Postgraduate study

Applied Environmental Hydrogeology MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Become part of the next generation of sustainable hydrogeologists who will oversee and manage 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 will develop your skills to tackle these challenges and sustainably manage groundwater resources to protect human and ecosystem health.

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

Gain unique expertise

This exciting new MSc is unique from other hydrogeology programmes, as it combines traditional field skills with modern quantitative skills such as computational analysis using state-of-the-art computational tools.

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

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

We will teach you these new methods alongside foundational themes of aquifer characterisation, groundwater processes, biogeochemistry, engineering geology and field skills in the context of:

  • groundwater contamination and remediation
  • legislation
  • economics
  • climate and sustainability

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. However, 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 practices
  • heavy industry along with emerging contaminants

Highly skilled and numerate hydrogeologists are needed to manage these issues to ensure 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

A more sustainable future

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

We will teach you 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 and other related degrees such as physics, maths, chemistry, and biosciences.

Reputation, relevance and employability

The School of GeoSciences is a world-leading research centre in environmental geosciences and has specifically designed this 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. Their input will ensure you can 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

Our industry links can provide you with networking and potential employment opportunities and help you gain valuable real-world experience to effect real change.

What's it really like to study here?

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

When to apply

Please note: We may close applications to this programme earlier than the published deadline if there is high demand.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

For dates and details, please refer to 'Application Deadlines' on the right panel of this page.

You should also avoid applying to more than one degree. Applicants who can demonstrate their understanding and commitment to a specific programme are preferred.

If you plan to apply to more than one programme, you should discuss your choices with us before you submit your application. Where possible, we may make an alternative programme offer if you have been unsuccessful in your chosen programme.

This MSc programme comprises:

  • compulsory and option courses
  • dissertation

Throughout your studies, we 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 and prepare a dissertation that you can use to demonstrate your work to potential employers.


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

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.

How will I learn?

You will experience a range of learning styles while studying, depending on the subject matter and courses you are taking. You can view each relevant course for teaching and assessment methods through the ‘Programme Structure’ link under compulsory and option courses below.

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.

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 professionally 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 increasing demand for 'water numerate' professionals that can scientifically address many of the water and energy-resource and geoengineering 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

Our programme's focus on groundwater contamination and remediation, and 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.

The MSc's unique focus on coupling computational tools to traditional field skills can also lead you to other exciting career pathways.

These could include:

  • 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 award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

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.

Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including the health and safety of our students, staff and communities, and to ensure we can maintain the highest standards for your educational experience. 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. We will announce any changes as soon as possible.

Local day trips

This MSc provides several 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.

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

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

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

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:


If you receive an offer of admission you will need to pay a deposit to secure your place.

  • £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. The programme fees will cover costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips. 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.

Featured funding

School of GeoSciences scholarships

Scholarships and student funding

You can find funding opportunities, tuition fees and costs of living for prospective UK and international postgraduate students on the University website.

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

Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) alumni discount

The SRUC alumni discount aims to encourage SRUC graduates to take up opportunities to study taught masters (MSc). SRUC may provide a financial contribution towards tuition fees for eligible applicants for SRUC programmes delivered in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh.

SRUC will notify you if you are eligible to receive the discount on tuition fees during the application and admissions process. Please tell us on your application if you are a SRUC graduate, as this will help speed up the process. For further information, please get in touch with the Programme Administrator.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

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

We aim to review applications and make selection decisions throughout the cycle.

However, if there is high demand, we may close applications to this programme earlier than the published deadline.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

This is particularly important for applicants who may need sufficient time to take an English language test or to obtain other supporting documents.

The final deadline may be extended if any places remain on the programme.

Failure to submit all required documents will prevent the Admissions team from considering you for a place on the programme. It may also delay the decision on your application.

We advise you do not apply to more than one programme. However, where possible, we may make an alternative programme offer if you have been unsuccessful in your chosen programme.

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