International Studies Advising Guide

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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, Art and Art History, Communication, Geography, History, Modern and Classical Languages and Literature, Philosophy, Political Science, and Sociology.

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
  • Editors/publicists
  • 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 18 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                                                                                                                                     
PHL 352: World Religions
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, Global Health or International Relations

Asian Studies:

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.

European Studies:

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.

Global Health

For students interested in healthcare in an international context, a concentration in Global Health provides a way to pursue this crucial field. By combining coursework in several disciplines including geography, history, philosophy, political science, and a foreign language, students will consider the impact of ethics, developmental aid, geography, and education on healthcare practices, as well as learn how to make informed decisions about the future. students can combine it with a science minor to complete the requirements for a professional school, or with a related subject such as philosophy or a foreign language. A concentration in global health prepares students for professional school as well as careers in non-governmental organizations, healthcare corporations, governmental agencies, community clinics, and more. 

International Relations:

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.

Minors for Students Majoring in International Studies

International Studies students can choose from three pre-professional minors, or a traditional minor, which 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.

Pre-professional programs:

  •         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 ( 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.


Academic Plan

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.

IS - Asian Studies Concentration

IS - European Studies Concentration

IS - Global Health Concentration

IS - International Relations Concentration

IS - Latin American Studies Concentration

IS - Middle East Studies Concentration

For additional degree information, visit the undergraduate bulletin.


For More Information

Please contact Dr. Christine Rinne, program director, at or (251) 460-6746, or stop by Alpha Hall east, Room 101.