International relations is an interdisciplinary major emphasizing the systematic study of political and economic relations between governments and people in different states, as well as comparisons across different political and economic systems. Students majoring in international relations also come to understand the historical and geographic basis for current international relationships.
The international relations major gives students a strong liberal arts education along with useful technical skills. In addition to substantive knowledge, international relations majors will learn analytical concepts and ideas that allow them to organize, explain, and make sense of relations between states and comparisons among them. High proficiency in math and statistics, writing, and a foreign language will prepare for a wide variety of career paths—including, but not limited to, government, law, business, and international organizations. Many career paths will require graduate-level training. Therefore, the international relations degree should be seen as certifying fluency in the ideas and methods of multiple fields so that students can find and pursue their own specialized interests rather than as a terminal degree.
It is important to distinguish international relations as a field from a more general definition of "international," which might include anything (people, language, culture, traditions, etc.) beyond the territorial boundaries of the United States. For students interested in the broad study of anything international and foreign, BYU's international relations degree will not provide the best training. In fact, no reasonable degree can include the systematic study of everything international and foreign. It should be remembered that BYU students have a wealth of options through which to pursue their particular international and foreign interests. These include:
- Social science majors with a strong international component, such as economics, geography, history, or political science.
- Area studies majors, including Asian, European, Latin American, Ancient Near Eastern, and Middle East studies.
- Foreign Language majors.
- Other majors combined with a minor in one of the above areas.