Carnegie Mellon University

Master of Science in International Relations and Politics (MS IRP)


The Institute for Politics and Strategy (IPS) seeks to train the next generation of political scientists who can examine and understand domestic and international government institutions and processes in the twenty-first century’s continuously changing global political structure. War has been a constant in our students’ lives, and that unfortunately does not look like it will change soon. But what is changing is the political landscape of war – from wars between nations to non-state actors like ISIS and al-Qaeda. Coupled with an increasingly global society, international relations and politics are extremely important for preparing students to analyze and manage uncertainty and transformation in many pursuits and places.

The Master of Science in International Relations and Politics (MS IRP) serves four academic goals.

The first is to allow students to specialize in one of four conventional areas of political science: international security, international relations, American politics, and comparative politics. 

IPS also offers a unique subset of courses focused on international security. Through the support of the Hewlett Foundation, IPS has robust course offerings in cybersecurity and international conflict.  Students who select the international security concentration will analyze the role of cyber warfare and cybersecurity in international politics – past, present, and future. Cyber-attacks by nation-states and their proxies have the potential to reshape how wars are fought in the twenty-first century. As such, the complexity and policy challenge of cyber-engagements is immense and without precedent. The concentration addresses the role of deterrence, dissuasion, and attribution in cyber conflict, while also studying the nuances of key components of modern warfare—from security dilemmas to escalation management. The coursework tackles the social-scientific dimensions of cybersecurity with a focus on the implications of the cyber age for modern statecraft, warfare, elections, and politics, more generally.

A second goal is to equip students with strong methodological skills. Students pursuing the MS IRP will master the diverse skills needed to conduct advanced quantitative and qualitative research. This will be a significant advantage for our graduates in both the policy world and when applying for PhD or JD programs.  Students are required to take Regression Analysis for Political Science I and II. Regression Analysis for Political Science (RAPS) I will teach students to conduct bivariate and multivariate linear regression models. Students will learn about analysis of variance, parameter estimation, hypothesis testing, interpretation of estimates, model fit, models with dummy variables, model predictions, model diagnostics, and basic data visualizations. RAPS I will also train our students in using the Stata statistical software, making them competent in this key research tool in the field of political science. Materials for this course will include instructions and examples using Stata, and there will be a strong emphasis in conducting exercises and learning from applied examples.  At the end of RAPS II, students will be able to evaluate critically most studies that use statistical tools in political science research, and be able to design and carry out original research applying quantitative methods. Among other topics, we will examine the violations of regression assumptions (e.g., multicollinearity, heteroscedasticity, autocorrelation, measurement error, and specification error), interaction terms, analysis of residuals, maximum likelihood estimation procedures, models with ordinal dependent variables, and non-linear models. There will be an emphasis in using graphical tools to aid interpretation and presentation of results.

 The Process Tracing, Counterfactuals, Archival Analysis and Interviews mini covers qualitative research tools. Some of our MS IRP students will want to conduct interviews for their theses and future work. In this course, students will become familiar with the inferential logic of process tracing and the basics of the counterfactual approach to observational data analysis. They will also learn how to conduct case studies and collect and manipulate primary-source records.

A third goal is to guide students in the production of a significant thesis. A mini semester course, Thesis Proposal Tutorial, is devoted to improving intentionality in formulating a thesis proposal. This course will familiarize students with the structure of a thesis, the roles of its different elements, and its connection to the broader research literature. As part of the mini course, faculty members will illustrate these processes as manifested in their own research.  Students will have the opportunity to submit their work for publication in the Center for International Relations and Politics (CIRP) Journal.

The fourth goal is to prepare students to enter the policy world (should they choose to do so) with a deserved sense of self-efficacy, accompanied by professional skills.  Students are required to complete a summer internship in a related field between the first and second year of the program.  The internship will allow students to synthesize the program’s studies in the context of practical and hands-on experiential learning opportunities.  IPS has dedicated staff to support students in all aspects of the internship process. 

In addition to the required internship, students will participate in IPS-sponsored networking receptions and policy-oriented events (mostly centered in our Washington, DC, Capitol Hill offices) in order to expand their network and come into direct contact with political, business, and community leaders while learning about the most pressing policy issues of the day.

The CIRP Policy Forum is one key way in which IPS brings international relations and politics into the intellectual conversation at CMU.  The CIRP Policy Forum regularly brings diplomats, scholars, policymakers, journalists, and other thought leaders to the university to address major issues facing the United States and the world.  MS IRP students will enroll in a three-unit Policy Forum Seminar each semester and be expected to participate in and reflect on their interactions throughout the CIRP Policy Forum lectures and roundtable discussions.

Program Options

Master of Science in International Relations (MS IRP)

The MS IRP is a two-year full-time program with a required internship in the summer between the first and second years.


Sample Plan of Study

Application Requirements

Accelerated Master of Science in International Relations and Politics (IRP/AMP)

The IRP/AMP is open only to Carnegie Mellon undergraduate students.  Students should have an undergraduate major, additional major, or minor in the Institute for Politics and Strategy, they should have participated in the Carnegie Mellon University Washington Semester Program, or they should have special approval from the faculty admissions committee. 

The IRP/AMP allows CMU students to complete the first year of the master's program during their senior year of undergraduate studies. In addition to coursework, students are required to complete a summer internship in a related field between the senior year and the fifth year. 


Sample Plan of Study

Application Requirements

Competitive Degree

IPS offers a competitive degree to students seeking advanced coursework in the field by providing a robust methodological framework, interdisciplinary social science content, and practical experience.  The international security concentration allows for a unique dive into cybersecurity issues in the current and evolving political landscape. Small classes within IPS result in close student-faculty relationships and, often, publishable work. Graduate student work is published twice per academic year in the CIRP Journal.  IPS’s position on Capitol Hill, dedicated staff to support the internship and job search process, robust opportunities through the CIRP Policy Forum and networking receptions, work in concert to position our master’s students and alumni to successfully navigate the professional world of policy and current political landscape.