Bachelor of Science in International Affairs Curriculum

All students pursuing an Elliott School major will complete the General Bachelor’s Program Requirements. In addition to the General Bachelor’s Program Requirements, students in the Bachelor of Science in International Affairs (BSIA) program are required to complete each of the four BSIA Major Requirements outlined below (Advanced Fundamentals, Regional Foundations, Advanced STEM Requirement, and a Concentration OR Second Major). Students must also demonstrate third-year proficiency in a modern foreign language through examination or coursework.

A grade of C- or better must be earned for all International Affairs major courses. Courses may not be double-counted between any International Affairs requirements (except for WID courses.)

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Advanced Fundamentals

The Advanced Fundamentals build upon the General Bachelor’s Program Requirements and promote students’ understanding of the skills, knowledge, methodologies, and disciplinary lenses central to international affairs.

  • Research Methods — One course focusing on qualitative or quantitative social science research methods.
  • International Economics — One or two courses focusing on the theory of international economics.
  • Historical Analysis: US Foreign Policy — One course focusing on the history of US approaches to contemporary international affairs.
  • International and Comparative Politics — One course focusing on international political issues and theories from either an international relations or comparative politics perspective.
  • Anthropology or Geography — One course from anthropology or geography that is relevant to international affairs.
Regional Foundations

The Regional Foundations requirement includes two courses which focus on regions of the world outside of the US, allowing students to gain an understanding of differing regional cultures, histories, economies, and politics. Each of the two courses must focus on a different world region below.

  • Africa
  • Asia
  • Europe and Eurasia
  • Latin America
  • Middle East
Advanced STEM Requirement

The Advanced STEM Requirement is comprised of six advanced STEM courses which complement students’ coursework in international affairs by providing a science- and tech-oriented dimension to their program of study. Students may choose to pursue coursework in disciplines such as Computer Science, Economics, Engineering, and Finance in accordance with their academic and professional interests.

You van view a list of currently approved and denied STEM courses below.  Please take note this list is not exhaustive and you can have a course reviewed for the upper level STEM requirement via the Course Substitution Request online form. 

List of Reviewed Courses for Upper Level STEM Course Requirement (PDF)

Concentration or Second Major

A concentration represents an academic and professional specialization within a student’s program of study, usually consisting of five courses and focusing on a specific functional or regional theme (e.g., International Economics or African Studies). Students in the BSIA program are given the option to pursue one of the concentrations below or to apply these fifteen credits of coursework toward completion of a second major in a STEM-related discipline.


Functional Concentrations

Concentration Distinctions

Distinction between Comparative Politics, Economics, and Social Systems and other Concentrations

Comparative Politics, Economics, and Social Systems concentration courses tend to come from Political Science, Economics, and Sociology, and the concentration is explicitly comparative. In contrast, the main disciplinary pillar in Contemporary Cultures and Societies is Anthropology, and it takes more of a people-centered, rather than institution-centered, approach.

While Comparative Politics, Economics, and Social Systems focuses primarily on political, economic, and social issues internal to states, International Politics focuses on countries’ foreign policies and relations between states.


Distinction between Conflict Resolution and other Concentrations

Conflict Resolution differs from Security Policy in that it is less about policy and more about understanding conflict dynamics and how to disrupt cycles of violence. This can involve policy but also includes various methods of trying to improve relationships between conflicting groups. Security Policy is more of a macro-level activity, whereas conflict resolution incorporates the roles of actors at various levels, including grassroots communities and organizations.


Distinction between Contemporary Cultures and Societies and other Concentrations

Contemporary Cultures and Societies focuses more on the influences of culture and agency on how societies understand themselves and confront challenges, whereas Comparative Economic, Political, and Social Systems pays greater attention to comparing nations’ political, economic, and social structures and policies.

International development differs from Contemporary Cultures and Societies in that it examines both people’s lived experiences and the institutions and policies that shape their lives while focusing more on policy and program solutions devised by governments and international organizations, as well as communities themselves.


Distinction between Gender in International Affairs and other Concentrations

Gender in International Affairs overlaps to some extent with several other concentrations, as there are certain courses in most concentrations that integrate a gender lens.  However, Gender in International Affairs provides an opportunity to deeply explore gender and social inclusion across a broad range of international affairs topics.


