Political science and International Relations

Political Science and International Relations are complementary and inter-related disciplines that explore power and politics in many different contexts. They provide concepts with which to explain, justify and critique the modern world. They examine ideologies such as colonisation and socialism. They explore systems of ideas like the new right, religious fundamentalism, and postmodernism. They analyse social movements that call for justice, development, gender equality or environmental protection. They help us to understand processes of electoral competition, government, and policy- making in New Zealand and a range of other countries across the world. They uncover the structures and motivations behind cooperation, conflict and war in the international system. They dig into issues of power, conflict, diplomacy, arms control, democracy, revolution, terrorism, developmental politics, civil society, human rights, foreign policy, humanitarian aid, and the international political economy.

Globalisation links people, cultures and countries much more closely than they have ever been. International Relations studies the relationships among countries and the roles of governmental and non-governmental organisations and multi-nationals. In an increasingly inter-connected world, people who understand and can work with these complex relationships have a significant advantage.


Studying these disciplines brings many benefits. There is the personal satisfaction and social confidence that comes from training your brain and raising your understanding of not only world events but also the events of daily life. Being able to step back and see a larger (political) process at work is very empowering at an individual level. It can take the sting out of tense or emotional situations and provide you with strategies that enable you to behave constructively and proactively. Being able to rise above difficulties and move on is enormously valuable in any work environment, particularly when professional issues or competing interests are involved. P

olitical Science and International Relations are embedded not only in social processes and group dynamics, but also different cultural realities. This raises your sensitivity to the taken-for-granted aspects of cultural experience, making you more open to different points of view and value systems. The ability to move comfortably within and between different cultures and political systems is fundamental to international business and trade activities, development support, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping missions. People with this kind of understanding are more likely to be successful in multi-national corporations and professional practices, non-government organisations (NGOs) such as aid agencies, and government agencies including diplomatic services and defence forces. They are also valuable ‘at home’ working in organisations where cultural or ethnic identity has a relationship with other social or political processes.


Political Science and International Relations graduates have a great toolkit of skills to take to work . These include :

Conceptual analysis : Graduates have learned to get their heads around the big issues, including models of government, cultural imperatives, false equivalents, the effects of war, historical intentions and complex current realities. Working productively with this range of information develops skills of abstract thinking and in-depth analysis, which transfer well to many jobs, especially those that deal in conceptual models and/or strategic planning. These include policy analysis, management roles, professional roles in law and economics, technical writing and promotion of the arts.

Consequential thinking: To a large extent Political Science and International Relations is about intentions, decisions and their various consequences. Graduates are adept at identifying the consequential effects of decisions and actions taken historically and in the present. They learn to make connections and formulate arguments. They learn to look for the hidden detail that changes everything. They become quite astute at predicting outcomes. Jobs that draw on these skills include all levels of management, particularly human resources, financial service roles, customer service positions, and any job that involves decision-making and problem solving.

Influencing and persuading skills: When it comes to getting what you want, graduates have an excellent understanding of what works and what doesn’t, having studied political agendas throughout the world and throughout history. It comes back to the element of power that underpins political business everywhere. Many job roles contain an expectation that you will be able to implement decisions, mobilise resources, or motivate others. These outcomes require influencing and persuading skills and are particularly relevant in supervisory roles, but also come into play in roles that involve interviewing for information, such as immigration officer or human resources consultant. Influencing skills make all the difference to sales, marketing and journalism roles, and work well for court lawyers and politicians.

Language skills: These skills encompass the biggies – written and verbal communication. Employers are always delighted to find people who write effectively and express their thoughts clearly. Graduates have these skills – partly from having to think big political ideas through to a logical conclusion, and partly because they are encouraged to write clear, lively well-argued assignments, and also argue their understanding of issues in tutorials with peers. Most work roles are enhanced by good language skills, and all positions of authority and leadership require them

Research skills: Graduates have studied their subject through its protocols of research design and methodology. This includes defining key research questions, tracking down and interpreting official documents, practising stringent internet research techniques, and for some, learning to write research proposals and make submissions to select committees. Many job roles, including policy analysts and advisors, journalists, managers, community liaison officers and social researchers, are highly dependent on superior research skills.