International Studies B.A.

If you are interested in the broad study of social, political, cultural and economic global issues, want to develop language skills, and experience other cultures, the International Studies B.A. may be a good choice for you. The Department of International Studies is an integral part of the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies, with faculty drawn from a wide range of disciplines.

The Department of International Studies offers two degrees: the Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and the Bachelor of Science (B.S.). The two degree options begin the same way, making it easy to adjust your path as your interests develop. The B.A. option is the less quantitatively oriented of the two degrees. Advanced students pursuing the B.A. also have the option of applying for the five-year Integrated BA/MA degree. The department also offers a major in International Law & Institutions, a minor in International Studies and a Certificate in Global Service and Peace Corps Preparation. Check your bulletin for more information about these options.

Students select a thematic concentration through which they gain an understanding of a topic or set of issues across several different cultures. They also choose a regional focus in order to develop a depth of knowledge about a particular region.

All International Studies majors fortify their degree through extensive foreign language study, an overseas experience, and a minor that connects to their thematic or regional focus. A final Capstone Project allows you to tie your interests together in an in-depth research project.


Getting started

International Studies students begin by taking three introductory courses. The courses are comparative, looking at issues across multiple cultures, and introduce the six thematic concentrations in the major.

Language study is a large component of the major. All International Studies majors complete six semesters of a foreign language, graduating with either an in-depth knowledge of one language or experience in multiple languages.

Tracks and concentrations

Your introductory courses will help you choose your thematic concentration. There are six thematic concentrations for you to choose from:

  • Global Health and Environment
  • Global Development
  • Human Rights and International Law
  • Culture and Politics
  • Peace and Conflict
  • Diplomacy, Security, Governance

You also select a regional concentration to gain a depth of understanding of one region of the world. Regions may be defined geographically, linguistically, religiously, or ethnically. Some examples include: Western Europe, Spanish-speaking countries, the Muslim world, the African diaspora.

Upper level coursework

Many of the thematic courses are topical in nature, with content drawn from the expertise of the instructor. Examples of thematic classes include: Gender & International Human Rights; The Politics of Protest; International Political Thought; Contemporary Security Issues in Europe.

An international experience such as overseas study or an internship is required for the International Studies B.A. This experience helps students deepen their knowledge of the regional focus, develop stronger language skills, and prepare for the capstone course.

The Senior Capstone Course provides another opportunity to customize the curriculum, integrating your thematic interests, regional studies, experience abroad, and language study in a final project under the supervision of a faculty mentor. You present your work either in class or as part of the Capstone Symposium.

Commonly pursued majors, minors and certificates

With the help of your academic advisor, majors can be combined with many other courses of study. International Studies students often add a second major in their primary language. Others complement the International Studies B.A. with a major, minor, or certificate in an area of interest such as Anthropology, Folklore and Ethnomusicology, History, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, Liberal Arts and Management, Linguistics, Media, Political Science, or Second Language Studies.

You may want to add depth to your knowledge about your regional focus through an area studies major or minor, such as Near Eastern Languages and Cultures, East Asian Languages and Cultures, or Central Eurasian Studies.

Highly motivated students who are interested in attaining professional fluency should consider one of the Flagship programs: the Arabic Flagship, the Chinese Flagship, or the Russian Flagship.

Enhance your major

Working with faculty

When pursuing a degree in International Studies, you have the opportunity to work with faculty who have expertise and experience in the field. Take advantage of office hours to talk with your instructors about your performance in class, the content of assignments, and how the course helps you work toward your goals.

You can get involved in research as early as your first year. Many incoming first-year students apply to the Arts and Sciences Undergraduate Research Experience (ASURE) program. ASURE students experience project-based learning enhanced by a community of supportive faculty and peers. Choose an ASURE path in the arts and humanities, social and historical studies, or natural and mathematical sciences. Consider joining one that will deepen your skills and knowledge in an area related to your major or a different one to become a more well-rounded thinker. 

The main avenue for research is the Capstone Seminar. All students in the International Studies major conduct an individualized research project with guidance from a faculty mentor. This project is a chance to explore a topic of your choosing. It should integrate all aspects of the major: your thematic concentration, regional focus, language study, and overseas experience.


Outstanding students are eligible to apply for the Honors Capstone at the end of their junior year.

