

It’s as if a show, or in this case, a class – a real class in a physical classroom with real students physically attending and seated in rows – is being taped live-streamed online or uploaded after being accessed by students asynchronously.

Through multiple camera angles, it gives students who are taking the classes remotely a simulated classroom experience, especially if the class is watched or attended live online because they could also participate in recitations in real-time, thanks to web conferencing apps like Zoom.

Those who would watch the class asynchronously could still experience the simulated classroom experience without live and remote classroom interaction. However, this is still far better than watching a professor hold a class virtually, seeing only their head and shoulders atop a simulated background.


Troy University

international affairs

Troy, Alabama

Master of Science in International Relations (MSIR)
(Online)

In 1887, Troy University was established with the sole purpose of educating aspiring teachers in Alabama. It has gradually evolved since then. Post-World War II and into the 1950s, the school experienced a steady increase in enrollees, many of whom were war veterans enjoying the benefits of the GI Bill.

The growth in admissions has prompted the addition of new degree programs in other areas of learning. As years and decades went by, other programs like medical technology, engineering, nursing, environmental science, and sports medicine were also offered alongside education, liberal arts, and business programs. 

Standout Features:

Aside from online delivery, the program is also offered on the various physical campuses of Troy University in Alabama and at Fort Benning, GA. The course is also offered to members of the military stationed on bases in Japan and Korea.

Troy University has had a long-standing relationship with the US Military since post-World War II when former service members transitioned from active duty to collegiate studies.

The Troy for Troops program is the university’s initiative to continue serving members of the military and their dependents by providing them with undergraduate or graduate-level programs that are specifically designed with their backgrounds, passions, and plans for post-active duty in mind.


Webster University

international affairs

Louis, Missouri

Master of Arts in International Relations (MAIR)
(Online)

Webster University in Missouri has a very storied century-long history of providing equal opportunity education for all. The Catholic Sisters of the Loretto Community founded it in 1915. Not long after that, it admitted international students to its student roster, a first for the university.

Two decades later, it conferred a bachelor’s degree to the first-ever visually disabled graduate. Post-World War II saw an influx of ex-military students, which prompted the university to launch new programs.


Another first for the university happened in 1950 when the first American-African college student graduated from Webster. And just right before the new millennium had struck, Webster University was one of the first schools to offer formal degrees online.

Standout Features:

A variation of the MAIR program is also available for students seeking a more experiential learning experience through international immersion with a cohort. The Global Master of Arts in International Relations program is offered by Webster’s College of Arts and Sciences.

It will have students engage in almost a year-long travel and immersion to gain first-hand knowledge of global issues and first-hand experience with international organizations on planning for actions through actual research and thorough analysis of real-time data. Graduates receive not only a master’s degree but a graduate certificate as well.

The program is available at all Webster University locations abroad and the main US campus in St. Louis, MO.

Webster University has a global footprint that spans five regions outside the US. Its European campuses are in Greece, Netherlands, Switzerland, and Austria, while it has three campuses in China – Shanghai, Beijing, and Chengdu.

It also has a campus in Ghana, Africa, two campuses in Thailand, and two campuses in the Central Asian region – Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. In the US alone, Webster has campuses spread over almost 20 states, including its main and pioneer campus in St. Louis, MO.


Regent University

international affairs

Virginia Beach, VA

Master of Arts (MA) in Government – International Relations
(Online)

Regent University is a top-ranked university not only in Virginia but in the entire US as well. Its online programs are among the highly ranked programs in the country as certified by various school ranking sites and authorities.

This Christian university was founded in 1978 and has since then seen a steady rise in its enrollments. To date, there are more than 11,000 students enrolled in the university at various levels of learning, and its course offerings have been certified and accredited by the corresponding professional governing bodies, including the NSA and the Department of Homeland Security.

Standout Features:

Aside from International Relations, there are four other concentrations that students under the MA in Government program can choose from: Healthcare Policy and Ethics, American Government, Law & Public Policy, and National Security Studies.

Regent University is among a handful of universities to have received the National Security Agency and Department of Homeland Security’s stamp of approval as a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense Education (CAE-CDE).

