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How to Pursue a Career in International Business

Businessmen talk at a table with microphones and flags
Businessmen talk at a table with microphones and flags

What Is International Business?

A career in international business includes a wide range of positions in all types of industries that provide global products or services. Professionals typically have expertise in one area of business and then apply their skills and knowledge in roles that involve working with companies in other countries.

Succeeding in international business requires a combination of technical skills related to your role and the ability to engage with professionals in other cultures. While many people work in international business for the opportunity to travel or live abroad, it's possible to work in international business while living in the U.S.

In this Article

Positions in international business include the same specialty areas common in domestic businesses. For instance, it's possible to use your skills in finance or accounting in international business if you know how to apply your specialty to work in the global marketplace.

Succeeding in international business requires a combination of technical skills related to your role and the ability to engage with professionals in other cultures.

People often don't realize how many jobs are available in international business, says Ralph Jagodka, MBA, EdD, professor of business management at Mt. San Antonio College, who has extensive professional experience in international business management in the private sector. "There are a lot of positions that have some duties and responsibilities that are international and other duties and responsibilities that are domestic, so therefore when people look at a specific career, they don't think of it as being international, but it very well can be."

7 Steps to a Career in International Business

Choose a program that fits your career goals.

A woman reads on her laptop

Finding the right international business program depends on factors like your interests, finances, location, and whether you want to attend a program full or part time.
You should also look at the kind of roles graduates are landing fresh out of school.

International business specialties: Make sure a program offers the specialty areas that you want to pursue. At all degree levels, many international business programs offer the option to choose a concentration such as international supply chain management, project management, or business administration. A concentration can allow you to gain the technical knowledge necessary for specific roles, while also learning how to apply your expertise worldwide.

Accreditation: Accreditation means an educational program and school have met rigorous standards established by independent accrediting organizations. A degree from an accredited school is considered a quality education. Attending an accredited institution is important if you transfer to another school later or want to use your degree as a foundation for higher degrees or professional certifications. You'll also need to attend an accredited school to qualify for federal financial aid, school loans, and some scholarships.

Online programs: Online programs can be a good option if you'll be earning a degree while also juggling family or work responsibilities. You may be able to earn most of an international business degree online, even your doctorate, though many programs require internships or other onsite immersive experiences.

Choose your degree.

A man looks at images of the world on a laptop

You can earn a degree in international business at all educational levels.

Associate degree

What It Is: A two-year degree that provides an introduction to international business. While you can qualify for entry-level positions with an associate degree, you'll likely need a minimum of a bachelor's degree to advance to positions that involve supervisory and decision-making responsibilities.

Who It's Best For: Students whose finances are limited or who want to enter the job market as soon as possible.

Bachelor's degree

What It Is: A four-year multidisciplinary degree that provides the foundation to advance to managerial positions in public administration or private and non-profit global organizations. If you study part time, it could take four to six years to complete a bachelor's degree.

Who It's Best For: Students who want to work in administrative and managerial positions involving all aspects of international business.

Master's in international business

What It Is: A graduate degree that focuses on the study of advanced business topics through an international lens. A master's in international business takes one year to complete if you attend school full time and two years or more if you attend part time.

Who It's Best For: Students who want to pursue leadership roles involving policy and decision-making across global organizations.

Master of Business Administration (MBA) in international business

What It Is: A two-year graduate degree that focuses on advanced core skills across all areas of business, such as accounting and finance. An MBA in international business could take three years or longer to complete if you study part time.

Who It's Best For: Students who want to study advanced core business skills to gain the knowledge and skills for global organizational leadership or consulting roles.

Gain admissions to a program.

Students gather on building steps and talk

Prerequisites for an international business degree vary by program, but having a foundation in math, science, and English composition can help you succeed.
You're likely to find the following basic requirements for international business degrees:

Bachelor's degree: A high school diploma or GED; a minimum GPA of 2.5; possibly SAT or ACT scores

Master's in international business: A bachelor's degree, often in any major; a minimum GPA, often 3.0; and GRE or GMAT test scores

MBA in international business: A bachelor's degree, often in a business major; completion of prerequisite business courses; a minimum GPA of 3.0; two years of professional work experience; and GMAT scores 

Complete your studies and graduate.

Students study around a table

Your studies will prepare you to work in positions that involve interacting with people from different countries and cultures. You'll learn about the unique aspects of conducting business across geographic, economic, and political boundaries.