High achieving students may be recognized for Academic Excellence in the College of Arts and Sciences, or be eligible for admission to the Hutton Honors College.

Undergraduate scholarships and awards

Incoming students who are directly admitted to the College of Arts and Sciences with International Studies as their intended major may be eligible for special scholarships.

Options for pursuing scholarships and awards that relate to International Studies include:


Internships offer you a chance to develop both technical and transferable skills while making vital professional contacts with others in the field. Many students begin exploring internship opportunities, including overseas study programs with internships, as early as their first year.

Previous International Studies students have found internship opportunities with organizations such as:

Learn more about internships, and the possibility of receiving credit, through the Walter Center for Career Achievement. You have access to many resources there for finding both domestic and international internships. You may be eligible for internship funding through the HLS Dean's Scholarship.

Foreign language study

As one of the premier institutions in the U.S. for the study of languages, IU Bloomington offers courses and resources in over 80 languages.

Below is a sampling of language study resources available to students at IU Bloomington:

Overseas study

Study abroad is an important part of undergraduate education in our increasingly globalized world. International Studies students often pursue language study and other coursework through the following programs:

  • Aix-en-Provence Academic Year Program - Take both language and culture courses and choose from apartment or homestay
  • Barcelona - IES Semester Program: Complete an internship in addition to taking language and culture courses with a variety of housing options
  • Nanjing - CIEE Semester Program: Language intensive program, students live in dormitories
  • Prague - CIEE Summer Program: Culture courses, optional basic language class, apartment living

The College of Arts + Sciences also directly hosts a variety of study abroad programs, some even featuring IU faculty, that might be right for you. Learn more about study abroad opportunities and locations through conversation with International Studies faculty, your academic advisor, and through the Office of Overseas Study.

Student groups

Sigma Iota Rho is an honor society for students in the Hamilton Lugar School of Global and International Studies. The organization gives members access to a network of students and professionals with similar interests. Members are eligible for scholarships and research grants, and have the opportunity to publish work and serve on the Editorial Board for the Journal of International Relations.

Students who are further along in their studies may apply to serve on the Global Student 7 advisory board or work as a student ambassador to share their love of HLS.

The Office of International Services hosts programs and groups, including Conversation Clubs where you can meet people and practice language.

The HLS Living Learning Center integrates undergraduate living with formal and informal residential learning.

Explore beINvolved to connect with any of the 750+ student organizations that already exist, or to start a new one.

Volunteer opportunities

There are numerous opportunities for volunteer engagement. The organizations below can help you connect with community members and international visitors in the university community and beyond:

Sign up to receive weekly emails from the Bloomington Volunteer Network to learn about local opportunities and organizations. Student organizations include:

Professional organizations

Use the Indiana University Library system to search for Associations Unlimited, an online directory of associations, professional societies, non-profit organizations, and much more.

Build your skills

Through the major

The major in International Studies provides you with a set of skills and qualities that are relevant and transferable to many areas of study and work. These include:

  • Effectively communicate across cultures in at least two languages
  • Have deep knowledge of at least one region outside the United States
  • Analyze qualitative data through a multidisciplinary context of theory and methodology
  • Develop skills for critical reading and thinking, team work, research and writing
  • Identify and understand cultural differences
  • Recognize the United States as a piece of the global puzzle

Through a College of Arts and Sciences degree

Your coursework provides many opportunities to develop the following five foundational skills that will serve you well in every career path:

  • Question critically
  • Think logically
  • Communicate clearly
  • Act creatively
  • Live ethically

These foundational skills will aid you in landing your first job and advancing professionally throughout your working life. Not only are these the skills that employers say they value most in the workplace, the provide the best preparation for lifelong success in a world of complexity, uncertainty, and change.

Skills desired by employers

Each year, the National Association of Colleges and Employers asks employers what skills and qualities they are looking for in recent college graduates.

The following are some of the most commonly desired attributes across many employment sectors:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to work in a team
  • Written and verbal communication skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Strong work ethic
  • Analytical and quantitative skills
  • Ability to take initiative
  • Being detail oriented
  • Demonstrating adaptability
  • Technical skills relevant to the field
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Computer skills
  • Organizational ability

As you explore various career fields, pay attention to specific job descriptions and requirements. If there are areas where your skills or knowledge are lacking, talk with your academic advisor and career coach about how you can develop in those areas while you are at Indiana University.

