Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

MEarthSci Geology

UCAS code: F640

Duration: 5 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Accreditation
Study abroad

Introducing MEarthSci Geology

The Earth is billions of years old. What is in store for its future?

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

This degree will enable you to learn about how the Earth was formed, how it has changed over time, and how the processes that shape our planet affect our life on it.

We can ask important questions in the earth sciences such as:

  • Why is our planet able to sustain life?
  • How does the Earth's interior work, and how do these processes affect the surface?
  • Can we sustainably manage the Earth's resources?
  • Can we predict and protect against the effects of global climate change?
  • Can natural hazards such as earthquakes and volcanic eruptions be understood, saving lives?

Geologists seek to understand the planet from its core through to the surface, using subjects such as chemistry, physics, biology, and physical geography. They study how to find and use the Earth's resources, as well as exploring the challenges and impacts humans have on our planet.

The past, preserved in rocks, teaches us how life on Earth responded to major climate changes. By studying these changes, geologists hope 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. Geologists can seek to develop new ways to utilise green energy resources, such as geothermal heat, to reduce our reliance on hydrocarbons.

It is also geologists who can identify where to best store the energy produced through wind and solar farms, as well as other techniques. They can also advise on where to dispose of problematic wastes from chemical and nuclear industries safely. Geologists also find the raw materials in the Earth that we rely on in construction, telecommunications and many other industries.

Through this degree, 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.

While studying, you will have access to the School's range of cutting-edge facilities. You will undertake the analysis and investigation of rock samples as part of your laboratory-based courses and during your dissertation.

If you choose to study geology at the University of Edinburgh, you will become part of an academic community in one of the leading geosciences departments in the UK, and one of the top-ranked universities in the world. You will learn from geologists and earth scientists who are the forefront and drivers of change and are undertaking world-leading research in a wide range of areas.

We hope that by studying this degree, you can play an essential role in our transition into a more sustainable society.

This five-year programme follows the BSc Geology programme until the end of Year 4. In Year 5 you will develop your analytical skills and a higher level of understanding of the Earth system.

Field trips

Field trips are at the heart of this programme. You will have many opportunities to get your hands dirty during local and international field trips throughout your studies. You will go beyond the classroom and apply the skills you have learned towards real-life situations. You will also have the opportunity to conduct your own independent geological exploration.

For example, you will:

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

Our field trips will lead you to the best possible locations in the UK and abroad to enrich you with a broad understanding of how the world works.

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

  • electrical resistivity
  • magnetism
  • seismic surveys
  • drones

Previous locations have included the Scottish Highlands, the Lake District in England, Spain, Cyprus, and Iceland.

Please note:

As the content of the programme is updated to reflect the advancing subject matter and student feedback, the location of field trips may change.

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. As such, we are proud to be able to support our students as they learn practical and highly prized skills.

Due to the continued support of our generous Alumni community, all costs of travel, accommodation, and subsistence on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme. However, incidental/ personal expenses are to be met by the student.

Students are also responsible for their own expenses for fieldwork associated with their dissertation project. These will be dependent on the destination.

Accreditation

This programme is accredited by the Geological Society, London

This five-year programme follows the BSc Geology programme until the end of Year 4. In Year 5 you will develop your analytical skills and a higher level of understanding of the Earth system.

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, and develop practical skills in recognising the evidence of these processes in rocks, both in the field and the laboratory. You will also study the interaction between geology, chemistry, physics, and biology affecting the surface processes of the planet that together form the characteristics of the environment in which we live. You will also gain key practical skills in mapping and cross-section skills.

There will also be an integrated field trip to develop your field skills. Previous trips have included the Lake District.

One of the most exciting things about a Scottish undergraduate degree is the fact that you have 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

From Year 2, you will focus on materials, the rock cycle, and global tectonics. You will investigate the solid materials which constitute the Earth and learn how atoms are arranged and how they influence physical properties, and ultimately, control how our planet functions.

You will 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, such as the origins of planets and their interior physical processes, as well as identifying subsurface petroleum reserves.

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.

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

Year 3

Year 3 focuses completely on geology. It contains a range of courses that develop deeper theoretical and practical knowledge of many different branches of the earth sciences. Tutorials allow discussing earth science concepts in small groups. In a wide range of practicals you will hone your technical skills as a Geologist.

To prepare you for your independent fieldwork in Year 4, you will take part in a 14-day field course. Prior field courses have been to the south of Spain. 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

During part of the summer holiday (vacation) period following Year 3, you are required to complete an independent four-week, field-based research project in an area of your choice. Locations can be as close as Arthur’s Seat in Edinburgh, or as far away as New Zealand.

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, or rock deformation processes. In these courses you can develop your presentation as well as practical skills.

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 students were immersed among the spectacular rock exposures.

Year 5

Year 5 involves a fundamental change in emphasis. You will conduct a masters-level research project in any area of earth science of your choice.

You will learn the high-level analytical skills and critical understanding needed to become an independent researcher, through a combination of small-group learning, independent student-led research, and extensive one-to-one interaction with a project supervisor.

Additional courses, including a field trip (locations may differ subject to course updates), will promote peer-interaction and the development of core research skills. Previous locations have included Iceland and Tenerife.

