International Studies Advising Guide
What is International Studies?
The International Studies major is a rigorous interdisciplinary program designed for students who wish to build a solid foundation for a career in international affairs. The program combines language fluency, history, geography, political science, philosophy, and more. The faculty participating in the major is drawn from the departments of Anthropology, Communication, Foreign Languages and Literatures, Geography, History, Marketing, Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, and Visual Arts.
These courses of study are designed to prepare students for work and life in an increasingly interconnected world. The major is well-suited to students interested in careers in such rapidly growing sectors as international business, law, media, governmental and non-governmental organizations concerned with diplomacy, policy-making, global justice, sustainability, public health, peace, relief operations, immigration, and the environment.
Career Opportunities in International Studies
Students who study international studies are prepared to enter a wide variety of fields, and many continue on to graduate school or law school. Some career opportunities include:
- Communications specialists
- Congressional staffer
- Diplomacy careers
- Foreign service officers
- Foreign study coordinators
- Foreign exchange specialists
- Hospitality industry specialist
- Human rights associates
- International global activists
- International news writers/journalists
- International sales representatives/managers
- International security specialists
- International trade specialists
- International student advisors
- Marketing analysts
- Multiculturalism experts
- Museum and cultural arts personnel
- Philanthropic agency officer/manager
- Political analysts
- Program officers/managers for international non-profit organizations and non governmental organizations
- Public relations careers
- Research assistants
- Social studies and foreign language teachers
- Teachers of English as a second language
- Travel and tourism
Salary Trends in International Studies
Unlike more vocationally-oriented majors, such as majors in business, engineering,
or the health professions, A&S majors tend to study a greater range of topics outside
of their immediate major area. This greater breadth provides an interdisciplinary
perspective that complements the more linear education in the student’s major area.
As a result, A&S majors are compatible with a wide-range of career options. A large 2012 survey of employers found that 81% of employers will consider any degree, so most employers do not require a specific degree. So A&S majors typically find post-graduate employment at rates comparable to more vocationally-specific degrees, Furthermore, longitudinal studies which have followed college graduates over time have shown that Arts and Sciences graduates' rates of salary growth often exceed those of more vocationally-specific majors. For example, a 2010 longitudinal survey of college majors after graduation found that:
“Occupationally specific degrees are beneficial at the point of entry into the labor market but have the lowest growth in occupational status over time. Students earning credentials focusing on general skills, in contrast, begin in jobs with low occupational status but subsequently report the greatest growth.”
Another longitudinal study concluded that:
"Employment across educational fields is almost identical for individuals aged 35-44, and beyond age 45, humanities graduates actually have higher rates of employment than those in other fields. After age 45, humanities and social science majors’ salaries overtake those of counterparts in other fields."
Finally, A&S majors have on average the highest rates of increase from starting to mid-career salary, with Math, Philosophy, International Studies, Physics, Political Science, Chemistry, and Journalism all scoring in the top 10 among all majors in rate of salary growth to mid-career.
High School Preparation
If possible, students should begin with a foreign language and relevant AP or IB courses in subjects such as English composition, Government and Politics, Economics, and World History. There are, however, no prerequisites required in order to enter the International Studies program besides admission to the University of South Alabama. Many of the disciplines included in International Studies program, such as geography and anthropology, are not offered at high schools and the IS program provides the opportunity to explore them.
How to Major in International Studies
All majors complete 15 credit hours through the IS core, which includes:
IS 100: Global Issues
PSC 250: Comparative Politics
PSC 270: International Relations
GEO 312: World Economic Geography
IS 495: Senior Seminar
Students then complete 24 credit hours in one of the following concentrations: Asian Studies, European Studies, Latin American Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, or International Relations. There is also a dual degree offered in conjunction with the Mitchell College of Business, International Political Economy.
Recent decades have seen a rapid rise in the economic, cultural, and political influence of Asian nations. The Asian Studies concentration offers students the knowledge and skills needed to understand and successfully navigate this increasingly central part of the world. It combines training in Asian languages (students chose from Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, and Korean), with history, philosophy, geography, political science, and culture. Our students learn how the long historical and philosophical development of Asia informs its current social, political, and economic climate. In the process, they enrich their ability to work in competitive professional fields, and broaden their own personal horizons. Students have recently traveled to South Korea, Japan, and China, where they had the chance to develop their linguistic and cultural skills, as well as to form personal connections.
From “Old Europe” to the Eurozone, the European Studies concentration of the International Studies major at the University of South Alabama combines work in European languages (French, German, Russian, Spanish), literatures, and cultures with a thorough grounding in European geography, history, and politics. Study abroad is often a part of a student’s program in European studies, as it allows students to perfect their language skills while gaining first-hand experience of the European cultures that have had so much influence on American culture, from colonial times to the present. European studies students and alumni have won major fellowships from sources such as Fulbright, Rotary International, and the German Academic Exchange Service. They have gone on to careers in government, international business, law, and education.
Latin American Studies:
With nearly 600 million inhabitants, spread across 20 countries, Latin America is a vast and varied region. The Latin American Studies concentration offers students coursework in language, culture, anthropology, political science, history, and geography. This interdisciplinary approach is particularly rich given the complexities of the region, from colonial times to NAFTA and beyond. Recently students have traveled to Mexico, Argentina, Costa Rica and Cuba. In addition to improving their language skills, students studying in Latin America have made personal connections and gained first-hand knowledge of the region and its peoples. A concentration in Latin American Studies prepares students for careers in government and non-governmental organizations, the military, business and law enforcement. Recent graduates have gone on to law school, work with the State Department, and the Peace Corps.
