Should I major in international studies at university?

This is the first of two chapters about English for International Studies. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.   

– Discuss the benefits of studying International Studies

– Highlight some of the key topics which are likely to be discussed during an undergraduate degree in IS

– Provide examples of the most common career paths available to IS graduates 

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Chapter 1

Choosing a subject to study at university can be one of the trickiest decisions a student will have to make. Choose wrong, and this decision can affect you for the rest of your life. For some, the choice is easy. A major can be decided on the grades you’ve achieved or the classes you took in high school or college. For others though, their university might have a higher level of course-enrolment freedom, or it might allow them the opportunity to switch majors at the end of the first semester or year. Whatever your situation is, studying International Studies in English (particularly if English is not your native language) can be quite overwhelming. 

To help students familiarise themselves with the subject, we discuss some of the key IS topics in Chapter 1 before introducing in Chapter 2 the top 100 subject-specific vocabulary items.


What is International Studies?

Whether the subject is called International Studies (IS), International Relations (IR) or Political Affairs, the topics of your course will usually be quite similar. Put simply, IS broadly combines history, politics and communication in an international setting, focussing on the systems of governance that have shaped and dictated the world we live in today. It’s a truly fascinating subject that forms an integral part of understanding globalisation, our shared history and the future we are together moving towards, with discussions about:

  • conspiracy theories
  • current affairs
  • diplomacy
  • globalisation
  • international institutions
  • migration
  • terrorism
  • treaties and unions
  • sovereign states and nations
  • systems of governance
  • systems of socioeconomics
  • world history
  • war and peace

Which students suit International Studies?

Students who are interested in history, politics and international affairs would make for an obvious choice for this major, particularly those that find the concept of living, travelling or working abroad appealing. A knowledge of linguistics, geography and anthropology may also prove to be useful, with International Studies crossing into those fields too. Ultimately, as long as you find humanity fascinating and wish to know more about our shared history, our past conflicts and our future plans, or how we can achieve peaceful resolutions to crises and conflict, then IS might be for you.


Which job opportunities are likely?

As majors go, IS has many transferable skills, making a student very employable in a number of sectors. While these skills might take an IS major down a variety of avenues, some of the most popular and directly relevant field careers are as:

  • aid workers
  • diplomats
  • foreign affairs officers
  • intelligence analysts
  • journalists (i.e., war correspondent)
  • market researchers
  • political analysts
  • professors
  • trade specialists


Does IS have subject-specific vocabulary?

As with most majors, being successful at International Studies requires learning lots of subject-specific vocabulary – also known as jargon. If you can understand the following sentence and its fourteen IS-specific words, then you’re well on your way to understanding the concepts of this major:


By forming an allegiance, the ambassadors of the two nation states were able to solve their border dispute and create a de facto peace, showing that diplomacy is still key to avoiding militancy and conflict even in this globalised world of sovereign states.


If you don’t understand much (or any) of this vocabulary, then at this stage don’t worry. While non-native speakers of English may find the vocabulary of International Studies particularly tough at first, there’s a lot to learn for everyone – native or not. To further complicate things, you may also discover that some of the vocabulary you already know needs to be learned again as those words now carry different meanings when being used by your major. Be prepared for that, and plan ahead to overcome it. The best method for doing this is to use dictionaries with frequency, to keep studying diligently, and to read lots of sources related to your field. Do those three things on a daily basis and you’ll soon pick up the lingo.


To help you with learning IS’s subject-specific vocabulary, Chapter 2 of this short reader on English for International Studies provides one hundred of the most useful words in the field. You may also wish to unlock, download and complete our related worksheets to check your understanding of these terms.

To reference this reader:

Academic Marker (2022) English for International Studies. Available at: (Accessed: Date Month Year).

1 of 2 Chapters Completed


Once you’ve completed both chapters in this short reader about English for International Studies, you might then wish to download our Chapter Worksheets to check your progress or print for your students. These professional PDF worksheets can be easily accessed for only a few Academic Marks.

Chapter 1 explores the topic: Should I major in international studies at university? Our Chapter 1 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

Chapter 2 explores the topic: What are the top 100 international relations words? Our Chapter 2 Worksheet (containing guidance, activities and answer keys) can be accessed here at the click of a button. 

To save yourself 1 Marks, click on the button below to gain unlimited access to all of our English for International Studies Chapter Worksheets. This All-in-1 Pack includes every chapter, activity and answer key related to this topic in one handy and professional PDF.

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