Bachelor of Arts in International Relations

Degree Overview

International Relations (IR) is an interdisciplinary major focusing on the changing political, economic, and cultural relations within a globalized system. The program explores how global, regional, and domestic factors influence relations between actors on the world stage. Students are prepared for future careers, civic engagement, and life-long learning with strong analytical, writing, research, and presentation skills steeped in theory, history, and practice. 

Our faculty offers courses in theory and regional/thematic issue-areas that meet the diverse needs and preferences of students. Examples of our student best practices include the development of individual and group projects in close consultation with faculty. Outcomes of such training in research and presentation skills are evident not only in classes, including the culminating senior thesis experience (I R 550), but also in student participation in IR conferences at both regional and national levels. Our students have the opportunity to publish their original research papers in the Department’s International Relations Journal.

Program Learning Outcomes

Courses for the Bachelor of Arts in International Relations have three objectives:

  1. To impart knowledge of basic concepts, theories and methods in international relations.
  2. To develop in each student at least one area of special individual competence in international relations.
  3. To train students in research, writing, analytical, and presentation/communication skills.

While integrating liberal arts educational goals, the program also seeks to develop marketable skills appropriate to the field. Utilizing the extensive course offerings in IR and other departments, students are encouraged to develop specializations within geographical, functional (e.g., international political economy), problem-oriented (e.g., arms control), theoretical and methodological, and other categories. The emphasis on elective courses of study requires students to consult with an advisor every semester.

International Relations (B.A.) — 43 Units

Core (19 units)

I R 104Introduction to International Relations: Politics, Economics, Environment, and People3
I R 308Fundamentals of International Relations Theories, Issues, and Perspectives4
I R 309GWInternational Relations Analysis and Application - GWAR4
I R 310U.S. Foreign Policy4
I R 312Introduction to International Political Economy4

Electives (18 Units)

Students are required to complete 18 elective units related to international relations. At least twelve units of coursework must be upper-division I R courses (300-level or above) or be cross-listed with I R. Six additional units may be taken outside of the department upon the approval of a major advisor. Lower-division language courses taken in the Department of Modern Languages and Literatures and 200-level IR courses can be used for these six units; otherwise, upper-division courses are required.

Culminating Requirements (6 Units)

I R 550Senior Thesis in International Relations6

Complementary Studies

Twelve units of Complementary Studies are required of all candidates for the Bachelor of Arts degree in International Relations. These units must come from courses bearing a prefix other than I R, and not cross-listed with I R.

International Relations majors are offered several pathways toward completing this requirement, each of which is designed to facilitate graduation in a timely manner. International Relations majors may, with the approval of an International Relations advisor, elect to apply 12 units in a single foreign language of their choosing, courses taken in an approved study abroad program (e.g., CSU Study Abroad), courses taken as part of a second major, a minor or a certificate, and courses in a related discipline. Related disciplines typically include political science, sociology, anthropology, environmental studies, geography, global health, or journalism.

Up to 6 units of a single language or 6 upper-division units of Complementary Studies may, with the approval of a departmental advisor, also be counted as International Relations electives in fulfillment of major requirements.

Note: Courses fulfilling the IR major core requirement may not be taken on a CR/NC basis.

General Education Requirements

Requirement Course Level Units Area Designation
Oral Communication LD 3 A1
Written English Communication I LD 3 A2
Critical Thinking LD 3 A3
Physical Science LD 3 B1
Life Science LD 3 B2
Lab Science LD 1 B3
Mathematics/Quantitative Reasoning LD 3 B4
Arts LD 3 C1
Humanities LD 3 C2
Arts or Humanities LD 3 C1 or C2
Social Sciences LD 3 D1
Social Sciences: US History LD 3 D2
Social Sciences: US & CA Government LD 3 D3
Lifelong Learning and Self-Development (LLD) LD 3 E
Physical and/or Life Science UD 3 UD-B
Arts and/or Humanities UD 3 UD-C
Social Sciences UD 3 UD-D
SF State Studies
Courses certified as meeting the SF State Studies requirements may be upper or lower division in General Education (GE), a major or minor, or an elective.
American Ethnic and Racial Minorities LD or UD 3 AERM
Environmental Sustainability LD or UD 3 ES
Global Perspectives LD or UD 3 GP
Social Justice LD or UD 3 SJ

Note: LD = Lower-Division; UD = Upper-Division.

First-Time Student Roadmap (4 Year)

Find the correct roadmap (A, B, C, or D):

  1. Select the row that matches your English Course choice for A2.*
  2. Select the column that matches your QR Category (found at your student center under Math Alert).
  3. Click the Roadmap that lines up with your row and column.

For example, if you are taking ENG 104 as your first English course and your student center math alert says you are QR Category III, you should choose Roadmap D.

Pathway QR Cat I/II QR Cat III/IV
ENG 114 Roadmap A Roadmap C
ENG 104/ENG 105 Roadmap B Roadmap D

*Composition for Multilingual Students: If taking ENG 209 as your first English course, choose the ENG 114 row. If taking ENG 204 for your first English course, choose the ENG 104/ENG 105 row.

SF State Scholar Roadmap

The San Francisco State Scholars program provides undergraduate students with an accelerated pathway to a graduate degree. Students in this program pursue a bachelor’s and master’s degree simultaneously. This program allows students to earn graduate credit while in their junior and/or senior year, reducing the number of semesters required for completion of a master’s degree.