Middle East Studies:
Rich in history, the Middle East is a region at the center of many thorny issues in contemporary politics. The Middle East Studies concentration equips students with the linguistic skills in Arabic and the knowledge of geography, history, and politics essential for understanding the complexity of this important region. Students in the Middle East Studies concentration have recently participated in programs in Morocco and Egypt, where they found that personal contact with the people of the region helped to bring abstract academic questions into sharper focus. A concentration in Middle East studies prepares students for careers in international business, with non-governmental organizations or with the State Department, the military, and other governmental agencies where linguistic and cultural knowledge of this key region are in demand.
Focusing on diplomacy and contemporary politics in their historical context, the concentration in International Relations offers coursework in political science, history, economics, and language and equips students with the knowledge and critical thinking skills necessary to address the complex issues of an increasingly “flat” world. All International Studies students are encouraged to participate in internships, and those concentrating in International Relations have recently earned internship credit for work in city and state government agencies and for work with non-governmental organizations. All students need to develop informed views about governments and their relationships to one another and to their citizens. Students in International Relations will use their interdisciplinary studies to become critically engaged citizens of the world.
International Political Economy:
The concentration in International Political Economy is exclusively for students pursuing a dual degree in the Mitchell College of Business. In the College of Business, these students major in Marketing with a concentration in International Business, while at the same pursuing a major in International Studies in the College of Arts and Sciences. This degree combines the International Studies core and language study with intensive study in international business, preparing students for work in the business world, government and non-governmental organizations, or for graduate study in business, economics, or law.
Minors for Students Majoring in International Studies
International Studies students can choose from three pre-professional minors, which replace the traditional minor and provide students with a skill set appropriate to careers and further study in the global marketplace. All pre-professional programs require 21 credit hours. Double majors are not required to complete a pre-professional program.
- International Business
- Language Specialization (currently available in French, German, Russian, Spanish)
- Personalized Pre-Professional Program
Minor in International Studies for Students with Other Majors
Students at the University of South Alabama can also minor in International Studies. The minor consists of 21 credit hours, of which 9 must be completed at the 300- or 400- level. It is an excellent complement to a major in any of the core disciplines.
Required courses for minor:
IS 100: Global Issues
PSC 250: Comparative Politics
PSC 270: International Relations
GEO 312: World Economic Geography
9 hours of international studies electives.
Special Programs, Co-ops, Internships
The International Studies program sponsors several events related to the program, such as films and guest speakers, every semester.
Every semester International Studies majors intern at a variety of organizations and companies. For example, every fall one or two IS majors intern with the Mobile International Festival. Students can complete internships locally or elsewhere, even abroad.
International Studies Highlights
International Studies students and alumni have won major fellowships from sources such as Fulbright, Gilman International Scholarship, Rotary International, and the German Academic Exchange Service.
Recent graduates have gone into the Peace Corps, accepted commissions in the military, worked for state and federal governments, attended graduate school, law school, and business school; they are pursuing their dreams around the world.
While not required, students are encouraged to study abroad. IS majors from South Alabama have been on five continents through our many programs and affiliations!
Qualified students are inducted into Sigma Iota Rho, the International Studies honor society.
What Skills Does Studying International Studies Develop?
Students completing the program exhibit a fundamental understanding of the structural features of global society, differences among the major political systems in the world, the major approaches and theories in the field of international affairs and the history, culture, and society of a regional area, and geographical understanding of the world and/or a regional area. Graduates possess critical reading and thinking skills sufficient to understand arguments, elicit hidden assumptions, articulate alternatives, recognize sources of bias, and summarize materials. They also have an increased intercultural sensitivity, including a heightened awareness of stereotypes and ethnocentrism. Students, depending on the language, have at least a novice-high or intermediate proficiency in the language they study.
Study Abroad Opportunities
International Studies students are encouraged to study abroad for a summer, semester, or for an academic year, and the courses they take abroad usually count toward their International Studies concentration and pre-professional program. The University of South Alabama has affiliations with numerous institutions, all over the world, making it easy for International Studies students to find the program that best suits their needs. Students have recently studied abroad in Argentina, Brazil, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, France, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Russia, South Korea, Spain, and Thailand.
The University of South Alabama has direct exchange programs with many institutions, and several are attractive for International Studies majors, including: Fuzhou University Zhicheng College (Fuzhou, China), ESC Rennes School of Business (Rennes, France), University of Applied Sciences Worms (Worms, Germany), University of Passau (Passau, Germany), and Kansai Gaidai (Osaka, Japan).
There are several faculty-led study abroad programs offered at USA. Those led by IS-affiliated faculty include locations such as Cuenca, Spain (focus on Spanish language and culture), Edinburgh and London, UK (students select from courses in anthropology, sociology, communications, and criminal justice), Hakodate and Tokyo, Japan (focus on Japanese history), Hangzhou, China and Seoul, South Korea (focus on sociology), and Moscow, Russia (focus on Russian language and culture).
International Studies students are encouraged to apply for the Caldwell Scholarship, which has provided generous support to help USA students study abroad for over 20 years. Details are on the IS website (http://www.southalabama.edu/departments/internationalstudies/caldwell.html). There are also many outside sources of funding for study abroad, and IS majors have received awards through programs such as the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the German Academic Exchange Service.
Following an academic plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years.
To view a sample academic plan, please see below. Degree plans provide only a suggested schedule; make sure to meet with your academic advisor to find the actual schedule that is right for you.
For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.
For More Information
Please contact Dr. Christine Rinne Eaton, program director, at email@example.com or (251) 460-6746, or stop by Humanities North, Room 329.