Postgraduate study

Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

Astrobiology and the planetary sciences are rigorous interdisciplinary subjects.

These subjects build on physics, chemistry, biology and geosciences to answer fundamental questions about living matter:

  • how is it formed?
  • how does it vary and evolve in unison with planets and stars?
  • how is it distributed across time and space?

Planetary scientists investigate the origin, diversity and behaviour of planets, moons, asteroids, comets, and solar systems. Together, these sciences offer a broad and satisfying perspective on our own place in the universe. In the context of space exploration, these sciences also have interesting policy, legal, and ethical implications.

On this programme you will develop:

  • interdisciplinary skills and expertise
  • confidence and autonomy in planning and executing research
  • insight into contemporary debates

You will think critically about astrobiology and planetary science in their social contexts. You will discover how different scientific approaches address fundamental questions about life.

As a student on this programme you will be integrated into the UK Centre for Astrobiology. The Centre is one of the world's leading hubs for interdisciplinary astrobiology research. It has led and participated in many space missions and has reported significant discoveries.

You will be taught by leading national and international specialists from a wide range of research fields.

Your programme will be delivered through:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials
  • practical work, including computer- and laboratory-based tasks

Additionally, we offer a variety of student-focussed learning activities that will help you to develop:

  • independent learning skills
  • critical thinking skills
  • skills in collecting, analysing, evaluating and presenting data

You will also have access to unique research equipment and instrumentation which you may use to complete your dissertation.

Dissertation

As well as the taught component, you will complete a three-month research project leading to a dissertation.

By completing this programme you will gain a solid understanding of astrobiology and planetary science. This includes understanding of:

  • methods
  • missions
  • instruments

This will allow you to contribute to contemporary debates on these matters and to view life in the universe from a new perspective.

Professional opportunities

The MSc in Astrobiology and Planetary Science will help you develop into a confident professional. We will equip you with the key skills you will need and help you identify and target suitable professional opportunities.

The programme provides a grounding for many potential career paths. This may include scientific research in areas of:

  • planetary sciences
  • astronomy
  • geology
  • biology and associated fields

You may also be able to pursue careers in:

  • science
  • pedagogy (teaching)
  • outreach
  • reporting
  • media
  • the civil service

Academic opportunities

Due to its focus on concepts and methods that cut across traditional disciplinary boundaries, this programme is useful if you want to pursue an academic career.

Our approach will equip you with excellent research skills and position you to be a competitive PhD applicant.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in a natural science or related discipline.

We expect candidates to be highly numerate, with good results in quantitative subjects; and to be familiar with university-level concepts in at least two of the following subjects: physics (including geophysics, astrophysics, or biophysics), biology (including astrobiology, microbiology, molecular biology, palaeontology or evolution), chemistry (including geochemistry or biochemistry), planetary/geoscience, and astronomy.

Your personal statement should discuss why you are interested in the programme and outline any previous experience with science subjects outside the main focus of your undergraduate programme (such as minors or research experience).

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 6.5 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 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 176 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 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:

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScAstrobiology and Planetary Sciences1 YearFull-timeTuition fees

Higgs Scholarships

The School of Physics and Astronomy is offering twelve scholarships to applicants who have applied to study full-time on any of the following programmes of study for the 2023-2024 academic session:

  • MSc Astrobiology and Planetary Sciences
  • MSc Mathematical Physics
  • MSc Particle and Nuclear Physics
  • MSc Theoretical Physics

Higgs Scholarships

(Revised 2 February 2023 to update funding opportunities)

Featured funding

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of Physics and Astronomy
  • University of Edinburgh
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building, Peter Guthrie Tait Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD

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 eight 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 will be in touch once a decision is made

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline
1 31 March 31 May
2 31 May 31 July

You must submit one reference with your application.

Admission to this degree includes an interview.

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

Further information

  • School of Physics and Astronomy
  • University of Edinburgh
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building, Peter Guthrie Tait Road
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD