UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources


Spotlight on Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions MSc graduate James Totton

21 May 2020

James graduated from ISR's Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions (SREPT) MSc programme in 2018, here he shares his experience.

James Totton

What is your background?

Before undertaking a BSc in Geography at Royal Holloway, I spent a year working at an environmental consultancy firm in Dhaka, Bangladesh where I developed a passion for climate change and understanding how it’s impacting our future. During my degree, I considered a lot of different career paths and used internships to better understand what I would like to do in the future. These included working at the Earthquake Science Centre at the United States Geological Survey (USGS) in San Francisco and as an Operations Assistant at Northcott Global Solutions, an International Emergency Response Company. In one way or another, all of these opportunities were linked to energy and its future prospects. The SREPT masters provided the perfect opportunity to refine the knowledge and skills I had learnt through my undergraduate degree and work placements.

What have you been doing since graduating from Sustainable Resources: Economics, Policy and Transitions MSc? 

Since graduating in September 2018, I have been working as an Underwriting Assistant for one of the leading insurance companies specialising in renewable energy. This job has allowed me to use a lot of my different skills and interests from climate change to energy and natural disasters on a day-to-day basis.

How has your MSc helped you with your new career?  

With such a broad undergraduate degree as Geography (a marriage of many disciplines), my masters provided some much needed focus across my knowledge, skills and CV. From my experience in the job market, undergraduate degrees seem to be a common baseline for first job applicants. It is through evidence of further specialisation in an appropriate field either via a masters and/or other experiences that a candidate can demonstrate which ‘adds value’ and differentiates someone from the others. Many of the skills I refined during my masters are now used daily from excel through to delivering presentations and report writing. Most importantly, it taught me how to learn new things quickly and efficiently. An invaluable skill in a job where new problems need solving everyday. 

Do you have any advice for future SREPT MSc graduates? 

My advice would be to put 100% of your efforts into your studies while you can. Help each other out and reach out to the lecturing staff when you can't. As you progress through the course, begin thinking of what you would like to afterwards whether this is a career or further study. Start to roughly map out what skills and experiences are conducive to get into that next phase. Linkedin is very useful for this as someone has effectively laid out what they’ve had to do to accomplish what you want to achieve. If you are looking for a job after you finish, I would suggest that only after you have submitted your dissertation should you begin to seriously look for jobs. This way you can treat your search for what it is, a full-time job in itself.