International relations studies foreign affairs and issues among nations, international bodies and non-governmental organizations. It is an interdisciplinary field of study that draws from political science, history, economics, sociology, public administration, and sociology. Students of international affairs study world economic relations, terrorism, diplomacy, international development, global ecology and much more. In 2008, the Foreign Policy Association, a nonprofit organization dedicated to greater understanding of world affairs, ranked the top graduate programs in international relations in the United States.

American University School of International Service (SIS)

Located in Washington, D.C., American University’s SIS is the largest school of international relations in the United States. The school’s interdisciplinary approach to world affairs allows it to offer a wider range of graduate degrees than other programs in international relations. SIS boasts more than a dozen graduate degree tracks, allowing students to specialize in regional studies, global environmental politics, international development, economic relations, conflict resolution, and American foreign policy, among other areas. In addition, the school offers dual master’s degrees that combine international relations with business, teaching, law, and theological studies. SIS’s location in the nation’s capital provides ready access to internships and other opportunities in the federal government’s foreign policy establishment.

John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

For the aspiring professional in international development and relief of global poverty, Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is the place to be. The school’s newest degree program is a two-year course of study leading to a Master of Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID). Harvard describes the degree as economics-centered, with rigorous training in policy and quantitative methods. The program is designed for men and women interested in careers in international development rather than for aspiring academics.

New York University Center for Global Affairs

NYU’s Center for Global Affairs offers a Master of Science in Global Affairs. The school’s faculty includes international lawyers, journalists specializing in world affairs, and senior professionals from non-governmental organizations. In addition to the master’s degree, NYU offers a rigorous certificate program in global affairs for working professionals who wish to expand their knowledge of international issues.

The Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS)

With campuses in Washington, D.C.; Bologna, Italy; and Nanjing, China, SAIS allows students to study international relations in an international setting. The school’s Master of Arts in international relations requires two years of study, including study of a foreign language. SAIS also has a Master of International Public Policy degree geared toward professionals in business, government and journalism who wish to undertake intensive study in world affairs.

Honorable Mentions

Other top international relations programs cited by the Foreign Policy Association include the following: the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University; Stanford University; Tufts University; the University of California, San Diego; and the University of Colorado, Boulder.