Postgraduate study

Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

I chose to go to Edinburgh because of the world-renowned research that is being in done in the fields of ecology and remote sensing. The Earth Observation programme is amazing, the staff are friendly and approachable. I managed get a traineeship at the European Space Agency - I started within two weeks of finishing my Masters!

Tristan Williams MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management
Tristan Williams               MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management

Combine satellite data, technology and science to find new solutions to the world's biggest challenges.

The MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management aims to provide you with the theoretical and practical skills to use and analyse Earth observation data in conjunction with broader skills in handling geospatial data.

This unique programme is well-embedded in an active research and industry environment. It works alongside our successful MSc Geographical Information Science degree, which was the first of its type in the world with a heritage of over 30 years.

This MSc reflects on the use of geospatial technologies in the detection and mitigation of climate change, sustainability and social responsibility.

What is Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management?

Earth observation (EO) involves gathering information about the Earth's physical, chemical, and biological systems using remote sensing technologies such as satellites.

Earth observation is growing in social, economic and political importance by helping us better understand and manage Earth and its environment in areas such as:

  • agriculture
  • infrastructure and transportation
  • mineral resource management
  • land use and planning
  • monitoring pollution
  • deforestation and land degradation
  • climate change monitoring and action

With Earth observation data and solution delivery now transitioning onto cloud-based service models, it is important to understand the parallel tools in Geographical Information Science (GIS). In particular, those that support storing, analysing and displaying data related to positions on the Earth's surface to understand spatial patterns and relationships.

What will I learn?

Under the guidance of our internationally recognised staff, you will:

  • be equipped with critical theoretical knowledge
  • develop strong practical skills
  • undertake supervised independent research

We continually refresh the programme to keep you abreast of the latest technologies and anticipate trends and innovative ideas essential in this rapidly growing sector.

You will gain extensive experience applying Earth observation data 'in the field', including remote sensing. In addition, you will benefit from access to projects that involve the use of equipment such as survey-grade GPS and Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles.

In addition, you will become part of our unique Edinburgh Earth Observatory Seminar Series. We run these events in association with AGI-Scotland (Association For Geographic Information). The events will enable you to meet a range of professionals and become exposed to new ideas, together with educational and job opportunities.

Who will teach me?

Our teaching staff are very research active and benefit from international reputations. We are often invited to engage with other academic institutions, organisations and companies around the world. In addition, we are developing new Earth observation applications and publishing in top tier journals regarding the cryosphere, biosphere and atmosphere.

We have staff who are part of the science teams for:

  • European Space Agency's 'Biomass Mission'
  • NASA's GEDI LiDAR on the international space station

We are also working in international groups to develop the next generation of satellite sensors.

We also promote a culture of entrepreneurism. For example, several of our staff and former students have set up new Earth observation companies. These companies contribute to Edinburgh's "space ecosystem", which currently includes more than eight space data companies, who can also act as dissertation hosts.

We are also involved with the Bayes Centre within the University, an international leader in data-driven innovation.

Our staff are engaged in organisations such as the UK Space Agency and the Intergovernmental Group on Earth Observations (GEO), which shape the UK and worldwide policy on Earth observation. As such, you will learn from experts who have first-hand knowledge of the bigger picture and what is coming next.

On our website, you can find out how our innovative research in satellite observation and data modelling is making a difference.

Is the MSc for me?

The program's interdisciplinary nature is ideal if you have a background in environmental or geographical sciences, whether or not you have experience in remote sensing.

It is also suitable if you have a background in physics, computer science or engineering and looking for a career in more applied areas.

There is a lot of flexibility in the programme, enabling you to customise your learning in areas you are most passionate about.

Reputation, relevance and employability

Our students' research projects are often published in academic or professional journals.

You will have unrivalled opportunities to connect with Earth observation and GIS professionals, including our alumni network of past graduates, helping you make contacts in the industry.

Our programme has an excellent reputation amongst employers. In addition, former students will often look first to our graduates when employing new staff. Our alumni network is uniquely active, with alumni regularly contributing to teaching. We also organise an annual conference for alumni, staff and current students. This event often acts as a conduit to employment. For these reasons, many of our students gain employment by the time they graduate.

We also maintain close contacts with professional organisations such as The Association for Geographic Information, Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and are ideally placed to make connections on your behalf.

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: Due to high demand for this programme, we operate on a series of early application deadlines.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

For dates and details, please refer to 'Application Deadlines' and 'How to apply' 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.

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.

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.

