Breaking into the I.E. Field: Expectations and Opportunities Part I

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What is International Education precisely? There is no single definition of the term, but, to put it nicely: International Education (IE) is both a career field and an interdisciplinary field of study, lending from sociology, economics, psychology, humanities, pedagogy, business management, and many other academic disciplines.

When examining IE as a career, breaking into the field isn't particularly strict, in that it is not necessary to come from a particular field of study and most majors will suffice. Nonetheless, job entry into the IE sector normally requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree and some international experience. This international experience is tremendously vital and can come in many forms, such as learning through a study abroad program, teaching a foreign language abroad, participating in an international internship or volunteer program, etc. For many employers in the IE field, the type of international experience acquired abroad isn't as important as the exposure and open-mindedness to different cultural skills and practices for entry level applicants. Despite the relative ease of entry into the field of IE, career advancement and management-level positions and responsibilities normally require further education at the graduate level.

IE as an academic field of study, on the other hand, can greater serve those interested in specific areas under the IE umbrella. Many higher education institutions (HEIs) offer IE programs starting at the MA level. At this level, curricula is more centered on the field's growing interdisciplinary theoretical literature, as well as quantitative and qualitative methods and, thus, is more research-oriented than the few BA-level IE programs offered. Nevertheless, it should be noted that not all IE programs are the same.

Some master-level IE programs are more practice-based, focusing on the acquisition and application of theories in a real-life setting, such as a study abroad, student advising, or international recruitment office of a university, for example. Other IE academic programs concentrate less on practice and focus more on analyzing and interpreting trends in International Education, such as international enrollment statistics and research on labor market outcomes of graduates. Such work is not only useful for HEIs, but for employment agencies, economic institutions, philanthropic organizations, major research centers, and think-tanks in both the public and private sector. Thus, it is imperative to thoroughly assess the various curricula of prospective programs and one's own particular interest before applying to any IE program.  

Check back next week as we explore opportunities beyond the traditional university setting.

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