Best International Relations Schools

Updated on January 3, 2024

International relations is an interdisciplinary field focused on the interactions between countries. An international relations degree equips students with knowledge of history, politics, economics, and law to analyze complex global issues. Many of the top schools for international relations place emphasis on language skills, cultural understanding, and study abroad opportunities.

When researching the best international relations schools, important factors to consider include academics, real-world experience opportunities, career outcomes, admissions selectivity, faculty expertise, research output, and global/cultural offerings. Highly ranked programs tend to have robust internship programs, international coursework, prestigious faculty, and notable alumni working worldwide.

Georgetown University

Location: Washington, D.C.

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Avg SAT Score: 1495

Tuition: $57,720


Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service is widely considered one of the top international relations baccalaureate programs globally. The school takes an interdisciplinary approach combining history, politics, cultures, religions, languages, and economics into its curriculum. Over 2,500 students are enrolled across undergraduate and graduate programs focused on international affairs. Georgetown is located in Washington D.C. giving students direct access to diplomats, think tanks, international organizations, and government agencies.

Stanford University

Location: Stanford, CA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 4%

Avg SAT Score: 1540

Tuition: $57,699


Stanford University’s top-ranked program offers a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in International Policy Studies administered by the Stanford Global Studies division. Stanford’s program is highly interdisciplinary, allowing students to concentrate in areas like comparative politics, development studies, and more. The program also has a strong emphasis on language acquisition, cultural understanding, and study abroad. Over 25% of undergraduates participate in the Bing Overseas Studies Program.

Harvard University

Location: Cambridge, MA

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 5%

Avg SAT Score: 1540

Tuition: $55,865


Harvard offers exceptional international relations programs across disciplines like government, economics, history, and diplomacy. Undergraduates can concentrate in International Relations, Politics, or Economics. Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government is also highly acclaimed for public policy and international affairs at the graduate level. Harvard graduates have an incredible global network and often go on to leadership roles in politics, non-profits, academia, and international organizations like the United Nations and World Bank.

Columbia University

Location: New York, NY

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 6%

Avg SAT Score: 1560

Tuition: $64,530


Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) is widely considered one of the best international relations graduate programs. It offers interdisciplinary Master’s degrees in areas like Development Practice, Economic and Political Development, Energy and Environment, Human Rights, and International Security Policy. Undergraduates can also major/concentrate in Political Science with a Global Focus. Columbia’s New York City location provides access to the United Nations, think tanks, cultural institutions, international corporations, and non-governmental organizations.

Tufts University

Location: Medford, MA

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 15%

Avg SAT Score: 1495

Tuition: $63,440


The Fletcher School at Tufts University is the oldest graduate school of international affairs in the United States.Fields of study include international security studies, international negotiation and conflict resolution, economic issues and development,human security, humanitarian studies and human rights, global business,law and diplomacy, politics,and international environment and resource policy. Students can pursue a Ph.D., Master’s, or joint degree with Harvard University.

Johns Hopkins University

Location: Baltimore, MD

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Avg SAT Score: 1510

Tuition: $55,350


Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) offers graduate degrees focused on international relations, economics, conflict management, and emerging markets like China and Latin America. Its Washington D.C. campus provides access to international agencies and NGOs. Over 2/3rds of SAIS graduates work in foreign policy research, governments, IGOs, and global development groups after graduation.

University of California – Berkeley

Location: Berkeley, CA

Rating: 8/10

Acceptance Rate: 17%

Avg SAT Score: 1425

Tuition (in-state): $14,226


UC Berkeley is regarded as the top public university for International Relations on the West Coast. Its Political Science program offers BA, MA and PhD pathways with concentrations in Comparative Politics, International Relations Theory, and International Political Economy. The curriculum covers foreign policy, global policymaking, and economic/security issues between states. Over 30% of Berkeley undergraduates gain international experience abroad during their studies.

University of Oxford

Location: Oxford, England

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 14%

Tuition: £9,250-26,405 ($11,700 – 33,860)


The University of Oxford is one of Europe’s oldest and most prestigious universities. Several of its colleges offer world-class one year Master’s programs related to international relations, including the MPhil in International Relations, MSc in Global Governance and Diplomacy, MSc in Contemporary India, and MSc in Modern South Asian Studies. Students have access to the Bodleian Library system, one of the oldest library systems in Europe.

London School of Economics

Location: London, England

Rating: 10/10

Acceptance Rate: 7%

Tuition: £10,536- £22,440 ($13,500 – 28,750)


The London School of Economics (LSE) is regarded as one of the world’s elite social science universities. Its Department of International Relations is top-ranked worldwide across all university rankings systems. LSE international relations graduates often become leaders in politics, diplomacy, journalism, business, and global organizations like the UN, NATO, World Bank, and more.

Sciences Po (Paris Institute for Political Studies)

Location: Paris, France

Rating: 9/10

Acceptance Rate: 13%

Tuition: €14,000 ($15,070)


Founded in 1872, the historic Sciences Po (officially the Paris Institute for Political Studies) has educated many renowned French politicians and diplomats. The School of International Affairs at Sciences Po offers highly selective and globally-focused BA, MA, and Ph.D. programs concentrated in history, law, economics, sociology, and political science. Instruction is multilingual with courses taught in French, English, and other languages.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What can you do with an International Relations degree?

International Relations majors have diverse career options in foreign service, intergovernmental organizations, journalism, business, advocacy groups, research institutions, law, and more. An IR degree equips graduates with skills for analyzing complex global issues and communicating across cultures.

What jobs are in demand for International Relations majors?

In-demand jobs include foreign service officer, foreign affairs analyst, international aid worker, human rights officer, policy advisor, journalist, international business specialist, immigration/customs agent, import/export specialist, translator, tour guide manager, and more.

What skills do you need to study International Relations?

Key skills include research, critical thinking, writing, oral communication, data analysis, cultural awareness, and language abilities. Coursework also covers geography, sociology, economics, history, law, and political theory from a global context.

Should I get a Master’s degree in International Relations?

A Master’s degree is preferred for most careers dealing with cross-border policy research, diplomacy, global development, and intergovernmental organizations. An advanced degree allows further specialization in areas like security, world economy, and international law.

What are typical International Relations courses?

Typical courses cover global history, microeconomics, world politics, and introduction to international relations theory. Students also take upper-level electives like comparative politics, American foreign policy, international political economy, European Union politics, Chinese politics, and conflict resolution.

What countries have top International Relations schools?

The USA, UK, France, China, Singapore, Australia, Russia, Switzerland, Spain, Canada, and the Netherlands have highly ranked International Relations schools. Leading university cities include London, Paris, Beijing, Boston, New York City, Los Angeles, Shanghai, Geneva, Moscow and more.

Should I study or intern abroad for International Relations?

Yes, study abroad and international internships are extremely valuable. These experiences build cross-cultural communication, language skills, adaptability, problem-solving abilities, and global networks essential for International Relations careers.

What math and statistics are required for international relations?

International relations students should take introductory statistics to analyze global datasets plus microeconomics and macroeconomics. Econometrics, calculus, and data analytics like R and Python are also useful for graduate programs and data-focused careers.

How can I get involved on campus for an International Relations major?

Relevant activities include Model United Nations, student government, political science club, international relations journal, foreign language club, global mentoring program, and culture/geography club. Joining related organizations builds subject knowledge, leadership abilities, and professional connections.

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