“So, you wanna get an M.A. in International Affairs?”

Suppose you’re entering your final year of undergrad in political science, you think that studying international war crimes tribunals or electoral reform in Pakistan is pretty cool, and now you want to take things to the next level by applying for graduate school in international affairs. Or maybe you’ve been out of school for a few years working in the NGO or private sector world, have become frustrated by the glass ceiling imposed on your career opportunities because you only had a BA, and are now thinking about going back for a professional Master’s degree. It’s a big decision that will shape your future in enormous ways. It also involves some serious costs and trade-offs to consider. So, is it worth it?

Naturally, the political science / international relations blogosphere has a lot to say on the subject, although most of it pertains to doing a Ph.D rather than a terminal Master’s degree. Leigh Morris Sloane, executive director of the Association of Professional Schools of International Affairs (APSIA), takes a pretty good crack at it, and so does Chris Blattman and Liz Elfman. My comments here overlap with all three of them, though I can speak only to an M.A. in international affairs and not public administration, international development, or political science.

So, a few things to keep in mind when deciding to M.A. or not to M.A. …

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Living in the Shadow of the Ottawa Convention: The Convention on Cluster Munitions

Arms control issues have been receiving a lot of attention lately. On April 2nd, the United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in support of the long-debated Arms Trade Treaty (ATT), establishing new regulations meant to prohibit the international sale and transfer of conventional weapons to the world’s worst human rights abusers. This landmark event occurred just two days before the International Day of Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action, the annual day of advocacy and outreach for organizations involved in the global campaign to ban landmines and other deadly weapons which disproportionately harm civilians during and after armed conflicts. In the United States, President Barack Obama gave a forceful speech on April 8th in Hartford, Connecticut in favor of stronger domestic gun-control legislation. All this coming as the world discovers the true extent of U.S. drone strikes in South Asia and the Middle East, with all the strategic, legal, and moral problems this raises.

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