Thursday, June 11, 2009

Career query of the week

An offbeat one!

Hi Rashmi,

There seems to be a bit of a lack on information on the scope and employment opportunities after completing International Relations. Also, JNU and Jamia are the only known universities offering the course.

I have decided to prepare for its entrances for this year with no agenda whatsoever. I just like the subject. It would be great of you to throw some light on this field, possible career avenues as well as the best universities India and abroad. So far I can only see my option in foreign affairs journalism.


I can think of IFS/ IAS and a career as a professor, as possible outcomes. One could also work for a thinktank and/or a United Nations kind of post (but there must be some route to achieve that - an IR degree is just basic groundwork).

If you have any info which can shed some light on JSB's question, do share the same in the comments!


  1. JSB must try and get volunteer work experience (UN Volunteers) under his belt first - related to the field - internships with various international organisations could also help (but they are often unpaid and he will have to fund his travel, stay and food).

    There are plenty of scholarships to do IR abroad but for that JSB must try and do as many internships in as many different places as he can to show his commitment to the field.

  2. IR is an ever expanding field and the career opportunities also depend on what you would like to specialize in-Global policy studies, middle eastern studies, south asian policy studies etc etc.

    There are a whole lot of newspapers who would love to have IR postgrads with a writing flair in their team to cover foreign affairs.But again, they need to hunt down the opportunities.

    There are MNC's who recruit IR gradIs especially if you are from JNU or an Institute of similar stature.

    Now, about UN and other International agencies-Contrary to the popular belief,its not easy to get into such agencies with an IR degree. The volunteering opportunities are equal to any postgrad from any discipline. there are specialized areas like health, communication,economics etc which might hep you to get an edge. Also, you can check in the UN website for regular employment opportunities. but those agencies hire only people with solid grounded experience with non profits, funding agencies or similar organizations(min atleast 3 years).And these days, its mostly contract positions. So its better to find out something else first and then aim for the UN job later.

    And the scope of IR in India is limited to these.Like Rashmi suggested, civil services and teaching are excellent options. But for tose who put their mind into finding something better, it is possible to find those.

  3. My opinion is that one should think beyond their degree if they really want to crack careers.
    if you think laterally, there are different opportunities for an International Relations expert. In international marketing domain, there is a demand for such experts. One has to know the basics of international marketing to get an entry into this domain.
    IT industry has a need for people with domain expert with respect to international cultures, demographics etc. For example, if you can position as a China Expert, then any business whith an interest in China will grab you.
    You can also position yourself as a deal negotiator for Export firms looking at various international markets.
    It is all about positioning yourself. Can you position yourself as an expert in IR and various countries and cultures, you will be picked up by firms that have international exposure.

    The above said careers need some amount of additional preparation but i feel it is worth it.

  4. That's more info/suggestions in 24 hours than I received in months!!
    Thanks for putting this up Rashmi.

    I am strongly inclined towards conflict, defence and strategic aspects of International relations. As for IFS, isn't the UPSC examination the only way of getting into it?

    News channels(ones I tried) aren't hiring specifically for the foreign desk till someone shows work ex in news and a relevant qualification in International Relations. Jamia has a course in Peace Studies and Conflict analysis.

    Following the suggestions mentioned here I'll be looking for internships since I have the advantage can forgoing any salary based profile for up to a year.
    Also applying at international security and defence related publications for internship.

  5. J- It will also do you good if you can talk to current students or alumni of the particular course which you are looking for. See what they are doing and evaluate yourself whether thats something which you would like to do.

    And like Harish B said its all about marketing and positioning yourself.And to get into IFS, UPSC is the only way unless you become a sudden great celebrity and they decide you have the potential to be working as an ambassador or something.But that happens in your senior years of service should you choose to continue the career.

    In addition, it would help you to learn a couple of foreign languages-minimum atleast one-UN and other jobs related to IR looks out for that.Check out the languages which they prefer.But mostly it is French,German,Spanish,Russian,Chinese etc
    Good luck with it.

  6. Thanks again.
    One lingering question that was asked in the original post as well. Are there any other known courses in this field offered by any Univ other than JNU and Jamia?

  7. J-There are other Universities which offer similar courses Pune,Jadavpur etc.but Im not sure about the validity of them in professional circles. TISS Mumbai(my alma mater) has a M A in Globalization studies.But then again, its a new course which is nascent and I cant comment on the career prospects with that.You will have to check with a current student. But TISS would give you flexibility in terms of shifting to other disciplines and making yourself more marketable.Check it out in the website if you are interested.If you are, you can mail me.Will help you with it

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  10. Jadavpur University's Post-Graduate IR course is extremely good...I know of people who have passed out of it and have been offered Common Wealth Scholarships in Toronto.

