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Why Study International Economic Policy?

Economic globalization has grown in step with the growth of transnational trade. As different countries have different interests and with constantly changing balances of power, negotiation and cooperation are essential. Guiding critical decision-making toward mutually beneficial agreements is international economic policy. Understanding these agreements, meanwhile, can help public, private, and non-profit organizations -- in disciplines ranging from business and public service to public health and development -- leverage them to their advantage. If you have your eye on an international career with an interest in politics, political science, and international affairs, studies in international economic policy can help you gain the inside edge. Here’s a closer look at why to pursue a degree in international economic policy, along with one interdisciplinary program aimed at preparing you for an exciting career in this area.

Nov 23, 2020
  • Education
Why Study International Economic Policy?

If you have your eye on an international career with an interest in politics, political science, and international affairs, studies in international economic policy can help you gain the inside edge. Here’s a closer look at why to pursue a degree in international economic policy, along with one interdisciplinary program aimed at preparing you for an exciting career in this area.

What is international economic policy?

According to the book International Economics: Global Markets and International Competition, international economics “describes and predicts production, trade, and investment across countries.”

The field comprises many topics, including international exchange rates and monetary flow; free trade and trade disputes; immigration and migration; shipping regulations, costs and their role in trade flow; and varying tax regimes between structures and how they influence trade decisions. Meanwhile, factors including improvements to long-distance transportation, telecommunication advancements, scientific and technological development, and the shift to information as capital supporting and accelerating the rate of growth create an ever-changing landscape.

International economic policy studies provide a policy-oriented perspective on these and other current and emerging issues. While “international economic policy” may sound dry, it’s a uniquely complex, dynamic and challenging field of economics. From outsourcing to the Chinese exchange rate, the topics addressed by international economic policy have practical and palpable effects on society.

An example of international economic policy pulled directly from current events is the COVID-19 pandemic, which constituted a massive obstacle for global economic growth. International economists and policy experts are working to counter this threat and spur growth through everything from digital trade agreements to supply chain reforms.

A more historical example can be found in the Great Depression of the 1930s, which experts say was caused in part by events in the US and the country’s financial policies. “The key factor in turning national economic difficulties into worldwide Depression seems to have been a lack of international coordination as most governments and financial institutions turned inwards,” proposes the US Department of State’s Office of the Historian.

According to foreign affairs columnist and TIME editor-in-chief Ian Bremmer, meanwhile, we’re careening toward a global depression with unprecedented economic repercussions. He asserts, “From a practical standpoint, governments could do more to coordinate virus-containment plans. But they could also prepare for the need to help the poorest and hardest-hit countries avoid the worst of the virus and the economic contraction by investing the sums needed to keep these countries on their feet.” International economic policy could help inform and guide these decisions amidst so much uncertainty.

Business woman study financial market to calculate possible risks and profits.Female economist accounting money with statistics graphs pointing on screen of computer at desktop. Quotations on exchange

The more we understand about economics and international economic policy, the better prepared we will be to overcome the obstacles ahead. For students wishing to gain a comprehensive understanding in these areas, the International Economic Policy Master of Arts (MIEP) program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, one of the world’s leading schools in international affairs in the heart of Washington, D.C., is a great way to do so.

Featuring core coursework in international trade, international macroeconomics, development economics and statistics, the MIEP also allows students to choose better accounting and corporate finance sequences or two semesters of econometrics in its STEM-designated track. The program offers a carefully designed combination of essential critical knowledge and hard skills necessary for today’s competitive job market, the program offers flexible late afternoon and evening classes aimed at accommodating the busy schedules of today’s working professionals and students.

Graduates of the MIEP go on to work in many exhilarating careers in public service, business, management consulting, development, and other international work. Recent job placements have included the World Bank Group, the Brookings Institute, Bank of China, Capital One, the US International Trade Commission, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the International Monetary Fund, Booz Allen Hamilton, and IBM. The Elliott School’s Graduate Student Career Development Center also provides students and alumni alike with a comprehensive range of resources aimed at readying them for success on the job market.

Another defining characteristic of the MIEP is its affiliation with the Institute for International Economic Policy (IIEP). This non-partisan thinktank is focused on spurring high-quality, multidisciplinary research on policy issues related to economic globalization. MIEP students have the opportunity to contribute to research projects working alongside IIEP researchers and to participate in IIEP events.

As part of its mission is to educate the next generation of international leaders, the Elliott School also hosts numerous events, including a recent conference on data and the high-level panel, “Policy-making in a World of Greater Uncertainty.”

Elliott School alumnus Lateefah Ferguson says, “The Elliott School has the best opportunities in terms of programs, in terms of networking. A lot of the courses are concentrated at night, so it gives people the opportunity to intern and work during the day.”

Current MIEP student Krista Barry adds, “One of the top reasons why I chose MIEP was the flexibility for it. The program director does a great job of making sure that you take the classes you want, and it will be helpful to use those various courses to kind of create this comprehensive international trade degree.”

“Econ is just such an important combination for any sort of public policy that you want to practice. Whether it’s development, whether it’s security -- economics degrees set you apart from the other applicants,” Barry continues.

Indeed, there are no better advocates to speak for the impact of the MIEP than its students and graduates. For even more insights from members of the MIEP community, check out blogs written by students from Ethiopia, Italy, and Indonesia.

Perhaps Ferguson puts it best in summing up the importance of international economic policy. “Obviously we live in a global economy. Everything that we do here is connected in some way to another economy. You can’t change anything if you’re not aware that it exists, right? Once you’re knowledgeable about what’s happening in the world, how our economy affects another economy and vice versa, then you can make informed decisions,” she says.

If you’re interested not only in being part of this decision-making, but in helping to steer it, international economic policy studies -- and the MIEP at GW -- can help position you for success.

Article written in association with the George Washington University.

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The George Washington University - Elliott School Of International Affairs
Joanna Hughes


Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.