International Relations Programs and Core Requirements

MA Programs

Interdisciplinary Programs

Dual Degree Programs

Overseas Program

MA Core Requirements

The core requirements applicable to all of the International Relations (IR) master’s programs are described below, with exceptions noted. Students in all IR MA programs must satisfy the requirements as stated. For detailed requirements of each degree program, please refer to the appropriate degree-specific program pages listed above.

General Core Course Requirement

The General Core Course Requirement, outlined below, provides the basis for the majority of the IR master’s degree programs, ensuring students gain exposure to a range of important facets of international affairs. It is required for these MA programs:

EXCEPTION: The following MA programs have different Core Course Requirements. For details, please refer to the appropriate degree-specific program page listed below.

To satisfy the General Course Requirement, all students must successfully complete at least one course in three of the following four core areas of study as outlined below. (Courses from any of the five Regional Studies Core Area sub-categories can be used to satisfy the Regional Studies Core Area requirement.)

Functional Core Areas:

Regional Studies Core Area Categories (comprised of five sub-categories):

Listings of courses that satisfy each of the core areas can be found here. The course lists are subject to change.

Track Course Requirement

Students in some of the IR MA degree programs choose one or more tracks (areas of concentration) and must satisfy the course requirements of those tracks. Track requirements vary substantially from one degree program to another. Students should see the pages for the specific program they are interested in to learn the details of the track requirement for that degree program. The programs that include a Track Course Requirement are:

EXCEPTION: The following MA programs do not require students to choose track courses. For details, please refer to the appropriate degree-specific program page listed below.

Elective Courses

In addition to required core and track courses, students may also take elective courses. The number of elective courses a student takes varies depending on the specific degree program in which the student is enrolled. Please refer to the appropriate degree-specific program pages for the number of electives allowed and approved. Approved electives include all graduate (500 level and above) courses offered in the IR department, the non-IR courses included in the lists of core and track courses, and the courses listed below. Students may also petition the Director of Graduate Studies to accept other non-IR courses pertinent to international affairs.

When taking courses outside of the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences (GRS), students should bear in mind that no more than 25 percent of their coursework can be taken outside of GRS. (Exception: Students in IR MA degree programs offered in conjunction with other schools within Boston University may take as many courses as necessary for their degree requirements from the relevant partner schools.)

School of Law Courses

Most School of Law (LAW) courses are not available to students outside of the School due to the substantial background knowledge in law that is required to understand the course material. However, the LAW faculty has identified a limited selection of courses (see below) for which non-LAW students may register. If interested in taking a LAW course, consult with the IR Graduate Programs Administrator about the special registration process.

LAW courses are typically 3 credits (and sometimes 2), whereas GRS courses are typically 4 credits. Taking one or more LAW courses will necessitate that students make up the lacking credits, typically through a 2-credit IR directed study. Interested students should talk with the Graduate Programs Administrator for further explanation and guidance.

  • LAW JD 796 Global Climate Change
  • LAW JD 804 American Legal History
  • LAW JD 846 Historical Perspectives on Law, Constitutions, and Culture
  • LAW JD 917 Constitution & Foreign Affairs
  • LAW JD 942 English Legal History

Graduate School of Management

Graduate School of Management (GSM) courses require registration through the GSM Graduate Programs Office. Consult with the IR Graduate Programs Administrator for details.

Most GSM courses of interest to IR students are 3 credits; although some may be fewer. Students may undertake a directed study to make up the credit deficiency.

  • GSM FE 882 Analysis of Political Economies
  • GSM MK 853 Global Strategic Marketing
  • GSM PL 849 Global Sustainability
  • GSM PL 870 Government, Society, and Sustainable Development
  • GSM SI 847 Investing in Sustainability

College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences

  • CAS HI 590 The World and the West
  • GRS AR 815 Plunder and Preservation: Cultural Heritage in Wartime
  • GRS PO 840 Political Analysis
  • GRS PO 843 Techniques in Political Analysis: Maximum Likelihood Estimation (Pre-req: GRS PO 841)

Foreign Language Requirement

All students pursuing an IR MA degree are required to demonstrate graduate-level reading proficiency in a foreign language prior to completion of the degree. Graduate-level proficiency is the ability to accurately understand newspaper and professional journal articles in the field of foreign relations, using standard reference materials. Proficiency is normally demonstrated by passing the Foreign Language Exam administered by the IR department.

In the case of non-native English speakers who were required to submit a TOEFL score report as part of their application for admission, knowledge of English fulfills this requirement.

Foreign language courses cannot be used as electives toward an IR MA degree. Students may take foreign language courses at BU, but those courses cannot count toward the MA degree. Many students find that they have limited time available for language study during the academic year, due to the rigorous demands of their IR courses. The IR department recommends that students work on their language skills prior to matriculation into the program and during the summers between regular academic years.

Statistics Requirement

Students in all IR programs are expected to have a reasonable facility working with statistical data. The IR department requires that students in most of our programs take one course in statistics.

