An almost perfect learning experience

MSc in Environmental Economics graduate, Brian King, on how the degree proved to be directly relevant to his career
MSc in Environmental Economics graduate, Brian King
"This qualification allowed me to get the job that I currently hold": Brian King
This qualification allowed me to get the job that I currently hold. Without it, I would not have been considered for the position.

I studied economics at undergraduate level and had always wanted to do an MSc, but career and family delayed my plans significantly.

It became increasingly urgent for me to complete my MSc for professional as well as personal reasons. I wanted to find a reputable school that offered programmes relevant to my career in international development and SOAS emerged as the only real option that met these criteria.

I chose to study environmental economics out of personal interest, a sense that the subject area is becoming increasingly more important in terms of global trends, and finally due to the relevance of the subject matter to my work in international development.

The fact that SOAS specifically catered to working professionals in the development field was also a major factor in my decision because it gave me confidence that the material would be high quality and relevant as well as flexible in terms of how the degree programme was structured.

Studying at my own pace

I was a bit nervous when starting out, but after finding my way and developing a routine to incorporate study into my work and family life, I found that distance learning really suited by learning style.

I’ve always worked well independently and really enjoyed the flexibility offered by the distance learning programme. I was able to work at my own pace, and shift intensity of study according to the other things going on in my life.

Without the option of distance learning I don’t think I would have been able to complete my MSc. I can’t say that balancing work, study and family was easy, but it was manageable.

During the four years of study, I was serving in a senior field leadership position as country director for a large international NGO, raising a toddler, and during my study welcomed a second child into the family.

After three years, my family also went through an international move to a new posting in a new country.

"Distance learning requires self-discipline and effective time management, but for people in my circumstances it really was a blessing that allowed me to complete studies that I otherwise probably could not have pursued."

Fortunately, the structure of SOAS’s distance learning programme allowed me to approach study in a very flexible way so that I could complete work at my own pace – working very intensively for one, two or three months and then taking a break from study for a few weeks or a month if work and family obligations needed to take precedence.

I would move quickly through the modules early in the year, then usually slow down in the middle of the year before ramping up again prior to exams, but I always remained flexible in my approach and took things one week and one month at a time.

Distance learning requires self-discipline and effective time management, but for people in my circumstances it really was a blessing that allowed me to complete studies that I otherwise probably could not have pursued.

Tutors always responsive

For me, the learning experience was almost perfect. I am a self-directed student and did not require or really want much interaction in group study sessions.

I much preferred the independent nature of the learning process, which also allowed for interaction and engagement with other students and tutors at the level I felt was necessary.

Tutors were always very responsive to queries and I felt that I would get the answers to my questions when I needed them, even if I didn’t have any.

Evaluated assignments were incredibly valuable and tutors provided excellent constructive feedback that helped me to prepare for exams.

Exams were fair and designed to test understanding of the key concepts of the modules. SOAS and the tutors did a great job on setting expectations effectively for how to prepare for exams.

In terms of the dissertation, I cannot say enough about how positive an experience this was. I was lucky to be able to leverage my job for my research, but the contributions from my dissertation advisor were excellent and really helped me to put together an excellent paper that I am very proud of.

A qualification that advances my career

This qualification allowed me to get the job that I currently hold. Without it, I would not have been considered for the position.

In international development, advanced degrees are now a requirement for career advancement. I know that University of London degrees are well considered by all types of organizations working in the development world from NGOs to for-profits.

The reason I selected my degree programme was because of its direct relevance to my work. My studies have provided insight into how environmental issues impact on development outcomes and have allowed me to contribute greater technical insight into my work.

I have developed a well-rounded appreciation for the academic aspects of development, from the perspective of economics, and environmental economics in particular, that have greatly complemented my almost 15 years of practical experience in the field.

In many ways, I feel that having pursued my MSc later in life has allowed me to apply more of the knowledge in my career than if I had obtained the same degree immediately following university.

I think my work and life experience added to the richness of my educational experience at SOAS and allowed me to immediately apply knowledge in my day-to-day work.