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Master of Diplomacy (MDY) | Context - Context
Online Master of Diplomacy (MDY)
Master of Diplomacy (MDY) In Context

A Master of Diplomacy (MDY) degree works to further your existing skills, professional experience, and education to prepare you for a career in diplomacy. This can involve work in a wide range of positions in a variety of sectors and organizations.

With a focus on international relations and the history, theory, and practices of diplomacy, as well as the techniques and strategies needed for peacekeeping and trade in the modern era, a Master of Diplomacy degree provides the well-rounded knowledge needed for this often complex discipline.

Who applies for a master’s in diplomacy?

The United States has more than 270 embassies, consulates, and diplomatic missions across the globe, [1] and as of 2008 there were more than 11,000 employees in the U.S. Foreign Service stationed overseas. [2] With many appealing opportunities around the globe, MDY graduates interested in a wide variety of diplomatic processes can find a worthwhile path. A degree in this field can assist in obtaining a role representing the U.S. in any type of diplomatic work. However, this wide-ranging degree and the extensive skills it imparts also lend themselves to a variety of peacekeeping, negotiation, and political positions across many sectors and organizations.

A Master of Diplomacy is worthwhile for any qualified professional interested in pursuing any of the many careers related to diplomacy, international relations, or their associated subjects.

Why earn a Master of Diplomacy?

Career satisfaction

There is ample opportunity for highly paid work as a diplomat and in the international relations field, [3][4] though there are advantages to diplomatic work that extend beyond remuneration.

With frequent global and domestic shifts in power and policy, diplomats are consistently presented with unforeseen challenges, so the need for well-executed diplomacy is constant. [5] The unpredictable world stage requires the rational, adaptable, and cooperative nature that diplomats and those with diplomatic personalities bring to the table.

Your grasp of problem-solving, understanding of different cultures, and respect for others’ positions can bring value to a wide range of organizations and companies, [6] and be of real service to the world. You can obtain transferable skills that can make you well suited to a range of public and private sector jobs.

Diplomatic jobs vary enormously in their nature. Governmental roles often last two years per tour [7] and can involve time spent in any country where the U.S. has a diplomatic presence.

Pay and career versatility

A Master of Diplomacy can unlock exciting, far-reaching positions, including opportunities to shape foreign policy. Furthermore, if you find the right career, degrees in diplomacy and other international relations-centric fields can be quite lucrative. Forbes reported that such careers average nearly a six-figure salary at the mid-career level. [8] Studies by the Pew Research Center note that 25- to 34-year-olds with a graduate degree or higher in any field earn more than $900 more per month than those with a bachelor’s degree. [9]

The potential for increased pay is a reflection of the upward mobility and promotional prospects sometimes available to those with a master’s degree. Those who hold a Master of Diplomacy could expect to work in a range of positions, including as a diplomat, political scientist, political analyst, foreign affairs specialist, or research consultant, as well as in journalism, lobbying, [10] or any other position that requires an in-depth understanding of global issues.

There is also the possibility of specialization within your Master of Diplomacy degree. Based on a survey of online programs, international economics, international terrorism, security policy, and cyber diplomacy are just a few of the relevant themes that may be approached in your program, giving you a chance to build on existing interests, react to current events, and study more specifically within the area in which you would like to work.

What is the primary focus of a Master of Diplomacy Degree?

The primary focus of a Master of Diplomacy degree is to equip students with the knowledge and practical skills needed for a career based around international politics and relations. It seeks to build insight, enable you to apply effective solutions to complex problems, and emphasize diplomacy’s role as a vehicle to address the broad issues that may affect a given country, region, or people.

What is the difference between a Master of Diplomacy and a degree in international relations?

The Master of Diplomacy and a master’s degree in international relations are similar in their content and outcomes, but they differ in their depth of focus. An international relations degree is typically a broad degree focused on providing the knowledge required for careers in the international relations space. In contrast, a diplomacy degree is much more concentrated, focusing on providing students with the required skill set necessary to implement solutions across nations.

A degree in diplomacy focuses not only on aspects of international relations and foreign policy but also on how to peacefully and successfully implement them.

Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Career Advancement
The career opportunities for Master of Diplomacy graduates can allow for both interesting and well-paid work. There are many different roles that would be well-suited to someone with a diplomacy MA, all of which offer different pay and professional opportunities.
Types of diplomacy careers: salaries and growth

Below are several examples of common positions and the salaries they may offer. Also included is the projected job growth where such information exists.

  • Diplomat or foreign service specialist: The U.S. State Department lists salaries that can reach up to $134,776 per year. The pay depends on level of experience and rank. [11]
  • Political scientist: According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay in 2016 for political scientists was $114,290. This number is based on a composite of career types including federal government positions; professional, scientific, and technical services; and educational services. [12]
  • Policy analyst: A study by Sadie Blanchard for the BLS [13] analyzed the prevalence of federal government policy analysts on the U.S. government’s standardized General Schedule (GS) for pay. The position is well-represented at the GS-15 level, which can pay up to $145,000, though a recent master’s graduate would expect to start at the GS-7, where the starting salary is $31,740. Payscale [14] list the median pay as $38,000.
  • Foreign affairs specialist: According to Payscale, [15] a similar foreign affairs officer position offers a median salary of $73,103, with the possibility to earn as much as $110,000 in a senior role.
  • Research consultant: According to self-reported data compiled by, there is an average salary of $72,942 [16] for a research consultant, which can rise steadily with experience.
  • Journalist: A reporter or correspondent has a median pay of $38,870 per year. [17] This figure regards correspondents and journalists of all varieties, rather than those dealing with international relations or diplomacy specifically, however.
  • Lobbyist: Lobbyists can work at the local, state, and federal levels, and the pay can vary dramatically, depending on the client and scope of the work. According to data collected by, the average lobbyist makes more than $100,000 per year, but there is a wide variation in earnings. [18]

It is important to note the distinction between the job growth for individual roles listed here and the increased opportunities that stem from associated degrees. For example, Forbes magazine states that there is a 21% projected employment growth for jobs associated with a diplomacy degree, with the same figure for international relations, whereas the outlook for specific positions is often lower due to their specialist nature. [19]

Where do Master of Diplomacy graduates work?
Because of its versatile nature, the Master of Diplomacy allows graduates to pursue employment in a number of settings.

Public sector

According to statistics found on the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA) website, 29% of international relations graduates work in the public sector. [20] There is strong competition for these positions, making internships important. These public sector organizations can focus on anything from promoting trade to developing cities, as well as upholding law and order.

Government and military

Government and military work often requires advanced degrees in diplomacy, international relations, or international law to protect U.S. interests and citizens overseas. These can include anything from an administrative position to a military one and can involve mandatory placements across the world. [21]

Private organizations

For-profit organizations, particularly ones with an international presence, may hire diplomacy and international relations graduates to benefit from their cross-cultural knowledge and communication skills.

NGOs, charities, and other nonprofit organizations

These organizations work throughout the world and require specialists to do so. They often seek candidates who can demonstrate specific examples of charity work or an interest in their projects and ideals. [22]

Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Curriculum
The curriculum of a diplomacy MA will vary based on the institution. However, a comparison of several different programs gives an idea of the typical core and elective courses in the field, as well as common areas for specialization and potential fieldwork. The information here is based on a survey of online programs.
Typical core courses

Common core courses for a diplomacy master’s degree focus on broad issues that nonetheless require specialized knowledge. International economics, history, politics, and law each feature in core courses at a range of prominent universities, and there is further emphasis on quantitative and policy analysis.

Generally speaking, a student may expect to take coursework in the following:

  • History of Diplomacy: These courses may include either broad or more focused topics. Based on a survey of online programs, some degrees may offer studies into particular international leaders throughout history, seeking to shed light on the work of leading diplomatic individuals rather than on countries, events, or general historical developments. [23]
  • Legal Systems: Law courses are often elective, but some institutions require study of the legal systems that affect individual countries, bilateral relations, and international diplomacy.
  • International Economies or Global Commerce: Given the importance of diplomacy in trade for both government and private sector organizations, there is particular emphasis on international economies, economics, and global commerce on the whole.
  • Communication Strategies: Though the majority of core program components focus on history, law, economics, and current events, the theory and strategy of communication is another possibility.
Typical elective courses

After your core courses have been completed, you’ll have a chance to focus on subjects that you either find particularly interesting, have experience in, or wish to utilize in your future career. These offer significant breadth and diversity, and some schools offer a chance to branch into specific geographical areas or specific organizations, such as IGOs or NGOs.

