by Katherine Punteney

Students abroad

I’m the founder and chair of the Master of Arts in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. In this video, I explain the six types of graduate degrees in international education: the focus of the curriculum, the approach to teaching and learning, and the most common career trajectories.

Did you know that the Forum on Education Abroad reports that 87% of its members hold a master’s degree or higher and the Association of International Education Administrators (AIEA) reports that 81% of Senior International Officers hold doctoral degrees? I co-authored a chapter in International Higher Education’s Scholar-Practitioners on how graduate programs prepare international education leaders. Included in that chapter are descriptions of six types of graduate degrees in international education.  

Six Types of Graduate Degrees in International Education

Hi everyone, thanks for being here today. My name is Katherine Punteney, I’m the founder and chair of the Master of Arts in International Education Management at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies. We’re in Monterey, California. Today I’d like to tell you about six types of graduate degree programs in international education. For each of the six types, I’d like to speak briefly about the focus of the curriculum, the approach to teaching and learning, and the most common career trajectories. This comes from a book chapter I wrote with a colleague, Taylor Woodman, and the citation is on the screen if you’d like to take a look.

The first type is comparative and international education. This is a social science research field. People in this field examine how education systems around the world compare and contrast to each other. They’re looking at the systems, the structures, the policies, and thinking about what the outcomes are of those. The idea is that the better we understand other choices, other education systems around the world, the better we can make informed choices about our own. Teaching in this area focuses on library research and field research. Students are encouraged to work on publication, to work on research, scholarship, and publication, and to present at academic conferences. In terms of career trajectory, we see that there are often combined MA and PhD programs, and many people are going to academic careers, maybe that’s teaching, or perhaps they’re going into careers as researchers.

International development and education is based on international development or sustainable development. The question is how do we use education to help eradicate poverty, to lead to better economic development, to lead to better social impacts? So in this field, people are using applied field work with non-governmental organizations and intergovernmental organizations. They’re analyzing policies such as the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and advocating for social change. Some of the most common career trajectories involve working for the UN, working for USAID or other governmental agencies, or working for non-governmental agencies that are working with development and education.

International education policy examines education policy, as the name suggests, at the global, regional, national, and local levels. People are studying in this area that access to education, educational outcomes, equity issues, funding, teacher training, innovation, all sorts of areas of educational policy to see which are the most effective, which have the best impacts for society. International education policy degree programs tend to focus on library research, policy research, and policy writing as a big piece of the curriculum, and there’s some emphasis on scholarship and publication. Some of the career trajectories that would commonly come out of this degree program are policy analyst, UN or government agencies, or think tanks.

International education administration and management. The program I teach in falls into this area. The emphasis is on the profession of international education. How do we design and run cross-cultural programs that help people make meaningful connections across cultural or international barriers? So much of the emphasis of the curriculum is on both the management piece, maybe that’s budgeting or marketing or staff management, but also on the curriculum side of designing programs, designing curriculum, and also the assessment of learning. In terms of the approach to teaching, these programs tend to focus on applied coursework, a lot of hands-on projects, often working with actual international education organizations, and it’s quite common for internships or a practicum to be a component of the degree. In terms of career trajectories, many people with this degree go onto careers running study abroad programs or education abroad programs, working in international student and scholar services, perhaps working in recruitment and admissions for international education programs, or working as a program coordinator for any type of international education program.

Intercultural or multicultural studies focus on how do we interact with people that are different from ourselves? How does society interact when groups meet that are different? So there is an emphasis on intercultural theory and research, and also on social inequity, what are the dynamics of power and privilege of oppression and what can be done to help people as individuals and as a society, as groups to navigate that? So in this area, in the teaching and learning, there’s an emphasis on self-reflection and self-knowledge, the idea that you have to know yourself first before you can help others, and then an emphasis on training design, how can you design meaningful trainings or meaningful programs that help people to develop their intercultural or multicultural skills? Some of the common career trajectories are intercultural trainer or teacher or a diversity officer with an organization.

