Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

BSc Geology

UCAS code: F600

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Accreditation
Study abroad

Introducing BSc Geology

The Earth is billions of years old - but what is the ultimate destiny of our world?

Through geology, you can study our planet's fascinating history to predict and protect its future.

With the BSc Geology, you will learn about how:

  • the Earth was formed
  • our planet has changed over time
  • the processes that shape our planet affects our life upon it

Why geology?

Geologists seek to understand the planet from its core through to the surface, using subjects such as:

  • chemistry
  • physics
  • biology
  • physical geography

Geologists ask important questions of the world and study:

  • the impacts humans have on our planet
  • how life on Earth responded to major climate changes
  • how to find and use the Earth's resources

By studying the past, preserved in rocks, geologists also aim to understand and prepare for future climate change scenarios.

At the same time, our growing population and increasing demand for energy are affecting the planet today, so geologists:

  • develop new ways to utilise greener energy resources, such as geothermal heat, to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbon
  • identify where to best store the energy produced through wind and solar farms
  • source the metals and minerals needed for these renewable energy sources
  • advise on where to safely dispose of problematic wastes from chemical and nuclear industries
  • find the raw materials in the Earth that we rely on in construction, telecommunications and many other industries

What will I learn?

We will train you in the skills needed to answer the important questions in the Earth sciences, including:

  • How can we predict and limit the effects of global climate change?
  • What tools can we use to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere?
  • Why is our planet able to sustain life?
  • How does the Earth's interior work, and how do these processes affect the surface?
  • How can we sustainably manage the Earth's resources?
  • How can we improve our understanding of natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions to reduce their risk and save lives?

Why study in Edinburgh?

By studying geology at the University of Edinburgh, you will:

  • join one of the top-ranked universities in the world
  • become part of an academic community in one of the leading geosciences departments in the UK
  • enjoy access to a world of experience with our research and industry networks
  • learn from leading geologists and Earth scientists at the forefront of their fields, undertaking world-leading research in a wide range of areas

By studying this degree, you can play a vital role in our transition into a more sustainable society.

Field trips

Field trips are at the heart of this programme. Your most important laboratory is the outside world, and we place a great deal of emphasis on delivering practical and field-based experiences in our Earth science degrees. So you will have many opportunities to get your hands dirty.

You will go beyond the classroom so you can apply the skills you have learned to real-life situations through our local and international field trips.

You will also have the opportunity to conduct your own independent geological exploration.

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary, enriching you with a broad understanding of how our planet works.

For example, you will:

  • identify rocks and structures that tell you about the geological events that occurred
  • learn to read a landscape to infer its history
  • meet practitioners who apply geology in their daily work
  • use drones to see where you can't go

Our trips enable you to experience different pieces of research field equipment. You will learn to become familiar with using field tools to obtain and interpret field measurements such as:

  • electrical resistivity
  • magnetism
  • seismic surveys
  • drones

Field trip locations have included:

  • the Scottish Highlands
  • the Lake District in England
  • Spain
  • Cyprus
  • Iceland

Edinburgh is an ideal location for geology, with many sites of interest right on your doorstep including the world-famous 'Hutton's Unconformity' at Siccar point, and the extinct volcano 'Arthur's Seat' right in the middle of Edinburgh city.

Field trip costs

Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation. Our Earth science degrees involve a significant element of field study. We are proud to be able to support you as you learn practical and highly prized skills.

Field trips may be subject to change

Please note: As we update the programme to reflect advancing subject matter and student feedback, the location of our field trips may change.

Field trips may also be changed due to Covid-19. Where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated, rescheduled or alternative arrangements provided.

Decisions will be made to safeguard the health and safety of our students, staff and community - and to ensure the highest standards of educational experience.

What is it really like to study with us?

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

Student experience blog

Accreditation

This programme is accredited by the Geological Society, London.

This accreditation recognises that the programme delivers the knowledge, skills and other attributes expected of high-quality geology graduates.

Year 1

Your programme begins with a broad grounding across Earth science topics.

You will:

  • gain an understanding of the processes which shape the Earth
  • develop practical skills in recognising the evidence of these processes in rocks, both in the field and in the laboratory

This includes studying the interaction between geology, chemistry, physics, and biology affecting the surface processes of the planet. Together, these form the characteristics of the environment in which we live.

You will also gain key practical skills in mapping and cross-section analysis, developed during an integrated field trip (prior trips have included the Lake District).

Choose courses outside your degree

One of the most exciting things about a Scottish undergraduate degree is the opportunity to take a significant number of courses outside your degree programme in Years 1 and 2.

You can choose to take courses that are closely related to your degree or try something completely different and new to you.

Year 2

You will focus on:

  • materials
  • the rock cycle
  • global tectonics

This means you will:

  • investigate the solid materials which constitute the Earth
  • learn how atoms are arranged and how they influence physical properties (and ultimately control how our planet functions)
  • examine plate tectonics and the physical processes responsible for the formation and destruction of the Earth's tectonic plates

You will also be introduced to geophysics as a means to study. For example the origins of planets and their interior physical processes, as well as identifying subsurface petroleum reserves.

Field trips

You will take part in several local day trips, as well as a two-week residential field camp. Previous locations have included the Scottish Highlands.

You will have significant flexibility in your option course choices, as in Year 1.

Year 3

Year 3 focuses completely on geology, and you will start applying your knowledge. You will also study a range of courses that develop deeper theoretical and practical knowledge of many different branches of the Earth sciences.

You will:

  • discuss Earth science concepts through tutorials, in small groups
  • hone your technical skills as a geologist through a wide range of practicals

Specialist field course

You will also take part in a 14-day field course, to prepare you for your independent fieldwork in Year 4.

Prior field courses have been to the south of Spain.

Field courses may be subject to change

As the content of the programme is updated to reflect the advancing subject matter, student feedback, and our commitment to reducing our carbon footprint, the location of this course may change.

Year 4

You will integrate what you have learned before and truly become an independent geologist.

Dissertation

Critically, you will commit around a third of the year to your dissertation, which traditionally is based on your own, independent fieldwork in an area of your choice.

Locations can be as close as Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, or as far away as New Zealand. If that’s not for you, you can also conduct a more laboratory-based dissertation project.

Compulsory courses

In the compulsory courses in Year 4, you will bring your accumulated knowledge of geology together. Specialised options are selected from a list that may include topics such as:

  • hydrocarbon reservoirs
  • the behaviour of magma chambers
  • evolutionary palaeontology
  • nuclear waste storage
  • geophysics
  • rock deformation processes.

You can develop your presentation as well as practical skills in these courses.

Final year fieldwork

You will also take part in final year fieldwork for two weeks over the Easter break, where many aspects of geology come to life.

Prior locations have included Cyprus, where you will be immersed among the spectacular rock exposures.

Focused 3-year BSc(Hons) pathway

This programme gives you the opportunity to shorten the length of your studies by one full year.

If you know exactly what you want to do and are eager to get started on your career as soon as you can, then these focused pathway options might be for you.

You can:

  • earn the BSc (Hons) qualification in just three years
  • earn the integrated masters (MEarthSci) in 4 years
  • even complete the three-year BSc then undertake a full one-year postgraduate masters (to earn yourself two separate degrees just over four years)

Through this focused route, there is an inevitable reduction in course flexibility, as you will study the specialised courses of geology with fewer option courses.

Focused pathway options

When starting your studies with us, you will join a student cohort who are commencing their second year (Year 2) of study. However, there is no additional increase to your study workload.

You will undertake the same number of courses in your first year as your Year 2 peers, but you will be completing the Year 1 and Year 2 compulsory courses within your first year.

This means you will have fewer option courses than your peers, but will still complete all of the required compulsory courses.

You must be suitably qualified to apply for a focused pathway option (also known as Year 2 Direct Entry or Second Year Entry). Ensure you view the entry requirements under ‘Second Year Entry’.

Programme structure

Find out more about the compulsory and optional courses in this degree programme.

To give you an idea of what you will study on this programme, we publish the latest available information. However, please note this may not be for your year of entry, but for a different academic year.

Programme structure (2021/22)

Our facilities

In Year 1, many of your lectures are taught in the University's Central Area close to the city centre. Practicals and other teaching take place within the School of GeoSciences or the wider King's Buildings campus.

In later years you will mainly learn at the King's Buildings campus, depending on courses selected.

The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh via bus.

You may also study at various University campus locations in the vibrant city of Edinburgh, depending on the option courses selected.

Access to facilities

You can access the University:

  • libraries
  • study spaces (some study spaces are open 24 hours)
  • IT facilities
  • social spaces
  • leisure facilities

In addition, the School's laboratories provide a personal workspace with computing and microscope facilities during your honours years.

The School of GeoSciences houses a wide range of cutting-edge facilities and services, providing several collaborative centres of research excellence.

You will:

  • have access to this range of high-tech facilities enabling chemical and physical analysis of various types of samples
  • collect some of these samples during field excursions, which are a central component of our programmes
  • conduct field measurements using various techniques used in ecological, atmospheric, and Earth sciences

In addition to these analytical facilities, there are excellent computing facilities, including:

  • geographic information systems (GIS)
  • meteorological computer models
  • geophysical computer models

You will become familiar with many of these facilities and techniques while studying here.

Research and Teaching Facilities

Virtual Visit

Join us for a Virtual Visit of the University! Our interactive platform can take you on a guided tour through Edinburgh or help you explore the campus for yourself.

Start your journey here

Study abroad

You will have opportunities to study abroad in Europe or through the University's international exchange programme.

What are my options for going abroad?

In addition to the university-wide exchanges, the School of GeoSciences has a number of subject-specific exchanges with partner universities in:

  • Europe
  • Canada
  • New Zealand

Study abroad is normally taken during the 3rd year.

Global Exchanges

How will I learn?

You should review the Programme Structure - Degree Programme Table to see compulsory and option courses. Refer to individual course details to see the types of learning activities you will participate in.

The exciting nature of geology means you will have a diverse learning experience throughout your years with us. You could be:

  • discussing the evolution of life in a lecture
  • studying fossil earthquakes in hand specimens
  • using microscopes to measure the changing chemistry of crystals leading up to the eruption of a volcano

Teaching can be through a mix of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • practical classes and workshops
  • field trips
  • project work

You will have access to the University's specialist research facilities and laboratories for analysing rocks, minerals, and fluids. You will use our cutting-edge computational facilities to visualise and explore scientific data that you will create in your advanced projects.

How long should I study?

You will be expected to study for approximately 200 hours per 20 credit course, throughout your degree.

How this time is divided varies, and is dependent on courses you choose to study and nature of the topics explored.

Typically you will do 60 credits of study for each of the two semesters, usually three courses. This study time includes time allocated for self-directed learning as well as 'contact time' with staff, which could be through lectures, tutorials, practicals or field trips.

You should expect to commit to approximately 17 hours a week of lectures, tutorials, and practicals. This will depend on the option courses you choose, during the first two years (pre-honours).

You will be expected to spend more time on independent work and self-directed study, as you progress into the 3rd and 4th years of study (honours).

In your final year, you will design and execute your project dissertation with guidance from our expert academics - helping you develop skills to become a researcher in your own right.

Lectures

Most lectures last 50 minutes and many are recorded to support the revision of the material covered. The main form of contact you will have with academic staff will be through lectures.

Practicals

You will apply the knowledge acquired in lectures and tutorials through practicals. The skills you learn in practicals are transferable beyond the immediate course and can be applied:

  • in other courses
  • in dissertations
  • beyond your degree

Tutorials

Tutorials are a form of small group teaching that is facilitated by a tutor. Many courses include tutorials. Tutorials are an essential opportunity for you to:

  • discuss specific topics in more depth
  • develop skills in critical thinking
  • communicate your understanding
  • work as part of a team
  • receive feedback
  • ask questions

Field trips

Field trips are a significant component of our Earth science degrees and are:

  • hard work and fun (they will provide some of your most memorable moments)
  • an excellent way to learn, enabling you to apply the knowledge and skills you have developed in lectures to real-world contexts
  • part of your course (there are no additional costs)

Self-directed study

You will need to be well-motivated and organised, emphasis is placed on independent work.

What skills will I learn?

You will have access to a range of cutting-edge research facilities throughout your studies. In addition, programme academics will incorporate the latest research in the teaching you receive, and share their discoveries with you.

You will undertake the analysis and investigation of rock samples as part of your laboratory-based courses and during your dissertation, which you can either focus on field or laboratory work.

You will enhance your ability to work independently and manage project work as the programme progresses.

Your geology training will also equip you with unique skills in problem-solving, making you suited to work in environments where solutions to complex challenges need to be found on the basis of limited available data.

You will also develop a range of transferable skills, including:

  • report writing
  • oral presentations
  • data analysis and interpretation
  • critical thinking
  • group working

How will I be assessed?

You should review the Programme Structure - Degree Programme Table to see compulsory and option courses. Refer to individual course details to see the types of assessment included.

You will be assessed in a variety of ways, depending on the courses you choose to study in your programme and the nature of the topics explored.

An assessment might include:

  • written or practical exams and quizzes
  • practical evaluation in the field or field notebooks
  • coursework such as essays
  • individual or group projects
  • presentations

You may also be evaluated in computer programming exercises. Some senior honours courses and projects in Earth sciences will involve computational modelling elements.

In your final year you will:

  • be assessed on elements of presentation and scientific writing skills
  • also complete a dissertation under the guidance of our expert academics

You will gain in-depth knowledge and vital scientific skills for a wide range of careers as a geologist so that you can make a real difference.

Since geology builds on all other natural sciences disciplines, you will also receive very rounded training as a scientist.

With an increasing demand for quantitative and data skills across a range of employment sectors, this degree will help you stand out by demonstrating your problem-solving skills in dealing with:

  • complex, multidimensional data
  • uncertainty
  • pattern recognition

Studying geology gives you a wide range of career opportunities. The vast majority of our graduates move straight into degree-related employment.

Additionally, our programmes prepare you for competitive entry into relevant postgraduate degree programmes. A significant proportion of our students progress to further postgraduate study and research.

Where do our graduates find employment?

Our graduates are highly sought after by:

  • government
  • energy (including renewables) and resource companies
  • environmental consultancies
  • the financial sector

Many also find employment in the areas of:

  • environmental planning and regulation
  • geoconservation
  • science communication and education
  • engineering

Our graduates have gone on to success in various roles including:

  • geo-consultant
  • geological surveyor
  • waste resource manager
  • hydrogeologist
  • resource discovery
  • environmental consultant
  • sustainability consultant
  • minerals surveyor
  • energy resources manager

Graduates also gain careers in sectors that seek graduates in quantitative science, such as:

  • management
  • finance
  • teaching

The School of GeoSciences is one of the largest groupings of geoscientists in the UK, giving you access to our wide range of research and industry networks.

You will be equipped with sought-after skills in geological research, under the guidance of academics who are leaders in their field.

Professional advisory board

We have a professional advisory board that provides support on employability skills. The programme is designed for you to develop the competencies most prized by graduate employers:

  • a sound knowledge of basic science
  • a deep understanding of your chosen discipline
  • an ability to synthesise complex, multi-dimensional data and deal with uncertainty
  • critically analyse information
  • project management skills
  • effectively present your work

Careers Service

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead, while at University and after graduation.

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.

Careers Service

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB - BBBB by end of S5 or AABB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB - BBB.
  • IB: 32 points with 555 at HL - 30 points with 555 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: BBBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: BBB.
  • IB: 30 points with 555 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: two of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics, or Physics at B. Higher Applications of Mathematics is not accepted in place of Higher Mathematics. National 5s: English at C and Mathematics at A. If you achieved a B in Mathematics, please contact the College of Science and Engineering Admissions Office via the Enquiries link below.
  • A Levels: two of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, or Physics at B. GCSEs: English at C or 4 and Mathematics at A or 7. If you achieved a B or 6 in Mathematics, please contact the College of Science and Engineering Admissions Office via the Enquiries link below.
  • IB: HL: two of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) or Physics at 5. SL: English at 5 and Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) at 5 (if not at HL). If you do not have Mathematics please contact the College of Science and Engineering Admissions Office. via the Enquiries link below.

Find out more about entry requirements

International applicants

We welcome applications from students studying a wide range of international qualifications.

Entry requirements by country

Mature applicants

We welcome applications from mature students and accept a range of qualifications.

Mature applicant qualifications

For direct entry to second year the standard requirements must be exceeded, including the following:

  • SQA Advanced Highers: Highers at AABBB to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics or Physics. Plus Advanced Highers at BB to include Biology, Chemistry*, Geography, Mathematics* or Physics* (*include at least one). Higher Applications of Mathematics is not accepted in place of Higher Mathematics.
  • A Levels: ABB in one set of exams to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Mathematics or Physics.
  • IB: 32 points with 555 at HL to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only), or Physics at 5.
Other entry pathways

Entry to many degrees in Science & Engineering is possible via other qualifications (eg HNC/D, Access, SWAP).

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.

SQA, GCSE and IB

For SQA, GCSE and IB students, unless a higher level is specified in the stated entry requirements, a pass is required in English at the following grades or higher:

  • SQA National 5 at C
  • SQA Standard Grade at 3
  • SQA Intermediate 1 at A
  • SQA Intermediate 2 at C
  • GCSE at C or 4
  • Level 2 Certificate at C
  • IB Standard Level at 5 (English ab initio is not accepted for entry)

English language tests

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

  • IELTS Academic module overall 6.5 with 5.5 in each component
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition) 92 or above with 20 in each section. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • Cambridge English: Advanced or Proficiency overall 176 with 162 in each component
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with a distinction in all four components

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

English language qualifications must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the degree 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.

English language requirements

This information is part of a government initiative to enhance the material that higher education institutions provide about their degree programmes.

It is one of many sources of information which will enable you to make an informed decision on what and where to study.

Please note that some programmes do not have Discover Uni data available.

Tuition Fees

Tuition fees for BSc Geology

Additional costs

The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses.

Our Earth science degrees involve a significant element of field study. We are proud to be able to support you as you learn practical and highly-prized skills.

Costs of travel, accommodation, and subsistence on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme, due to the continued support of our generous alumni community.

However:

  • you are responsible for any incidental/personal expenses
  • excursions as part of optional courses entail extra fees, which vary depending on the nature of the field trip
  • you are also responsible for your own expenses for fieldwork associated with your dissertation project (these will be dependent on the destination)

Funding

For more information on how much it will cost to study with us and the financial support available see our fees and funding information.

Fees and funding

More information

How to apply

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering