An education in the social sciences will impart a broad range of skills that easily translate into a multitude of careers.
International Relations exposes students to a broad palette of theoretical and empirical work, and trains students to develop their own original, useful, and empirically sophisticated research relevant to scholarship and policy.
Graduates find careers spanning the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Specific examples from alumni of the International Relations programme in the last 5 years are:
An education in the social sciences will impart a broad range of skills that easily translate into a multitude of careers. Below you can read about the career paths of a number of alumni in the MSc Political Science: International Relations.
It was a quite spontaneous idea to do my Master abroad, but the University of Amsterdam ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for in a Master’s programme in International Relations: a good and well known university, a study programme that met my interests and an international environment. After moving to Amsterdam, I felt a bit overwhelmed, but after a few weeks of figuring things out, I felt more and more confident in this new environment. I have always been interested in topics related to international security. At the UvA I found a very supportive academic environment to pursue this interest and to find out, what specific part of this very broad field was the most interesting to me.
During this process – even though it was such a short period of time looking back at it today – I was always given the right amount of freedom and guidance from my teachers. I felt like they understood me and my interests better than I could myself at that time and they always pointed me into the right direction. In my thesis, I covered a niche topic related to the international prevention of money laundering and terrorist financing – the implementation of measures based on the FATF Recommendations. The Financial Action Task Force (FATF) is an intergovernmental body established in 1989 that combats money laundering, terrorist financing and other related threats. It has published a series of Recommendations, an international framework of essential measures that countries should have in place in order to prevent, detect and punish these threats.
When I think about my year at the UvA today, I remember many hours spent at the library, but also lots of fun with my classmates. And for me the hard work really paid off, because when I received my diploma the following autumn, I had already signed a contract to work in the ‘Know Your Customer’ department at one of the biggest banks in Austria. After a little over a year I ‘changed sides’ and started working at the Austrian Ministry of Finance. At the Ministry I am working on the national implementation of international recommendations and directives, such as the FATF Recommendations or the EU’s own Anti-Money Laundering Directive. My work at the Ministry includes assistance with the drafting of legislature and legal opinions, and with the implementation of technical concepts and programmes for the prevention of money laundering and terrorism financing – some of the aspects I had also analysed in my thesis.
Due to my background in international relations, I am also working with international assessments, such as the review of members of the FATF. In my thesis, I included the first review report of Austria. About one and a half years later, the second Follow-up report of Austria was discussed at the FATF headquarters in Paris, and I was invited as a delegate of the Austrian Ministry of Finance, speaking as a national expert on beneficial ownership. This was definitely the highlight of my career so far.
My advice to future students would be: hang in there! You may feel overwhelmed by everything from time to time, but your hard work will pay off afterwards. You will learn so much, meet great people, and will definitely grow as a person.
After finishing my bachelor’s degree (Political Science) in 2007, I started two master programs simultaneously: Political Science (specialisation: International Relations) and Philosophy. During my master’s studies I did an internship at the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, a summer school at the Copenhagen Business School, and I studied a semester at the New School for Social Research in New York.
I very much enjoyed two Political Science courses I followed, the specialization module and a course on the political economy of finance, both taught by Daniel Mügge. The high quality of the teaching as well as the active participation of all the students in these courses was inspiring. And, not unimportantly, we always went to Kriterion or Crea Café for drinks afterwards.
After finishing my Philosophy thesis (Summer 2009), I started working at the Dutch Scientific Council for Government Policy (in Dutch: WRR), thanks to my thesis supervisor Huub Dijstelbloem, who worked there and asked me to apply. The WRR is an independent body writing advisory reports on issues with a high political and social salience. The great thing about working there is that you investigate a wide variety of topics: I have worked on the privatisation of public services, food and agricultural policy, financial regulation, and monetary policy. My studies have been very useful for this job, particularly because of their interdisciplinary nature (Philosophy, Political Science, and I followed several Economics courses). This interdisciplinary focus allows me to approach these societal issues from multiple angles, which is one of the key goals of the WRR-reports.
At the same time as I began working at the WRR, I started a one year ‘research assistant’-program at the UvA (1 day a week). I did research on the politics of post-crisis financial regulation, which was also the topic of my Political Science thesis (finished in Summer 2011) and my PhD-thesis (finished in 2018), all of which were supervised by Daniel Mügge. My job as research assistant at the UvA has been very important to me, because it was the starting point of us collaborating together ever since.
I have really enjoyed doing a PhD, even though it was quite challenging, as I had to do it mostly part-time (next to my WRR-job). Again, my interdisciplinary studies have helped me tremendously, as my PhD-dissertation covers several disciplines (Political Economy, Economics, Sociology, and Philosophy). I have been very lucky to study at a time when it was still affordable to do multiple studies.
I have benefited a lot from my studies, not only because of what I have learned, but also because of all the different people I have met (students as well as teachers). My advice to future students is: ask inspiring teachers about their research interests and activities. Equally important is to focus on what you really find interesting. During my studies I sometimes got so focused on all these “Big IR-Theories” (Realism versus Constructivism) that I sometimes forgot to study actual developments in international relations. Therefore, additional advice would be: know your theory stuff, but make sure that the substance – so the topics that you find interesting – is always center stage.
It has been a while since I graduated and I am afraid my UvA-memories are starting to fade a little. But here is what I do remember: from the very first day my Master’s International Relations felt like a breath of fresh air. I had enjoyed my Bachelor Political Sciences at the UvA, but looking back I realised that much of it had felt like school. In the Master’s Programme, the level of discourse went up significantly, something I very much enjoyed.
Relatively soon I came to understand that my choice for the IR track was an unfortunate one for me. I took a course in which different (associate) professors taught their favorite books (‘masterpieces’ I believed they were called) and at that moment I realised my heart was with Political Theory. Writing a thesis was without doubt the zenith of my time at the university. I had gone through considerable trouble to get permission to write it individually, and I remember receiving less ECTS for what was surely a lot more work. Still, it was worth all of it, because under the guiding hand of my thesis-supervisor Annette Freyberg-Inan I rediscovered the joy of serious thinking through writing.
After contemplating pursuing a career in academia I decided to try my luck on the outside. The first serious piece of journalism I wrote was an article on one of the subjects of my thesis. I sent it to my favorite magazine on a whim. I don’t know how, but it got published. That gave me the confidence to try and find my way in the world of journalism. A few years later I ended up working at De Groene Amsterdammer, the magazine I sent that first article to.
I am not sure there are lessons to be drawn from this history. I tended to go for broke and was either lucky or rewarded. Maybe it is just this: don’t be afraid to ask someone to write you a letter of recommendation. My thesis-supervisor wrote me one, and though I did not get to read it I am sure it was beautiful, because it got me into a journalism course I had actually no right to be in. At a certain point, my supervisor said to me: “don’t worry about the big choices, they tend to make themselves”. In retrospect, here the seed was sown for my ultimate career choice.
To support you in your career goals, the University offers a variety of resources:
Twice a year the GSSS hosts a Career Event, where you can meet organisation representatives and alumni, and receive helpful tips and feedback about searching for a job as a graduate.
The career advisers at the UvA Student Careers Centre can help students with information, workshops and individual vocational counselling to find out what you want, get insight into your capabilities and competencies, make choices and improve your application skills in order to achieve your goals.
With an increasing number of international students each year, the UvA is truly an international university. UvA graduates from all over the world find their way to interesting careers, whether in the Netherlands or abroad. The Student Careers Centre is specialised in advising international (non-Dutch) UvA graduates about job seeking in the international labour market.