Nelli Pitkänen is a master’s student who completed her bachelor’s degree in Agricultural Sciences, specialising in environmental soil science, at the University of Helsinki, and was keen to continue her studies in the master’s programme. She has now nearly completed her master’s degree.
Who is the programme for, and does it have some special or unique features that can’t be found elsewhere?
In my view Agricultural Sciences is for anyone who is interested in primary production, food production and natural sciences. It’s a great programme for anyone who is looking to deepen their knowledge and to develop a more holistic understanding of the different factors that impact food production, all the way from the field and growing, to national and global policies and decision-making. This is the only university degree in Finland that prepares you for expertise in agriculture.
The standard of teaching, courses and facilities is high. The teaching staff are extremely committed to make sure the students make the most of their studies. I also feel that in this university and programme you can really be yourself. There is definitely something for everyone in the range of activities and events that are on offer to students, and it’s possible to meet so many new people and hopefully make friends for life.
What has it been like to study in this programme?
This programme offers a wide range of courses and themes for the students to choose from, alongside the core modules that are compulsory to everyone. Students can choose courses related to other disciplines too. Regardless of the courses you choose, this programme gives the students the skills to look at the future of agriculture through ecological, social and economic lens.
You get to learn about agricultural economy and latest technologies, soil sciences, plant production sciences, animal sciences and environmental sciences. For me this meant that, even though I grew up in the urban environment in Helsinki and had limited practical understanding of agriculture, I can now say with confidence that I have a good understanding of today’s agricultural sector and different specializations within it, and how it is likely to evolve and develop. In addition to lectures, the programme has many field courses and studies.
What kind of work tasks or other professional experiences have you had relating to the programme?
As part of my undergraduate studies in Agricultural Sciences I undertook a period of practical work experience which I did in Finland and Switzerland. For the master’s programme, and for my thesis in particular, I got involved with some lab research as a research assistant at the university. I also got a summer job as a research assistant at the university, which included some lab research.
Did you have a clear career path in mind when you started the programme?
When I started my studies, I had no big ideas or particular plans about what I was going to be doing professionally after graduating. Having said that, throughout my studies I’ve felt confident that I’ll find my dream job when the time is right! I’m sure that my expertise in agriculture will be useful in the current climate, where sustainability of food production and farming practices have become such important questions.
Do you know what kind of careers have other former students from the programme gone into?
From what I’ve learned and seen, a master’s degree in Agricultural Sciences can lead to varied professional paths. Former students have become farming entrepreneurs, researchers, advisors and consultants, lobbyists, or working in product development and sales. Some students have found permanent employment during their studies.
I’m due to graduate in 2023 and have started exploring potential job options and interesting employers. There are many different types or roles suitable for students specialising in agriculture, which makes me feel that the expertise I’ve gained from this programme is seen as valuable in the current job market.
Which part of your studies/student life have helped you the most in your current career?
As well as developing a solid theoretical foundation to agricultural and environmental sciences, I’ve learned qualities such as resilience, team working, and analytical skills which I know will be useful when I start my professional life. I think the programme also gives you a good network of contacts to build on. Networking and collaboration with other students have already helped me a lot with my studies and will do probably even more so professionally. By engaging with other students and professionals in the sector you will challenge your own points of view and keep up do date with the latest discussions and developments.
Do you have any special plans for the future? What do you want to achieve in your professional/post-studies life?
I’m pretty sure that as long as food remains an essential part of our day-to-day life, which it will, the expertise of specialists in primary production and agriculture will be needed. I’d like to be able to build on the solid theoretical foundations I’ve developed in this programme. Whichever organisation or role I end up in, I want to continue learning and deepening my knowledge. Doing something meaningful is important to me, so I’d like to contribute to more sustainable agricultural practices in Finland.
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