Distinction between Global Health and other Concentrations

Because Global Health is one sector of International Development, there is a degree of overlap in the concentrations, and both are solution-oriented. However, Global Health focuses more specifically on disease prevalence and access to health care, the contextual factors that affect people’s health, and what governments and health-related organizations are doing to address health disparities.

The Global Health concentration differs from a BS major in Public Health in the School of Public Health in that its focus is global and it places significant emphasis on the linkages with other aspects of international affairs. The BS major in Public Health addresses healthcare in the United States and globally and incorporates more technical skills.


Distinction between the Individualized Concentration and other Concentrations

Compared to other concentrations, the individualized concentration requires a higher degree of individual initiative, planning, and responsibility. At the same time, each individual concentration will be unique. It will draw on existing Elliott School and other GW courses, as well as study abroad courses, but it cannot be similar to any existing concentration, and it also cannot consist of simply joining two existing concentrations together.


Distinction between International Development and other Concentrations

International Development differs from International Economics in that it is less about studying international trade and financial markets and more about understanding a broader range of development challenges, how they interconnect, and what types of solutions at multiple levels have been attempted.

International Development is broader than the Global Health concentration, which provides a deeper exploration of one particular sector of international development.


Distinction between International Economics and other Concentrations

International Economics focuses more narrowly and deeply on economic concerns and particularly emphasizes economic reasoning while International Development encompasses a broader range of development challenges and looks for solutions among a wider set of institutions and organizations, including local organizations.


Distinction between International Environmental Policy and other Concentrations

International Environmental Studies and International Development overlap in their interest in sustainable development; however, International Environmental Studies is more squarely centered on environmental concerns while International Development addresses a wider variety of topics.


Distinction between International Politics and other Concentrations

International Politics and Security Policy overlap to a significant degree, but international politics encompasses foreign policies on a range of topics beyond security policy, while Security Policy also addresses domestic security concerns. In addition, courses that strictly focused on military strategy and doctrine count for Security Policy but typically not for International Politics.

While International Politics focuses on countries’ foreign policies, relations between states, and global cooperation and competition, Comparative Politics, Economics, and Social Systems  primarily addresses political, economic, and social issues internal to states.


Distinction between Security Policy and other Concentrations

Security Policy has a narrower focus than International Politics and goes deeper into military strategy and doctrine. It also considers security challenges within states and the evolution of new types of security threats.

Security Policy is broader than Conflict Resolution, which is specifically about how various kinds of actors intervene at different conflict stages to end killing and violence, maintain peace, or rebuild societies.

Comparative Political, Economic, and Social Systems


The Comparative Political, Economic, and Social Systems concentration focuses on the comparative analysis of a wide range of political, economic, and social issues within nations and across national borders. Key concerns include the variations in political regimes, how political institutions shape economic policy and practice, and state-society relations. The concentration enables students to develop deep knowledge of the histories, politics, economics, and social systems of specific countries.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with key theories, concepts, and methodologies of comparative politics, with attention to economic and social policy issues
  • Understand the variations of political institutions and processes, economic organizations and behavior, and social structures and movements across countries and regions
  • Analyze how and why countries converge and/or diverge in their responses to comparable political, economic, and social challenges
  • Assess the effectiveness of domestic public policies regarding important political, economic, and societal issues and identify and evaluate different public policy options


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Conflict Resolution


The Conflict Resolution Concentration focuses on understanding the root causes of conflicts and how they escalate between nations and peoples, and considers local, national, regional, and international methods for resolving such conflicts. These methods include prevention, peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peacebuilding initiatives.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with foundational theories, concepts, and models in the field of conflict analysis and resolution
  • Understand various causes of conflict and violence, patterns of mobilization, and escalation dynamics
  • Be able to evaluate various local, national, and international interventions aimed at reducing or ending conflicts at various stages
  • Be able to propose improvements to current conflict-related interventions

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Contemporary Cultures and Societies


