International Studies

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All academic programs offered at the UM help students develop valuable transferable skills. Housed in the Program In International and Comparative Studies (PICS), the International Studies (IS) major is intended for students planning to pursue advanced degrees or careers in international law, international business, public policy, global health, and government or nongovernmental organizations with an international focus. The major is ideal for students interested in learning a foreign language and exploring international topics from a comparative perspective.

As an IS major, you will develop the ability to understand differences in economic, political, and cultural development. Through language training and study, you will also develop excellent analytical and communication skills.  IS majors are strongly encouraged, but not required, to study abroad.

Related fields include Political Science, History, Economics, Public Policy, Public Health, Program in the Environment, Anthropology, Psychology, Sociology, Languages and Literatures, Comparative Literature, Law, Business, and Communications.


Language Skills

Reading and understanding sophisticated ideas
Recognizing complex word patterns and structures
Understanding cultural differences as reflected in language
Interpreting complex language
Reading for tone and attitude
Translating languages / ideas
Evaluating translations and original texts

Research / Analytical Skills

Asking analytical questions
Generating and developing complex, novel ideas
Compiling and organizing information
Analyzing data
Examining and evaluating evidence
Evaluating theories about societies and cultures
Understanding problems about society and cultures
Making decisions about social processes and policies

Interpersonal / Cross-Cultural Skills

Understanding other cultures and beliefs
Developing sensitivity to multiple viewpoints
Appreciating historical continuity and change
Clarifying others’ thoughts and ideas

Communication Skills

Writing clearly
Persuading people / groups
Presenting and debating ideas
Listening critically


Employers seek out individuals who can demonstrate excellent verbal and written communication skills, teamwork and interpersonal skills, initiative, and a strong work ethic.  IS students are encouraged to participate on the International Studies Student Council, Culture of Medicine Club, International Studies Honors Core Society, and publish articles in the Michigan Journal of Foreign Affairs. They can attend the International Institute's wide variety of lectures on international topics.

Student organizations, research with IS faculty, and campus employment offer additional opportunities to add to the skills developed in class. Other options include off-campus employment or volunteering in the community. Study abroad experiences are particularly helpful to improve language proficiency and gain intercultural skills. Finally, a summer internship may be the best way of all to test out a career field and develop marketable skills.


International Studies majors develop both general and technical skills applicable to a wide range of careers. For example, cross-cultural proficiency may be equally useful whether working as a foreign-service officer, a manager of an international branch of an American organization or corporation, or a journalist. Many concentrators go on to graduate or professional school. The list below is a sample of careers undertaken by IS graduates.

Language Skills

United Nations interpreter open book icon
Consular assistant
Translation specialist open book icon
Foreign affairs journalist

Research / Analytical Skills

Foreign policy analyst open book icon
International finance analyst open book icon
Immigration inspector
Congressional staff member
Foundation researcher
Intelligence agent
College professor open book icon
Librarian open book icon
Historian open book icon
International affairs lawyer

Interpersonal / Cross-Cultural Skills

Affirmative action officer
Foreign service officer
Consultant, cross-cultural relations
Travel agent
Export / import sales manager
Hospitality manager
International hotel manager
Leader or manager of international NGO
Administrator within international organization

Communication Skills

K-12 teacher
Advertising copywriter
Museum exhibit assistant
Museum curator open book icon
Journalist / writer, all media
Editor, all media
Arts reviewer

open book icon = Further Study Required

For more career information, see O*Net at


IS majors choose one of four tracks:
International Security, Norms, and Cooperation
Political Economy and Development
Comparative Culture and Identity
Global Environment and Health

For each track there is a prescribed menu of courses available on the PICS website. Many IS majors choose to double-major with another concentration.

Major requirements include a minimum of 33 credits, at least three years of a modern language, and three courses, Intro to International Studies (INTLSTD 101), Topics of International Studies (INTLSTD 301), and a senior year capstone seminar (INTLSTD 401).

Moreover, students must take a research methods course and at least one course focusing on the region / country of their chosen language. The minor requires three years of language study, along with a minimum of 18 credits.

For more information, see the LSA Bulletin, the PICS website below, or make an appointment with a PICS academic advisor.

Program in International and Comparative Studies
School of Social Work Building
1080 S. University Avenue
Suite 2660
PICS Career Page
PICS on Facebook
PICS on Twitter
PICS on MBlog
PICS on LinkedIn

Newnan Advising Center
1255 Angell Hall


To begin exploring opportunities for overseas study and work, go to: or

To begin connecting to professionals in fields that interest you, create your own LinkedIn account:

To identify internships or job opportunities, visit Handshake:

On campus jobs (work-study and non work-study jobs) are listed at:

Maize Pages list hundreds of organizations for students to get involved in:

The Career Center
3200 Student Activities Building

The Career Guide series was developed by the University of Michigan Career Center, Division of Student Affairs, in cooperation with the College of Literature, Science, and the Arts. ©2011 Regents of the University of Michigan