A few subjects that you may commonly find include:

  • International Security: Ever-prominent in the list of elective topics are ones based on international security, which are designed for those interested in international conflict management, defense policy, peacekeeping, and military intelligence.
  • Human Rights: Some universities offer special emphasis in human rights, providing many courses that link human rights to anything from international law to IGOs and foreign policy and can be chosen both as part of an International Studies and an International Human Rights master’s. This type of class is ideal for those who seek to utilize their existing law qualifications or expertise in working on behalf of marginalized people and groups throughout the world.
  • Nonprofit Management: Some universities dedicate an entire field of elective courses to those who wish to follow a career path that will lead to work for charities, NGOs, or aid agencies. They provide a useful link between ongoing and potential crises across the globe and the necessity for outside agents and organizations to assist in their prevention.
  • Cybercrime or Cyber Law: Cybercrime is of particular relevance to the current political climate, and students who pursue such a route may find their skills of particular use to a range of different organizations. There are concentrations in cybersecurity that offer detailed insight into these security risks and the laws being made to counteract them.
  • Research Methods: A research methods course provides you with the skill set to conduct research during or after your degree, at either an individual level or on behalf of a larger organization. Some institutions base entire concentrations of courses around research methods, offering an excellent route for mathematically minded students.
Typical specializations

Furthering the work you have undertaken in elective courses, a specialization allows you to carve a niche in a more specific area, with some elective studies, and work toward a given role or organization with a particular focus. Given the breadth of subjects that can be incorporated into a Master of Diplomacy, these are very diverse in nature.

These may not only increase your chance of being interviewed or accepted for a certain position, but may afford you the expertise needed for an increased starting salary. Perhaps the most important thing to remember when choosing a specialization is the impact it may have on your future career: whether it is relevant, whether there is job growth, and whether it will provide you with the experience you need to fulfill your ambitions.

Below are some typical specializations:

International economics

International economics is a popular and worthwhile specialization for those who wish to enter a range of organizations and sectors, boosting their existing knowledge of international relations and diplomacy with more specific skills to assist in trade and business.

Security policy

A security policy specialization is essential for anyone who wishes to fully understand the nature of conflicts, why current conflicts may be taking place, and what can be done to prevent future ones. Such courses will prepare you for a career in the military or government, particularly in intelligence or homeland security.

International terrorism

The fluid, complex nature of terrorism allows for detailed study and experience with important applications after graduation. Specializations in this area often come under foreign policy and security policy, though there are more focused classes available. [24]

Conflict resolution

Like security policy, conflict resolution is ideal for those wishing to enter a military or government position, and allows good footing for a traditional diplomatic posting overseas.

Cyber diplomacy

Cyber diplomacy may fall under a wide variety of topics related to cyber terrorism, cybersecurity, and cybercrime on the whole, and is another particularly relevant topic to specialize in at a postgraduate level.


Some programs will offer fieldwork as either a central, mandatory part of the degree or an optional one. Some universities run overseas programs for graduate students throughout the year.

Fieldwork might include internship programs, residencies, or practicum programs, and will typically involve giving you real-world experience with the issues and duties associated with diplomacy. Some programs will allow you to seek out your own internship at an institution such as an intergovernmental organization, NGO, or consulate, while others may provide the experience for you on campus or at an important location for international relations, such as Washington, D.C. or Paris.

Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Certification and Licensure
The majority of diplomacy work in the U.S. or abroad requires no certification or licensure, although the Department of State require its candidates to sit the Foreign Service Officer Test (FSOT). [25]
What is the importance of concentrations?

