International Studies Careers
Established in 2009, U-M International Studies is one of the largest majors in the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, with over 1,700 accomplished alumni worldwide. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of an International Studies education, graduates pursue numerous career paths, many going on to work in corporations, non-profits, education, or government agencies, as well as progressing directly on to graduate school to pursue fields such as international affairs, law, medicine, public policy, and public health. U-M International Studies students graduate with the abilities think critically, communicate clearly, work effectively in diverse teams of people from different backgrounds, and help solve complex global problems. International Studies students have a unique international understanding of human security, economics, health, environment, and cultures around the world which positions our alumni to be truly engaged global citizens.
To get a better idea of the breadth of career paths U-M International Studies graduates pursue, explore the U-M International Studies Alumni Spotlights. Current students should also join the Program in International and Comparative Studies (PICS) LinkedIn Network to connect with PICS alumni and peers to learn what they are doing in their professional careers.
PICS is pleased to offer career exploration and professional development events for students to meet and engage with people prominent in a variety of fields throughout the academic year. Each year, PICS hosts the annual U-M International Studies Alumni Career Panel where U-M International Studies alumni come back to campus to share career advice and network with current students. We strongly encourage students to take advantage of these resources to network with other students, alumni and professionals, and explore the vast array of career and internship options open to International Studies students. Please review the PICS Events Calendar for upcoming career events. International Studies students are also encouraged to enroll in the 1-credit mini-course INTLSTD 170.001 - Network Your Way to An International Internship and Career which is a professional development course specifically tailored for International Studies major and minors.
PICS maintains a blog for external job postings, internship announcements, and funding opportunities. Postings range from seasonal employment and internships, to mid-level, full-time positions and come from a wide range of industries including but are not limited to, non-profit organizations, local businesses, and municipal, state, and federal agencies. Students are encouraged to research the company or organization before applying.
U-M Career Center and LSA Opportunity Hub
Students should plan to regularly meet with professionals at the U-M Career Center and LSA Opportunity Hub throughout their undergraduate career to start forming network connections with employers and alumni, learning about diverse job and internship opportunities, and taking advantage of professional development workshops and coaching (resume, cover letters, networking, presentation skills, etc.).
Career Quick Links
U-M Career Center Resources
- Make an appointment at the U-M Career Center
- Internship/Job Search Resources
- Find out about employers coming to campus, postings, employer presentations, etc. on Handshake
- Upcoming Career Fairs and other large events/programs
- Subscribe to Med App Canvas site (for students preparing for/applying to medical school)
- Applying to Law School
- Career Readiness Competencies for the New College Graduates
Internships are an amazing opportunity to add exciting, real-world career experience component to your LSA education. Internships may be the best way of all to test out a career field, network with working professionals, and develop marketable skills.
The LSA Opportunity Hub helps connect students with valuable domestic internships, global internships, flash internships, and global virtual internship experiences. The Hub also provides coaching to help students land internships and provides professional development workshops, so students can prepare to get the most out of their internship experiences.
There are several departments and units across the University of Michigan campus that offer internship opportunities to undergraduate students. Please review the linked "Internship Resources" to explore some of these available placements while conducting your internship search.
International Studies students specifically are encouraged to enroll in the 1-credit mini-course INTLSTD 170.001 - Network Your Way to An International Internship and Career which is a professional development course tailored uniquely for International Studies major and minors. This exceptional course will:
- provide students a pocket of time to think about their goals and passions and to think about how their time at Michigan and PICS can help them get closer to reaching these goals and passions;
- mentor and advise students as they perfect their resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, and interviewing skills;
- teach students to find and secure an international internship that aligns with their interests and area of study;
- help students network and learn how to network globally (including a focus on intercultural understanding);
- introduce students to funding resources on campus so they can afford to pursue unpaid internships; and,
- allow students to explore international careers by connecting them with alumni and first- and second-degree connections abroad.
Students also have the opportunity to secure their own internships related to International Studies which they may be able to receive academic credit for through the LSA Opportunity Hub Applied Liberal Arts (ALA) course or another U-M Department. If students are unable to receive credit through the LSA Opportunity Hub or another U-M Department, students can petition relevant internships for INTLSTD credit, but the internship credit request must be approved by PICS prior to the start of the internship. Students will then enroll in INTLSTD 399.001: International Studies Undergraduate Internship to receive credit for this independent work experience. Please reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Merit-based funding for summer research or internships abroad is available through the Program in International and Comparative Studies for declared International Studies major and minors and through the International Institute. Many internship opportunities may also offer additional funding opportunities based on the location and focus of the internship. Please review each internship posting carefully and consult with the LSA Scholarships Office and LSA Opportunity Hub to discover additional funding resources.
