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Careers Opportunities in International Business


Traditional paths to overseas career opportunities include earning a college degree (e.g., Law, Business, International Affairs) and/or working your way up within an organization and positioning yourself for an international assignment. International internships also help to position job applicants for international business careers. Success in the international job market, however, depends mostly on the critical skill(s) you develop and the relationship of those skills to the job market where you are applying.

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The international business profession is expanding rapidly as an increasing number of companies conduct multinational transactions. Your specific field may be in accounting, finance, marketing, management, purchasing or production, but you will focus on global and cultural business issues. Common job titles include the following:

Marketing and Sales: 


Product Management: Product Managers (sometimes called Product Directors or Brand Managers) manage a specific product or product line. This would include managing the advertising program, the product development, the distribution system, and setting the prices of the product. In many firms, especially high tech firms, a Product Manager has global responsibility.  

Advertising: As multinational companies expand their product lines overseas, advertising agencies have followed them. Many global companies use advertising agencies which have overseas offices so that they can tailor promotional programs to the local market. Positions in an advertising agency include account executive, creative manager, media specialist, and production manager. 

Sales: There are more and more opportunities for sales people to become involved in international business. In many industrial sales companies, as well as high tech sales, sales representatives and managers are expected to travel abroad and to find customers and negotiate business deals. Trade shows are especially popular for international salespersons.

Marketing Representative: This position is typically oriented to the development of sales for manufacturers or service companies. If the representative works for a company that has international marketing activities, the representative may request international marketing responsibilities such as the development of relationships with agents, dealers, distributors, licensees and/or strategic alliance partner firms in other countries. Typically, such opportunities develop after a proven period of success in developing one or more segments of the domestic market. A concentration in marketing is a helpful complement to an international business major for this type of position.


Customer Service: 


Travel and Tourism: Travel and tourism has always been a highly international field. Careers in travel and tourism can include Hotel Management, Restaurant Management, and Travel Agency Management, all of which require knowledge of international business and languages. There are also long-term career opportunities available such as an activities director on a cruise ship, a resort manager at a beach resort, an animation director at a golf and casino resort, a customer services supervisor at an outdoor adventure touring company, etc.

Airlines: There are many opportunities within the airline industry to become involved in international business. As a customer service representative, sales personnel, or even as a flight attendant, knowledge of international business and foreign language is expected and valued. 

Cruise Ships: Similar to airlines, cruise ships are in need of professionals who are trained in languages and in customer service. 




Retail Buying: Retail buyers are in charge of acquiring merchandise for their employer, a retail chain. Often, they must source special merchandise at manufacturing plants abroad. 


Finance and  Accounting: 


Banking: A fast growing field in international business is international banking. Many large banks have become global and initiate thousands of international transactions. Some banks -- such as the World Bank -- lend money to foreign governments. Knowledge of international business and foreign exchange is required.  

Accounting: There are many areas of accounting which may require dealing with international issues. Auditing, financial accounting, and managerial accounting of multinational companies would require an understanding of foreign exchange rates, inflation rates, different tax systems, and language. 




Production Specialist: As companies expand their production abroad, there is a greater need for Production Specialists with an international background. Production Specialists arrange for goods to be produced in other countries and locate foreign producers for these goods. 




Human Resources: Human Resource managers are involved with hiring, training, compensating, motivating, evaluating, and promoting employees. International Human Resource managers work with foreign nationals employed by a firm’s subsidiary abroad and employees who have international assignments. An understanding of other cultures and business is needed for this field.  

Strategic Planning: As multinational corporations expand abroad, long-range strategic plans must reflect this. Strategic Planners operate at a high level in the company and put together the company’s long-run strategic objectives and plans, including accompanying sales forecasts and industry outlook. An understanding of international economics and markets is needed for this career.

Staff Consultant or Research Analyst: This position requires the ability to interact with decision-makers by providing advice on the implementation of new managerial support systems as well as background data on new business opportunities. Although these positions start out with solely domestically related projects, they evolve to require ability in assessing data for internationally oriented business opportunities. Thus, familiarity with language, area studies and international business practices will be an asset. A functional concentration in business computer systems, finance, or marketing would improve an individual's chances of obtaining this type of position.


International Law: 


International Business Law: Many law firms have multinational corporate clients and must understand their specific legal needs in the countries where they operate. In addition, multinational corporations may have their own legal staff to aid in the understanding of legal issues abroad. A law degree (JD) and an understanding of international business are needed to be an international lawyer. 




International Trade Documentation Specialist: This person expedites import or export documents for transportation intermediary companies such as freight forwarders or customs house brokers or for commercial banks. This individual is aided by a knowledge of specialized legal regulations, foreign languages, international trade credit practices and business customs in other countries. Normally, the regulatory specifics related to international transportation are learned on the job.




Freight Forwarding and Customhouse Brokers: Freight forwarders and customhouse brokers are agents who facilitate export and import shipments. Freight forwarders specialize in transportation and inventory storage, while customhouse brokers handle import shipments for compensation. Knowledge of international business, as well as transportation systems, is necessary. 


Employment in Government: 

International Trade Administration: The ITA is the primary U.S. government agency that helps exporters. Its activities include export counseling, development of marketing opportunities, analysis of overseas markets, and impediments to market entry. Types of positions available at the ITA include international trade specialist, international economist, economist, and import compliance specialist.

Foreign Service: The Foreign Service is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce and places people in overseas posts. Operating in 67 countries around the world, Foreign Service personnel advise U.S. firms on export markets, carry out trade promotions, do market research, and provide representation to foreign governments on behalf of American companies.

Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs):

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are an increasingly important partner in the international community. Organizations focused on human rights, international trade, micro-credit financing, health education, international development and relief work play critical roles in developing countries.