Your academic advisor and career coach can also help you find ways to strengthen and deepen the knowledge you already have, becoming more prepared for whatever path you select after your college career.

Launch your career

Plan your search

A good career exploration starting point is an appointment with the School of Global and International Studies career coach.

The Walter Center for Career Achievement offers job search resources, career courses, job fairs, information about internships and full-time jobs, and help with social media networking through professional organizations. Get advice about how to write your resume and prepare for job interviews, too.

Explore and enroll in Career Communities to learn more about industries relevant to your interests. These offer unique information about each field, including alumni spotlights, opportunities and resources, and in-person events.

Maximize your career preparation with a career course. International Studies majors should consider enrolling in ASCS-Q296 College to Career II: Navigate Your Arts and Sciences Experience. The section dedicated to Hamilton Lugar School students provides the opportunity for you to explore the relationship between your field of study and life after graduation, while developing an academic and career development plan for post-collegiate success. If you are considering continuing your studies after graduation, you may wish to enroll instead in the section dedicated to graduate school preparation. Regardless of the section you select, you will leave the class with your resume, a cover letter or personal statement, and a LinkedIn profile ready to go!

The job market

As the world becomes more connected and interdependent, employment opportunities have greatly increased for students with knowledge about international issues and appreciation for multiculturalism.

Initial and long-term destinations for graduates include positions in many job sectors: education, federal and state government, research and policy think tanks, non-profit and foreign aid organizations, the cooperative job sector, international banking and business, and the military.

Want to see where your fellow majors go right after graduating from IU? Check out the Walter Center's First Destinations survey!

Talk with International Studies faculty, the academic advisor and other students to gain insights into the career paths taken by graduates of the Department of International Studies and the School of Global and International Studies.

Post-graduate short-term experiences

After graduation, a short-term experience or internship can help you make connections, gain life skills, and assess your interest in future careers. Talk with your career coach and use these and other resources to find opportunities that are a good fit with your educational experience and career goals:

Teaching positions give you a chance to hone language and communication skills. Find international English teaching jobs through organizations such as Center for International Education Exchange, Institute of International Education, and LanguageCorps.

Fellowships for post-graduate study

Fellowships are temporary post-graduate opportunities to conduct research, work in a field, or fund graduate school. Most opportunities can be found through universities, non-profit, and government organizations.

Good examples of resources for finding fellowship opportunities include:

Graduate and professional study

When applying to graduate or professional schools, you'll need letters of recommendation from faculty members who are familiar with your work. Make a practice of attending office hours early in your academic career, to get to know your professors and discuss your options for advanced study in the field.

An International Studies B.A. degree will prepare you for entry into graduate programs in a wide variety of fields, such as area studies, foreign languages and literatures, public affairs, non-profit management, international relations, and business.

With careful planning, and in consultation with the Health Professions and Prelaw Center, you could also prepare to enter law school, medical school, or other programs in the health professions.

Students who pursue graduate studies in International Studies have gone into careers with top academic and research institutions, the military and intelligence communities, the United Nations, World Bank, non-governmental organizations, media, business and entrepreneurship.

You might consider these Indiana University graduate opportunities:

Alumni connections

Join one of the regional International Studies alumni associations or start a new chapter.

The College of Arts and Sciences has thousands of active alumni. Check out the College Luminaries program, which connects students with the College's most influential, successful, and inspiring alumni.

Join the Walter Center Success Network to remain in touch, network directly with College of Arts + Sciences Alumni, and let others know where your path takes you.

Is it for you?

The International Studies B.A. attracts students from a variety of backgrounds and interests. They typically have some of the following qualities:

  • Desire to make overseas study a significant part of their undergraduate education
  • Affinity for learning new languages
  • Aspire to contribute to the resolution of persistent world problems
  • Interest in the interdisciplinary and comparative study of international issues
  • Appreciation for the diversity of world cultures
  • Intellectual curiosity and imagination

Learn more

Contact an International Studies academic advisor and schedule an appointment to explore your options. Complete information about the requirements of the major can be found in the College of Arts and Sciences Bulletin.

Department website
Advisor email address