Coursework: At the bachelor's level, you'll have the opportunity to study a concentration and specialize in one aspect of international business. At the graduate level, some students choose to immerse themselves in international business by earning a master's focused on the field. Others choose an MBA with a concentration in international business, which focuses on developing managerial skills and expertise in the top business fields.

Foreign language: While some programs have a foreign language requirement, many do not. However, knowing a foreign language gives you an advantage in developing relationships with your counterparts in other countries. While phone apps make it easier to communicate across languages, they can't duplicate the ability to understand the nuances and cultural cues that you acquire in learning a language, so knowing a language makes things easier, says Jagodka.

Study abroad: While studying or working abroad for a semester isn't required, it can be a valuable enhancement to your learning experience. At any degree level, it helps students make contacts and start networking in other countries, says Jagodka.

Internships/capstones: The requirement for an internship or capstone project varies by program. An internship usually requires working onsite, which can help you develop valuable first-hand experience while you refine your goals. However, you may be able to complete a capstone project around an existing work schedule. It's important to understand your program's requirements, since you may not have the option to choose once you're enrolled.

Find your first role.

A woman attends an online meeting with colleagues

Your degree and whether you specialize will determine where you're most qualified to work in your first job after graduation. With a bachelor's degree, you're likely to begin in roles without supervisory or management responsibilities. These can include entry-level roles such as human resources specialist, a role in the hospitality industry such as front-desk clerk for an international hotel chain, or marketing specialist for a company trying to promote its products abroad.

With a master's degree, you can qualify for positions that involve decision-making responsibilities for departments or an entire organization in roles like an international operations manager or international sales manager.

Earn a certification to set yourself apart.

A manager talks to a worker in a warehouse

Earning a certification demonstrates expertise and deep knowledge and can help distinguish you as passionate about your profession and committed to expanding your skills. Two common professional certifications that can help advance your career in international business are:

• Certified Global Business Professional (CGBP)
• Certified Supply Chain Professional (CSCP)

Jagodka says a credential like the CGBP shows prospective employers that you are well-rounded and understand business from an international perspective.

Advance your career.

Three colleagues walk through an airport to catch a flight

Moving up often requires additional education and experience. Earning a certification or a graduate degree can make a difference. Jagodka says mastering the technical skills required by your field also can help you advance. These could include data analysis, program management, or mastering software used in your field.

Decide if International Business Is Right for You

Like domestic businesspeople, international business professionals work in a wide range of roles. They are employed by banks, manufacturers, the hospitality industry, distributors, consulting firms, government agencies, non-profit groups, and organizations that provide goods or services globally.

The difference is that working in international business requires the knowledge and skill set necessary to perform their duties in the global marketplace. In addition to the basic skills required for their jobs, international business professionals need to know how to work across physical, political, economic, and cultural differences.

Skills and Traits for Success


It takes more than an education and work experience to advance in international business. Having the right interests and personality traits can position you for success in this field.

Adaptability is a key characteristic necessary to work in international business, says Jagodka. "The one thing I love about international business is that it's never static, it's always dynamic and always changing. What you know today is not going to be there tomorrow," he says.

You may enjoy working in international business if you are:

  • Interested in traveling internationally
  • Curious about other cultures
  • Confident in your skills
  • Self-aware about the way you present yourself to others
  • Observant and aware of other people's reactions
  • Interested in interacting with people
  • Enthusiastic about constantly learning new things
  • Willing to learn a second language

Learning a second language can often make a difference in your relationships with people abroad. As you learn a second language, you also learn about the nuances that can help you communicate more effectively with people from another country, says Jagodka.

How Long Does It Take to Become a Manager in International Business?

With opportunities in so many industries, there's no standard formula for becoming a manager in international business.

Your education, the size of your company, and your business field can affect how fast you move up.

With a bachelor's degree, you can generally expect to work in an entry-level position for several years as you gain the experience necessary to qualify for roles that involve decision-making and supervisory responsibilities.

Your education, the size of your company, and your business field can affect how fast you move up. You may be able to advance faster by earning certifications, networking, and gaining experience working abroad.

Earning a master's in international business or an MBA in international business may also help you advance faster.

