As nations become more interdependent, and world issues gain importance for the U.S., the demand for college graduates with a strong background in international affairs has only increased. Likewise, jobs in foreign and domestic organizations, agencies and business have also expanded.

To meet this need, CU Boulder offers a comprehensive and flexible interdisciplinary undergraduate program in international affairs. It is an energetic and academically challenging program that provides students with an understanding of the world stage.

Majoring in International Affairs has taught me how to critically think about a diverse set of topics and apply my knowledge to real world situations. I feel well equipped to make complex arguments about many of the problems we face today."

Rachel Ensign ('19)

Are you interested in global or world issues? What about an interdisciplinary program that lets you follow your global interests? If so, then International Affairs might be a good choice for a major.

The International Affairs Program is an interdisciplinary program that has grown to become one of the largest majors in the College of Arts and Sciences. It is an energetic and academically challenging undergraduate program that provides students with an understanding of the world stage.

As a major, students take courses in political science, economics, history, anthropology, geography, and business. In addition, they become well acquainted with at least one selected region of the world outside of the United States and attain proficiency in one of the languages of that region, as well as familiarity with its cultural and political activities. Regions of concentration include Africa/Middle East, Asia, Europe/Eurasia and Latin America.

Overall, the undergraduate degree in international affairs emphasizes knowledge and awareness of:

  • major political, economic, social and ­cultural problems facing the international community, including international economic relations, world population and ­resource utilization;
  • the international political system in the broadest global context, international organizations and alliances and foreign political systems and processes;
  • ethical issues involved in international relations;
  • patterns of conflict and ­cooperation among nations and peoples;
  • chief historical factors that give rise to existing international institutions and processes; and
  • problems and issues in United States foreign policy.

In addition, students completing the degree in international affairs are expected to acquire the ability and skills to:

  • analyze an international problem from a political, economic, historical and cultural perspective;
  • read, critically evaluate and synthesize information obtained from international affairs literature;
  • analyze international phenomena critically;
  • communicate, orally and in writing, findings to other students of international affairs and to a broader audience; and
  • communicate in other cultural contexts through advanced foreign language study.

For the undergraduate students pursuing a degree from the International Affairs Program and interested in research or scholarly work, there are a number of opportunities beyond just class work:

  • Students in international affairs are strongly encouraged to consider the possibility of participating in one of the Study Abroad programs affiliated with the University of Colorado. Students wishing to participate in such a program should contact their advisor to work out an appropriate program.
  • Internships are a useful experience for students seeking a career in international affairs. The Internship in International Affairs provides the opportunity to earn academic credit for appropriate internships in the field. This course is generally offered during the spring and fall semesters and during summer sessions. Interested sophomores, juniors or seniors should consult with the director of the Internship Program. An application is required for admission to the Internship Program. For more details, see the International Affairs Program website.
  • The Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program (UROP) offers students a chance to work alongside a faculty sponsor on original research. Learn to write proposals, conduct research, pursue creative work, analyze data, and present the results. For more information, call UROP at 303-492-2596 or visit the UROP website.
  • The International Affairs Honors Program offers the opportunity to learn and apply research skills for a select number of majors. Entry into the International Affairs Honors Program is limited to seniors with a 3.40 major GPA and a 3.30 overall GPA. The Honors Seminar in International Affairs provides instruction in research methods and facilitates the development of a sound research project. Research continues into the spring semester under the guidance of individual faculty members and through the continuation course. Interested and eligible students should consult with their academic advisor and the director of the Honors Program before spring break of their junior year. An application is required for admission to the Honors Program. For more details, see the International Affairs Program website.
  • Students interested in international affairs may want to consider the Global Studies Residential Academic Program offered through the residence halls. See Residential Academic Programs for information.

The International Affairs Program prepares students for a variety of careers in places like the federal government, international organizations and agencies, international nonprofit organizations, international businesses and for public service like the Peace Corps.     

If you plan to continue your education in graduate school, the program provides an excellent background that permits you to pursue postgraduate study in international relations, political science, economics, history, area studies, law, international management and journalism.

Career Services offers free services for all CU Boulder degree-seeking students, and alumni up to one year after graduation, to help students discover who they are, what they want to do, and how to get there. They are the bridge between academics and the world of work by discussing major and career exploration, internship or job searching, and graduate school preparation. 

According to the 2019-20 College Salary Report by PayScale Human Capital:

  • The median salary for someone with a bachelor’s degree in International Relations and 0-5 years of experience is $58,000; and
  • The median salary for 10-plus years of experience, $86,100.

International Affairs Payscale

The estimated median salaries, as reported on Tableau, for International Affairs graduates for 1 to 5, 6 to 10, and over 11 years out from school.

At CU Boulder, International Affairs graduates earn roughly the same amount as the nationwide average of comparable majors as reported by PayScale. CU Boulder alumni in this discipline earn an estimated annual salary of $87,381, based on a pool of 1916 alumni who graduated between 1989 and 2018. This amount is also roughly the same as the average for all CU Boulder graduates with a bachelor's degree, according to a survey by Esmi Alumni Insight of 25,000 alumni who graduated during the same stretch.

Job growth in some fields related to international affairs, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projections for 2016-2026, is faster than the average for all jobs, including: management consulting, 12 percent; and political science, 21 percent.

The International Affairs program has an extensive list of alumni that are either working or have worked in a variety of industries across the globe. Some alumni of the program include:

  • Mary Ann Casey ('70), former U.S. Ambassador to Algeria and Tunisia, is chair of the Program in International Affairs Advisory Board at CU Boulder.
  • Steve McCarthy ('80) is chairman and CEO of Além International, an experiential marketer, creator and producer of special events. He has consulted on, developed or coordinated and executed the torch relays for every Olympic Games since 1996.
  • Joshua Levine ('97) is head of the global investment firm BlackRock Alternative Specialists, Americas, and serves on the CU Boulder Program in International Affairs Advisory Board.
  • Kelly Bendelow ('08) is an associate protection officer stationed in Ethiopia with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. She started with UNCHR in 2009 as a resettlement intern.