Undergraduate study - 2025 entry
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

BSc Earth Sciences

UCAS code: F600

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad
Placements

Introducing BSc Earth Sciences

If you want to:

  • learn more about how our planet works
  • help protect the planet
  • tackle the greatest challenges facing society and the natural world
  • find out how we can live sustainably on our planet

Then this degree is for you.

Why Earth sciences?

The world needs Earth scientists now more than ever before.

For example, we need them to:

  • help us address the climate crisis
  • adapt to environmental changes
  • secure the energy and materials society needs
  • live more safely and sustainably on our dynamic Earth

With our Bachelor of Science (BSc) Earth Sciences, you will:

  • study our Earth's past to prepare for its future
  • learn about the structure and composition of the Earth
  • develop a deep understanding of the processes that shape the Earth and life on it
  • learn how these processes interact and depend on each other

Our degree will help you play a valuable role in making our society more fair and sustainable.

What will I learn?

Our BSc Earth Sciences is a new degree that prepares you for advanced careers in the Earth sciences and beyond.

The degree covers:

  • data science, programming, and computing skills
  • traditional field and laboratory skills
  • knowledge of Earth sciences

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

  • How can we reduce the effects of global 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 to meet our energy, mineral, and water needs?
  • How can we improve our understanding of natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanoes to reduce their risk and save lives?

We have a hands-on approach to learning, so you can develop valuable practical skills. Many of your activities are similar to what professionals do in the real world.

You will also learn computational analysis and quantitative skills.

You will learn from leading national and international Earth scientists across a range of fields. We help make sure your degree has real-world relevance and improves your employability.

Our links offer you valuable networking and potential employment opportunities. You can meet and interact with professionals from different sectors during your studies. This will give you the opportunity to gain insight into working environments, where Earth scientists make contributions to our everyday lives.

This degree also offers you flexibility in your studies. You will be able to build your degree around topics you are interested in. Our staff can also help you design an interdisciplinary curriculum by choosing option courses from other subjects.

An extraordinary reputation

We are one of the largest and most successful groupings of geographers, Earth and environmental scientists in the UK, many of whom are world experts in their field.

  • We have pioneered research proving human-caused greenhouse gases are warming our planet, which helped underpin the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • We are working with major space agencies to monitor the environment using satellite data.
  • We are 22nd in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2024.
  • We are ranked in the world's top 50 universities for natural sciences subjects, and 4th in the UK. Across Earth and marine sciences, environmental sciences, geology and geophysics, we are ranked top 10 in the UK (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2024).

Our staff will incorporate the latest research in your teaching, and share our discoveries with you.

Video: Earth sciences and environment

Life-changing field trips

Field trips are at the heart of this programme.

We know that getting out in the world is essential for understanding how it works.

We will take you beyond the classroom so that you can apply your learning to real-life situations.

For example, you could be:

  • photographing rugged coastlines and cliffs with airborne drones
  • visiting worksites to meet Earth science professionals and find out what they do
  • hunting for fossils and chatting with your professor about their work on the latest Jurassic World film
  • surrounded by Scotland’s glorious mountains, gathering evidence to unravel its unique geological history

What do you do on a field trip?

Our field courses and day excursions are hard work and fun. Often, they will provide some of your most memorable moments.

Our hands-on approach to learning helps build your confidence and practical experience. It also gives you field skills valued by employers.

For example:

  • identify, record and map rocks and structures
  • learn to read a landscape, and understand the complexities of a region's geological history
  • practice model building and testing, and the handling of uncertainty
  • learn how to safely and independently work in remote areas

We will also arrange for you to meet Earth science professionals at their work sites during our trips.

A dynamic learning experience

Your training leads to the opportunity to conduct your own independent research project. An experienced academic will supervise and support you through your work.

Field experiences will help create a sense of community within your cohort. You will engage in a dynamic learning experience through peer learning where knowledge, ideas, and discoveries thrive.

Our trips also help you to experience working with different types of field equipment, which will help you develop practical skills. We have a range of tools and high-tech equipment to take field measurements such as:

  • Unoccupied Aerial Vehicles (UAV) - also called 'drones'
  • digital mapping tools
  • geophysical instruments to acquire electrical resistivity and magnetic data
  • geophysical instruments to conduct seismic surveys

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary. We want to give you a broad understanding of how the world works. Our goal is to reduce our carbon footprint while providing you with the best training opportunities.

Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation. To make sure our degrees are accessible and inclusive, we offer alternative learning experiences where necessary.

You can also find our blog posts and videos about fieldwork experiences on the School of GeoSciences website.

School of GeoSciences website: field trips

Edinburgh is your ideal base

Edinburgh is ranked 2nd in the UK and 16th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2024. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life.

Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in; it is also the perfect location to study geography and the Earth sciences. Did you know that Edinburgh is the 'birthplace' of modern geology and Earth sciences?

An ancient volcano known as 'Arthur's Seat' forms part of a magnificent park in the middle of our city. Superb geological locations are right on our doorstep, providing you with world-class outdoor training grounds. Many of these sites are of scientific importance. For example, the world-famous "Hutton's Unconformity" at Siccar Point is just a short trip away.

We will help you make the most of our local surroundings throughout your studies.

Explore rugged coastlines, misty mountains, forest glens and sparkling freshwater lochs.

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:

The exciting nature of Earth sciences means you will have a diverse learning experience during your years with us.

The way you learn will depend on the courses you take, and the nature of the topics explored.

Your programme begins with a broad foundation of topics across Earth sciences and the environment.

You will:

  • build on this foundation while exploring new and varied topics in the following years

  • develop independence and confidence as you progress through your studies

Study pathways

Most of the courses in your first and second years are shared with our range of Earth science and environment degrees.

This gives you the flexibility to switch between degrees as you discover the subjects you prefer.

You will then specialise in the subjects of your choice in later years.

Explore our Earth science and environment degrees

Switching degrees

Our Earth science and environment degrees provide opportunities to switch between degrees in your early years.

However, some later courses may not be available if you have not taken the necessary pre-requisite courses. You should discuss your interests with your Cohort Lead to make sure that these options are still available to you.

Option courses

One of the best things about a Scottish undergraduate degree is the amount of electives (called 'option courses') you can study. You have the opportunity to take a significant number of courses outside your degree in Years 1 and 2.

You can choose courses related to your degree. Or you can try something different and new to you.

Changes to teaching and learning

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

We try to provide a wide range of optional courses to choose from but these can be changed or cancelled at short notice. Course capacity and timetabling constraints can limit places on optional courses. Therefore, we cannot guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.

Data innovation

A key feature of our programme is a focus on developing your skills around the generation and analysis of scientific data through a range of computational techniques.

Along with your subject-specific skills, you will develop valuable transferable skills allowing you to:

  • use advanced computing and data skills
  • think in 3D and 4D
  • integrate spatial and temporal information
  • understand processes on a range of scales
  • extrapolate hypotheses based on small data sets
  • extract key information from complex sets of observations
  • assess large data sets
  • express ideas and arguments via a range of platforms, including social media
  • deal with complex systems and uncertainties

Changes to field trips

Field course locations may change for various reasons, including the health and safety of our students, staff and communities, and to make sure 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 make sure 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. If you cannot attend all trips or only some of them, we will provide alternatives with similar learning outcomes where necessary.

Year 1

Your programme begins with a broad grounding of topics across Earth sciences and the environment.

You will:

  • be introduced to the geosphere around us, how it affects us, and how we use it responsibly
  • learn to use important tools to interact with scientific data and build confidence in your data skills
  • develop an idea of what you might want to do as an Earth science graduate

About half of your courses will be in Earth science and environment. Most of your compulsory subjects will be the same across our Earth sciences and environment degrees. The other half will be your chosen option courses.

Year 2

You will learn about the Earth's building blocks, their properties and how they form our planet.

We will also:

  • expand your data analysis and computational skills
  • teach you about the materials and rocks that make up the geosphere
  • introduce you to geophysics to learn how we image the Earth
  • take a field course to start building your skills in geological fieldwork

As in Year 1, you will have flexibility in your option course choices.

Year 3

You will begin to:

  • map the bigger picture
  • integrate your knowledge
  • apply your skills
  • discover the limits of our knowledge about the Earth

We will complete your basic training, so you can start integrating your knowledge in a range of areas. For example, topics can include:

  • tectonics
  • sediment fluxes
  • the co-evolution of life and rock processes

During this year, you can develop your knowledge and skills in one of three ways:

  • advance your practical field skills in Earth sciences, or
  • practice subsurface investigation for sustainable energy, or
  • take an outside option course in line with the curriculum

You will also gain expertise in specific topics through your option course choices.

