Many PhD candidates in International Relations might have found their hopes to get into academia even more dashed due to the global pandemic. Competition for postdocs and professorships (temporary and tenure-track) has notably been fierce, and now without funding and tuition coming into universities, many position lines have been scrapped altogether. As a result, PhD holders may find themselves exploring non-academic opportunities for the first time.
Whether you are considering a career change or just thinking about a temporary position while you figure out the next steps, here are a few non-academic job sectors that International Relations and Politics PhDs can explore:
Think Tanks & Policy Institutes
If you really want to follow a career as a researcher, then you might consider turning to think tanks or policy institutes. These kinds of organizations vary in size, goals, and influence, but there is such a wide variety of them that at least one must fit with your profile and career objectives.
These organizations are also a great way for you to focus on becoming an expert researcher while at the same time having a firmer grip on current events and what is happening on the ground than academics in the so-called “Ivory Tower”. Considering how many distinguished academics and public intellectuals eventually join or create think tanks, you will also have access to similar expertise and knowledge as you would have in academia.
Development Aid Agencies
Development Aid Agencies are governmental agencies focused on international development, such as USAID (US), JICA (Japan), or SIDA (Sweden). Although these agencies are controlled by a particular State, they usually operate in multiple countries and work closely with multilateral organizations, civil society, other States, and even the private sector.
International Development is a highly politicized area in which a good knowledge of international relations and geopolitics will always come in handy. If you are the kind of person who is passionate about development but does not feel attracted to NGO work, these agencies and their range of long and short-term contracts are what you are probably looking for.
International policy analysis has never been more important than today. Many journalists are graduates in international Relations and there are many positions in newsrooms besides being an anchor or reporter, such as writers, editors, fact-checkers, etc.
You can also pitch your own informed analysis of current affairs to magazines and newspapers and jump-start your career as a freelancer. You can focus on specific media outlets, such as The New Humanitarian if you are interested in development or humanitarian action, or generalist newspapers with a good international section, such as The Guardian.
The COVID-19 pandemic shifted our lives online and for many, this meant quickly adapting to teaching and going to school virtually. The Ed Tech (Education Technology) industry saw a major boom in 2020, and the use of many new learning management tools and online classrooms across school districts and universities. From the small start-up app to Google for Education, everyone scrambled to demonstrate their program’s efficiency to educators.
With this transition, there are also specific opportunities for consultants and teaching positions for online modules. PhDs with teaching experience and expertise in global politics are in demand across these Ed Tech platforms, as we do not see the usage of online tools diminishing anytime soon.
International Relations and Politics PhDs have lots of opportunities in non-academic sectors.
If you have to take a break from academia due to a lack of available positions, jobs in think tanks, aid agencies, media or ed tech might serve you well as a researcher later on. The important thing is to be open to alternatives and find the one that fits with your goals.