Political Science and International Relations

Political Science and International Relations graduates understand diplomacy, conflict, power structures, and politics in a globalised world.

Political Science and International Relations students develop strong skills in conceptual analysis, research, strategic thinking, and persuasive communication.

Political Science students learn about political ideas such as capitalism and socialism from a historical, contemporary, or regional perspective. They examine political systems, issues, and movements, including economic growth, human rights, climate change, war, and security in a local and global context. From this they learn about research design and methodology, and how these are applied in conflict resolution and diplomacy frameworks.

International Relations students explore the complex relationships between countries and the roles of government, non-governmental organisations (NGOs), and multi-nationals.

Roles and career pathways

Political Science and International Relations graduates work in a wide range of roles that involve critical analysis, research, consequential thinking, and strong verbal and written communications skills. Government organisations employ graduates in policy, stakeholder relations, communications, and research analyst or advisory roles. First roles for graduates with undergraduate degrees may be in an administration or coordination role before progressing to an adviser or senior adviser role in a policy team.

Political Science and International Relations graduates also work as political assistants, journalists, programme coordinators, customer service managers, or parliamentary researchers. They may work in policy roles in unions, NGOs, government departments, or Parliamentary Services. They can also be found working in global non-profits, government organisations such as the Ministry of Defence or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, embassies, logistics and supply chain organisations, or import and export trade businesses.

Postgraduate study in Political Science and International Relations such as an Honours or Master’s degree is helpful for a number of intermediate to senior policy and research roles where specialised and in-depth analysis is important. The Honours course in Political Science includes a limited-entry parliamentary internship programme working with a Member of Parliament.

A number of students combine both Political Science and International Relations as double major. Others may add additional subjects, such as Economics, History, Public Policy, Management, Māori Studies, or a language, to broaden their employment options. They may also undertake an additional degree in an area such as Law. Postgraduate courses in Strategic Studies or Migration Studies can be a focus for graduates wishing to specialise in these aspects of international diplomacy and security.

Where Politics and International Relations graduates work

Political Science and International Relations graduates work across the private and public sectors. They may work in political environments as well as in non-profits, NGOs, and government departments.

Recent Political Science and International Relations graduates have worked in organisations such as:

Build relevant skills and experience

Part-time work and volunteering during study all help to increase your job prospects when you graduate. The WFHSS Internship course run by the Wellington Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences helps develop practical workplace experience. Programmes such as Wellington Plus and Wellington International Leadership Programme (WILP) programmes offer opportunities to gain diverse volunteer and leadership experience.

Make career connections

Making connections with individuals and groups during your degree can help you learn more about career and networking opportunities. The student-run politically neutral Politics Society (PolSoc) runs networking events for interested students.

The Centre for Strategic Studies, based at Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington is the oldest institute for research and public engagement on strategic and foreign policy. It offers a range of seminars for students interested in this area.

The New Zealand Institute of International Affairs runs a programme of events, including a Careers Without Borders event in collaboration with the University. Wellington Chamber of Commerce and Wellington Young Professionals also offer various events and opportunities for networking. The Alumni as Mentors programme for final-year students helps enhance your connections and employability while studying.

Graduate career stories

Portrait of Christopher Foulkes.

Christopher Foulkes

The freedom to select courses matching his interests drove Christopher towards studying all aspects of human migration, then working in the area with the UN.

Head and shoulders portrait of Nikki Everton in front of a marina

Nikki Everton

Travel sparked Nikki’s interest in Political Science & International Relations, a programme that helped her develop presenting skills she’s used in many roles.

Head and shoulders selfie of Troy Simms, in front of a painting of a tūī.

Troy Simms

A zest for questions and problem solving cultivated during Troy’s Political Science studies now form the foundation of his career in government.

A photo of Hannah during an election monitoring mission in Solomon Islands. Hannah wears a black dress, a black face mask, and carries a clipboard.

Hannah van Voorthuysen

International Relations helped Hannah develop critical-thinking, research, and negotiation skills she applies at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade.