How To Become an International Trade Specialist

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

International trade is an industry experiencing significant growth in today's globalized economy. International trade specialists play a critical role in allowing countries access to international markets, goods and services that may not be available domestically. If you're interested in pursuing a career that combines data analysis, strategic decision making and international relations, becoming an international trade specialist may be a good choice for you. In this article, we define the role of an international trade specialist, summarize the key skills you need to succeed in this position and provide steps you can take to pursue this career path.

What is an international trade specialist?

An international trade specialist is someone who analyzes foreign trade and monitors the global market to guide strategic international business decisions. International trade specialists help their clients and trade partners maximize their business investment opportunities abroad. Companies, government agencies and nonprofit organizations employ international trade specialists.

Related: Understanding Tariffs: Definition and How They Work

What does an international trade specialist do?

International trade specialists use data-driven insights to suggest areas for growth and development for international business opportunities. They determine global trends and the demand for a company's products and services, and they identify the company's competitors and potential customers in international markets. International trade specialists also know how to develop pricing strategies to maximize a company's profits or share of the market. International trade specialists ensure that all business transactions adhere to applicable trade laws and regulations.

How to become an international trade specialist

Here are five steps you can take to pursue a career as an international trade specialist:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

The minimum requirement for an international trade specialist position is a bachelor's degree in business administration, international business, international trade or a related field. These majors provide foundational knowledge in economics, finance, management and administration. Coursework you can expect for these degree programs includes:

  • Business communication

  • International economics and finance

  • Global business management

  • International relations

  • Business ethics

  • Accounting

Many international business degree programs require students to learn a foreign language. Some popular languages for global business communication include Mandarin, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French and Arabic.

Read more: Business Degree Guide: 10 Types of Business Majors and the Differences Between Them

2. Consider pursuing a master's degree

Pursuing a master's degree in international business, international trade or a related field can expand your job opportunities and qualify you for advanced positions. During a master's degree program, you gain advanced knowledge in economics, marketing management and business ethics. Many master's degree programs include large individual and group projects that provide opportunities to develop your policy analysis and trade negotiations skills. You also learn how to design trade strategies on a global scale. Topics you may cover in these types of master's programs include:

  • Business research methods

  • Strategic management

  • Managerial economics

  • Global investment banking

  • International business negotiations

  • Trade compliance

Read more: 20 Jobs You Can Get With an International Business Degree

3. Complete an internship

Completing an internship is a great way to apply your academic training in a professional setting and gain experience in your field. You can apply to internships at companies of interest, government agencies or nonprofit organizations. Internships provide opportunities to work closely with international trade specialists and other established professionals, which may lead to career-long relationships. These relationships can provide you with guidance, support and leads on job opportunities.

4. Become certified

Certification is not mandatory to become an international trade specialist. Specific requirements vary depending on your employer, but obtaining certification can increase job opportunities by reinforcing credibility as a global business professional. The Forum for International Trade Training (FITT) offers the Certified International Trade Professional (CITP) certification, which demonstrates a strong understanding of international trade processes and a commitment to ethical business practices and ongoing professional development. To earn this certification, you first earn a FITT diploma and prove at least one year of work experience in a position related to international business.

5. Gain relevant industry experience

After earning a bachelor's degree, aspiring international trade specialists qualify for entry-level jobs in their industry. Gaining relevant experience in a position related to international business is a critical step in becoming an international trade specialist. These positions provide insight into the challenges companies and policy makers face in the international marketplace. Depending on your position, you may have opportunities to prepare and conduct market research or assist matching companies with international trade opportunities.

International trade specialist skills

Here are some of the key skills that successful international trade specialists demonstrate:

Analytical skills

International trade specialists spend a lot of time researching and compiling data related to domestic and foreign markets, global trends and the financial positions of their clients. They must be able to critically analyze data, apply business strategies and extract actionable insight. International trade specialists make strategic recommendations to clients, so it's critical that they recognize and consider the benefits and risks of entering a new market.

Written and verbal communication

International trade specialists use written and verbal communication skills to complete various aspects of their roles, including interpreting, setting and implementing policies around international trade compliance, negotiating business deals with potential partners and writing license and agreement contracts. They provide crucial information to clients and partners related to business and expansion opportunities and often have to communicate complex ideas in a manner that is understandable to others.

Related: Cultural Intelligence: Importance, Components and How To Utilize It in the Workplace

Cross cultural communication

Cross-cultural communication requires respect and diplomacy. Taking the time to research cultural differences and customs of the country your clients conduct or are looking to conduct business is important for establishing and maintaining partnerships. Being accepting and understanding of cultural differences can help to strengthen international business relationships and alliances.

Attention to detail

Being detail-oriented is key when working with domestic and foreign export procedures and requirements, dealing with import and export laws, processing payments, following up on shipments and ensuring documentation is accurate. Having a strong attention to detail is also useful when closely evaluating global market conditions.

Networking skills

International trade specialists use networking to form business partnerships. Maintaining and developing these relationships can be a key component in accessing foreign markets.

Salary and job outlook for international trade specialist

International trade specialists may sometimes be referred to as market research analysts. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the national average salary for professional in this line of work is $63,790 per year. The BLS projects employment opportunities for this profession to grow by 18% through 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The BLS attributes this growth to more industries using data and market research in their day-to-day operations.


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