Kaisa Kämäräinen is an alumna of Master’s Programme in Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Economics (AGERE), currently working as Sustainability Consultant at AFRY.
What was it like to study in the Master’s Programme in Agricultural, Environmental and Resource Economics?
I found the studies very interesting. You can choose your study track between Agricultural Economics and Environmental and Resource Economics. The studies mainly consisted of lectures and homework calculation exercises with some essays and traditional exams. Some of the courses also included group work and lecture diaries as teaching methods.
The courses on Environmental and Resource Economics were rather math-heavy, so it's good to have interest and some knowledge on math, but it's not rocket science. However, it will probably take some work to get up to speed if you haven’t studied math in a while. The University does offer courses for those whose bachelor’s degrees didn’t provide the mathematical skills needed for their studies.
What kind of work tasks have you had relating to the programme?
I started at AFRY as an intern in AFRY’s in-house internship programme after I’d just finished my bachelor’s thesis in the spring of my fourth year. AFRY supplies engineering, design, and advisory services with the aim of accelerating the transition towards a sustainable society. The programme lasted for two years, and I got paid by the company. I’d work two days a week until the time I graduated.
I completed my thesis working for AFRY as well. There was a need in the company to understand better how biodiversity is currently managed in companies. The topic was beneficial, and as we’ve seen, it’s even more topical now. After graduation, I started as a sustainability consultant at AFRY. As a consultant, I help companies conduct their business in a sustainable way.
Did you know from the beginning what you wanted to do after graduation?
Already in upper secondary school, I was drawn to social studies, geography and mathematics – the building blocks of sustainability. When I found the environmental and resource economics degree at the University of Helsinki, I thought it would combine my interests – and it has done so. I’ve been interested in the private sector because I’m drawn to the dynamic nature of the corporate world. You can make fast decisions and change the course in a year or two, much faster compared to the world of politics.
Who is the programme and career opportunities suited for?
This programme suits those interested in economics and its linkages to the environment and society. The major also gives the possibility to concentrate on some specific topic, such as forests, the Baltic Sea or agriculture or climate topics.
I completed my bachelor’s degree at the University of Helsinki at the same faculty as my master’s degree programme. I didn’t think of applying elsewhere for the master’s because I was interested in the topics covered in the programme, and the study environment was pleasant. I appreciated that there was a lot of freedom master’s degree studies. I feel there is enough leeway to build your degree to your liking and wants.
Have you experienced any positive surprises when moving from student life to work life?
As I mentioned, I started in the AFRY in-house internship programme during my studies. It was easy to combine studies and work because work was flexible, and there wasn’t so much of it that it would’ve impeded my studies. Working part-time meant the transition from studies to work life was easy because of the experience. Also, the evenings and weekends are free – although now I am studying another master's degree, so some of that time is spent studying.
Which part of your studies and student life has helped you the most in your career?
The theses for sure, both for my bachelor’s thesis and my master’s. You concentrate on the topic enough to be able to say in a work interview that this is something you understand in depth. When selecting a thesis topic, you should of course, think what interests you, but also think about what kind of knowledge would be relevant when looking for a job after your studies. Of course, you shouldn’t feel too much pressure about selecting the topic, but it is something to think about. Sometimes surprising choices can end up being good choices.
Apart from academic studies, I got a lot out of being active in our student organisation. I was a member of the board of our student association. I was given a lot of responsibility and I got a concrete and work-life-relevant experience that I could showcase in interviews. It also meant that I met and collaborated with students from outside of my own study field. It was precious to be able to connect with people from outside of my own immediate circles.
I also value the experience of exchange studies which I did. I spent six months in Sweden. Learning about cultural differences and studying in a multicultural environment was fascinating. The differences in ways of working apply equally in working life. The Finnish meticulousness and punctuality are not universally shared ways of working.
Do you have any special plans for the future?
I want to learn more about the possibilities of circular economy and the alternative business models that there could be compared to the current take-make-dispose business model. I want to continue on this career path.