EXCEPTION: Students in the International Relations & Religion MA program are not required to fulfill the statistics requirement.

Several of our degree programs include required courses that satisfy the statistics requirement. Students in these MA programs do not need to take an additional statistics course beyond the one required for their degree program. These programs, and their required courses that satisfy the statistics requirement, are as follows.

  • MA in Global Development Policy (GRS IR 702; and either CAS GE 516, GRS GE 700, SPH BS 701, or SPH BS 703, depending on the chosen track)
  • MA in International Affairs (GRS IR 702)
  • MA in International Relations/MBA (GSM QM 716 or GSM QM 717)

Students in the MA programs not listed directly above may satisfy the requirement in several ways:

  • Students in any IR MA degree program may take GRS IR 702 Research Methods for International Relations Practitioners as an elective toward their degree. Students who have not completed the statistics requirement prior to beginning their studies at BU are strongly encouraged to take GRS IR 702 to satisfy this requirement.
  • A dedicated 2-credit (or more) college-level course in statistics. This course may be taken either prior to matriculation at BU or while studying at BU. At BU, either CAS MA 113 or CAS MA 115 can be taken to satisfy this requirement. Students in Brussels may take MET OM 735 Statistical Analysis. Comparable courses at other universities may also be used (online courses are not accepted). If the course is taken outside of BU, the student must present an official transcript to document that the course has been completed successfully. Please note that while a dedicated statistics course satisfies the statistics requirement, the credits from the course, whether taken at BU or elsewhere, will not be applied toward the IR MA degree.
  • Students in the International Relations & Environmental Policy (IREP) program and the International Relations & International Communication (IRIC) program have courses available to them that fulfill the statistics requirement and also count as a course toward their degree program. For students in the IREP program, GRS MA 614, GRS MA 684, GRS GE 516, or GRS GE 712 fulfill both the statistics requirement and a CEES elective. For IRIC students, COM CM 722 fulfills the statistics requirement and also counts as either a COM core course or a COM elective.

Please note that all statistics courses must be taken for a letter grade (A–F), and any course taken at BU is reflected in the student’s grade point average. Online and correspondence courses will not be accepted. Students must receive a passing grade in order for the course to fulfill the requirement.

Master’s Paper Requirement

Candidates for a Master of Arts degree in International Relations are required to write a Master’s Paper (commonly referred to as an MA Paper) as the capstone component of their degree. The paper may take one of two forms: students may choose to write either a traditional research paper or a policy paper. Students are given broad latitude in selecting topics and approaches, in consultation with their advisors. Please refer to the IR department’s General Guidelines for the MA Paper for detailed information.

EXCEPTION: Students in the Global Development Policy (GDP) MA program do not write an MA Paper. They fulfill a different capstone requirement, detailed on the GDP degree-specific program page.

International Relations Courses

The following is the list of all graduate-level courses offered by the Department of International Relations. Core, track, and elective courses are listed below. Some coursework may be done outside of the department with the approval of the Director of Graduate Studies. Most courses are taught once per year.