This demonstrates Regent’s commitment to its students, especially those enrolled in its cybersecurity and related programs, that they not only receive a world-class education in this field but one that is endorsed by the agencies that birthed it.


The University of Oklahoma – Extended Campus

international affairs

Norman, Oklahoma

Master of Arts in Global Affairs
(Hybrid)

The University of Oklahoma (OU) is a Carnegie Classification R1 University, signifying high research activity for a doctoral-granting university. Established in 1890, it has experienced several notable changes in its square footage and academic growth.

Decades later, OU launched its Extended Campus, which offered distance education as early as 1961. Since its launch, its online programs have been consistently top-ranked by reputable school ranking systems and websites, particularly OU’s online bachelor programs and the online Criminal Justice program.

Standout Features:

OU has long been catering to the education needs of civilians and military students, both veterans and those on active duty. This is one of the reasons why the program is also offered everywhere else in the world. It is to make the program available to interested professionals wherever they are, but most especially, to reach active military members wherever they are stationed.

For military members stationed in the US, the program can be attended in Hawaii, Florida, D.C., and Oklahoma, while for those stationed in Europe, the program can be attended in Italy, Germany, Belgium, and the UK.

The University of Oklahoma plays host to select skills training and seminars held regularly at the university. Attendees of the event receive certifications as proof of their attendance and gained expertise. Some programs lined up to be held at OU include the WellSHARP Drilling Supervisor training from OU’s Blowout Prevention School, the 68th annual Corrosion Control Course, and the 65th annual short course on Gas Compressors


Frequently Asked Questions

Is an online Master's Degree in International Affairs or Relations offered in most schools?

Is an online Master’s Degree in International Affairs or Relations offered in most schools?

Yes, but for the sake of keeping the list streamlined, only ten schools that offer this program 100% online or in a hybrid format were chosen. But there are many universities and colleges around the country that offer the degree as well, and it may come in many names:

Even more, schools offer this program in a brick-and-mortar format alone, but many of these schools have started to roll out the program remotely in response to these times. Some of these schools appear on this list.

What courses are usually required to be taken under the degree?

Under the International Relations degree or major, most of the courses will focus on:

A new addition to the program offered by many universities (many of those appear in this list) are courses on cyber education, particularly cyber politics, cyber diplomacy, cybersecurity, cyber warfare, cybercrime, and even cyber espionage.

In addition, most programs offer students the option to culminate their curricula with either a thesis option, should they want to further their studies at the doctoral level, or a capstone project, which could be a presentation or an immersion activity with a reflection paper for experiential learning.

Are electives allowed? Are there concentrations to choose from?

Yes, electives are allowed. Some program offerings offer concentrations in international regions, defense and intelligence gathering, policymaking, development, conflict resolution, diplomacy, comparative issues, and many more.

TIP: Look for elective courses (or programs that offer these courses as part of the required core) that tackle relevant and controversial global issues such as:

These courses are a good measure of the program’s relevancy and resonance to current times and issues. This was also one of the criteria for compiling this list. 

What are the possible career options in International Relations?

Since a Master’s degree in International Relations is a broad one, as mentioned in the preceding question, it opens the doors to many career opportunities locally, abroad, in private or government entities or organizations.

Some of the roles graduates can apply to areas as an advisor (political, economic, financial, communication, diplomatic), strategist, researcher, analyst, consultant, ambassador, foreign service officer, intelligence officer, lobbyist, public administrator, professor, public speaker, public relations officer, author, business operations officer, operations officer of any organization, translator, non-uniformed military personnel or officer, politicians or chief of staff of politicians (especially those in higher office), a foreign news correspondent and many others.

Graduates can apply to state or federal offices, legislative offices locally and abroad, embassies, corporate organizations, think tanks, PR firms, research centers, communications firms, consulting firms, international organizations, international media outlets, and even military bases or offices, and universities among many other industries and sectors.

What is the estimated salary outlook for graduates of the International Relations program?

The job outlook is positive for graduates, which means a return on investment on the cost of their higher education is on the horizon. From 2018 onwards, many think tanks, researchers, and job portals have observed and projected the upward annual salary trend starting with at least $92,000 going up for the average median salary for Master of IR graduates. 

Key Takeaways


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