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Career Insights: Graduate Programs in International Affairs (Updated for 2022)

In this Career Insights piece we share a key list of graduate programs for those interested in a career in international affairs.

Graduate programs are a popular way to recruit talented entry-level candidates into the workforce. Graduate programs can be a fantastic way to get into the workforce for those just finishing their studies or with limited work experience, as programs often offer a range of training and professional-development opportunities as well as the opportunity to complete rotations around the organisation. Graduate programs are usually very competitive and applications tend to open early in the year (often between January and March) for positions in the next calendar year.

In this article, we’ve pulled together a curated list of graduate programs with an international focus, across federal Government departments and agencies, state and territory governments, and the private sector, that are available to apply for in 2022 (with most commencing in 2023).

As you will see below, the majority of graduate programs are available in the Australian Public Service (APS). The APS supports the (federal) Government of the day to govern Australia, including through provision of social services, defence and foreign affairs, economic management and domestic affairs, among many others. Many APS departments and agencies have international mandates, including those featured below, but even those that don’t offer candidates the opportunity to gain valuable experience working on policy development, implementation and service delivery. Most APS roles for graduates are based in Canberra, and will provide support for successful candidates to move to the ACT.

In this article, we also feature state and territory and private sector graduate programs. However, this list is by no means exhaustive: graduate opportunities can arise from many places and we recommend you look into a broad range of opportunities – but we hope this is a useful reference point!

Australian Public Service

Many Australian Government departments and agencies work internationally or have international components in their mandate. Those with explicit international mandates include:

Attorney-General’s Department - Deals with national and international legal, justice, security and emergency-related matters.

Policy, legal practice, industrial relations legal and economics streams available.

Australian Bureau of Statistics - Australia’s national statistical agency providing trusted data and statistics on a range of domestic matters.

Data and Information Communication Technology stream available.

Australian Federal Police - Enforces Commonwealth criminal law and contributes to countering complex transnational, serious and organised crime impacting Australia’s national security and interests. Graduates from a broad range of degrees accepted.

Australian National Audit Office - Independent auditor and reporter of Australian Government activity committed to supporting accountability and transparency and improving public sector performance.

Broad streams include evaluation and performance, financial and assurance audits, IT systems or data analytics, accounting.

Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation - Conducts research and development in nuclear science and technology. Note that graduate recruitment occurs every two years.

Australian Security Intelligence Organisation - Protects Australia from threats to national security, including in intelligence collection and analysis.

Technologist and Intelligence streams available.

Australian Secret Intelligence Service - Gathers and produces intelligence to inform the government of threats to Australian security.

Streams include corporate, technical and intelligence support.

Department of Defence (including the Australian Geospatial-Intelligence Organisation, Australian Signal Directorate, Defence Intelligence Organisation). Protects and advances Australia’s strategic interests through promotion of security and stability, military capabilities and supporting the Australian community and civilians as directed by the Government.

Policy, corporate, intelligence, technical and research pathways available.

Department of Education, Skills and Employment - Ensures Australians receive benefits that quality education, skills and employment can bring, from early childhood to international education programs.

Generalist and specialist streams available.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Provides foreign, trade and development policy advice to the Government; coordinates Australia’s global, regional and bilateral interests; and operates Australian consular services.

Generalist stream available. For corporate and other streams, apply via the Australian Government Graduate Program (details below).

Department of Home Affairs - Manages a wide range of domestic policy including immigration and border protection, multicultural affairs, emergency management, transport security, transnational serious and organised crime, criminal justice policy, national security and counter-terrorism.

Generalist stream available. For corporate and other streams, apply via the Australian Government Graduate Program (details below).

Department of Industry, Science, Energy and Resources - Shapes Australia’s future through promoting innovation, skills, learning and discovery and propels businesses and the economy.

Generalist, STEM and professional services streams.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet - As a central government agency, provides high quality advice to support the Prime Minister as the First Minister of Government and Cabinet to achieve a coordinated and innovative whole of government implementation of Government policy.

Generalist stream available.

The Treasury - The Government’s pre-eminent economic advisor delivering economic development and implementation of sound economic policy and advice.

Generalist and economist streams available

· And finally, the Australian Government Graduate Program provides a streamlined recruitment pathway for government graduate programs. If you apply through this, your application will be considered across the Australian Government – rather than applying for individual departments and agencies.. The Portal also provides further guidance on applying for graduate programs and can help you find the best stream fit and other entry pathways.

State and Territory Government Programs

State and Territory Governments also increasingly play a role in Australia’s international engagement. Most states and territories accept applications for the whole public service, giving you the opportunity to experience many of their departments and agencies. This ranges for each state, however opportunities within certain teams can include diplomatic protocol and international visits, international engagement policy, multicultural affairs policy, and trade and investment attraction:

Applications are made direct to separate departments.

Applications are made direct to separate departments.

● Some local governments also offer graduate programs across a range of disciplines. Major city local governments in particular, including the Cities of Melbourne or Sydney, have international engagement strategies and international connections, such as sister cities.

The Private Sector

These are some examples of the opportunities in the private sector across consulting, industry and think tanks are available:

BHP - Resource commodity company.

Technology, business, health science, engineering and science streams

Boston Consulting Group - A global management consulting company.

Cardno - A global development, infrastructure and consulting company focussed on making a difference.

Asia-Pacific Graduate Program

Deloitte - A global management consulting and accounting company.

King & Wood Mallesons - Law firm with a full spectrum of commercial, financial and specialist legal services.

For law students and graduates

KPMG - A global management consulting and accounting company.

Lockheed Martin - A global security and aerospace company engaged in the research, design and manufacture of advanced technologies, including but not limited to aeronautics, missiles, space systems, mission and command-and-control systems.

Engineering, cyber intelligence and technology

McKinsey & Company - A global management consulting company.

Nous Group - An international management consulting company in Australia, the United Kingdom and Canada.

PwC - A global management consulting and accounting company.

TetraTech / Coffey - A global development, engineering, geotechnical, environmental and project management firm.

While this article lists just a few select graduate opportunities, there are a multitude of entry pathways and career trajectories for graduates and early career professionals. Many other opportunities exist across Australia’s capital cities for recent graduates in international relations, particularly in think tanks (Asialink, Asia Society Australia, Grattan Institute, Lowy Institute), and beyond. Australian government departments also often recruit at junior levels outside the graduate programs. You can also check out the Graduate Australia Top 100 Employers list for further inspiration.


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