The Middle East has long been an area of cultural, religious and historical significance. Today, it is also an area of financial significance, because of the world’s dependence on oil, and of military significance because of tensions between Jewish, Arab, Islamic and non-Islamic countries. A master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies can prepare you for a number of different careers in which you would use your knowledge of the region.
Foreign Service Officer
The Foreign Service Office might be the first place you think of when looking for a job. Options within the FSO include consular, economic, management, political and public diplomacy officers. Consular officers might help evacuate Americans in a crisis, facilitate adoptions or combat fraud. Economic officers interact with foreign governments in a variety of areas such as technology, science or trade. Management officers provide leadership in embassy operations. Political officers negotiate and communicate with foreign government officials. Public diplomacy officers work with a variety of U.S. and foreign officials to promote understanding and support for U.S. policies. Salaries vary according to posting, education, experience and other factors.
Political scientists work in research, with a focus on the origin, development and operation of political systems. They may research topics such as U.S.-foreign government relationships, develop theories about political issues from historical documents, study political issues or forecast political trends in the Middle East. They may also work in policy analysis for government or labor organizations. This field is not an exact match with your degree, and you might more likely to find work in the field if you have minored in political science. Political scientists earned $104,600 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Many languages are spoken in the Middle East. Translators are in high demand, with expected job growth of 42 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the BLS. Many programs in Middle East studies require that the student study a regional language. At Harvard University, for example, the options are Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish. A student must read and speak at least one of these languages by graduation. You might work as an interpreter of a spoken language in health care, the legal field or in a conference setting. Although a bachelor’s degree is the usual requirement, conference interpreters in particular are more likely to have a master’s degree. The average salary of interpreters and translators was $53,410 in 2012, according to the BLS.
Home to three of the world’s major religions, with a history stretching back thousands of years, the Middle East offers a rich heritage for a historian to study. You might work in government, a museum, historical society, nonprofit, research or consulting firm. Some historians travel extensively to do field work. You could help preserve archival materials, present or interpret history for the public, or research historical issues to provide context for current events. Historians earned an average of $58,520 in 2012, according to the BLS.