25 Best Master's in International Relations Degrees 2020

Ranking Badge

This list presents the 25 best institutions for students pursuing a master's degree in international relations based on alumni earnings in the first year after graduation. Georgetown University ranks highest, followed closely by American Public University System, Johns Hopkins University, and Columbia University. The lowest median debt on the list is for alumni of Texas A&M-College Station.

Tuition, median salaries, and median debt were reported by the U.S. Department of Education. View our methodology for more details about these rankings or read more about the top-ranked schools.

Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Salary and debt data reported by the U.S. Department of Education
Rank School Annual Tuition Median Debt Median Salary
#1 #1 Georgetown University $50,012 $67,597 $69,700
#2 #2 American Public University System $6,600 $33,638 $64,600
#3 #3 Johns Hopkins University $55,816 $70,393 $64,600
#4 #4 Columbia University in the City of New York $48,390 $83,000 $64,000
#5 #5 Norwich University $19,360 $37,375 $63,800
#6 #6 $22,564 $39,652 $62,000
#7 #7 $30,834 $56,500 $61,200
#8 #8 $52,192 $56,426 $61,100
#9 #9 $35,724 $38,501 $60,500
#10 #10 $31,446 $72,714 $57,500
#11 #11 $21,040 $74,525 $56,100
#12 #12 $40,948 $70,001 $55,400
#13 #13 $17,890 $41,000 $52,900
#14 #14 $19,422 $44,000 $52,300
#15 #15 $28,499 $40,716 $52,100
#16 #16 $12,368 $38,825 $50,600
#17 #17 $45,426 $105,774 $47,700
#18 #18 $31,364 $30,600 $47,500
#19 #19 $38,708 $61,500 $47,500
#20 #20 $21,164 $30,147 $47,200
#21 #21 $58,968 $39,357 $46,400
#22 #22 $49,695 $83,589 $45,000
#23 #23 $46,065 $75,038 $43,200
#24 #24 $23,422 $43,250 $43,100
#25 #25 $53,572 $59,702 $42,400

2020 Best Master's Program Highlights

Median Debt
$67,597
Median Salary
$69,700

Georgetown University offers a Master of Science in Foreign Service, the university's graduate program that covers international relations, history, and economics. There are 48 units required for this master's degree; 18 units of core courses are taken in the first year, 18 units will be taken in the student's concentration, and then there are 12 units of elective courses. The concentrations students can choose from are Global Politics and Security, International Development, Global Business and Finance, and the option for a self-designed concentration.

This program allows for different kinds of degree tailoring, letting students gain knowledge in their specified interests alongside the necessary general course work. First, students can choose a concentration (the fourth concentration's openness speaks to how the program encourages students' interests). Within each concentration, there are further specializations to choose from. Then, of course, the elective classes allow students to explore various interests they may have outside of their main concentration. The master's in foreign service also requires students complete an internship. This can be done over the summer or during the academic year, and it can be a year- or semester-long internship.

Visit Georgetown University's website.

Median Debt
$33,638
Median Salary
$64,600

American Public University's Master of Arts in International Relations and Global Security is an online degree typically completed in two years. To create specialized degrees, students choose a concentration in one of these four areas: Comparative and Security Issues, Conflict Resolution, International and Transnational Security Issues, and Peacekeeping. This program has a 36-unit requirement. There are 18 units of core requirements that all international relations graduate students have in common. Then there are 12 units of courses students take in their concentration, 3 units of electives, and 3 units for the capstone project. The capstone project is a combination of research, writing, and a presentation that is completed alongside a master's project capstone seminar.

There is a military grant at American Public University that caps the per-unit cost at $250 for qualifying students (including active-duty service members, their spouses and dependents, National Guard members, and Reservists). 

Visit American Public University System's website.

Median Debt
$70,393
Median Salary
$64,600

The Master of Arts in International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University is a a two-year program completed through the School of Advanced International Studies. Students in this degree program will take 14 non-language courses and, depending on their preference, will embark on a thesis of 15,000-20,000 words or take two additional classes (one of which would entail an extensive research paper). There are also language requirements – all students must pass a proficiency exam in one of eight languages (Arabic, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Chinese). The number of language classes that must be taken, then, depends on the student's foreign language abilities going into the program. Non-native English speakers must pass the school's English proficiency test.

The master's in international affairs program has opportunities for students to go on study trips and career treks, and to engage in relevant internships.

Visit Johns Hopkins University's website.

Median Debt
$83,000
Median Salary
$64,000

The Master of International Affairs at Columbia University in the City of New York is completed through the School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). The program combines lectures with experiential learning and offers a broad range in concentration options: Economic and Political Development, Energy and Environment, Human Rights and Humanitarian Policy, International Finance and Economic Policy, International and Security Policy, and Urban and Social Policy. 

To obtain a master's in international relations, students must enroll full time and complete 54 credits in residence at SIPA and 4 residency units. In addition to choosing one of the aforementioned concentrations, students also choose one specialization from eight options, including Data Analytics and Quantitative Analysis, Management, and Gender and Public Policy. The master's in international affairs typically takes two years to complete, and students are able to engage in international immersion courses and fieldwork.

Visit Columbia University's website.

Median Debt
$37,375
Median Salary
$63,800

Located in Northfield, Vermont, Norwich College was established in 1819 and is the oldest private military college in the country. The college offers an online Master of Arts in International Relations that combines coursework with study abroad to deepen students’ understanding of economic, political, and social systems throughout the world. They develop critical thinking skills and demonstrate their ability to communicate in their native language and at least one other language.

Students can customize their degree with one of five concentrations: cyber diplomacy, international security, regions of the world, international development, or national security. Additionally, they can choose from a variety of courses such as human rights and conflict, world politics, and international terrorism. Students must also complete a master’s research paper on a topic of their choice. The master’s degree can be completed in about 18 months and requires a one-week residency at the end of the program. A total of 33 credits are required to complete the degree, and the curriculum is composed of five 11-week courses. A maximum of 12 credits can be transferred from prior coursework.

Visit Norwich University's website.

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