BA in International Relations

International Relations is a major offered by the Frederick S. Pardee School of Global Studies to students enrolled in the College of Arts & Sciences.

To study international relations is to learn how the world works. At Boston University, we take an interdisciplinary approach. Undergraduates studying international relations choose from a wide range of courses in international relations, history, economics, political science, anthropology, sociology, and religion, among other disciplines. The international relations major can be customized to fit individual students’ interests and goals. Students choose both a region of the world on which to focus their studies and a functional area, such as Foreign Policy and Security Studies or Environment and Development, that is a subfield of the larger discipline of international relations. In a globalizing world, the study of international relations provides a gateway into a variety of career fields as well as excellent preparation for further graduate or professional training.

Learning Outcomes

  • Demonstrate substantive interdisciplinary knowledge of legal, political, economic, social, cultural, and historical factors influencing international affairs.
  • Display an in-depth understanding of an important functional subfield of the discipline and a major geographical region of the world.
  • Conduct theoretically informed and empirically based analysis of real-world conditions and events and present the results of that analysis persuasively in written and oral forms.


BU Hub General Education

All BU undergraduate students, including both entering first-year and transfer students, will pursue coursework in the BU Hub, the University’s general education program that is integrated into the entire undergraduate experience. BU Hub requirements can be satisfied in a number of ways, including coursework in and beyond the major as well as through cocurricular activities. Students majoring in International Relations will ordinarily, through coursework in the major, satisfy BU Hub requirements in Diversity, Civic Engagement, and Global Citizenship, as well as some requirements in Philosophical, Aesthetic and Historical Interpretation, Scientific and Social Inquiry, Communication, and the Intellectual Toolkit. Remaining BU Hub requirements will be satisfied by selecting from a wide range of available courses outside the major or, in some cases, cocurricular experiences.

Major Requirements

Twelve courses and two prerequisites are required for an undergraduate major in International Relations. These 12 are:

  • Four required principal courses
  • Four courses from a functional track
  • Four courses from a regional track

For details, see below.

A grade of C or higher is required in all principal and track courses. At least two upper-level courses in the major must be taken. Upper-level courses are courses listed at the 400 or 500 level. Internships, even if numbered at the 400 level, cannot be counted toward this requirement, unless they include a significant written component and are approved in writing by the Associate Dean for Studies. Students majoring in International Relations are encouraged to fulfill at least one of their Quantitative Reasoning Hub units in statistics. Students must fulfill major requirements, including track requirements, as stipulated below. International Relations majors are encouraged to study abroad for at least one semester. Courses taken abroad must be approved by the student’s major advisor for credit toward the major.

All required courses are 4-credit hours.

Two prerequisites are:

  • CAS EC 101 Introductory Microeconomic Analysis
  • CAS EC 102 Introductory Macroeconomic Analysis

A grade of D or higher is required in prerequisite courses.

Required Principal Courses

Required principal courses are designed to develop a general understanding of the economic, political, historic, and geographic factors that influence the international system. Students must take all four of the courses listed below with the exception of students selecting the functional track in international economics, business, and politics, who must take CAS IR 399 or CAS EC 392 or QST IM 345 in place of CAS IR 292. All students must take IR 349 and IR 350 as offered at Boston University; no substitutes will be accepted for these two courses.

  • CAS IR 271 Introduction to International Relations
  • CAS IR 292 Fundamentals of International Economics OR CAS IR 399 Fundamentals of Global Money (CAS EC 101 and EC 102 are prerequisite courses for both)
  • CAS IR 349 History of International Relations, 1900–1945
  • CAS IR 350 History of International Relations since 1945

Note: CGS students, upon admission to CAS, will be given credit for CGS SS 202 as a substitute for CAS IR 350.

Note: Students who have declared the International Economics, Business & Politics track must take either EC 392, IR 399, or IM 345 in place of IR 292. Students who declare any other functional track may take any of these four classes to satisfy the major requirement. Students who take IR 399 as the Fundamentals of International Economics equivalent cannot also count it toward their International Economics functional track.

International Relations Tracks

The major in International Relations encompasses courses in 9 subfields, known as “tracks.” Tracks are divided into two types: functional and regional. Undergraduate majors must select a functional track, consisting of four courses, and a regional track, consisting of four courses. No course may be used in more than one track. This arrangement is designed to give the undergraduate major a reasonable facility in an important functional subfield of international relations, as well as an understanding of at least one part of the world. A listing of courses, by functional and regional tracks, is included below. 

Functional Track Options Include:
  1. Environment and Development
  2. Foreign Policy and Security Studies
  3. International Economics, Business, and Politics
  4. International Systems and World Order
  5. Regional Politics and Cultural Anthropology

Regional Track Options Include:

  1. Africa and Middle East
  2. Asia
  3. Europe
  4. Latin America

Honors in the Major

Honors in International Relations within the Pardee School may be earned by completing two semesters of independent senior honors work (CAS IR 401 and IR 402) and presenting an original research paper (thesis) in written and oral form to a committee of faculty readers. The committee will consider both the thesis and the result of the oral examination to determine whether the student will receive honors in the major. A grade of B+ or better in each semester of CAS IR 401 and CAS IR 402 is also required for the award of honors. Effective fall 2021, CAS IR 401 and CAS IR 402 are approved for BU Hub credits. CAS IR 401 fulfills a single unit in Writing-Intensive Course, Critical Thinking, and Research and Information Literacy. CAS IR 402 fulfills a single unit in Oral & Signed Communication and Writing-Intensive Course. Students are required to attend structured workshops in the fall and spring related to each of these competencies. The research and writing are conducted under the guidance of a faculty advisor who will serve as the instructor of record for CAS IR 401 and CAS IR 402. In consultation with their faculty advisor, students are also required to complete cocurricular activities that expand their understanding of their research topic. IR honors students earn credit for two upper-level courses (CAS IR 401 and CAS IR 402) in their chosen tracks.

Effective fall 2022, students may not simultaneously study abroad and participate in the Honors program.

Admission to the IR Honors program requires a 3.5 cumulative and 3.6 major grade point average, at the time of application. To learn more about the application process, visit the Pardee School of Global Studies website. Interested students should contact their Academic Advisor to discuss ideas for research and faculty advisors. Students typically apply for the Honors program in the spring of their junior year.