The sixth type is higher education and student affairs. The curriculum focuses on student development theory, on student services, leadership theories, the history and the role of higher education, and international higher education may be included as a elective course or as one course in my broader field. It’s usually fairly applied coursework focusing on the administration of educational programs and there’s often an internship component. People with this degree typically go into positions in educational administration, possibly higher education administration, or student services positions.

So to be clear, any of these six programs can get you to any of the careers I’ve mentioned today, but particular programs might provide a better foundation for certain types of careers, or they can help you get there a little bit faster, giving you a little more experience as you’re launching your career in each of these areas. Each of these programs addresses theory, research, policy, and practice, but in varying amounts. As you’re looking at the programs, it’s often obvious what type it is from the title of the degree, but it might not be obvious. For example, we have a joint degree between our development policy and practice program and our international education management program. It lets students learn both about development and education and about international education management and administration. It wouldn’t be obvious though from the name that that was exactly what you were getting.

So as you’re looking at degree programs, what you would do is read the course list. You should look and see which courses are required, which ones have the most credits, that will tell you what the faculty of the program value the most and what they see as core or essential to their program. Another important step would be to ask for contacts of alumni you can talk to and ask them what the focus of the program is.

As you move forward and you are exploring your career, let me offer four suggestions. If you’d like to follow up on this presentation a little further, as I mentioned, it comes from a book chapter. The book is called International Higher Education’s Scholar-Practitioners, and you can find the link on your screen. I’d also like to recommend two books from NAFSA. NAFSA is the largest international education professional association. There are two relatively new books out, one called Careers In International Education that focuses on navigating your career trajectory, setting goals, identifying mentors, just deciding about graduate school and otherwise, figuring out how you’re going to get where you want to go professionally.

The next book, The International Education Handbook. Actually, I wrote it. We use it as the introductory textbook for the first course on our program, and it gives an overview of the field. Each chapter looks at different sector of the field and talks about what the different career specialties are within each sector and what resources you could pursue if you’d like to learn more about them. It also talks about the core tenants and philosophies of the field and the skills that you need for each sector.

I’d encourage you to check out our webinars that are online. My colleagues in international education have posted free online webinars in their areas of specialty. The link is on the screen. And finally, I invite you to reach out to me personally. I talk to people in the field all the time about their careers, about whether they’re considering graduate school and what might be the right fit for them, where they want to go, what experience they have and what advice I have for their next step. So please don’t hesitate to reach out. I hope to hear from you.

Takeaways

The six types of graduate degrees in international education are:

  1. Comparative and international education
  2. International development and education (e.g. Joint MPA/MA in International Education Management)
  3. International education policy
  4. International education administration and management (e.g. MA in International Education Management
  5. Intercultural or multicultural studies
  6. Higher education and student affairs

Career outcomes from these degrees may include teaching, research, recruiting and admissions, policy analysis, program management, and student services, to name a few. Our MA in International Education Management program, for example, is particularly geared towards people who want to design, facilitate, and manage education programs that help people to learn about other cultures, such as study abroad, language programs, and programs for international students. While any of these six programs can get you to any of the careers I mention in the video, particular programs may provide a better foundation for certain types of careers, and can help you advance your career more quickly.

Each of these six program types addresses theory, research, policy, and practice, but in varying amounts. As you’re looking at degree programs, read the course list. Which courses are required? Which ones have the most credits? This will tell you what the faculty of the program value the most, and what they see as core or essential to their program. Another important step would be to ask for contacts of alumni you can talk to and ask them about the focus of the program.

I invite you to reach out to me. I talk to people in the field all the time about their careers, about whether they’re considering graduate school, what might be the right fit for them, where they want to go, what experience they have, and what advice I have for their next step. So please don’t hesitate to reach out. I hope to hear from you.

For More Information

Katherine Punteney
kpunteney@miis.edu
831.647.4625