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 (2019/20)

Our facilities

In Year 1, many of your lectures are taught in the Central Area close to the city centre. Practicals and other teaching take place within the School of GeoSciences, King's Buildings campus. Depending on courses selected, in later years, you will be located primarily at the King's Buildings campus.

Depending on the option courses selected in your programme, you may also study at various University campus locations in the vibrant city of Edinburgh.

You can access the University's libraries and IT facilities, and the School's laboratories provide a personal workspace with computing and microscope facilities during your honours years.

The School houses a wide range of cutting-edge facilities and services. It is involved in several collaborative centres of research excellence.

As part of your programme, you will have access to this range of high-tech facilities enabling chemical and physical analysis of various types of samples. You will collect some of these samples during field excursions, which are a central component of our programmes. During these excursions, you will also 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, and geophysical computer models. You will become familiar with many of these facilities and techniques while studying here.

Research and Teaching Facilities

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 within Europe, Canada, and New Zealand. Study abroad is normally taken during the 3rd year.

Student Exchanges

How will I learn?

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, or 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, and 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.

You will also develop a range of transferable skills, including: * report writing * oral presentations * data analysis and interpretation * critical thinking * group working

As the programme progresses, you will enhance the ability to work independently and manage project work.

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.

Through your degree, you will be expected to study for approximately 200 hours per 20 credit course. How this time is divided varies. Your time is dependent on the courses you choose to study, as well as the 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 includes lectures, tutorials, practicals, and field trips.

Depending on the option courses you choose, during the first two years (pre-honours) you should expect to have approximately 17 hours a week of lectures, tutorials, and practicals. As you progress into the 3rd and 4th years of study (honours) you will be expected to spend more time on independent work and self-directed study.

In Years 4 and 5, you will design two of your own project dissertations with guidance from our expert academics, helping you develop skills to become a researcher in your own right.

Lectures

One of the main ways we teach is through lectures, and these are the main form of contact you have with academic staff. Most lectures last 50 minutes.

Practicals

Practicals allow you to apply the knowledge acquired in lectures and tutorials and develop a range of practical skills. It’s important to recognise that the skills you learn in practicals are transferable beyond the immediate course. They can be applied in other courses, in dissertations, and even beyond your degree.

Tutorials

Many courses include tutorials. Tutorials are a form of small group teaching that is facilitated by a tutor. 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. Field trips are hard work, fun, and will provide some of the most memorable moments of your degree. They are an excellent way to learn, enabling you to apply the knowledge and skills you have developed in lectures to real-world contexts. Field trips are part of your course, and there are no additional costs.

Self-directed study

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

How will I be assessed?

We encourage you to review the Programme Structure - Degree Programme Table to see compulsory and option courses. Individual course details will show you 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. 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 the earth sciences will involve computational modelling elements. In your final years, there are elements of assessed presentation and scientific writing skills.

In year 4 you will complete a research dissertation.

In Year 5 you will also complete an additional research project, where there is ample opportunity to advance your research skills and gain a deeper understanding of your subject.

Programme details

Find out more about this programme's aims, what you will learn, how you will be assessed and what skills and knowledge you will develop.

To give you an idea of what to expect from 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 details (2019/20)

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

Our graduates are highly sought after by energy (including renewables) and resource companies, environmental consultancies, and the financial sector. Many find employment in the areas of environmental planning and regulation, geoconservation, science communication and education, and engineering.

Examples of roles our graduates have obtained include geo-consultant, geological surveyor, carbon capture and storage, waste resource management, hydrogeologist, resource discovery, environmental consultant, sustainability consultant, minerals surveyor, or energy resources management. Our graduates also gain careers in sectors that seek graduates in quantitative science, such as management, finance, and teaching.

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 data
  • critically analyse information
  • effectively present your work

The School of GeoSciences is one of the largest groupings of geoscientists in the UK. You will have access to our wide range of research and industry networks, as well as a world-class experience with real-world relevance. Under the guidance of academics who are leaders in their field, you will be equipped with sought-after skills in geological research.

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.

Standard entry requirement

The standard entry requirement is:

  • SQA Highers: AABB - ABBB by end of S5 or AAAB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: AAA - ABB.
  • IB: 34 points with 555 at HL - 32 points with 555 at HL.

Minimum entry requirement

The minimum entry requirement for widening access applicants is:

  • SQA Highers: ABBB by end of S6. BBB must be achieved in one year of S4-S6.
  • A Levels: ABB.
  • IB: 32 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. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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: AAB to include two of Biology, Chemistry*, Geography, Mathematics*, or Physics* (*include at least one).
  • A Levels: AAA in one set of exams to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, or Physics.
  • IB: 38 points with 666 at HL to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only), or Physics at 6.
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 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 MEarthSci 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, and we are pleased to be able to support our students as they learn practical and highly prized skills.

Due to the continued support of our generous Alumni community, all costs of travel, accommodation, and subsistence on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme. However, incidental/ personal expenses are to be met by the student.

Students are also responsible for their own expenses for fieldwork associated with their dissertation project. These will be dependent on the destination.

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

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