International Relations vs. International Business: Which is the right for you?


Tuesday, March 23, 2021

It is no wonder why International Relations and International Business are so commonly mistakenly believed to lead to the same career. However, it is important to clarify their differences in order for those interested in any of these two to be aware of the one that is more appropriate for them. 



The reason why this misconception has been established is clear: Both areas lead to jobs in the international sphere. Even though they have some points in common, it is crucial to make sure their differences are highlighted.

3 Top Differences between International Relations and International Business


1. Their main differences will be easily distinguished by defining them: 

  • International Relations is “the study of the relations of states with each other and with international organizations and certain subnational entities (e.g., bureaucracies, political parties, and interest groups). It is related to a number of other academic disciplines, including political science, geography, history, economics, law, sociology, psychology, and philosophy”.
  • International Business encompasses “all commercial activities that take place to promote the transfer of goods, services, resources, people, ideas, and technologies across national boundaries”.

If you pay attention to the definitions, you’ll be able to perceive the main differences between them: International Relations encompasses communications and relationships between international organizations or countries and International Business involves making it possible for commercial activities between organizations from different countries to happen. 

2. Where can you study each degree?

Even though international relations and international business have the international sphere in common, they are offered at different schools or departments within a university: 
  • International Relations degrees: They are typically offered at a School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the foreign or public affairs department. If you decide to pursue this degree, the curricula will range from topics such as political science, geography, world history, and social sciences. You will have modules such as National Security, Immigration, Terrorism, Human Rights Law, Policy Analysis, etc. 
  • International Business degrees: In general, they are offered by universities’ business schools. Business programmes’ curricula starts with the general management basics. Some modules are: Supply Chain Logistics, Global Finance, Emerging Markets, and International Currency. 

                    3. Potential Career Pathways

Another important difference between them is the career paths you can expect to have:

Career options for International Relations professionals: International Relations professionals are in charge of making sure that relationships between different states or cultures go smoothly in a way that both or all parts in the relationship are benefited from the bond. Their jobs include: Diplomat, NGO administrator, Political analyst, Intelligence specialist, Foreign lobbyist, Immigration lawyer, Military officer, Demographer. 

If IR graduates have enough experience, they could even be appointed ambassadors or even Secretary of State. 

International Business leads to careers like: Export officer, Product manager, Budget analyst, Advertising manager, Human capital consultant, Logistician, Global communications specialist, Sales director, Controller. 

Climbing the corporate ladder to big titles like VP of Diversity & Inclusion or Chief Financial Officer might be the end goal.

As you can see, International Business degrees lead to commercial jobs whereas International Relations degrees have a more political and diplomatic perspective. Even though they are related in some ways, they are quite different, and it is important to be aware of those differences when considering pursuing any of them. 

If you are interested in pursuing a career in one of these degrees, take a look at the programmes available in the UK by visiting Start University. 




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