On completing the MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management, you will be able to:

  • understand the range of sensors, techniques and concepts used to acquire Earth Observation data
  • process and interpret Earth Observation data for various applications
  • understand the concept of database management and its implications
  • understand the range of methods used to acquire, store, analyse and display spatial and attribute data in the context of geographical information systems
  • critically review available geospatial technologies, assessing their merits and shortcomings
  • predict future developments and understand the implications of standardisation efforts
  • be aware of a range of applications of GIS and Earth Observation
  • develop intellectual skills in critical analysis and synthesis of information to support research themes
  • locate, read and summarise relevant literature from both traditional and electronic media to extend your understanding of the topic
  • develop reasoned arguments firmly grounded in the available literature
  • generate new knowledge through experimentation or interpretation of previous studies
  • plan and write assignments within the specified parameters and to a professional standard
  • take responsibility for your own learning through reading and the preparation of assignments, and reflect upon your learning experience
  • develop transferable skills in written and verbal communication, group and teamwork, computing, programming and numeracy, and time and project management
  • appreciate the importance of the ethical presuppositions underpinning Geographical and related research areas
  • demonstrate skills in quantitative techniques and other modes of data analysis and visualisation
  • work as an independent researcher and as part of a team
  • appreciate the relationship between theory and methodology and how they influence one another

Specialised expertise in the use of remotely sensed data as part of larger geospatial data management is increasingly sought in graduates.

The MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management is specifically designed to give you a unique and thorough understanding of this relatively new and rapidly expanding field.

You will benefit from our proven track record in helping students progress to roles with a diverse range of employers in public, private and third sectors.

The programme has excellent relationships with relevant employers, as well as a diverse alumni network. In addition, we provide a dedicated careers event, with contacts in industry giving you informative information on the current market and an insight into potential employment opportunities.

Our graduates

Examples of the organisations our graduates have gained employment include:

  • iEarth
  • GeoSlam.
  • The Satellite Applications Catapult
  • European Space Agency
  • British Antarctic Survey
  • Esri-UK
  • Woodland trust
  • various NGO and governmental agencies

Many graduates have also progressed into further research and academia or created their own start-ups, such as Earthwave.

In addition to providing me with a thorough understanding of the fundamentals of GIS and remote sensing and how they interact, the degree also gave me the flexibility to explore my other topics of interest. As a result, I was able to pick up skills that complemented my background in the ecological sciences. Doing so armed me with skills and experiences that I now find core to my work in industry.

Xu Teo, MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management

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.

Field course

As part of the programme, you will have the opportunity to undertake a residential field course. Our field trips usually take place in the world-famous Scottish Highlands.

During the course, students usually work together in small groups to conduct a small-scale Earth observation and geospatial data project.

You will receive guidance and support from our academic supervisors and experienced professionals.

The field course will enable you to experience the challenges of managing and executing a ‘real-world’ project, including within time and resource constraints.

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.


Facilities are an essential asset for our research and teaching.

Computing-intensive research in Earth Observation (EO), Geographical Information Systems (GIS), meteorological and climate modelling, geophysics, and analysis of space and satellite data, is supported by access to a broad range of software licences, and the Edinburgh International Data Facility parallel computing and DataStore facilities.

Specialist training in the use of these facilities will be provided.

You will also have access to national and international supercomputing, laboratory, experimental and field facilities.

We will provide you with extensive experience applying Earth observation data, including remote sensing. In addition, you will benefit from access to projects that involve the use of equipment such as survey-grade GPS and Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles.

Finally, we use field stations and facilities worldwide for research projects in the Antarctic, Arctic and tropics, on research ships in the world’s oceans, through aircraft sampling the atmosphere and remote sensing data from satellites.

You can explore some of these facilities on our website:

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.

We may also consider a UK 2:2 honours degree, or its international equivalent, with relevant industry experience.

We also welcome applications from applicants without a degree but who are working as geospatial professionals in the UK Armed Forces and who have undertaken relevant training.

Please provide information on any relevant industry experience or training in your personal statement when you apply.

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.

Tuition fees

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.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP

Due to high demand for this programme, we operate on a series of selection deadlines.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications may close earlier than the published deadlines if there is exceptionally high demand.

We may make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis. However, the majority of applications will be held until the advertised 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
  • your application is still being considered, it will be carried forward for consideration in the next selection deadline, and we’ll be in touch once a decision is made

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

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decisions made or applications rolled to next deadline
1 31 January 31 March
2 31 March 31 May
3 31 May 31 July

*(Revised 11 November to update selection deadline dates and clarify when decisions on applications will be made.)

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

Further information

  • School of GeoSciences
  • Institute of Geography
  • Drummond Street
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9XP