Concentrations allow for a more focused degree that might lead to a strong application for a particular position or organization, but they aren’t necessarily an advantage. Prospective employers may also look for more general, versatile knowledge within the field.

What should I look for when it comes to curriculum?

While it is important to play to your strengths, it is also important to provide your prospective employers with well-rounded skills. Try to find a curriculum that will allow you to challenge yourself as well as work in familiar areas, with a range of delivery methods, to develop a versatile, well-rounded skill set. Also, accreditation is particularly important: ensure that your course has the proper accreditation for your degree to be recognized afterward.

Is an online degree the same as a campus-based program at most universities?

An accredited online MA should hold the same prestige as a campus-based one, though the timeframes and curriculum may be more flexible. Online study takes significant self-motivation and management, and will not be easier to pass as a result of its non-campus nature. Ensure that the program is right for you, is accredited, and that you’ll be able to access everything you need to complete it.

What’s the difference between a general degree and one with concentrations?

The decision of whether to have concentrations is up to the given institution — a master’s program without concentrations is not inferior as a consequence. A general Master of Diplomacy degree would allow you to choose from a wider list of courses, rather than from several specific ones in concentrations.

Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Program Length

The length of an online master’s degree program can depend on a number of variables, perhaps the most prominent of which is the pace at which you choose to study. You can finish a typical master’s degree program in about two to three years if you choose to study full-time, although some accelerated programs may be able to help you finish more quickly.

Online master’s degree programs tend to offer flexibility suitable for students who choose to study part-time. This option will likely extend your time to completion, but it can allow you to study while fulfilling your familial, social, and professional obligations.

You can find more information on this topic at our program length overview page.

Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Admissions Requirements

While each program will set its admission requirements based on its own criteria, many requirements are universal across all programs. No matter where you apply, you can expect to provide items like transcripts from previous degrees or coursework; standardized test scores; a personal statement or essay; letters of recommendation; and an overview of relevant work experience.

In certain cases, some of these requirements may be waived.

For more information about admissions, please visit our admissions requirements page.

Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Relevant Associations and Organizations

Connections are very important for diplomacy careers. The global, cooperative nature of the studies lend themselves particularly well to fostering longstanding relationships with individuals and bodies that can assist in searching for positions, or perhaps help you to fill one at a later date. The following are organizations that may prove beneficial for you.

  • International Public Relations Association (IPRA): Formed by Dutch and British PR companies that wished to establish a transnational presence, IPRA now represents professionals across the globe who work in public relations and communications. It is recognized by the UN as an international non-government organization. [26]
  • Discover Diplomacy: Run by the U.S. State Department, this website provides information on the intricacies and processes of worldwide diplomacy. It’s a great reference point for applications. [27]
  • Council on Foreign Relations: The Council on Foreign Relations provides useful, up-to-date news coverage on global issues that may escape the mainstream news cycle. Membership in the council can unlock useful insider information and networking opportunities, although new members must be nominated by an existing one before they are accepted. [28]
  • The Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA): This organization may prove useful in your master’s application, serving as a valuable resource for guidance, information, and data on accredited and recommended schools for diplomacy and international affairs. There is also an extensive list of jobs available for graduates. [29]
  • The Association for Diplomatic Studies and Training (ADST): This organization provides interesting information on the history of diplomacy, providing you with an accessible resource for a range of purposes, both for work and recreation. [30]
Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Alternative Degrees/Fields of Study

A master’s in diplomacy may not be best suited to your skills and qualifications or may not exist at a given institution where you wish to study. Here are some related degrees:

  • Master of International Relations: A Master of International Relations program may approach policy with more emphasis than a diplomacy degree. Diplomacy is, therefore, more focused on successfully bringing policy into being. Largely, however, diplomacy may be incorporated into the degree.
  • Master of Public Policy: A public policy degree takes a more analytical approach to policy and the decision processes that give rise to it. A Master of Public Policy is a more mathematical program and may attract more students aiming for civil service positions, rather than diplomatic ones.
  • Master of Diplomacy and International Relations: This program combines the theoretical knowledge that may come with an international relations degree with additional emphasis on putting such theories into practice.
  • Master of Political Science: A political science master’s is an interdisciplinary program that allows a student to focus on international relations and diplomacy alongside economics, law, psychology, politics, and sociology.
Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Accreditation

Regional accreditation is the most prestigious type of accreditation that an online or traditional college or university can receive. It is granted only after careful consideration by private, not-for-profit organizations tasked with evaluating educational quality.

