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International Relations

International Relations is the study of the global interactions between states, non-state actors, and economic and social structures and processes. International Relations is an interdisciplinary subject within the social sciences and humanities, enabling students to develop an in-depth understanding of global issues through an education grounded in many academic disciplines, but especially Economics, History, and Political Science.

Get experience at UBC

Building your career takes more than attending academic lectures. Get involved with research and complement your studies with relevant research and applied experiences. Whether you choose one of the experiences listed below or one of the many other great opportunities available, you’ll learn new things, make new friends, network, and set yourself apart. It all counts.

International Relations Student Association (IRSA)

Get involved with IRSA, one of the most active student organizations on campus! The Association organizes numerous annual activities including lectures, a journal, Model UN and NATO delegations, and social events for anyone across the campus interested in international relations. 

Go Global 

Imagine studying about peace and conflict in Israel, learning about the international economy in Switzerland, or speaking Italian in Venice.  From exchange to internships and global seminars, check out the range of international experiences.

Our recommended exchange destinations include, but are not limited to:

  • Australian National University, AUSTRALIA
  • University of Sydney, AUSTRALIA
  • Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, CHILE
  • Fudan University, CHINA
  • University of Nottingham Ningbo, CHINA
  • University of Delhi, INDIA
  • Osaka University, JAPAN
  • University of Tokyo, JAPANTec de Monterrey, MEXICO
  • University of Amsterdam, NETHERLANDS
  • University of Auckland, NEW ZEALAND
  • National Taiwan University, TAIWAN
  • Ewha Women’s University, SOUTH KOREA

Learn more about international opportunities recommended by the International Relations department.

Arts Co-op Program

Gaining paid, full-time, relevant experience will help you explore career options in non-profit organizations, government, and the private sector across Canada and abroad. Completing a co-op term with a Canadian government department like the Bank of Canada or Stats Canada can also put you on a fast track for a career in the public service. Graduate with career skills, experience, and a network of professional contacts that will give you a competitive edge after graduation.

Arts Internship Program

To build a career, you need to get relevant work experience. The Arts Internship Program has created part-time, unpaid internships designed with IR students in mind, including opportunities at local think tanks, and social service and non-profit organizations. This program offers you the ability to use the skills acquired through your studies to find what you are passionate about, explore industry opportunities and gain valuable experience. 

Community experience

Work and learn in community settings like non-profits, inner city schools and government. Take a course with a community-based experiential learning component and develop community development, research, policy, decision making and career skills.  Whether it’s a course or signing up for Trek & Reading Week placements, International Service Learning or a grant project in community, you’ll build skills in real-world settings and make invaluable connections with people in community.

Student directed seminars

Student Directed Seminars put you in charge of your education. Participate in or initiate and coordinate small, collaborative, group learning experiences. You can develop a course on a topic you're passionate about, like these past seminars: Trade, Environment and Human Rights; International Relations of the Middle East; and The United Nations and Diplomacy.

Using your degree

Students in International Relations develop the core reading, research and analytical skills necessary to critically assess the dynamics and history of international politics, evaluate complex and pressing global issues such as warfare and civil conflict, the environment and poverty, and contribute to the formulation of creative and innovative ways to conduct diplomacy in a world of limited resources.

Career possibilities

Career options abound for IR graduates in so many diverse fields. This list is not exhaustive and does not explore the full range of career pathways available, but hopefully starts the exploration process.


Are you interested in working for an international organization such as the United Nations or for your country’s government as a diplomat? International Relations is a great place to start that career path.

Non Governmental Organization (NGO)

Be part of the operations of non-profit public organizations that deal with a broad range of international activities, from public health and conflict resolution, to human rights and the environment.

International Law

International Relations prepares students for careers in international law: those rules that govern the behaviour of states and their leaders.

More possibilities

Political Aide
Public Relations Specialist
Event Planner
Market Researcher/Analyst
Diplomat/Embassy Officer
Financial Planner/Advisor
Foreign Aid Worker
Public Policy Analyst
Human Rights Officer
Labour Relations Mediator
Intelligence Agent
Media Analyst/Researcher
Policy Advisor/Researcher
Speech Writer
Foreign Service Officer
Labour Organizer/Negotiator
Community Relations Specialist
Community Worker
Immigration Officer
University Relations Advisor
Social Compliance Analyst

Academic possibilities

An International Relations degree prepares graduates for further study in:

  • Public and International Affairs
  • Global Affairs
  • Foreign or Public Policy
  • Business Administration
  • Law

Alumni profiles

Anran Luo

Anran Luo shares the career benefits of her Arts Internship with an environmental advocacy group. “I have always had an interest in sustainability,” she says, “but this internship has opened my eyes to the types of job opportunities in the environmental sector. ” 

Caroline Durran

Hailing from Toronto, Caroline Durran was initially drawn to UBC by the strength of its International Relations program. When asked how an Arts degree had prepared her for life after graduation, Caroline said “An Arts degree is incredibly valuable because it really teaches you how to think.”

Julia Harrison

Julia Harrison’s  Co-op experience  allowed her the opportunity to explore many industries on a local, national and international scale, from non-profit to government. Julia has since accepted an offer to work for NATO in Brussels where she will be helping to coordinate countries’ responses to natural disasters and chemical, biological, and nuclear disasters.