Areas of employment in the international affairs field can be categorized into public (government), private (business) and non profit/NGO. It's a comprehensive, multidisciplinary field for people who are interested in issues such as human rights, international policy, security, global ethics and conflicts, global health, international development, and international trade. Employment in the public sector can include working on capital hill or for the federal government at, for instance, US Customs and Border Protection. In the private sector, you might work in international development management consulting, in an international business department of a multinational company, or as a political risk analyst for a lobbying firm. In the non profit realm, you might work for a service organization in the US or abroad focused on humanitarian relief, at a think tank conducting research on international issues, or on the ground with an NGO. The Association of Professional Schools in International Affairs provides an excellent and extensive career overview, for even more information.
Study abroad, foreign language study and international experiences can help you be competitive in your career pursuits. Interning, volunteering, and/or conducting research while you are at Columbia is also important. Internship experiences often help you confirm your career interests, give you hands-on experience in a professional setting, help build your resume, reinforce in class learning, and can often lead to full-time employment. Agencies from the European Commission to the U.S. Department of State offer internship opportunities for students. Likewise, pursuing research opportunities on campus can also help enrich your resume. The Weatherhead East Asian Institute, for instance, offers research and internship opportunities for current students.
Graduate school is one of the many possibilities following graduation. Many graduates go on to pursue degrees in political science, public administration, public policy, business administration, journalism, law, and other social sciences. For students interested in pursuing a career in think tanks, having an advanced degree is an essential step.
Obtaining a fellowship is also a highly regarded pathway towards employment, especially at a multinational organization. Fellowships vary in scope and can be conducted locally or internationally, but all involve intensive research or practicums that prepare students for further study and employment. The Office of Fellowships, a subsidiary of Columbia’s Office of Global Programs, is one office on campus that aids students and alumni searching for fellowship opportunities. A short list of relevant fellowships are listed below:
- American India Foundation Clinton Fellowship for Service
- Bosch Foundation Fellowships
- Carnegie Endowment for International Peace Junior Fellowships
- Eesti and Eurasian Public Service Fellowship
- Institute for Human Studies Koch Summer Fellowships
- Institute of Current World Affairs Fellowships
- Pickering Graduate Foreign Affairs Fellowships
- Scoville Peace Fellowships
- United Nations University Junior Fellows Programme
Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) offers world-class resources regarding career opportunities in international affairs. The Career Overview factsheets describe qualifications and hiring processes for a variety of international careers.
- LionSHARE hosts a wealth of opportunities for students and alumni. Under the job search tab, try key word searching ‘international.’ You can also use the Employer Directory tab to search for lists of organizations that have posted in the past. Many have open positions on their web sites.
- CCE Internship Programs - The Center for Career Education offers several unique opportunities, including Columbia Experience Overseas, that allow you to explore your career interests all over the world and develop key professional skills that will make you attractive to prospective employers and help you be successful.
- CCE's International Resources page - There are many opportunities for an international experience outside your home country during or after your college career. To obtain an experience abroad (volunteer, research, fellowship, internship, or full-time), it is helpful to be open-minded to various aspects of the experience including: location, duration, payment, and types of positions. The Center for Career Education has compiled a selection of resources to help you navigate this process.
- CCE’s Fall and Spring Career Fairs, Engineering Consortium Career Fair (Fall), and Startup Career Fair (Spring), are focused on connecting Columbia students and alumni with employers hiring for internship and full time positions. Organizations that have attended include the Council on Foreign Relations, US Peace Corps, IBM Consulting Group, and Central Intelligence Agency.
- Going Global - One of the best online resources available for learning about transnational opportunities, foreign hiring practices, and domestic, city-specific employment information. Log in with your UNI and password.
- UNI World - Two distinct directories offering both american firms operating in foreign countries as well as foreign firms operating in the United States to assist with your international job search. Log in with your UNI and password.
- Vault and WetFeet are excellent career resources on industries and organizations and can be accessed for free via CCE. Vault’s list of nonprofit resources and associations and Wetfeet’s Insider Guide to Careers in Nonprofit are very informative. Log in with your UNI and password.
- Columbia alumni: Columbia has a strong alumni network, many of whom participate in our career fairs, panels, intern programs, and professionals in residence talks throughout the year. To learn more, visit Connect with Alumni. Read profiles and advice from Columbia alumni who worked or are working in international affairs:
Below are some examples of employers that recruit Columbia students and alumni:
- Africa Outlook
- Amnesty International
- Clinton Health Access Initiative
- Human Rights Watch
- Foundation for Global Collaboration and Peace
- Pencils of Promise
- Organization for Refuge, Asylum & Migration
- Sierra Club
- International Rescue Committee
- UN World Food Programme
- World Health Organization
- World Vision
- US Agency for International Development
- Department of State
- Department of Commerce
- Department of Justice
- Department of Agriculture
- World Bank
- NYC Mayor's Office of International Affairs
- The Aspen Institute
- The Rand Corporation
- Mathematica Policy Research
- The Center for Global Development
- Urban Institute
- International Institute for Sustainable Development
- Overseas Development Institute
- Foreign Policy Initiative
- Council on Foreign Relations
- Columbia’s student-run organizations offer ways to explore career options, gain experience, and network. Groups relevant to the field include Columbia UNICEF, Columbia University Global Brigades, Columbia International Relations Council and Association (CIRCA), and Engineers without Borders.
- Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) offers world-class resources regarding career opportunities in international affairs. The Career Overview factsheets describe qualifications and hiring processes for a variety of international careers.
- Various campus centers, such as the Earth Institute, the Global Centers, and the Institute for the Study of Human Rights, also provide opportunities for students to become involved in international affairs.
- Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs
- Young Professionals in International Affairs
- Young Nonprofit Professional Network
- National Council of Nonprofit Organizations
- Washington Global Health Alliance
Additional Resources & Job Boards
- A - Z resources for defense and international relations gov't agencies and organizations
- Peace & Collaborative Development Network
- Foreign Affairs
- International Career Employment Weekly
- Global Jobs
Last updated November 2014