Regional accreditation is particularly important if you anticipate that you might want to transfer credits from one online degree program to another or use those credits to pursue another degree. Most regionally accredited schools will only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions of higher learning.

You can learn more on this topic at our regional accreditation page.

Do accredited Master of Diplomacy programs cost more than those that aren’t?

The cost of a given program generally reflects the levels of contact time, the facilities, and the expertise of those teaching it. These are likely to be of a higher standard in an accredited program, as such matters may provide a partial basis for the accreditation.

History of the Degree

Diplomacy as an academic pursuit became a focus with the rise of the international relations discipline in the early 20th century. The first diplomacy program was founded at Aberystwyth University in the U.K. in 1919, [31] and subsequent departments were founded at both Georgetown University and the London School of Economics in the following years. In 1928, the first graduate degrees in the United States were offered by the University of Chicago, through its Committee on International Relations. [32]

With the changing statuses of the world powers during the 20th century, the theory and practice of international relations and diplomacy have changed enormously, and the degree is now diverse and multifaceted, changing from country to country, institution to institution. Some of the most important figures of the modern era have taught in diplomacy, public policy, and international relations, including Henry Kissinger and Madeleine Albright.

Master of Diplomacy (MDY) Tuition and Fees

There are a number of factors that can greatly affect how much your education will cost. These include whether you attend a public or private institution; whether you attend as an in-state or out-of-state student; and whether you qualify for financial aid like grants or scholarships.

For a more detailed breakdown of tuition, fees, and other financial issues, please visit our tuition and fees page.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

A Master of Arts in Diplomacy involves studies in international relations and often focuses on providing graduates with the skills and knowledge required to analyze and defuse international conflicts. Students earn the degree to learn how to impact diplomatic processes. Despite being a highly specialized degree, it is relevant to careers across a wide variety of industries and sectors.

Diplomacy degrees are typically pursued by students who wish to make a difference in the world. These individuals can come from a wide variety of sectors, including public, private, nonprofit, and military. Diplomacy students are often motivated to gain insight into global issues and take an active role in impacting foreign processes.

Many senior positions within the government, international organizations, and non-governmental organizations require a master’s degree. Pursuing a Master of Arts in Diplomacy is an excellent way for future global game changers to prepare themselves.

The primary focus of the diplomacy degree is to provide graduates with the broad knowledge base and specialized skills required to implement change and participate in solving many of the world’s most difficult problems. Topics typically studied often relate to humanities and include geography, communication, fine arts, diplomacy, and more.

Key attributes that you may consider when choosing an online Master of Diplomacy degree include concentration options, faculty, delivery method, program length, cost, curriculum, rankings, and accreditations.

While both degrees are similar in terms of content, the main point of differentiation is depth of focus. An international relations degree is typically a broad degree focused on providing the knowledge required for careers in the international relations space. In contrast, a diplomacy degree is much more specific to the field of diplomacy and focuses more on providing students with the required skill set necessary to implement solutions across nations.

The largest provider of student financial aid in the nation is the Federal Student Aid office in the U.S. Department of Education. It supplies college-level or career school students with loans, grants, and work-study funds. You can apply for federal financial aid through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, commonly known as FAFSA.

There are numerous other scholarships available, but you will need to research which opportunities you’re qualified to pursue. Many states, associations, websites, and businesses award scholarships based on specific criteria. Be sure to do your research and apply for any scholarships you’re qualified to be awarded. [8]

While requirements vary by school, most diplomacy programs will require a minimum undergraduate GPA. This tends to be about 2.75 or higher. Some programs may waive this requirement if you have proper coursework or experience in the field.