Job Outlook and Salary

You can work in a wide range of positions with a degree in international business. While opportunities in international business are generally increasing as the global marketplace expands, your individual salary may vary based on your role

Here are examples of salaries and projected job growth for three careers according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

Interpreters and Translators

National data

Median Salary: $49,110

Projected job growth: 20.2%

10th Percentile: $29,360

25th Percentile: $38,230

75th Percentile: $75,940

90th Percentile: $97,760

Projected job growth: 20.2%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alaska $59,770 $37,810 $104,000
Alabama $46,590 $23,840 $62,510
Arkansas $48,560 $28,670 $77,700
Arizona $30,670 $27,730 $61,020
California $71,050 $40,600 $109,270
Colorado $62,300 $46,590 $86,380
Connecticut $63,310 $43,060 $104,540
District of Columbia $122,710 $48,820 $123,670
Delaware $31,480 $28,300 $124,990
Florida $46,640 $29,110 $80,980
Georgia $47,890 $23,520 $149,390
Hawaii $47,010 $38,370 $81,960
Iowa $39,230 $30,140 $63,430
Idaho $38,440 $29,010 $59,390
Illinois $47,570 $29,250 $71,440
Indiana $46,590 $30,210 $74,000
Kansas $38,340 $30,210 $67,820
Kentucky $48,930 $36,280 $79,430
Massachusetts $62,530 $38,720 $128,710
Maryland $75,750 $34,910 $122,900
Maine $48,820 $36,910 $98,730
Michigan $46,910 $36,980 $64,280
Minnesota $61,490 $44,040 $80,080
Missouri $47,590 $30,530 $68,700
Mississippi $38,340 $30,050 $68,370
Montana $46,590 $30,440 $48,980
North Carolina $45,040 $30,140 $129,380
North Dakota $38,420 $30,940 $48,730
Nebraska $38,440 $30,140 $76,570
New Hampshire $48,820 $38,590 $77,220
New Jersey $48,970 $29,260 $89,520
New Mexico $48,930 $30,720 $104,020
Nevada $24,520 $24,520 $38,440
New York $78,380 $46,640 $122,880
Ohio $48,450 $28,770 $77,260
Oklahoma $38,170 $18,130 $75,210
Oregon $49,110 $35,860 $81,960
Pennsylvania $42,460 $30,310 $81,960
Rhode Island $49,130 $38,370 $78,050
South Carolina $39,110 $27,260 $65,100
South Dakota $38,590 $30,140 $60,540
Tennessee $39,040 $29,900 $63,190
Texas $48,520 $34,250 $81,280
Utah $46,860 $25,770 $78,680
Virginia $75,940 $37,120 $123,730
Vermont $48,450 $25,270 $106,070
Washington $62,900 $37,980 $98,260
Wisconsin $50,270 $36,300 $63,780
West Virginia $30,640 $27,780 $62,330

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Logisticians

National data

Median Salary: $77,030

Projected job growth: 27.7%

10th Percentile: $45,160

25th Percentile: $59,740

75th Percentile: $98,680

90th Percentile: $122,390

Projected job growth: 27.7%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alaska $79,520 $48,430 $150,180
Alabama $82,640 $47,470 $123,800
Arkansas $63,230 $46,500 $100,730
Arizona $65,800 $39,270 $104,980
California $81,410 $50,120 $128,900
Colorado $79,330 $48,830 $123,120
Connecticut $76,450 $48,890 $121,700
District of Columbia $106,600 $66,120 $159,270
Delaware $98,680 $63,440 $132,230
Florida $62,020 $38,080 $104,420
Georgia $72,070 $42,650 $103,200
Hawaii $85,220 $59,910 $123,510
Iowa $69,370 $46,400 $98,680
Idaho $48,880 $32,460 $100,390
Illinois $62,390 $36,780 $103,530
Indiana $72,180 $44,480 $122,090
Kansas $49,900 $37,320 $90,630
Kentucky $62,340 $37,300 $100,780
Louisiana $63,330 $47,310 $104,420
Massachusetts $77,580 $48,630 $132,770
Maryland $98,700 $60,820 $138,590
Maine $79,190 $58,560 $101,320
Michigan $77,600 $48,240 $125,930
Minnesota $79,210 $58,040 $129,450
Missouri $76,840 $43,370 $110,580
Mississippi $62,320 $37,930 $98,030
Montana $71,120 $48,640 $119,770
North Carolina $63,640 $47,010 $105,310
North Dakota $68,210 $48,830 $103,670
Nebraska $77,760 $48,830 $129,310
New Hampshire $77,740 $48,710 $103,670
New Jersey $86,600 $60,830 $128,900
New Mexico $78,630 $53,770 $121,020
Nevada $60,610 $47,470 $83,840
New York $79,450 $48,630 $128,890
Ohio $77,030 $46,640 $113,650
Oklahoma $77,480 $47,470 $116,580
Oregon $76,840 $48,830 $101,040
Pennsylvania $76,450 $47,390 $106,210
Rhode Island $76,450 $49,550 $112,860
South Carolina $69,800 $39,150 $104,220
South Dakota $62,320 $47,310 $98,280
Tennessee $62,310 $38,000 $99,610
Texas $75,730 $43,750 $116,710
Utah $76,060 $38,250 $103,290
Virginia $77,850 $45,180 $130,120
Vermont $63,960 $48,710 $103,670
Washington $92,000 $57,970 $130,120
Wisconsin $62,280 $38,260 $101,280
West Virginia $59,610 $38,270 $98,020
Wyoming $70,040 $51,560 $101,320

