International education is an incredibly broad field, spanning traditional academic environments to diplomacy and policy work. Whether your interest is in refugee programs, study abroad exchanges, K-12 international education, education in emergencies, or international leadership, a degree in international education provides the framework for understanding education reform and social justice on a global scale.
A foundational element of international educators is a curiosity about how things are interconnected, especially within cross-cultural settings. That curiosity can then be translated into a variety of roles across disciplines — and can have significant impact in enhancing and furthering our global community. Most importantly, international educators are open-minded and ready to embrace and/or enact change.
So how does one become an international educator? Many choose to pursue a master’s in international education, which emphasizes skills in working effectively across international and multinational settings. One way to think about it is the study of how education exists within the cultural and historical context of a region and how best practices from one region may be adapted and implemented into another. With appropriate training, students are well-equipped to take on leadership roles when it comes to cross-cultural education, international education curriculum, and global education policy.
Here are the top four careers international education master’s students pursue:
This is perhaps the most broad of potential careers in international education in that it can cover just about any topic area. For example, graduates of global education programs may choose to work in a study abroad office, USAID, or at the Fulbright program.
They may focus on working within a given country to create an exchange program that allows residents to pursue learning and business opportunities elsewhere. Or they may oversee a refugee program, such as helping students from a country in crisis find a resettlement program that allows them to continue and further their education.
Central to all of these programmatic roles is a passion for global education and facilitating the broadening of horizons for residents on a local, national, or international scale.
Researchers and analysts are integral to implementing educational systems and evaluating the effectiveness of such systems. They may work as part of an academic institution, a governing body, a nonprofit organization, or a multinational corporation. Their cutting-edge work entails conducting and disseminating international education research that has the potential to transform how education is delivered, as well as how it is evaluated.
Topics that global educational researchers may focus on include early childhood and child development; comparisons of school systems to assess how education systems have improved, their equitability, and their performance in comparison to international peers; methodologies to improve learning outcomes and environments; developing, implementing, and assessing system-wide academic standards to help governments reach their targeted goals; and providing technical assistance designed to enhance safe and supportive learning environments.
Students who choose to pursue policy work often go on to work for state or national departments of education or international organizations such as UNESCO. Policy makers are aware of influential theories in the international education field, and often have an interest in how power and privilege play a role in education systems around the world. With this knowledge and understanding in hand, they can craft educational policy that emphasizes social justice, equity, inclusion, and diversity, while being mindful of the cultural context in which they work.
Policy makers may work at the institutional, local, state, regional, national, or international levels. They can also specialize by topic — such as economic growth, global health, human development — or they can be more oriented toward crafting policy around broader goals, incorporating skills in analytics, development, and implementation throughout.
Perhaps the most common career path pursued by graduates of international education master’s programs, educators work in both K-12 and higher education settings. Best known for breaking down barriers across countries and creating communities that further knowledge and cultural capital, international educators are crucial in creating new generations of global citizens and lifelong learners.
Educators are also essential to addressing critical education issues on a global, national, or local level. That’s because they can work in a classroom, within the administration, or serve as a boots-on-the-ground resource to those who are making curricula and policy decisions. Some international educators work within multinational corporations, while others work in public and private educational and cultural agencies. Across the board, they can instill a sense of resilience, service-based learning, and equity that help students understand their place in the world.
How to Pursue a Master's in International Education
If international education sounds like a career path you might like to explore, the George Washington University’s Graduate School of Education and Human Development is a great place to get started. Our location in D.C. — the epicenter of policy, practice, and research — provides access to global opportunities within walking distance of campus by working or interning for embassies, the U.S. government, or more than 100 organizations that influence international education.
Our program also maintains a partnership with the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), serving as one of only three designated UNESCO Chairs in a U.S. school of education, and offering a UNESCO Fellows program. Learn more about our program and reach out to an admissions coach.