I thought it better to pen a blog article so everyone can benefit from the information I am about to share on my own professional progression. First of all, my disclaimer is that ‘many roads lead to Rome’. In other words, there is no one, guaranteed track or path to ‘M&E Career Bliss’. My own path has been a bit unorthodox.
With this said though, whichever path you choose, before you embark on your journey, it is paramount to:
Acquire formal certification in Monitoring and Evaluation.
I personally believe that no single institution is the holy grail of M&E instruction. The course of study only needs to be accredited, recognised and the trainers experienced. No need to chase after a prestigious, ‘brand name learning institution’. Of far more important is how the curriculum aligns with the stage and goals of your career.
For example, if your knowledge and experience in M&E is absolutely zero and you have made up your mind that M&E is exactly what you want to be doing with your life, then it behoves you to pursue a course that covers the fundamentals (such as a longer academic programme).
However, if you have worked for many years in project management and involved in numerous evaluations but lack the official ‘M&E’ job title and what to make a career shift, then perhaps you could opt for shorter professional development courses (pitched at either ‘introductory’, intermediate’ or ‘advanced’ levels) rather than pursue a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree programme.
None of my undergraduate or postgraduate degrees specialised in ‘Monitoring and Evaluation”. Instead, I majored in Sociology, Psychology and International Development. However, under these academic programmes, I took courses related to social research methods, survey design, statistics etc.
These are all skills that came in handy in the M&E assignments that increasingly came my way on previous jobs. This became such a recurring thing that at a certain point I decided to compliment my formal education with different short professional development courses in M&E (think 2-5 day workshops). After this, I segued into being an M&E practitioner. I cannot stress enough the importance of getting some form of training before branding yourself a ‘M&E expert’.
Once you have acquired the ‘papers’ to feel confident to talk and work on M&E matters, the next step is to gather the relevant experience. This is the problem that a lot of persons new to the field are currently facing.
Most M&E job vacancy ads for entry-level positions insist that the ideal applicant has at least 2-3 years of direct M&E experience. However, how will you ever get the M&E experience if most employers don’t even want to hire you in the first place?
Luckily, there are several ways to get around this
1. Using your actual job as a springboard
If you are currently employed in development work, you may be able to create the opportunities to gain the M&E experience you seek. For example, if your project has been implemented for a time now, perhaps you could push for a Mid-Term or End Evaluation. Then you get involved in drafting the Terms of Reference for the consultant conducting the evaluation, try and be a part of the Inception Meetings, make yourself available to be the focal point within the programme team for the evaluators, make sure you also get a chance to review the draft evaluation reports, ask the evaluators questions on their methods, observe, take notes etc. You get the picture! Do this a few times and you will gather some M&E experience.