Year 4

You will integrate the skills and knowledge you have learned during the first three years. We will guide you to become an independent, expert Earth scientist.

We will help you design the year around your personal goals, allowing you to become a specialist in the field of your choice.

Your year will cover three main areas:

1. Your independent research project

This is an independent, original piece of research in your chosen specialist field. Your project can be inspired by your area of interest and explored through our world-class facilities and individual supervision from an academic with experience in your chosen subject area.

2. Integrating your learning

You will advance from principles to practice to become an expert Earth scientist.

Teaching and excursions will help you combine your knowledge and skills.

You will also meet Earth science practitioners at their workplace and learn about their jobs first-hand.

3. Your future pathway

You can further your knowledge and skills in one of two ways:

  • Your coursework can focus on specialised aspects of your degree. Our School offers tailored pathways for you to learn at the cutting-edge of various Earth science disciplines.
  • You can expand your learning through coursework in another subject. You can take advanced courses in subjects from across the University. For example, you could choose engineering, law or other sciences.

Year 5

Optional year

You can choose to add another year to this BSc degree to complete an integrated masters (MEarthSci). You can decide to change from the BSc programme to the MEarthSci programme up until your fourth year of study on the BSc.

As part of the integrated masters programme, you will complete an additional independent research project during Year 5. The programme involves a research focus, which is useful if you want to continue your education into research, such as a PhD.

MEarthSci Earth Sciences

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 (2024/25)

Our facilities

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

For example:

  • 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 also study at various campus locations in Edinburgh.

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.

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

You will attend lectures, tutorials and practicals in our state-of-the-art theatres and classrooms.

We have a hands-on approach to learning, so you will also have access to our:

  • specialist research facilities
  • laboratories
  • supercomputers
  • field equipment

You will:

  • have access to a range of high-tech facilities, letting you analyse various types of samples
  • collect some of these samples during field excursions and for your independent research project
  • conduct field measurements using various techniques used in Earth and environmental sciences
  • have access to digital field equipment and UAV unoccupied aerial vehicles (drones) to conduct measurements using various techniques

You will also be given a dedicated undergraduate student learning space during your honours years. You can use this space for your independent work, to study with others and socialise with your peers.

Computing facilities

We also have advanced computing facilities, where you will be able to:

  • perform advanced geographic information systems (GIS) analysis
  • run cutting-edge meteorological and geophysical computer models
  • make the most out of digital field mapping tools

A cluster of science and technology companies are also located on the campus. Many of these companies are spin-out companies based on College research. There are also start-ups which have located here to build close ties with the College.

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.

Take a virtual tour of the School of GeoSciences

Placements

There are no compulsory placements or internships as part of this degree, but you will have many opportunities to gain professional experience.

For example:

  • we can help you with self-arranged internships or summer work placements
  • your research dissertation project provides the opportunity to collaborate with an external partner

Study abroad

There are exciting opportunities to study abroad as part of the University's exchange programmes.

Many of our students spend their third year abroad in Europe or other parts of the world. A year abroad can give you invaluable academic and life skills.

In addition to University-wide exchanges, the School of GeoSciences has several subject-specific exchanges. We have partner universities in:

  • Europe
  • Canada
  • New Zealand

Visit: what are my options for going abroad?

How will I learn?

You will learn from a range of experienced academics at the forefront of their field. Our research-led, industry-informed teaching draws on the latest developments. By sharing our discoveries with you, we keep your degree up-to-date and exciting.

The types of teaching styles depend on the courses you choose and the topics explored.

For example, 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
  • programming code to plot scientific data
  • solving a set of problems with your peers
  • presenting your findings on a website, in a talk or in an essay
  • meeting Earth science professionals at their workplace

Teaching can be through a mix of:

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

You will also design and carry out your own research dissertation in your final year.

Technical training

This degree has a hands-on approach to help you develop a range of specialist and transferable skills.

We will balance:

  • advanced data science
  • programming, computing simulations and modelling
  • use of specialist computer programmes
  • laboratory experience in a range of analytical techniques
  • observational and analytical skills in different field settings
  • geographical information systems (GIS)

How will you support me?

We want to help you make the most of your studies with us.