  • CAS IR 500  Topics in International Relations
  • CAS IR 501 Conflict & Cooperation in Asia
  • CAS IR 502 Latin American Political Parties
  • CAS IR 503 United States in the Middle East
  • CAS IR 504 The Persian Gulf/ Arabian Peninsula
  • CAS IR 505 Arms Control and Proliferation of Weapons
  • CAS IR 506 India & the World
  • CAS IR 508 Islamic Political Movements and U.S. Policy
  • CAS IR 509 Islam in Middle East Politics
  • CAS IR 511 The Middle East Today
  • CAS IR 513 Bureaucracy and Governance: A Comparative Inquiry
  • CAS IR 514 Empire and Power: British Foreign Policy, 1782–Present
  • CAS IR 516 Intelligence and Homeland Security
  • CAS IR 518 Gender & War
  • CAS IR 520 The State and Public Purpose in Asia
  • CAS IR 521 Congress and National Security
  • CAS IR 522 Ideas and American Foreign Policy
  • CAS IR 523 Global Justice
  • CAS IR 524 The Cold War in Latin America
  • CAS IR 527 Political Economy of China
  • CAS IR 529 Cuba in Transition
  • CAS IR 531 Intercultural Communication
  • CAS IR 533 Comparative Political Development
  • CAS IR 534 Government & Politics of Contemporary Africa
  • CAS IR 535 Diplomacy and Statecraft
  • CAS IR 536 European Environmental Policy
  • CAS IR 540 Committing to Defend Europe: The US and the UK
  • CAS IR 542 The Reemergence of Russia
  • CAS IR 543 The Changing Face of Eastern Europe
  • CAS IR 546 Power and Legitimacy: Ideology as a Political Tool
  • CAS IR 548 United Nations Peace Operations
  • CAS IR 549 Politics and International Relations of the Federal Republic of Germany
  • CAS IR 550 West European Integration
  • CAS IR 551 Social Europe: Identity, Citizenship, and the Welfare State
  • CAS IR 552 Nordic Europe
  • CAS IR 553 Masterworks of International Affairs
  • CAS IR 556 Current Intelligence Issues
  • CAS IR 557 Guerrilla Warfare and Terrorism
  • CAS IR 559 Reckoning with the Past: Reparations & Justice in Comparative Perspective
  • CAS IR 560 The Politics of Religion, Ethnicity, and Nationalism in International Relations
  • CAS IR 561 The Multiple Modernities of Religion and International Relations
  • CAS IR 563 Public Religion and Politics Across Cultures
  • CAS IR 566 Democracy in Latin America
  • CAS IR 567 Latin American Politics
  • CAS IR 568 U.S.-Latin American Relations
  • CAS IR 570 Politics and Social Change in Postwar Japan
  • CAS IR 573 Introduction to Public International Law
  • CAS IR 575 Political Economy of Mexico and NAFTA
  • CAS IR 577 Foreign Policy of the People’s Republic of China
  • CAS IR 578 Foreign Intelligence and Security Systems
  • CAS IR 579 Japan in International Politics
  • CAS IR 580 International Human Rights: Applying Human Rights in Africa
  • CAS IR 581 The Evolution of Strategic Intelligence
  • CAS IR 582 Taiwan: Politics & Transformation
  • CAS IR 583 Aspects of Defense Planning and Technology
  • CAS IR 585 Problems and Issues in Post-Mao China
  • CAS IR 586 Islam in South Asian Politics
  • CAS IR 587 Political Economy of the Middle East
  • CAS IR 589 North Atlantic/European Security Issues
  • CAS IR 590 Political Economy of Latin America
  • CAS IR 591 The Making of the Modern Middle East
  • CAS IR 592 Economic Development & International Institutions
  • CAS IR 594 Global Environmental Negotiation and Policy
  • CAS IR 596 Globalization and Contemporary Capitalism in Advanced Industrialized Nations
  • CAS IR 597 Development and Environment in Latin America
  • CAS IR 598 International Business Intelligence and Security Practices
  • CAS IR 599 Science, Politics, and Climate Change
  • GRS IR 701 Introduction to International Relations
  • GRS IR 702 Research Methods for International Relations Practitioners
  • GRS IR 703 International Security
  • GRS IR 704 Global Economic & Development Policy
  • GRS IR 706 The Iranian Revolution and Its Impact on the Middle East
  • GRS IR 707 Political Reform in the Middle East
  • GRS IR 711 Civil Society and the State
  • GRS IR 718 International Migration and Diaspora in World Politics
  • GRS IR 721 War, Guilt, and World Politics
  • GRS IR 722 U.S. Foreign Policy since the End of the Cold War
  • GRS IR 723 The Political Economy of Advanced Industrialized Societies
  • GRS IR 726 Continental Western European Governments
  • GRS IR 737 Analyzing Foreign Policy in a Multipolar World
  • GRS IR 757 Transnational Shi’ism
  • GRS IR 758 Comparative Political Economy of China and India
  • GRS IR 759 International Institutions for Finance, Development, and Trade
  • GRS IR 760 The Political Economy of the European Union
  • GRS IR 764 Seminar on China in the Contemporary World
  • GRS IR 765 Japanese Political Economy
  • GRS IR 766 Contemporary Issues in Latin America
  • GRS IR 767 Latin American Comparative Politics
  • GRS IR 778 Problems of Strategic Intelligence
  • GRS IR 780 CIA’s National Clandestine Service
  • GRS IR 786 Conflict & State-Building in Africa
  • GRS IR 787 The Latin American Policies of the United States
  • GRS IR 788 International Relations of Asia-Pacific
  • GRS IR 789 Globalization, Development, Governance
  • GRS IR 794 Current Issues in International Environmental Affairs
  • GRS IR 798 Global Development Capstone
  • GRS IR 799 Master’s Paper Workshop
  • GRS IR 825 Graduate Study in Women and Social Change in the Developing World

Teaching Fellow Training

  • GRS IR 699  Teaching College International Relations I

Directed Study

All directed study courses require a memorandum of understanding written by the student and approved by the supervising faculty member and the Director of Graduate Studies. Please contact the Graduate Programs Administrator for more details at 617-353-9349 or

  • GRS IR 901  Directed Study I
  • GRS IR 902  Directed Study II

Graduate Certificate Programs

Students in International Relations MA programs have the option of completing one of two Graduate Certificate programs: the Graduate Certificate in African Studies and the Graduate Certificate in Asian Studies. Completion of these certificates does not require any additional coursework above that required for the student’s IR MA degree. Courses can be chosen so as to fulfill the requirements of both the student’s degree program and the student’s chosen certificate program. Important detailed information for IR MA students wishing to complete either of these certificate programs is available at the IR department’s website: Certificate in African Studies and Certificate in Asian Studies.