Postgraduate study

Applied Environmental Hydrogeology MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Be part of the next generation of sustainable hydrogeologists that will oversee and contribute to managing the global water crisis in the coming decades.

Groundwater resources are under threat around the globe from:

  • over-exploitation
  • anthropogenic contamination
  • climate change
  • land-use change

These threats put human and ecosystem health at risk by increasing the likelihood of water scarcity, water conflict, and water-related diseases.

The MSc Applied Environmental Hydrogeology develops your skills to tackle these challenges, and sustainably manage groundwater resources to protect human and ecosystem health.

Why Edinburgh

This exciting new MSc is unique from other hydrogeology programmes, as it focuses on combining modern quantitative skills, including computational analysis, with traditional field skills.

You will learn to become a critical, innovative thinker in the field of hydrogeology with a focus on sustainable environmental practises.

What is hydrogeology?

Hydrogeology focuses on subsurface flow processes with an emphasis on protecting water resources.

Groundwater resources supply a majority of the world’s population with a portion of their daily water needs and approximately 40% of the world’s crop irrigation. It is widely acknowledged that these resources are over-exploited and threatened with anthropogenic contamination.

Our inability to sustainably manage essential groundwater resources is already contributing to global crises such as:

  • water conflicts in the Middle-East
  • water-related disease outbreaks
  • ongoing flood events across the UK

Also, legacy contamination issues threaten the safety of dwindling groundwater supplies, such as:

  • nuclear waste
  • coal mine drainage and changes to regional hydrogeology
  • nutrient runoff due to anthropogenic farm practises
  • heavy industry along with emerging contaminants

Highly skilled and numerate hydrogeologists are needed to manage these issues, ensuring continued access to safe groundwater for domestic, industrial and agricultural use.

As a hydrogeologist, you get to explore topics such as:

  • water resources management
  • energy storage
  • geofluid interaction
  • waste storage
  • energy resource exploitation
  • remediating brownfield and legacy mining sites
  • wider groundwater issues such as legislation, economics, climate change, land use and sustainability

How will I learn?

A distinctive feature of this programme is our emphasis on quantitative methods such as state-of-the-art computational tools.

Quantitative methods are now regarded as required skills for modern hydrogeologists to tackle complex water issues.

You will become adept in the application of quantitative skills to inform scientifically-driven decision-making and explore the nuanced, interconnected processes driving groundwater management.

The use of state-of-the-art computational methods is featured alongside foundational themes of aquifer characterisation, groundwater processes, biogeochemistry, engineering geology and field skills in the context of groundwater contamination and remediation, legislation, economics, and climate and sustainability.

A more sustainable future

Our values of social responsibility and sustainability are embedded within each course, as we seek to ensure vital groundwater resources are sustainably managed and not over-exploited.

You will be taught to recognise and address ethical dilemmas, social responsibility and sustainability issues, and apply these to your own values to situations and choices.

Is the MSc for me?

This MSc is ideal for those ready to take the next step in their education, upskill their knowledge, or switch careers to a more environmentally responsible role, focused on sustainable management of environmental resources.

We welcome students from a wide range of backgrounds, creating a unique opportunity for interdisciplinary shared learning.

The MSc will offer an exciting alternative career path for a diverse range of graduates from geosciences and engineering backgrounds, as well as other related degrees such as physics, maths, chemistry and biosciences.

The School of GeoSciences is a world-leading research centre in Environmental Geosciences, and has specifically designed this unique and exceptional MSc programme in Applied Environmental Hydrogeology.

You will be taught by academics with international reputations for high quality, world-leading research which they will bring to the programme.

The MSc has also been designed in collaboration with industry and professional bodies, ensuring you will develop sought-after skills in this industry, including significant employer demand for hydrogeologists with quantitative skillsets.

You will benefit from our wide network of industry experts who will contribute to the programme.

They may:

  • deliver guest lectures
  • contribute to discussions
  • highlight links between in-class materials and real-world projects
  • provide possible dissertation opportunities.

Not only will this network be able to provide potential employment opportunities and networking, but also help you gain valuable real-world experience and to effect real change.

Find out more from our students

Visit our student blog, where students in the School of GeoSciences share their experiences of postgraduate study, living in Edinburgh and everything in-between.

This MSc programme comprises:

  • compulsory and option courses
  • dissertation

Throughout the programme, your teaching team will work with you to prepare you for the dissertation project. This will be your opportunity to explore a topic of your choice in relation to the programme.


You will explore a range of topics including:

  • water resources management
  • energy storage
  • geofluid interaction (compressed air, methane, hydrogen)
  • waste storage (solid, CO2, nuclear)
  • energy resource exploitation (geothermal, conventional and unconventional hydrocarbons)
  • remediating brownfield and legacy mining sites
  • wider groundwater issues such as legislation, economics, climate change, land use and sustainability

Teaching methods

You will experience a range of teaching styles while you are studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking.

Courses can be delivered through a mix of teaching and learning styles including:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • seminars
  • workshops
  • practicals
  • short field trips
  • longer field courses

Please view each relevant course for teaching and assessment methods.

Changes to teaching and learning

We are committed to offering a high-quality education to all our students. Please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery, including due to Covid-19.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience.

Although we endeavour to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from, these can be subject to change or cancellation at short notice.

Places on optional courses can be limited, due to course capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.

Online preparatory courses

There will be the opportunity to participate in some pre-arrival online preparatory courses to ensure a baseline level of skills in technical topics.

This is online self-learning and indicative only. These preparatory courses may include mathematics, chemistry and geology.

Part-time study

As we are committed to helping people into education while continuing to work or managing family and personal commitments, you may study this programme part-time.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative. We will continue to update you on the teaching you can expect when you start your degree in 2021 throughout your application process.

Proposed course structure for 2021/22 academic year:

  • 5 compulsory courses (100 credits)
  • 20 credits of optional courses
  • Dissertation (60 credits)

Compulsory courses for the MSc Applied Environmental Hydrogeology

Topical themes in GeoEngineering (20 credits)

This course will develop your understanding of how to design and implement coupled process multi-physics model simulations to address topical geoengineering problems.

It will provide a practical introduction to hydrogeology risk based analysis, environmental impact assessments and remediation technologies, with an emphasis on applying current concepts, methods and technologies for ground water resource assessment for different geological settings, physical domains and exploitation proposals.

The course lectures will be supplemented by specialist guest lecturers introducing you to the UK hydrogeological research and industry community.

Environmental Site Assessment Project: A Field and Modelling Investigation (20 credits)

In this course you will conduct a hydrogeological environmental site assessment of a real field site with a hands-on project involving each phase of a typical site assessment with a specific focus on learning to integrate field- and modelling investigations to develop a holistic understanding of hydrogeological systems.

Hydrogeological Environments and Characterisation (20 credits)

This course develops your understanding of hydrogeological environments, recognising how different geological settings influence subsurface flow characteristics.

Computational Simulation of Groundwater Flow, Contaminant, Heat and Reactive Transport Systems (20 credits)

This course deals with developing and programming numerical models to simulate hydrogeological systems.

The principles of numerical model development will be explored along with the fundamental processes governing heat and mass transport in the subsurface environment with a specific focus on applications for geothermal systems and reactive transport of hazardous industrial contaminants.

Applied Hydrogeology and Near Surface Geophysics (20 Credits)

This course will cover the main theories, concepts and principles of applied hydrogeology and the application of near surface geophysical techniques for the characterisation of the subsurface.

Using group-based case studies on real life problems you will develop skills in the use of numerical data to solve issues in hydrogeology and near-surface geophysics.

*(Revised 2 February 2021 to include updated course details.)

