Master of Arts in International Relations

Our dynamic and interconnected world needs a cutting-edge workforce of change-makers and disruptors who understand how economics, geopolitics, security and the environment are inextricably linked — exactly what you will learn as a graduate student at San Francisco State University.

 ISA-West Conference participants and professors

Professors Skonieczny and Banerjee celebrate the success of ISA-West Conference participants from the IR M.A. Program.

As the only M.A. in International Relations in the California State University System, our two-year program attracts students and faculty from all over the world. Our program prepares graduate students to enter a competitive workforce in government, business and non-profits or to pursue advanced graduate training leading to a Ph.D. We are the only CSU department to be an affiliate member of the prestigious Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs offering numerous professional opportunities for our students and graduates. Our program is also a Western Regional Graduate Program offering in-state tuition to 16 Western Region state residents including Washington, Oregon, Nevada, Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

Why Join Us?

  • Join a cohort of 20-25 graduate students representing the world and the changing demographics of the United States — 2/3 of our students identify as Asian, LatinX and/or African-American 
  • Our program offers an academic emphasis or a professional emphasis that allows for either a thesis OR an immersive internship experience 
  • Spend a semester of our program abroad at universities in Italy, Japan and South Korea
  • Affordable Tuition — Western State Residents pay under $9,000 per year, financial aid and some limited scholarships are available to eligible graduate students 

Watch a panel with two SF State Alumni about conducting field work as Master's students: Isaac Cisneros (M.A. International Relations '22; B.A. Political Science, Latin American Studies Minor '18) and Amalia Menjivar (B.A. International Relations, Political Science, Latin American Studies Minor '20).

Grad Program Events

Get to know our Graduate Program in International Relations this Spring! Please register in advance for all Zoom sessions.

Program Snapshot

International Students
Student to Faculty Ratio
Average Years to Degree

Apply Now!

Spring 2024 application deadline is December 1, 2023. Classes start January 29, 2024

Fall 2024 application deadline is March 15, 2024. Classes start in August, 2024

The application fee is $70. U.S. Veterans may apply for a fee waiver. Under special hardship circumstances additional application fee waivers may be considered. Prospective students can email for potential fee waivers. Unfortunately, SF State does not offer fee waivers for F1/international students.

Want to find out more about our program? Watch our past presentations online!

Applying to the Program 

Please apply through the Graduate Division. 

Admission Criteria—Department of International Relations 

To receive serious consideration, applicants will have a bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) with relevant course work and a grade point average of at least 3.0 in the last 60 units of undergraduate study.  

Where relevant, students should meet minimum English Language Proficiency requirements

The graduate coordinator may require successful applicants to supplement their background in international relations with coursework, readings and/or essays prior to or during their first year in the program. In such instances, applicants will be admitted to the program with conditionally classified standing. 

Materials Required to Apply 

  1. An unofficial transcript from all programs attended. Note: An official transcript will be required upon acceptance. 

  1. The names and email addresses of three recommenders who can comment on your abilities, achievements, and likelihood of success in a Master's program. Use Cal State Apply’s Program Evaluation feature to request and manage letters of recommendation. Note: We desire at least two letters from former instructors who are knowledgeable about your academic skills and potential. 

  1. A personal statement offering your reasons for embarking on graduate study in international relations, your reasons for selecting our program, your theoretical, functional, or geographic interests, and resume type information. Your personal statement should not exceed 1,000 words. 

  1. A research paper in English on a social science topic (1,500 to 9,000 words). If you do not have such a paper in English, please submit a short essay (1,500 words or less) on an international issue of your choice with adequate citations. 

  1. TOEFL, IELTS or PTE scores (required for students whose undergraduate degree was obtained in a language other than English). Foreign students also are encouraged to provide results for the TOEFL listening test or equivalent as well. Please check with ETS for the latest school code information. 


Graduate Division Resources 

On-Campus Services 

Fellowships Office  

Library Support Services 

Study Abroad Information 

Spend a semester abroad and experience as well as learn about the world. The IR department works with the SF State Study abroad office to offer the following programs for graduate students with no delay in their time to graduation. 

Visit the SF State Study Abroad website to find out more.

Culminating Experience (IR 892 Internship/IR 898 Master’s Thesis) 

Sample Culminating Experience Papers


The graduate program for International Relations consists of core requirements, elective classes and either an academic emphasis or a professional emphasis. The academic emphasis is for students who prefer to write an academic thesis, and may go on to pursue a Ph.D. in a variety of fields such as Political Science, Sociology or Global Studies or teach at a community college. The professional emphasis is for students who prefer to embark on an intensive internship (140 hours minimum) and gain work experience in the field. Professional emphasis students complete an internship report paper in place of an academic thesis to complete the culminating experience requirement.  