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Marketing Managers

National data

Median Salary: $135,030

Projected job growth: 9.9%

10th Percentile: $77,680

25th Percentile: $100,010

75th Percentile: $192,520

90th Percentile: N/A

Projected job growth: 9.9%

State data

State Median Salary Bottom 10% Top 10%
Alaska $95,420 $60,400 $169,130
Alabama $103,170 $60,750 $207,820
Arkansas $126,500 $58,260 $206,380
Arizona $120,260 $74,300 N/A
California $163,420 $86,990 N/A
Colorado $160,530 $97,360 N/A
Connecticut $135,950 $78,660 N/A
District of Columbia $162,660 $100,010 N/A
Delaware $163,240 $117,630 N/A
Florida $127,140 $63,090 N/A
Georgia $127,690 $77,930 N/A
Hawaii $99,880 $61,510 $163,240
Iowa $120,010 $67,530 $203,040
Idaho $89,790 $47,800 $168,400
Illinois $127,300 $63,910 N/A
Indiana $120,740 $66,340 $201,380
Kansas $124,170 $73,050 $192,320
Kentucky $125,690 $60,080 N/A
Louisiana $98,320 $58,890 $193,750
Massachusetts $156,330 $83,940 N/A
Maryland $128,160 $78,400 N/A
Maine $108,770 $75,370 $169,130
Michigan $124,930 $61,360 N/A
Minnesota $152,350 $81,410 N/A
Missouri $102,060 $63,520 $191,790
Mississippi $82,240 $47,650 $166,180
Montana $99,510 $67,460 $206,380
North Carolina $129,570 $77,680 N/A
North Dakota $124,650 $81,400 N/A
Nebraska $99,070 $47,750 $163,180
New Hampshire $128,960 $78,400 N/A
New Jersey $163,290 $103,040 N/A
New Mexico $99,070 $59,370 $205,330
Nevada $100,040 $47,750 N/A
New York $169,130 $104,210 N/A
Ohio $127,860 $77,680 N/A
Oklahoma $104,740 $59,870 N/A
Oregon $125,900 $75,370 $206,890
Pennsylvania $127,690 $76,130 N/A
Rhode Island $152,350 $99,520 N/A
South Carolina $124,400 $61,330 $207,820
South Dakota $126,500 $79,860 N/A
Tennessee $103,750 $61,090 $182,540
Texas $128,030 $67,070 N/A
Utah $104,560 $61,190 $173,550
Virginia $162,640 $93,450 N/A
Vermont $99,480 $59,820 $161,630
Washington $152,350 $94,590 N/A
Wisconsin $124,570 $75,270 $206,890
West Virginia $81,810 $57,920 $168,400
Wyoming $102,330 $77,940 $169,130

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) 2021 median salary; projected job growth through 2031. Actual salaries vary depending on location, level of education, years of experience, work environment, and other factors. Salaries may differ even more for those who are self-employed or work part time.

Professional Resources

Joining and following professional organizations, podcasts, publications, and social media can help you expand your skills, network, and find a mentor to help you succeed and advance in your career.

Here are some top professional resources for international business careers:

NASBITE International supports both academic and practicing professionals by advocating for global business practices, education, and training.

International Compliance Professionals Association (ICPA) is a nonprofit global trade compliance community that provides networking, education, and training opportunities for professionals in international compliance. 

Association for Supply Chain Management (ASCM) connects supply chain professionals and companies around the world to the newest thought leadership on all aspects of supply chain, while driving innovation and helping professionals advance their careers.


anna giorgi

Written and reported by:

Anna Giorgi

Contributing Writer

ralph jagodka

With professional insight from:

Ralph Jagodka, MBA, EdD

Professor of Business Management, Mt. San Antonio College

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