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MSc1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2021/22
MSc2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2021/22

On completing the MSc Applied Environmental Hydrogeology, you will be able to:

  • understand and evaluate fundamental processes governing groundwater flow and quality
  • assess current developments and issues surrounding brownfield contamination and remediation, geoenergy, groundwater source zone protection, legislation and economics
  • recognise and appraise the most appropriate monitoring and mitigation techniques to minimise the impact of geoengineering applications
  • improve communication skills by documenting data collection, model development, implementation and delivering results through a professional written report
  • development of conceptual and analytical skills to enable critical evaluation of any hydrogeology related project
  • intelligently interact with hydrogeology project developers, regulators and researchers

Graduates with hydrogeology skills are in very high demand. There is an expected shortage of hydrogeologists that will continue for the next decade.

There is an increasing demand for 'water numerate' professionals able to scientifically address many of the water- and energy-resource and geo-engineering challenges facing society today.

As a hydrogeologist, you can seek a variety of interesting, in-demand, and environmentally responsible careers.

You will be equipped to work in a range of areas such as:

  • contaminated site remediation
  • monitoring and regulating groundwater quality
  • radioactive waste disposal
  • managed aquifer recharge
  • minimising impacts from resource extraction
  • ground source heating and geothermal energy
  • large infrastructure projects
  • managing land subsidence
  • agriculture
  • natural hazards
  • international development work focused on delivering safe water for drinking and sanitation

The focus on groundwater contamination and remediation, as well as sustainable water management, provides additional scope for careers in waste management, brownfield redevelopment and risk assessment.

Your career after completing the MSc Applied Environmental Hydrogeology can include:

  • groundwater resource management
  • ground engineering applications requiring groundwater management
  • carbon capture and storage
  • contaminated groundwater/soil remediation and brownfield redevelopment
  • geothermal applications
  • energy and energy generation
  • energy storage (compressed air; hydrogen; methane gas)
  • geological storage of nuclear waste
  • environmental monitoring and tracing of fluids in the subsurface
  • project management

Other pathways include education, such as teaching, further research and academia.

Not only will you be qualified to work in the above areas, the MSc’s unique focus on coupling computational tools to traditional field skills can also lead you to other exciting career pathways such as:

  • environmental consulting
  • engineering companies
  • water industry such as water providers
  • regulatory organisations such as environmental and water quality regulators
  • non-governmental organisations (NGO’s)
  • government organisations.

Careers Service

Our Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, offering a range of tailored careers and personal development guidance and support.

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead, while at university and after graduation.

Developing practical field skills is a key component of this programme. You will have the opportunity to collect detailed field data with industry-standard equipment and measurement practices from a series of field trips.

You will receive guidance and support from our expert instructors and demonstrators.

There are no additional charges for compulsory field trips.

Local day trips

The programme provides a number of opportunities for day trips that may encompass either local fieldwork or site visits to a range of locations.

They will enable you to develop real-world skills and to observe and reflect on sustainable hydrogeology in practice.

Changes to field trips

Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including due to Covid-19.

Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled.

We will also look at alternative arrangements that will ensure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree.

Changes to how we deliver teaching and learning experiences will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for educational experience.

Any changes will be announced as soon as possible.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent in appropriate natural science or engineering subjects (for example, Geosciences, Engineering, Physics, Mathematics, Chemistry, Biosciences, and Environmental Sciences).

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module)
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 20 in each module). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:


You will need to pay this deposit if you receive an offer of admission (either unconditional or conditional).

  • £1,500 (this contributes towards your tuition fees)

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Field trips and field courses

We do not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses.

Costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips will be covered by the programme fees. However, you must pay for incidental or personal expenses.

Living costs

You will be responsible for covering living costs for the duration of your studies.

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MSc1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MSc2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

School of GeoSciences scholarships

Browse funding opportunities

You are also encouraged to undertake your own research into the range of potential scholarships and other funding for which you may be eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Grant Institute
  • James Hutton Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines.

We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline.

We aim to make the majority of decisions within six weeks of the selection deadline.

If we have not made you an offer by a specific selection deadline this means one of two things:

  • your application has been unsuccessful, in which case we will contact you to let you know, or
  • your application is still being considered, will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline
1 31 January 2021 15 March 2021
2 31 March 2021 15 May 2021
3 30 June 2021 15 August 2021

(*Revised 9 March 2021 to add information on decision timescales.)

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Grant Institute
  • James Hutton Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FE