Finding a Job, Internship, or Graduate Program
When you’re ready to start your career path journey, start by following these steps and explore the resources below to gain helpful insight into developing and advancing your career path.
First, focus your interests.
Where do I want to work?
- Do I want to work overseas with a local organization/community/government?
- Do I want to work overseas with an international organization/cooperation/State Department?
- Do I want to work In the U.S with individuals from other countries (i.e., refugees etc.)?
- Do I want to work in the U.S for foreign affairs?
What type of work am I interested in?
- Foreign service
- NGO/ Non-profit
- Other field
Second, develop and market your skill set.
What is expected?
- Organizations will expect you to speak the language of the country you wish to travel to or the population you wish to work with.
- How have you transferred theory into practice?
- What practical experience do you have? How does that relate to your future goals?
- Going into another community without hard skills or knowledge of the culture is insulting to the community, culturally insensitive, and potentially detrimental to the work being done. Unfortunately, wanting to help and having good intentions is not enough. It is necessary to develop skills related to the issue or area you wish to work—be that corporate or non-profit.
How do I get my foot in the door?
- Americorps, Peace Corps, and Teach for America are excellent ways to gain experience in positions that you may otherwise not be qualified for—or at least unable to compete for the positions against more experienced individuals.
- Many international organizations expect at least three years of on the ground overseas experience. If, for example, Peacecorps doesn’t appeal, look for other faith-based or long-term volunteer positions that provide stipends.
- If you are interested in working in a lesser developed country, you may want to begin by working internationally in a more developed country because they generally require less background experience in the beginning.
- Network. The University of Michigan has one of the largest alumni networks in the country and a world-renowned Alumni Association. Check in with U-M Career Center and LSA Opportunity Hub to connect with individuals who are working in the field you are interested in. Most U-M alumni are very willing to reach out and guide other U-M graduates through their career search process to help students and young alumni make connections.
- Professors have a wealth of knowledge and connections. Form relationships with them by attending this office hours. Talk to them, learn from them, and apply for research positions.
- Internships, internships, and more internships! The more internship experience you can gain as an undergraduate, the better you will be positioned when applying for your first job out of college.
- Be ok with entry-level positions. You will likely not start out with your dream job or probably the most glamorous position, but this job experience will be so valuable to help you progress in your career.
- Again having proficiency in another LANGUAGE is one of the most valuable skills you can have.
- Many individuals interested in the field of International Studies will end up pursuing a graduate education at some point. Graduate programs will evaluate what kind of interesting field, internship, and volunteer experience you have that makes you unique to other applicants to the program.
Take the next steps.
- Update your resume and cover letter. Use the resources through the U-M Career Center and LSA Opportunity Hub to learn how to best position your resume and cover letter to stand out.
- Begin researching—it is important to understand what type of job you would enjoy and excel at as well as marketing yourself.
- Visit the LSA Opportunity Hub.
- Visit the U-M Career Center.
- The International Center has many ties to organizations and information about international careers.
- Helpful External Job Search Websites:
Resources for the U.S. Department of State and U.S. Government Agencies
- U.S. Department of State
- General Schedule Qualification Standards for Occupational Categories
- Presidential Management Fellowship Program
- Workforce Recruitment Program
- Charles B. Rangel International Affairs Program
- Thomas R. Pickering Foreign Affairs Fellowship
- Public Policy and International Affairs Program (PPIA) Undergraduate Fellowship
- Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
- Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
Graduate Programs in International Affairs
Are you considering a career in international and public affairs? Students who are considering applying to graduate schools should consider these highly ranked schools offering advanced degrees in the field of International Affairs.
- American University - School of International Service
- Columbia University - School of International and Public Affairs
- Georgetown University - The Edmund A. Walsh School of Foreign Service
- Johns Hopkins University - The Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies
- Princeton University - The Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
- Tufts University - The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy
There are many schools that offer graduate programs in international affairs. Please review a listing of graduate programs through the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs to explore some additional options for a graduate education in international affairs.
For additional information, please review the Importance of a Graduate Degree in International Affairs.