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Early Careers in IR: Graduate Programs in International Affairs (Updated for 2024)

Graduate programs are one of many ways to recruit talented entry-level candidates into the workforce. They 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 2024 (with most commencing in 2025).

In this article, we also feature state and territory, private sector graduate programs, and opportunities in the not-for-profit sector. 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. We hope this is a useful reference point!

Australian Public Service

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 implement its policies, including through provision of social services, defence and foreign affairs, economic management, domestic affairs, and many others. Many APS departments and agencies have international facing work. Most APS roles for graduates are based in Canberra, and will provide support for successful candidates to move to the ACT. Opportunities are not limited to Canberra, however the nation’s capital is a good starting point for many who are looking to kick-start their career in the 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 law and justice.

Data, Digita, Economist, Generalist, Human Resources, Indigenous, and Legal Streams available.

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

Accounting and Financial Management, Data, Human Resources, and Legal Streams, and Indigenous Graduate Pathway available.

Australian Centre For International Agricultural Research -

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. In this case, applications will open mid 2024 for their 2025/26 program.

Graduate Development Program and Emerging Engineers Program available.

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

Corporate, Technologist, and Legal 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.

Australian Signals Directorate - Utilises technology to defend Australia from global threats and help advance Australia's national interests. Graduates from a broad range of degrees accepted, including media and communication, security, program management, engineering, and infrastructure.

Austrade and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - DFAT provides foreign, trade and development policy advice to the Government; coordinates Australia’s global, regional and bilateral interests; and operates Australian consular services. Austrade supports Australian exporters, international investors and buyers, international education providers and students, and the domestic tourism sector

DFAT's graduate program has the Corporate and Policy Streams. Austrade also offers the Trade Promotion and Investment Attraction Stream.

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 and Corporate, Intelligence, Technical, Research and Innovation streams, and Australian Government Graduate (AGGS), and Indigenous Graduate Pathways available.

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

Data, Digital, STEM, Intelligence, Generalist, Human Resource streams and Indigenous Graduate Pathway available.

Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet - A central government agency which 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.

Corporate and Generalist Stream available.

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

Indigenous Graduate Development Program, and Australian Government Graduate Program – Economist Stream and other Streams available.

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.

The Indigenous Graduate Pathway operates in a similar way. This Pathway recruits Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander graduates on behalf of a number of government agencies. This pathway is open to graduates from all degree types.

Find the full list of APS Departments on the APS Jobs Graduate Portal here.

State and Territory Government Programs

Private Sector

Not-for-profit Sector

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. All sectors mentioned above also commonly recruit at junior levels outside the graduate programs.

You can also check out our Jobs, Internship and Opportunities board which is updated several times a week with a range of early career opportunities, and the Australia's Top 100 Graduate Employers for further inspiration.


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