You will have access to a range of resources and activities to support you during your studies. You will be assigned a Student Adviser for the duration of your degree, who will be your main contact if you have any questions related to academic or pastoral support.

The Student Adviser works closely with academics in your degree and the wider University support services. They can also help you with a wide range of administrative and practical issues, and can direct you to relevant resources or people.

Find out more about student support

You will also be assigned a Cohort Lead who will organise activities to help you get to know the other students on your degree.

They will also advise and support you on a range of topics including:

  • course choices
  • how to develop and improve your academic skills
  • how to effectively use feedback
  • advice on your future career opportunities

For your honours dissertation project, you will also receive individual supervision and guidance from an academic with experience in your chosen subject area.

How will I be assessed?

You will be assessed in different ways, depending on the courses you choose and the nature of the topics explored.

Assessment can be through a mix of:

  • written or practical exams, including multiple-choice exercises
  • laboratory reports and field project reports
  • practical evaluation in the field or field notebooks
  • coursework such as essays
  • posters
  • individual or group projects and presentations

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

For your independent research project in your final year, we will assess your presentation and scientific writing skills.

Where do our graduates find employment?

Graduates of our previous geology degree were recruited in different sectors. Many moved straight into degree-related employment.

For example, you could work in:

  • energy (including renewables)
  • natural resources
  • land and water management
  • risk and hazard management
  • environmental planning and regulation
  • environmental consultancy
  • sustainability consultancy
  • science communication and education

The skills you develop with us are also highly transferable. You can work in other sectors such as:

  • the financial sector
  • information technology
  • engineering
  • business
  • consultancy
  • government or civil service positions
  • industrial management and administration

A sustainable future

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action to address the significant global challenges of our generation.

There are 17 overarching goals with a timeline set to 2030. Nearly all countries in the world have committed to this plan, with societies rapidly adjusting to meet these goals.

They address challenges such as:

  • climate change
  • environment
  • water
  • food inequality
  • protecting our planet
  • sustainable growth and energy supplies

Earth sciences are at the heart of these efforts.

With this degree, you can work in fields that directly contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Additionally, you can work in the energy transition and climate change mitigation sectors.

For example:

  • safe and efficient underground storage of CO2 (such as carbon capture and storage)
  • hydrogen and energy storage
  • harvesting geothermal energy
  • contributing to the circular economy
  • sustainable management of groundwater

You could also use your skills in areas such as:

  • remediation of contaminated sites
  • geotechnical sector
  • geological hazard and risk management
  • urban geology for densely populated areas

As a world-leading University, we are driving efforts to mitigate climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.

Our research is internationally renowned in the areas of carbon capture and storage, as well as negative emissions (also known as greenhouse gas removals). We are working within the UK and across the world on the delivery of net-zero emissions targets to meet the UN Paris Agreement.

Further study

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

Careers Service

We support you in recognising the many possibilities ahead.

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience. We also support you after graduation.

We provide:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance
  • 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 here is about laying the foundations for your future success. Whatever shape that takes.

Visit our Careers Service

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: 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 in one set of exams.
  • IB: 32 points with 655 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. We will accept combinations of Mathematics and Physics both at grade B to meet this requirement.
  • 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. We will accept combinations of Mathematics and Physics both at grade B, or Mathematics, Science plus Additional Science all at grade B to meet this requirement.
  • IB: HL: two of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics (Analysis and approaches only) or Physics at 5. SL: English at 5 and Mathematics (Analysis and approaches only) at 5 (if not at HL).

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* (* include at least one).
  • IB: 32 points with 655 at HL to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, 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).

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.

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
  • 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: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 65 with at least 54 in each component. We do not accept PTE Academic Online.*

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

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

English language requirements

(*Revised 24 May 2024 to change PTE Academic requirement from total 62 with at least 54 in each component, and to clarify that we do not accept PTE Academic online.)

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 Earth Sciences

Additional costs

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

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

However you are responsible for any incidental/personal expenses. This may include suitable outdoor clothing and footwear.

Excursions as part of optional courses have extra fees, which vary depending on the nature of the field trip.

Dissertation costs

There may be some costs associated with your dissertation research project, including field costs.

You can design your dissertation project to minimise costs. The School of GeoSciences also provides a £200 allowance for using facilities to support your dissertation project.

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