This roadmap opens in a new tab.

Transfer Student Roadmap (2 Year)

For students with an AA-T in Global Studies. This roadmap opens in a new tab.

For students with an AA-T in Political Science. This roadmap opens in a new tab.

This degree program is an approved pathway (“similar” major) for students earning the ADT in Global Studies

California legislation SB 1440 (2009) mandated the creation of the Associate Degree for Transfer (ADT) to be awarded by the California Community Colleges. Two types of ADTs are awarded: Associate in Arts for Transfer (AA-T) and Associate in Science for Transfer (AS-T). 

Note: no specific degree is required for admission as an upper-division student. However, the ADT includes specific guarantees related to admission and graduation and is designed to clarify the transfer process and strengthen lower-division preparation for the major.

An ADT totals 60 units and in most cases includes completion of all lower-division General Education requirements and at least 18 units in a specific major. (The Biology, Chemistry, and Environmental Science AS-T degrees defer 3 units in lower-division GE area C and 3 units in lower-division GE area D until after transfer.) Students pursuing an ADT are guaranteed admission to the CSU if minimum eligibility requirements are met, though not necessarily to the CSU campus of primary choice.

Upon verification that the ADT has been awarded prior to matriculation at SF State, students are guaranteed B.A. or B.S. completion in 60 units if pursuing a “similar” major after transfer. Determinations about “similar” majors at SF State are made by faculty in the discipline.

Degree completion in 60 units cannot be guaranteed when a student simultaneously pursues an additional major, a minor, certificate, or credential.

A sample advising roadmap for students who have earned an ADT and continue in a "similar" major at SF State is available on the Roadmaps tab on the degree requirements page for the major. The roadmap displays:

  • How many lower-division units required for the major have been completed upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • Which lower-division requirements are considered complete upon entry based on the award of a specific ADT;
  • How to complete the remaining 60 units for the degree in four semesters.

Students who have earned an ADT should seek advising in the major department during the first semester of attendance.

General Advising Information for Transfer Students

  1. Before transfer, complete as many lower-division requirements or electives for this major as possible.
  2. The following courses are not required for admission but are required for graduation. Students are strongly encouraged to complete these units before transfer; doing so will provide more flexibility in course selection after transfer.
    • a course in U.S. History
    • a course in U.S. & California Government

For information about satisfying the requirements described in (1) and (2) above at a California Community College (CCC), please visit http://www.assist.org. Check any geographically accessible CCCs; sometimes options include more than one college. Use ASSIST to determine:

  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy any lower-division major requirements for this major;
  • Which courses at a CCC satisfy CSU GE, US History, and US & CA Government requirements.

Remedial courses are not transferable and do not apply to the minimum 60 semester units/90 quarter units required for admission.

Additional units for courses that are repeated do not apply to the minimum 60 units required for upper-division transfer (for example, if a course was not passed on the first attempt or was taken to earn a better grade).

Before leaving the last California Community College of attendance, obtain a summary of completion of lower-division General Education units (IGETC or CSU GE Breadth). This is often referred to as a GE certification worksheet. SF State does not require delivery of this certification to Admissions, but students should retain this document for verifying degree progress after transfer.

Credit for Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, or College-Level Examination Program courses: AP/IB/CLEP credit is not automatically transferred from the previous institution. Units are transferred only when an official score report is delivered to SF State. Credit is based on the academic year during which exams were taken. Refer to the University Bulletin in effect during the year of AP/IB/CLEP examination(s) for details regarding the award of credit for AP/IB/CLEP.

Students pursuing majors in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines often defer 6-9 units of lower-division General Education in Areas C and D until after transfer to focus on preparation courses for the major. This advice does not apply to students pursuing associate degree completion before transfer.

Transferring From Institutions Other Than CCCs or CSUs

Review SF State's lower-division General Education requirements. Note that, as described below, the four basic skills courses required for admission meet A1, A2, A3, and B4 in the SF State GE pattern. Courses that fulfill the remaining areas of SF State’s lower-division GE pattern are available at most two-year and four-year colleges and universities.

Of the four required basic skills courses, a course in critical thinking (A3) may not be widely offered outside the CCC and CSU systems. Students should attempt to identify and take an appropriate course no later than the term of application to the CSU. To review more information about the A3 requirement, please visit bulletin.sfsu.edu/undergraduate-education/general-education/lower-division/#AAEL.

Waiting until after transfer to take a single course at SF State that meets both US and CA/local government requirements may be an appropriate option, particularly if transferring from outside of California.

All Students Must Meet the Transfer Eligibility Requirements Outlined Below for Admission.

For more information, visit the Undergraduate Admissions section.

  • Complete 60 or more transferable semester units or 90 or more quarter units.
  • Earn a college grade point average of 2.0 or better in all transferable courses. Non-local area residents may be held to a higher GPA standard.
  • Be in good standing at the last college or university attended.
  • Complete 30-semester units (45-quarter units) of General Education, including four basic skills courses:
    1. One course in oral communication (same as CSU GE Area A1)
    2. One course in written composition (same as CSU GE Area A2)
    3. One course in critical thinking (same as CSU GE Area A3)
    4. One course in mathematics or quantitative reasoning (same as CSU GE Area B4)
  • The four basic skills courses and a minimum of 60 transferable semester units (90-quarter units) must be completed by the spring semester prior to fall admission, or by the fall semester prior to spring admission. Earn a C- or better grade in each basic skills course.