Whether you will need to complete the GRE prior to applying for a program will largely depend on what school you have chosen. There are many programs that do not require a GRE. Check the admissions requirements for your school before applying.

While each institution will vary slightly in its requirements/prerequisites for admission, most programs require:

  • A bachelor’s degree
  • Proficiency in the language of instruction
  • An essay
  • A resume
  • Letters of recommendation

Most diplomacy degrees do not require prior work experience, but it may help increase the strength of your application. Those without work experience will need to indicate why they are interested in the degree, what skills they are able to bring to the table, and how it is relevant to their career path.

Yes. As the diplomacy degree is most suited for mid-level working professionals, many diplomacy programs prefer students who are working so they can apply what they’ve learned and develop their skills around their specific roles.

There is not a specific undergraduate/bachelor’s degree required to qualify. Most master’s in diplomacy programs accept students from a wide variety of backgrounds.

No. Because diplomacy programs are pursued by people from varying industries and backgrounds, there are typically no prerequisite courses required.

While each Master of Arts in Diplomacy program varies in length, most take approximately 18-24 months to complete.

This varies by program. Some Master of Arts in Diplomacy programs include required fieldwork/internships, while others have residency components.

Many Master of Arts in Diplomacy programs include a research or independent study component, providing the opportunity for students to develop focused research and scholarly investigation skills. This is especially helpful for students looking to pursue their Ph.D. or for those who want to pursue a senior career in education or governmental roles. However, not all programs will include a research/thesis paper as a requirement for completion.

Yes. Colleges and universities offer this degree in a wide variety of settings, including online options, on campus, and hybrid degrees.

Yes. Schools typically follow the same curriculum for their online programs as they do for their campus-based programs.

Most institutions do not indicate on the degree that it was earned online.

Asynchronous coursework can be completed on your own time — a big plus for many online graduate students. Synchronous coursework has to be completed within a set timeframe. This is typically done for group projects, seminars, presentations, and other learning initiatives that require multiple attendees. The elements of asynchronous and synchronous learning in your online program depend on the professor and class itself. Once you enroll, reach out to teachers for specifics, but remember that the curriculum may be divided into these two subsets.

Those pursuing a diplomacy program often have a variety of concentrations and specializations to choose from, including international commerce, international terrorism, foreign policy, conflict management, or cyber diplomacy. Some programs also offer the option to pursue a regional concentration where they can specialize their studies on a particular region of the world.

Concentrations are an excellent way for diplomacy students to customize their diplomacy studies toward their personal and professional goals. By choosing a concentration relative to their career path, students can develop deepened knowledge within their industry or topic of choice.

There is not a particular accreditation one should look for from diplomacy programs outside of the institution being regionally accredited. Reputable accrediting agencies are authorized by the U.S. Department of Education and listed at

Accreditations are a strong indication of quality, but are also required for students who plan to apply for federal financial aid. Accreditation ensures that your degree is recognized by employers, professional associations, and other accredited institutions of higher education.

SARA (State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement) applies only to distance education programs in the United States that cross state lines. This agreement is made between member states and establishes comparable postsecondary national standards for distance education courses. [7]

Not every state is a SARA member. Through SARA, member states only have to receive authorization in their home state. Without SARA, non-member states would have to receive authorization in their home state and the state of each of their online students. [7]

As students pursuing the diplomacy degree come from a wide variety of industries, there are also many careers one can pursue after completing the degree. This includes careers in government, public policy, international organizations, or the military. Often, graduates aspire to become consultants, contractors, or political advisors.

Common job titles for graduates include:

  • Diplomats
  • Ambassadors
  • Heads of state
  • Public interest advocates
  • Foreign service officers
  • Intelligence officers
  • Intelligence analysts
  • Attorney-advisor
  • Border Patrol intelligence agent

Because the diplomacy degree is applicable to careers across varying industries, growth outlook is dependent on which industry a graduate is looking to pursue a career in.

No. Attaining management/senior positions is not guaranteed through the completion of a master’s degree. These positions often require many years of experience and a significant level of career achievement. However, an advanced degree can help you develop the necessary knowledge and skills required for these positions and also prove your dedication to the field.