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  12. Hi Rashmi

    I'm doing a story for the Times of India on successful bloggers in India. What's a good way to get in touch with you?

  13. Hello JSB,

    I am a JNU student (PhD) with the School of International Studies (SIS) residing in a university hostel where you aspire to be this/next year. I did my M.A. in Political Science from School of Social Sciences, JNU and my M.Phil from Centre of Russian and Central Asian Studies (CRCAS), SIS, JNU. I have also documented many aspects of JNU life (see blog links at the end).

    Here are my observations on your query:

    Most people come to JNU with an eye on the UPSC CSE (yours truly included). UPSC CSE is highly unpredictable and UPSC needs reform more than any other institution today, alas! Lives are ruined therefore!

    Many People go abroad for higher studies.

    People join some NGO, INGO, media group as well. The process is not institutionalized (except for certain career oriented centres in JNU) and it is mostly individual effort looking for jobs with some inputs from your social network/contacts!

    Many aspire for lecturership and keep applying for the various posts in Delhi university and elsewhere.

    People usually aspire for all the above with UGC JRF fellowships which makes life easier.

    This campus is also a very hyped place in India; not everything here is goody goody!

    JNU admissions are dicey. Make sure you apply for the three possible courses.

    If you are a serious candidate who will not engage in UPSC and other mundane stuff and work whole heartedly, you will surely get somewhere.

    JNU is a must have experience unlike anywhere else on the planet. Must apply and join it.

    I am slightly out of the box and my views may be prejudiced. Do not believe completely everything I wrote.

    You can come to the campus sometime (if you live in Delhi) and meet me and visit the School of International Studies for anticipatory socialisation and vicarious pleasure and information. Visit my blogs on JNU life for an almost similar experience.

    You can put questions to JNU people on Orkut too (don't ask in forums; JNUites are too lazy to visit the community forums on Orkut).

    All the best for your JNU endeavours then. Ignore typos if any.

    Vikas Gupta
    JNU, New Delhi.

  14. hey. I'm pursuing my undergraduation right now in economics, and i'm interested in EXACTLY this. what kind of internships and WHERE should i be looking?

  15. This comment has been removed by the author.

  16. Hey Vikas,
    Thank you for the insight into the world of JNU....
    I will start with the fact that I somehow managed to crack the IR exam this year n mightjoin JNU

    However, at this point of time I am very confused as to where this degree will take me after my MA
    I am not interested in teaching for is out of question!!

    Secondly, I am not even sure if I will get a job after this...kindly throw some light as the only reason I applied for the couse was becauseI had pol sc in graduation and I seemed to love IR...

    one last a UK degree going to be more beneficial than an IR degree from JNU( plzzz gimme honest opinion)..I hope u have answers for my multiple , wierd queries...

  17. Hello Mehak Vasal,

    Congratulations! I suggest you join JNU without thinking much. A degree in social sciences/Arts/Humanities may not something very concrete to offer but it is worth it. It is hard to measure where it will take you. You will have to weigh your options after that. Civil Services Preparation, Media house, some NGO, INGO,exposure, GRE, research, social service, politics and the like. Above all come for the JNU experience.

    Ms Bansal is the right person for the UK vis-a-vis JNU query. You spoilt for choice!

    Visit my blog and my blogs on JNU! Hope to see you here soon.

  18. Hello vikas,
    first of all thank you for the reply. So, U think that I should join JNU...what u say certainly makes sense but UPSC though one of the most lucrative things in our country is very difficult .It is not that one should start with a pessimistic attitude but I am being realistic here... I mean u can give UPSC after doing anything...the only criteria is graduation...n even doctors make it!!plus they even havea n alternate profession if they don't..NGO might also not be an option for me...but yes Media house is definitely my kind of thing although I jst left symbiosis institute of Media and commmunication cause I did not like the couse stuructue plus I got these options !!

    Who is Ms Bansal? It would be a great help if I geta chance to speak to her....
    Vikas the situation is jst the opposite here..the choice is making me go insane as I don't know what to choose n the people around me are divided on the issue!!
    Ya I will visit ur blog...hope to see you too!!


  19. Mehak,

    See the About section in the top right of the home page of this blog and you will know who Ms Bansal is, LOL!

    UPSC is unpredictable and the exam has so many flaws. Commission after commission gives recommendations for reform but nobody cares about it.

    All the best! :)

  20. Vikas,

    he he...hw very dumb of me...My concentration was limited to the left side of the home page..ya about UPSC I couldn't agree more...I don't think there are going to be any reforms even if there are 10 commissions!!!


  21. Thanks Mehak. You are very reasonable about the UPSC despite being an Armykid! Usually people hold the UPSC and the Civil Services examination in awe! The fact is that the more average have a better chance here given so many irregularities and arbitrariness in the system! It's crying for reform and this exam is ruining the youth!

