International relations is the study of relations between states and relations among other actors that extend across state boundaries. These relations comprise multiple phenomena that shape today’s world: trade and finance, armed conflict, migration, law, environmental issues, health challenges and more. International interactions and globalization have never been more extensive, making international relations a critical area of study and the major uniquely valuable to students with a wide array of interests.

Students graduating with a degree in international relations (IR) have the skills and knowledge to grasp international events from theoretical, empirical, and historical perspectives. For example, IR majors can conceptualize protests in the Middle East using theories of coercion and politics within authoritarian governments, while placing current protests in context with the history of protests in the Middle East and elsewhere. In addition to gaining skills and knowledge with broad applicability, each IR major gains an in-depth understanding of a particular aspect of international relations.

Why Study at Iowa

As an international relations student, you'll be taught by leading scholars in political science, history, geography, and other fields. You'll be able to choose from four areas of emphasis to meet your interests, and you'll benefit from a variety of opportunities to engage actively with contemporary world affairs, including by working directly with faculty members on international research.

Distinguished alumni with careers in diplomacy, international law or business and other related fields frequently teach courses and give guest lectures. Opportunities abound for Iowa students to attend talks by major international figures in virtually every field.

Course Work

Students majoring in international relations earn a Bachelor of Arts (BA) or a Bachelor of Science (BS) degree. Students in both programs will take a wide variety of courses in political science, history, geography, and global health. Students in the BS program focus on research and take additional courses in math and statistics.

Whether you earn a BA or a BS, you'll take these courses:

  • Introduction to International Relations
  • International Conflict
  • Politics of International Economics
  • Western Civilization III, World Since 1945, or History of International Conflict & Cooperation since 1900
  • Understanding Political Research
  • International Relations Senior Seminar
  • Five courses in one of the following four emphasis areas:
    • Conflict & Foreign Policy
    • International Business & Economic Relations
    • Regional Politics & Relationships
    • Transnational Issues

If you're a BS student, you will also take three mathematics and statistics courses as a foundation for your research skills.

To learn more about the major and graduating with honors, visit the International Relations website or see International Relations in the UI General Catalog.

Teaching Licensure

If you are interested in teaching, consult with your academic adviser to prepare to apply to the College of Education's Teacher Education Program.

Minor in International Relations

See international relations in the UI General Catalog.

Admission Requirements

Students in this major need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to having nearly 500 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

International relations majors are particularly encouraged to complete some of their requirements by researching Study Abroad Programs. Iowa students can take advantage of numerous programs related to each of the major’s emphasis areas in all world areas. They should contact the International Programs Office early in their studies to begin selecting a program.

A wide array of internationally focused centers and programs at the university generates special events for students interested in international relations. They include the African Studies Program, the Confucius Institute, the Global Health Studies Program, the European Studies Program, the Latin American Studies Program, the Center for Asian and Pacific Studies, the Caribbean, Diaspora and Atlantic Studies Program, and the South Asian Studies Program.


Internships related to international relations are readily available. Students are encouraged to serve as interns, particularly in government-related internships. The Pomerantz Career Center has information about and connections with internship programs in Washington, D.C. and around the world.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

The international relations program is supervised by the Department of Political Science, which is housed in Schaeffer Hall. Schaeffer Hall contains two ITC computer centers providing access to InfoHawk, the University of Iowa Libraries’ electronic catalog; the university’s online student information system; and Dasher, which offers world language practice drills.

International relations faculty members are drawn from internationally renowned experts in the departments of political science, history, and geography. Their investigations lead to important findings shared through prolific publications in scholarly journals, books, and other outlets. They serve on professional boards of national and international significance. They travel frequently to other countries for their research and maintain an array of international collaborations.


Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100 percent, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

Because international relations and the international community are so important, a major in international relations is an excellent choice for any student considering a career in either the public or private sector, including the diplomatic service, intelligence organizations, multinational corporations, non-governmental organizations, international organizations, think tanks, public health agencies, the media, and numerous other professions.  The IR major also prepares students well to pursue post-baccalaureate degrees such as the JD, MA, or PhD.


The Office of Admissions, the Office of Student Financial Aid, and the departmental website are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


International Relations (BA)
International Relations (BS)
International Relations
Teaching Licensure
in Social Science
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan