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 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 geographical information science.

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

What is Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management?

Geographical Information Science (GIS) captures, stores, checks and displays data related to positions on the Earth’s surface so you can better understand spatial patterns and relationships.

Earth observation involves the gathering of 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 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

What will I learn?

Through the programme you will be equipped with critical theoretical knowledge, develop strong practical skills and undertake supervised independent research, all under the guidance of our internationally recognised staff.

The programme is continually refreshed to keep you abreast of the latest technologies as well as anticipating trends and innovation ideas which is essential in this rapidly growing sector.

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

Is the MSc for me?

The interdisciplinary nature of the program is ideal if you have a background in environmental or geographical sciences with 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.

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

For this reason, many of our students gain employment by the time they graduate.

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

You will be taught by leading experts in the field, including both university academics and professional colleagues with many years of experience in the fields of Earth observation and GIS.

You will also have opportunities to attend professional seminars and conferences to understand more about the Earth observation and GIS industry.

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

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
  • computer-based practicals
  • group work
  • fieldwork

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.

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.

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

  • understand the range of methods used to acquire, store, analyse and display spatial and attribute data in the context of geographical information systems
  • understand the range of sensors, techniques and concept used to acquire Earth Observation data
  • process and interpret Earth Observation data for various applications
  • understand the concept of database management and its implications
  • critically review available GIS 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 team work, 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 has been 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 the public, private and third sectors.

The programme has excellent relationships with relevant employers, as well as a diverse alumni network. 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
  • Catapult
  • the European Space Agency
  • the 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.

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! Edinburgh has a great programme, I would thoroughly recommend it.

Tristan Williams, MSc Earth Observation and Geoinformation Management

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.

Field trip

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 GIS 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.

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.


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 Computer and 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.

You will gain extensive experience applying Earth observation data, including remote sensing, as well as benefit from access to projects that involve the use of equipment such as survey-grade GPS and Unmanned 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 through remote sensing data from satellites.

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.

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

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

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.)

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