The Contemporary Cultures and Societies concentration focuses on the lived experiences of people in societies around the world, largely through their own perspectives. It addresses how they identify and organize themselves, how they engage with political and economic dynamics at the national and global level, and how their insights contribute to global initiatives and policies. Key topics include well-being, sustainability, and social justice.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with micro- and macro-level cultural and societal processes
  • Understand and be able to evaluate how cultural and social dynamics at local, national, and transnational levels both shape and are shaped by wider structural forces
  • Be able to critically analyze cultural difference as a fundamental aspect of human nature and examine one culture in relationship to another
  • Understand the different types of knowledge that arise from the use of qualitative versus quantitative research methods

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Gender in International Affairs


Gender In International Affairs examines all aspects of international affairs through an intersectional feminist lens. This framework provides the knowledge and tools to understand how gendered norms and dynamics inform various aspects of international affairs. It also considers how international and domestic conflicts and peace processes, development
initiatives, and laws and policies impact people differently based on their gender in combination with other aspects of their identities, such as ethnicity, race, and religion. It assesses the potential benefits of having diverse perspectives integrated into policymaking.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with the principles, concepts, and goals of a feminist, intersectional approach to international affairs
  • Understand how gender and social inclusion analytical frameworks can be applied to explain differences in people’s opportunities and experiences in a variety of topical areas in international affairs
  • Be able to critically evaluate international and domestic laws and policies, and humanitarian and development initiatives, from an intersectional gender perspective
  • Be able to propose improvements to existing laws, policies, and initiatives from an intersectional gender perspective

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Global Public Health


The Global Public Health concentration brings a multidisciplinary perspective to the understanding of people’s health worldwide. Key concerns include health problems specific to certain populations, disparities in access to healthcare within and between countries, health needs in humanitarian emergencies, and global health threats such as pandemics. Significant consideration is given to how political, economic, and cultural contexts affect people’s health, what ethical issues arise in regard to healthcare, and how global health initiatives and domestic policies and programs seek to provide solutions.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with the core principles, concepts, measurements, and goals of global health
  • Understand the political, social, and economic determinants of health and how policies and programs seek to address health disparities across communities and nations
  • Understand the roles of various actors in addressing global health governance, disease management, and health systems strengthening
  • Be conversant in the ethical debates in global health and be able to propose improvements to policies and programs addressing health concerns

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Individualized Concentration


The Individualized Concentration allows highly self-directed students to create a concentration aligned with their goals and interests. The concentration should relate to international affairs and have a clear theme or be organized around answering a thought-provoking question. The selected courses should be linked together by a coherent rationale. An individualized concentration is only applicable if a student’s interests cannot be met within existing concentrations. It is not appropriate for students who are still working on defining their interests and goals.

Learning Objective

  • Be able to demonstrate a notable level of competence in regard to the theme or question explored
  • Be able to connect the concentration topic to broader concepts and approaches in international affairs

Individualized Concentration Form


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International Development


The International Development concentration focuses on understanding the various barriers that groups and societies face in achieving or maintaining well-being. In addition, it assesses the effectiveness of development approaches that aim to provide solutions. Key concerns are reducing poverty and inequality while enhancing sustainability and equity. The assessment of governments’ capabilities, people’s political, economic, and social opportunities, community resilience, and humanitarian needs are other dimensions of international development.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with the historical origins and theoretical assumptions that influence contemporary international development theory and practice
  • Understand key concepts, tools, and models for assessing and comparing various types of development across nations
  • Be able to critically evaluate development policies and programs and the roles of relevant international and domestic actors
  • Be able to propose improvements to existing institutions, policies, and practices to enhance people’s well-being

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International Economics


The International Economics concentration addresses international economic challenges and policy alternatives with a focus on economic reasoning and quantitative data analysis. Topics include international trade and investment, international finance and macroeconomic policy, international business strategies and economic organization, the development of national and regional economies, and the relationship between economics and politics.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with the foundational theories and concepts in the field of international economics
  • Understand and use quantitative research skills to analyze economic data
  • Explain fundamental issues, debates, and strategies that relate to international economic policy
  • Conceptualize and analyze international economic issues and policy challenges and identify and evaluate policy responses

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International Environmental Studies


The International Environmental Studies concentration focuses on understanding international environmental challenges through a multidisciplinary lens and the ways in which states, non- state actors, and the international community seek to address these challenges. Key issues include climate change, sustainable development in relation to the environment, energy and natural resource use, and environmental security.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with the goals, principles, and practical applications of sustainability and international environmental policy
  • Understand the connections that natural resources and their use have to a region’s economy, politics, and international relations
  • Be able to analyze international environmental challenges and their underlying causes, identify and assess current policy responses, and evaluate the implementation and impact of these responses

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International Politics


The International Politics concentration focuses on the formulation and implementation of states’ foreign policies, relations between states, and the factors that affect international political cooperation and competition on a variety of global issues.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with the key theories, concepts, and models in the field of international politics
  • Understand how domestic and international factors shape the foreign policies and external behavior of states
  • Be able to assess the effectiveness of foreign policies and to identify and evaluate different foreign policy options
  • Be able to explain cooperation, competition, and conflict in international politics

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Security Policy


The Security Policy concentration focuses on a wide range of national, transnational, and international security challenges and the way these challenges affect individuals, groups, states, and international organizations. Examples of security challenges include weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, territorial and maritime disputes, regional and ethnic conflicts, cyberattacks, international crime, and the security implications of a globalized economy, immigration, climate change, and pandemic disease.

Learning Objectives

  • Be familiar with different theories and methods from a variety of disciplines that are useful for analyzing security policy issues and understanding the causes of war and other security conflicts
  • Identify the core debates and issues concerning contemporary national and international security policy
  • Understand a range of security challenges and evaluate the roles they play in international affairs
  • Be able to analyze a security challenge, identify and assess possible policy responses, and evaluate the implementation and impact of those responses

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Regional Concentrations


A comparative and international study of the countries of continental Africa. This concentration covers modern African history, regional economics, comparative politics, and regional politics. It deals with security and development issues on the continent as well as the policies of African countries towards countries in North America, Europe, and Asia.


Graduates of this concentration should be able to analyze and explain national and international events that involve African countries. They should also be able to formulate policies and strategies that address problems of that region and assess the effectiveness of those policies.


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This concentration provides a comparative and international study of the countries of Asia, covering modern Asian history, regional economics, comparative politics, and regional politics. It examines security, development, and trade issues on the continent, as well as the policies of Asia countries toward the rest of the world.


Graduates of this concentration should be able to analyze and explain national and international events that involve Asian countries. They should also be able to formulate policies and strategies that address problems of that region and assess the effectiveness of those policies.


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Europe and Eurasia

This concentration provides a comparative and international study of European countries and countries of Western Asia that were once a part of the Soviet Union. Modern European and Eurasian culture, history, regional economics, comparative politics, and regional politics are covered. Issues of security, development, trade, economic and political integration, as well as trans-European institutions and policies of European countries towards the rest of the world are also studied.


Graduates of this concentration should be able to analyze and explain national, regional, and international events that involve the countries of this region. They should also be able to formulate policies and strategies that address problems of that region and assess the effectiveness of those policies.


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Latin America

This concentration provides a comparative and international study of the countries of Mexico, and those found in Central and South America. Modern history of Latin America, regional economics, comparative and regional politics are covered. Issues of security, development, trade, and policies of Latin American countries toward North America and the rest of the world are also studied.


Graduates of this concentration should be able to analyze and explain national and international events that involve Latin American countries. They should also be able to formulate policies and strategies that address problems of that region and assess the effectiveness of those policies.


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Middle East

This concentration provides a comparative and international study of the countries of the Middle East as well as regions connected to the Middle East through Islam, including the Maghreb section of Africa and Southwest Asia. Modern history of the region, regional economics, culture and religion, and comparative and regional politics are covered. Anthropological, economic, religious, political, and historical methods are utilized in study of the region.


Graduates of this concentration should be able to analyze and explain national and international events that involve the Middle East and formulate policies and strategies that address problems of the region and assess the effectiveness of those policies.


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Interested in declaring the B.S. in International Affairs?  

Please visit the Elliott School Undergraduate Forms website in order to declare the B.S. in International Affairs as your first or second major.