Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time, Part-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 detecting and mitigating climate change, sustainability and social responsibility.

What is Earth Observation?

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

Earth Observation is growing in social, economic and political importance by helping us better understand and manage the 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.

Always innovative

We continually refresh our 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 equipment such as survey-grade GPS and Unpiloted Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

You will also 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 from across the Edinburgh space sector 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 worldwide. 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 promote a culture of entrepreneurship. 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 that 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 with 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 with first-hand knowledge of the bigger picture and what is coming next.

Is the MSc for me?

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

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

The programme has a lot of flexibility, 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 and are ideally placed to make connections on your behalf. For example:

  • The Association for Geographic Information
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
  • Remote Sensing and Photogrammetry Society

What is it really like to study with us?

No one knows what it is like to study here better than the students themselves.

Our students are sharing their experiences - from studying to living in Edinburgh and everything in between.

Get social with us:

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

Courses are delivered by staff who are active researchers in each field. Their expertise is supplemented by selected guest speakers, generally from the industry or other research organisations.

Dissertation

We will work with you throughout your studies 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.

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.

Changes to teaching and learning

We are committed to offering high-quality education to all our students. However, please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery. All decisions are made to ensure we can provide the highest standards for your 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.

Part-time study

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

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
MScEarth Observation and Geoinformation Management1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScEarth Observation and Geoinformation Management2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScEarth Observation and Geoinformation Management3 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24

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 for 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 remotely sensed data as part of larger geospatial data management is increasingly sought in graduates.

Our MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management is 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.

Our graduates

Examples of the organisations our graduates have gained employment include:

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

Networks

Our 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.

Edinburgh Innovations – start-up opportunities

Several of our alumni have launched their own successful start-ups, such as 'Earthwave'.

We have fantastic resources through the University department' Edinburgh Innovations' to help you successfully nurture your entrepreneurial ideas and launch your own enterprise.

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 trips

As part of the programme, you will have the opportunity to undertake a residential field course.

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, and completing it within time and resource constraints.

Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation.

Our field trips usually take place in the world-famous Scottish Highlands. Since we strive to deliver a low carbon experience, we ensure our field trip has a low environmental footprint. We also aim to support the local economy.

Changes to 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.

Accessibility on field trips We are committed to making our degree as accessible and inclusive as possible. In the event that you cannot attend a fieldwork trip, we will provide alternatives with comparable learning outcomes where necessary.

Facilities

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, the Edinburgh International Data Facility parallel computing and DataStore facilities.

Dedicated computing labs are provided in the Central Campus area, although some courses or specialised activities may occur on other University sites (for example, if you are working with drone data).

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. Edinburgh hosts the UK’s national supercomputing centre and these facilities can be used for research projects.

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:

Where you will study

You will have access to the University's facilities across all University sites.

For example:

  • laboratories
  • libraries
  • study spaces (some of which are open 24 hours)
  • computing facilities
  • social spaces
  • leisure facilities

Depending on the option courses you choose, you may study at various campus locations in Edinburgh.

Students in this MSc will have access to the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI) Masters Hub.

Edinburgh Climate Change Institute

This programme is linked with the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute (ECCI). You will have access to the shared 'Masters Hub' study space in ECCI as well as the café and shared working spaces on the ground and first floors. Some of your teaching will take place in the ECCI.

ECCI is also close to many teaching spaces and facilities within the Central Area campus. For example, the Main Library and gym.

King's Buildings campus

The King's Buildings (KB) is the main campus of the College of Science and Engineering.

The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh. It is easily accessible by bus. You can also cycle (10 minutes) or walk (25 minutes) from the central area.

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of GeoSciences and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Discover our city's landmarks, our campuses, accommodation and get video tours - all in one place.

Edinburgh is your ideal base

Edinburgh is ranked 2nd in the UK and 10th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2023.

Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in - it is the perfect location to study the subject you're studying. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life. We have rich environmental locations to explore right on our doorstep. Immerse yourself among rugged coastlines, misty mountains, forest glens and sparkling freshwater lochs.

It is no surprise we are regularly voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world!

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

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 B.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

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:

Deposit

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. This may include suitable outdoor clothing and footwear.

Living costs

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

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScEarth Observation and Geoinformation Management1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScEarth Observation and Geoinformation Management2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
MScEarth Observation and Geoinformation Management3 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

(Revised 05 February 2024 to add 'ScottishPower Master Scholarships' to the featured funding section)

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 15 December 1 March
2 31 March 31 May
3 31 May 31 July

You must submit one reference with your application.

Please submit a CV/Resume with your application. Find out more about writing a suitable CV:

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