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A career in the Civil Service

James talks about how a master’s in International Relations led to a role in the UK’s Trade Remedies Authority.

James Reith
James Reith (MA International Relations 2017)

I studied mathematics and music at undergraduate level, but my interests and career aspirations changed after I spent a few years working internationally as an English teacher in Vietnam and China. I decided that, in order to progress my career, an MA in International Relations would help me develop expertise in international politics and open up opportunities to work in government or international organisations in future.

The course at Bath appealed to me because of the variety of modules available. The ability to study topics such as East Asian politics, Brexit, foreign policy, and trade alongside each other really excited me. I was attracted to Bath because of the University, the location, and the feel of the city. It’s a beautiful place in itself, but it’s also close to other cities. It was important to me to have good connections to easily visit friends and family around the UK.

The year I spent studying for the master's exceeded my expectations. The content of the course and the expertise of the lecturers were all very good, but what I had not anticipated was just how valuable the experience of studying alongside high-calibre students from all over the world would be. The course encouraged students to work together and debate issues, which helped develop my critical thinking and teamworking skills.

Working for the civil service

After completing the master's course, I found an opportunity in the University's international office helping to recruit international students. This was a really exciting and demanding role that involved planning and supporting activities across the world. I was lucky enough to get a promotion after six months and stayed on as a recruitment manager for a further two years.

It was always my plan to work in government eventually though. After some time, I found a role in the Department for International Trade (now Department for Business and Trade), where I work as a Lead Investigator in the UK's Trade Remedies Authority, helping defend the UK against unfair international trade practices.

The role offers a lot of variety and it’s difficult to describe a typical day. I went through quite an intense training programme to develop technical skills in the specific area of trade remedies in order to support investigations into unfair international trade practices and even after a number of years working in this area, I am always learning something new.

The teams I now lead review and analyse financial data, write papers and reports, and conduct desk research on issues such as foreign government policies and international market conditions. We also conduct site visits to UK and foreign companies as part of our investigations.

I have been lucky enough to progress into a leadership role during my time here and I hope to continue progressing my career in the public sector. For anyone who is curious and interested in global affairs, I would certainly recommend a career in the field of international trade.

How the master’s benefited my career

I gained a greater understanding of global political issues which has undoubtedly proven valuable in my role. I believe the experience has helped me to work effectively in an international environment and I have been able to move my career in the direction I intended since graduating. The chance to study alongside and learn from fellow students from all over the world was invaluable, both from a personal, social side and professionally for gaining so many contacts.

The course certainly improved my ability to research effectively, which is vital in my current work. The variety of topics offered in the course helped with that too as we are expected to be able to familiarise ourselves with new topics quickly. Working in an investigatory environment also requires critical thinking skills, which I believe the course helped me to enhance. My communication skills, both written and verbal, definitely improved throughout my time at Bath, which is also really important for me now.

I worked part-time while studying, so did not always have much time for extra-curricular activities, but I did join the tennis club and made use of the music facilities in the Edge, attempting to form a band with some of my classmates (with mixed success). I also made the most of the language lessons on offer, studying Mandarin throughout the year.

Advice for new students

Of course, do your research, look at the course and see if it is right for you. If you are lucky enough to have the opportunity, go and visit the university and the city but, if not, there is so much information online and virtual events to attend that you can now get a sense for the place without actually being there.

For me, I have never regretted my choice to do a master's and feel really lucky that I got the opportunity to do it at Bath.

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