Core Requirements-Required 

  • I R 720 Theory and Approaches in International Relations, 3 units  
  • I R 725 The Analysis of Foreign Policy, 3 units 
  • I R 728 International Political Economy, 3 units 
  • I R 730 – I R 739 The International System and Its Problems series (select 1 course), 3 units 
  • I R 740 – I R 749 Comparative Foreign Policies series (select 1 course), 3 units 
  • I R 730 – I R 749 Elective (select 1 course), 3 units 

Choose ONE (either can also serve as an elective course) 

  • I R 750 Methods and Thesis Selection in International Relations, 3 units 
  • I R 751 Data Analysis and Evaluation Research in International Relations , 3 units 

Total for core: 21 units 

Electives-Choose 3 Classes (9 units) 

Subject to availability. For current course offerings, check the SFSU class schedule. Courses are rotated and generally offered only once every year.  

  • Up to two upper-division undergraduate classes can be substituted for graduate electives. Must be approved by the graduate coordinator 
  • Electives can also be chosen from related departments such as History, Political Science, Geography, International Business, Public Administration and others. Must be approved by the graduate coordinator 
  • For complete course descriptions, see the bulletin

International Relations M.A. Electives 

  • I R 705 Get Ready for a Career in International Relations (Units: 2) 
  • I R 709 Colloquium in International Relations (Unit: 1) 
  • I R 731 Politics of Multinational Corporations (Units: 3) 
  • I R 734 International Migration (Units: 3) 
  • I R 735 Seminar in Global Environmental Policy (Units: 3) 
  • I R 736 International Development and Globalization (Units: 3) 
  • I R 737 Seminar in Regional Economic Communities (Units: 3) 
  • I R 738 Contemporary International Legal Issues (Units: 3) 
  • I R 739 International Security (Units: 3) 
  • I R 741 Africa (Units: 3) 
  • I R 742 Seminar on American Foreign Policy (Units: 3) 
  • I R 743 Seminar in Chinese Foreign Policy (Units: 3) 
  • I R 745 Latin America (Units: 3) 
  • I R 746 The Middle East (Units: 3) 
  • I R 747 Russia and the West (Units: 3) 
  • I R 749 Asia and the World System (Units: 3) 

Minimum total electives: 9 units

Academic Emphasis 

  • I R 898 Master’s Thesis, 3 units  

Minimum total for emphasis requirements 3 units 

Combined degree total: 33 units

Professional Emphasis 

  • I R 892 Graduate Internship in International Relations 3, units  

Minimum total for emphasis requirements 3 

Combined degree total: 33 units

Department Advising

There are two sources of International Relations (IR) Department advising for graduate students: (a) the graduate coordinator; and (b) IR faculty. 

(a) The graduate coordinator can help students with general course and career planning, M.A. program planning, department formalities (e.g., proposal for a culminating experience, Graduate Approved Program (GAP) substitutions or revisions, or course transfer evaluations), study abroad and university rules and regulations and petitions. 

(b) IR faculty can provide students with course and career advising. Their value added is that they can give guidance in the specific regional and thematic areas that interest students. In addition, they can aid students in building the network and portfolio which will help them pursue their longer-term career/intellectual goals. IR faculty also are an essential part of the supervising committee for culminating experience projects and will support students’ efforts to develop and execute their culminating experience projects. Given the importance of IR faculty as advisors, students are strongly encouraged to develop an informal mentoring relationship with one or more faculty soon after their first semester in the program. 

Degree Timeline 

Every semester: It is to the advantage of students to communicate with the graduate coordinator and/or a faculty advisor at least once a semester about their course and program plans. 

Two-Year Degree Timeline: Semester by Semester Guide (pdf)

2nd Year Fall: Complete the ATC and CE Form prior to your final semester.  

  1. Students should acquire a good understanding of international relations theories and their applications in the world.
  2. Students should be able to examine the role of state and non-state actors on the global stage and critically approach contemporary schools of thought in International relations.
  3. Students should be able to develop skills and experience to engage in a variety of sectors: public, private, academic and nonprofit.
  4. Students should be able to generate research questions and systematically use theory and evidence to address these questions.
  5. Students should be able to conduct research using primary and secondary sources to deepen their understanding of a global issue.
  6. Students should be able to follow the disciplinary conventions of writing and analysis in international relations.
  7. Student writing should show evidence of independent thinking, conceptual analysis and problem-solving abilities.
  8. Students must be well-versed in a program area in international relations such as international security, foreign policy, international migration, international development or regional studies.
  9. Students should develop an advanced understanding of international relations and important issues such as human rights, climate change and international conflict and be able to apply their knowledge to a specific topic.
  10. Student internships and teaching engagements should generate knowledge and experience useful to the career goals of the graduate students. 

The documents on this website might not be fully accessible to persons with disabilities. We are working to fix these accessibility barriers. If you experience difficulty in accessing this content, please contact the Department of International Relations by email at and we will provide you with accessible alternatives.

Additional Information

Graduate Coordinator

Anyone with questions about our program is encouraged to contact our Graduate Coordinator, Dr. Amy Skonieczny, via email at

For More Information

View the SF State Bulletin M.A. in IR page for more information regarding the program.

Funding Assistance

Our department does not offer paid TA or RA positions at this time.

However, there are several ways to fund your graduate education including Federal Financial Aid, Grants, Work-Study, and some University, College level and IR departmental Scholarships including the Dwight Simpson Memorial Scholarship and the Benny & May Chin Scholarship in International Relations.