University of Massachusetts Amherst

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International Relations Certificate

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

In order to receive credit for the Certificate, you must receive an honors grade of B or higher in all courses.

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. The Certificate can be used to satisfy the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences' Global Education Requirement.

Course Information


 *Please note: the courses listed on the Five College website are not up to date.


Completing the Requirements

Download an IR Certificate Student Record Sheet here.

  • 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 advisers.


UMass Amherst IR Certificate Advisors

Audrey Altstadt (History)
Herter 722


MJ Peterson (Political Science)
Thompson 326

Make an appointment here


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. Can the Certificate be used for the Global Ed Requirement? 
Yes, but you should discuss this with an academic advisor before declaring the Certificate Option.  In some cases it is better to declare the Regional Studies option that corresponds to your foreign language, as this will be satisfied by courses you take for the IR Certificate and it will generally be completed before you finish the certificate requirements.

5. 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.

6. 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). Starting from scratch, the maximum number of courses a student would have to take is eleven, but students who prove proficiency in a language may need fewer to complete the certificate.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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 contemporaryforeign 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.)