Unlike medical school, none of these different types of schools has a very specific set of undergraduate requirements. In fact you can quite reasonably apply to all these of them at the same time with the same set of undergraduate courses, although you will wind up taking a lot of different standardized tests. This in turn means that you don't have to make any drastic choices until your senior year.

For any of these tracks, a general liberal arts background is probably the best preparation. A pre-professional degree such as business may make you somewhat less attractive but will not be a major obstacle if you do well on your standardized tests. Within liberal arts, your major is probably irrelevant, which is unfortunate since it's one of the few things you can control. You should major in the subject you like the most; you will do better in it, and you'll learn more.

There is no formal international relations major at Rutgers. Most students find they can get the courses they want by majoring in one discipline and minoring in another, related one; Political Science-History and Economics-Political Science are common combinations. There is also a combined history-Political Science major. Double majors in related areas are usually not worth the trouble because students with such programs have no room for anything else, which is silly in a liberal arts institution. (A double major makes sense only in areas with very little intellectual connection; several years ago a student double majored in Political Science and dance, for example.)

The point of a major is to provide an intellectual focus for a number of courses. An interesting alternative to the usual disciplinary major is the individual major, in which students select their own central topic, choose courses from a number of disciplines related to it, get a faculty member to supervise it, and get it approved by the appropriate committee. This is often useful, although it tends to be a little cumbersome bureaucratically, since you have to list all your courses for the rest of your college career, and then every semester some of them aren't offered or you change your mind, so you have to fill out a substitute form and get it approved. The approval is routine, but it all takes time and effort. The pattern of the Latin American studies major in the catalog is a useful guide for anyone who wants to construct an individual major in international affairs.

However, majors are not really very important; the critical thing is to get experience in a number of different areas and be able to read, write, and think well. A student seriously interested in international relations should develop a curriculum which includes the following as a minimum:

  1. Proficiency in writing English by consistently taking courses, regardless of discipline, which require paper writing;
  2. Mathematical skills, preferably through calculus;
  3. Introductory and advanced history courses;
  4. Relevant courses in Political Science;
  5. Economics at least through international economics (which will include micro and macro), preferably through international trade and finance; and
  6. Mastery of at least one foreign language, through 300 level language and literature courses.
In addition, there are a number of options which individual students may also wish to consider. One is an in-depth knowledge of a particular geographic area; the Rutgers catalog describes majors or minors in Latin American, Middle Eastern, Oriental, African, Asian, and Soviet and Eastern European studies. Cook College has a number of courses about the international environment. The language houses offer an excellent way to develop a working knowledge of a foreign language, a rather unusual ability in the United States. Disciplines like sociology, geography, comparative literature, classics, art history, philosophy, religion, and the various foreign language and literatures should not be overlooked, and people who are competent in science and international affairs are also at a premium. In general a diverse curriculum is more likely to be useful in the future than narrow specialization; you can specialize later if you choose, but at the undergraduate level it is very difficult to get any single topic in great depth.

Lastly, don't be afraid to ask questions of the faculty and other professionals such as the people at Career Counseling. If they really didn't like students, they probably would be in different jobs.



  • Guide to Careers in World Affairs. Foreign Policy Association, New York.
  • Kocher, Eric, International Jobs: Where They Are and How to Get Them. Addison-Wesley Publishing Company.
  • Phillips, David Atlee, Careers in Secret Intelligence.
  • Rossman, Marlene L., The International Businesswoman. Greenwood Press.
  • Volunteer! The Comprehensive Guide to Voluntary Service Abroad. Council on International Educational Exchange, New York.
  • Win, David, International Careers. Williamson Publishing Company.
  • Wise, David, "Campus Recruiting and the CIA," New York Times Magazine, June 8, 1986.
  • Work, Study, Travel Abroad: The Whole World Handbook. Council on International Educational Exchange, New York