University of Massachusetts Amherst

Search Google Appliance


International Relations Certificate

The International Relations Certificate is sponsored by the Five College Consortium, which is comprised of the University of Massachusetts, Hampshire College, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke College, and Smith College. 

You must earn a grade of B or higher in a course to have it count for the Certificate.

The Certificate can be combined with any undergraduate major, and is a way of indicating to graduate schools or future employers that you have strong interest in world affairs. Earning the certificate requires demonstrating intermediate level competence in a contemporary foreign language and earning at least a B in each of 7 courses on world politics and institutions, the international economy, the history of the international system, US foreign policy, and the politics, history, economy, or culture of one or more foreign areas.


Please consult the Five College Consortium International Relations Program webpage to download the IR Certificate Completion form that can be used to track your progress. 

  • Requirements can be fulfilled in any order.
  • It is most helpful to fulfill Requirement 1 by taking Political Science 121, World Politics, early in your studies.
  • Note that if you do not take introductory macroeconomics or microeconomics your options for fulfilling Requirement 3 on the international financial and commercial system are very limited.  You should not wait until senior year to fulfill this requirement.
  • It is possible to use transfer and study abroad courses, but these need to be approved by one of the IR Certificate advisors.
  • Please note: the courses listed on the Five College website are not up to date.

UMass Amherst IR Certificate Advisors

Audrey Altstadt (History)
Herter 722

MJ Peterson (Political Science)
Thompson 326

Course Information

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can courses used for my major be used for the Certificate? 
Yes! This is a major reason the IR Certificate should be considered when choosing a Global Ed Option; you are already doing half of the work! As many as four classes within your major or within another department count towards the Certificate.

2. Can Gen Ed courses be used for the Certificate? 
Certainly. This is another benefit of the certificate! Completion of Gen Eds can also lead to the completion of the certificate. Just remember: you cannot take more than four classes within the same discipline (e.g. no more than four Political Science courses). 

3. If the same course appears on the website under two requirements, can I use it for both? 
NO. The completion of the certificate requires seven different courses PLUS the language courses needed to attain the intermediate level competence required.

4. What grade do I need to get for the courses to count for the Certificate? 
 You must earn at least a B in each course for the course to count toward the IR Certificate.

5. How many courses are required? 
There are a total of seven requirement areas, one of which requires two courses, and one of which requires intermediate level mastery of a foreign language (four semesters or two years of college level language if starting language study). This means that the maximum number of courses a student would have to take is eleven, but students who prove some level of proficiency in a language through the UMass language placement exams or other evidence of language competence will need fewer than eleven to complete the certificate.

6. In what department do I take courses? 
There are a wide variety of departments in which you can take courses. Some requirements specify particular departmental courses while others give you more choices. Either way, you can take no more than four in the same discipline.

7. Can I take courses at the other 4 colleges? 
Definitely! The Certificate is a Five College program and students are encouraged to take advantage of the Five College Interchange.

8. How do I know if I have fulfilled the language requirement? 
To satisfy the language requirement for the Certificate you must either take courses that bring you to an intermediate level in a contemporary foreign language or take an approved test that proves your proficiency at that level. This means you must prove proficiency equivalent to four semesters (or two years) of a college level language. If you are fluent in another language or you have taken at least four years of a language in high school, you may take the UMass language placement test or proficiency test in that language. If the test indicates that you have the knowledge equivalent to having passed the fourth semester course in a language (usually numbered 240 or 246) then you have fulfilled the requirement. If the test comes back saying something less (e.g., equivalent to 230 which is the 3rd semester), then you must take the courses needed to reach the fourth semester proficiency.  (NOTE:  classic or ancient languages such as Latin are not approved for the IR Certificate.)

9. What are the Five College Language Offerings?

     a) The Five College Language Portal lists ALL languages offered among the Five Colleges (Spring 2018) with links to the offering department or program. There are over 60 languages offered in the consortium. Click here for a link to the portal.

     b) The Five College Center for the Study of World Languages offers courses in over 40 less-commonly studied languages. Course details and registration instructions are online here.

Comprehensive “mentored” courses covering speaking, listening, reading, and writing skills are offered for: Hindi, Swahili, Turkish, Persian, Urdu.

Arabic dialect courses in Levantine, Moroccan and Egyptian are offered for students who have taken at least one-year of Modern Standard Arabic. Well-prepared students who will be concurrently enrolled in the spring semester of a 100-level Arabic course that includes speaking practice in formal spoken Arabic or in a dialect may be permitted to enroll in Levantine Arabic I in the spring semester.

Supervised Independent study courses focusing on oral skills development are offered in: Afrikaans, Albanian, Amharic,  Bangla/Bengali, Bosnian-Croatian-Serbian, Bulgarian, Burmese, Cantonese for Mandarin Speakers, Czech, Danish, Dari, Dutch, Filipino/Tagalog, Finnish, Georgian, Modern Greek, Haitian Creole, Hungarian, Indonesian, Modern Irish, Lao, Macedonian, Malay, Mongolian, Nepali, Norwegian,  Pashto, Romanian, Sinhala, Thai, Tibetan, Twi, Ukrainian, Urdu, Vietnamese, Wolof, Yoruba, Zulu (NOTE:  course availability is limited in some languages; not all languages are available every semester; other languages may be added; sometimes language availability changes).


FAQ about Five College Center for the Study of World Language Courses:

How does a student register?  All languages offered by the center require submission of a brief application. Depending upon the language, students also either complete an online orientation tutorial or schedule an interview/conversation about how the course will work. When students are admitted, students sign a learning contract. The center enters UMass student registrations directly into SPIRE.  Students from the four colleges receive a signed instructor permission form from the center and do a Five College request for the course through their campus online registration system. (The campus for the request is UMass; the department is “Five College Center for the Study of World Languages”.) Application details are online here.

When and where do sessions meet? Courses meet across all five campuses. For most courses, students will submit schedule information after registering and will be assigned permanent session times and locations that work with their schedules. ASL courses have pre-scheduled times assigned. Those times are listed under the course descriptions on our website.

What is the course format? Five College Center for the Study of World Language courses are offered using one-on-one tutorials and small group conversation sessions. The session formats vary by language.  Each course has an established syllabus; mentored courses also have detailed study guides. Some students choose to work faster than the assigned syllabus  in order to meet personal goals. This is fine and can be discussed with the program director.

What if a student already has experience with the language to be studied? File an application and the program director will be in touch to arrange for placement in an appropriate course.

The online course catalog only shows lower-level courses in a certain language, do you offer higher-level courses?  For many languages, the center can arrange intermediate and advanced courses on a case by case basis. Students who need something other than what is listed online should contact center staff about options for their language. The earlier such contact is made, the more likely we are to be able to arrange a course.  

Is there a fee for taking these courses?  Enrollment for these courses is covered by regular tuition for all students in the consortium who are matriculated for a degree. There are no special course fees. Students enroll in these courses in the same way as for other academic courses in the Five College Consortium.