The undergraduate BS major in international relations is a 48-credit degree program that provides advanced training in economics, data analytics, and research methods. Requirements for the major include 48 credit hours, plus demonstrated proficiency in a modern second language. The major requires 4 required introductory courses, 3 advanced courses in each of two concentrations, 3 research methods courses (one introductory, two advanced), 2 skills courses and a senior seminar in which students complete an original capstone research project.

For a complete list of major requirements, please visit the online Course Catalog.

Please review our main campus and study abroad course lists for a full list of courses that can be applied to the IR major. 

Introductory Courses 

The International Relations major requires 4 introductory courses (12 credits)in three fields to provide a solid interdisciplinary base on which to build a more specialized course of study.

To be eligible to declare the undergraduate major in International Relations, students must achieve a grade of ‘B’ or better in at least one of these required introductory courses, taken at Syracuse University.


We require each major to take 9 upper level credits (3 courses) in each of two concentrations chosen from among the following:

  • Culture, Identities and Citizenship
  • Global Health and Environment
  • Human Rights
  • International Political Economy
  • International Law and Organizations
  • International Security and Diplomacy
  • Migration
  • Technology and Global Politics
  • Regional Studies focused on one of the following regions: Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East and North Africa, or The Americas

IR majors should meet with the IR Major Advisor before selecting their concentrations. You can make an appointment with the IR Advisor via Orange Success.  After you meet with the IR Advisor and select your two concentrations,  please respond to the survey below to formally declare them:

Research Methods

A deep understanding of international relations requires the capacity to consume and evaluate the academic research of other scholars, and to produce such analysis on one’s own. For this reason, our majors complete 3 research methods courses (one introductory research methods course and two advanced research methods courses). Students are strongly encouraged to seek training in the method(s) that will be most relevant to their Senior Capstone projects.

Introductory Research Methods Courses

Advanced Research Methods Courses

Skills Courses

Students must take two 3-credit skills courses:

Foreign Language

To develop adequate understanding of other cultures and peoples, to gain access to primary sources, and to prepare for study abroad and future careers in international affairs, students need proficiency in a second language. 

Our majors must demonstrate language proficiency by completing coursework through the 202 (Course IV) level OR by demonstrating proficiency equivalent to that level through a proficiency exam administered by Syracuse University’s Department of Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics. Students fulfilling the language requirement through a proficiency exam must present a formal petition to the International Relations Office. Please meet with a major advisor for more information about the petition requirements.

Exemptions for native speakers can be made when pre-college instruction was in a language other than English and when the student completes English for Non-Native Speakers through ENL 213.


The senior capstone for the major in International Relations requires an original substantive research project. The capstone requirement is typically met by completion of an in-depth research project undertaken in the context of an approved 400-level research seminar offered by the IR Program or by any of the social science departments within the Maxwell School.

Capstone projects provide students with an opportunity for intellectual and professional development through the pursuit of original scholarly research on contemporary questions relevant to their areas of concentration. On occasion, our students are able to publish their research in undergraduate academic journals.

Senior Seminar students must complete the International Relations Program Capstone Planning Form (upon open, click the download button to open a fillable pdf).

Additional helpful materials:

Capstone Checklist Spring 2024

Capstone FAQ Spring 2024

IR Distinction Program

Our Distinction Program enables students majoring in International Relations to engage in an enhanced research and mentoring experience. Distinction candidates are required to produce a research project of substantially superior quality and longer length than the capstone research project required of all International Relations majors.

In addition, the Distinction Program aims to provide young scholars with the skills and support needed to produce an original analysis based on primary sources or fieldwork, as appropriate, suitable for presentation at an academic conference or for publication in an undergraduate social science academic journal.

Eligibility and Requirements

Participation in the Distinction Program is by invitation. Minimum requirements include:

  • Junior standing (minimum 54 credits accrued), but with preference given to seniors
  • Cumulative GPA of 3.4
  • Major GPA within the top 10% of the rising senior class, which is typically 3.7 or higher
  • Completion of the research methods course requirement (with a grade of C or better)
  • Significant progress toward completion of major requirements, including topic and region concentration coursework
  • A demonstrated commitment to academic integrity
  • Earn a grade of B or higher in the Distinction research seminar and final paper
  • Present the results of the research project in a public forum or conference
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