    Hope you are joining JNU!

  22. Hey Vikas...
    I cannot be unreasonable even though I am an Armykid!!Although I still don't know hw u came to know of the army I really don't want to spoil my
    U have really helped me to get a clear view on things...thank you...
    I will be joining JNU!!

  23. Mehak,

    I did an online research on you; I do it on everyone I run into!

    Welcome to JNU! Must meet me when you come; will give you many tips to avoid initial bottlenecks!

  24. Hi rashmi Bansal,
    Congratulations on your good work.
    Iam a student of engineering at Hyderabad and I would like to make a carrer shift to International Relations which is of abiding intrest to me.
    I would appreciate it if you could provide me with a detailed breakdown of the IR course as taught at the JNU.A list of textbooks and other refrence material would be of help.

    Is the MA IR course at the JNU general and extensive in nature ? would you suggest I take up specialisation in a region of intrest e.g. west Asia??

    Impatiently awaiting your most valued advice.Thank you.

  25. Hi Rashmi Bansal,
    I ardently wish to make it to the 2010 batch of MA IR at the JNU.Please help me with the entrance exam !! I would deeply appreciate it if you could give me the syllabus for the MA IR examination . A sample paper of the exam would be of great help to me . Is the entrance conducted in Hyderabad too??
    How do I go about preparing for the General knowledge section ????
    could you give me a link to the previous years question papers ??
    Your advice is of importance to me. Thank You.

  26. A big hello to everyone here

    and Hi Vikas,
    I'm glad i've found someone from JNU SIS! And this blog is really good i've never been able to get so much info on the prospects of IR.

    You ll be surprised to know i'm a physics graduate keenly interested in studying international relations. I've taken a gap year and the only thing i know is that i want to try for IR at JNU..and the only thing on my agenda is it's preparation. Like everyone here I dont now what the future prospects of this program are but i do know i will enjoy studying the subjects. And I have a social bent of mind i've been involved in stuff since school..doing socially relevant work..and i want to work for peace and development...(sounds vague i know but it's just were my heart is..)..

    I'd be grateful if u could help me in this regard..I want to know how you find your course (is it as good as it seems) and what i should do this year to add value to my CV (i want to work for the UN some time later) as im doing nothing concrete. To be a UN volunteer one must be above 25 yrs of age so that is ruled out. Most importantly, how should i prepare for the exam? I have a lot of other queries. I'm going to go to JNU some time soon is there any way that i can get in touch with you? I'd be thankful for your help.

    I've bombarded you with so much i'm sorry it's just that i really wanna do IR and i have very little information. Thanks again

    Glad to have landed on this blog.


  27. One more question vikas, does your course include any subject on cultural studies or something similar? I'd love to study different communities and cultures..something like sociology..

    Thanks :)

  28. Imtiaz and Rashi,

    You are just lucky that I am reading this! This post on this blog is rather old and you could have left a comment on my blog too to remind me about your query here! Rashmi is too busy to give any answers here!

    Will reply after some time! BTW Mehak, a commentator here, has taken admission in JNU [and probably we may even meet today]! Hope to see you guys in JNU next year!

    Imtiaz, the centre is Hyderabad too; you could have seen the prospectus on JNU website. Please do some homework yourself before asking questions!

  29. Hey thanks Vikas. Rather happy to get your reply this soon :) I'm kinda new here..will follow your instructions carefully now on!
    Hope to hear from you soon.

  30. Hi Rashi,

    Though the question is addressed to Vikas, I will drop in my two cents.Not on JNU,on UN.
    -Firstly, you can keep checking UN websites specifically of UNICEF or UNDP since they do offer many internships.And there is no age restriction in that. Particularly, I have been part of a UNICEF India Internship which is a part of its KCCI wing and I got to even coauthor an International report.
    -Secondly, while its OK to have a broad and vague idea in what you want to do as of now, since you are planning to work I would advise you to look on a specialized area which you would like to work in-Even social development projects are getting highly specialized.Say, my classmate who had been working in natural resource management for 4 years couldnt bag a prized health and development job with an Internatnl NGO despite a good educatn bkground and experience.And since you are interested in working in UN, check out their job eligibility requirements and the see the ones which need IR as one.Evaluate whether thats something which you want to do.
    -Learn a foreign language.Imperative.Im struggling now just because I didnt do it earlier.
    -Also prepared to start with a low salary structure and informal organizations.You might get lucky in landing a job with a biggie or a funding organizatn which is a different matter.
    -And most importantly, talk to IR passouts from JNU and find out what they are doing now.(Since you are interested in JNU and which Im presuming you are doing right now)Im sure Vikas would help you out on that.

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