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What Is the Difference Between an International Development and an International Relations Master’s Degree?

Though the two fields sound similar, they are actually quite different.

At Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, we want to ensure you choose the online program that’s right for you, and we understand that, as you research an advanced education, it’s not uncommon to find similar degrees within the same area of study.

For example, although International Development and International Relations are both International Studies programs, they’re different in meaningful ways — from their benefits to the world to the career paths they offer.

Have a look at the chart below for a side-by-side look at International Development vs. International Relations to determine if Saint Mary’s Master of Arts in International Development is right for you.

What is the program’s focus? A master’s in International Development is designed for a person concerned about issues of injustice around the world. Give International Development a look if you want to engage communities, promote social welfare and craft global solutions to some of the world’s most complex problems. A master’s in International Relations is designed for the student who wants a career focused on maintaining relationships between countries—from politics and economics to policy and human rights.
What skills will you gain? A master’s in International Development includes broad skill sets that can range from humanitarian foreign aid efforts to fundraising skills. This career is well-suited for those who seek hands-on project management. With a master’s in International Relations, you will hone your research, teaching and analytical skills, and develop a detailed knowledge of world politics.
Who would be an ideal applicant? Humanitarian-minded individuals who have a yearning to change the world through charitable and philanthropic efforts, or who want to develop and implement solutions for poverty in developing countries. Diplomatic individuals who want to assist in maintaining good relations between countries or who want to represent a country in protecting its interests abroad in terms of politics and trade.
What topics are covered? Topics such as economic development, political economy and management of non-governmental organizations. Topics such as global economies, political affairs, public policy, economic trends, international law and diplomacy.
What are some course examples? Common courses include:
  • International Political Economy
  • Global Religions and Belief Systems
  • International Project Management

Core courses include:

  • International Financing Mechanisms
  • Social Entrepreneurship
Common courses include:
  • International Affairs
  • International Law
  • International Relations Theory
  • Politics of International Economic Relations

Core courses include:

  • International Politics
  • American Foreign Policy
  • International Economics
What careers can you pursue? Careers in international aid, non-profit and charity leadership, and social and community services are common pursuits with this degree, along with other humanitarian efforts. Careers in government, lobbying, diplomacy, political analysis and law are common pursuits with this degree.
What is the average salary? The national average salary for an International Development Manager is $77,6461 in the United States. The national average salary for an International Relations Specialist is $68,7212 in the United States.

An online master’s in International Development from Saint Mary’s prepares you with the management background you need to do the crucial work of improving human and social conditions.

Through Saint Mary’s Master of Arts in International Development, you’ll learn to create viable and lasting solutions to international problems and social challenges using ethical and culturally inclusive methodologies. You’ll identify approaches to breaking down common barriers, and you’ll know how to think critically and lead across cultures.

Upon graduation, you’ll be ready to create change on a global scale and you’ll have the experience and skills to find a management-level job in social and community service.

Still curious about the differences between these two degrees? Contact a Saint Mary’s Admissions Specialist who can help you decide which degree is the best choice for your education and career path: Call 877-308-9954 or email us at


  1. Glassdoor, International Development Manager Salaries. Retrieved from,33.htm.
  2. Glassdoor, International Development Manager Salaries. Retrieved from,34.htm.