Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

BSc Geophysics

UCAS code: F660

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad
Placements

Introducing BSc Geophysics

If you have a curiosity about how our planet works, a love of the outdoors, and an aptitude for science, then geophysics may be the career for you.

Geophysics is the study of physical processes through the use of physics and mathematics - and applying this to our understanding of the Earth.

Join us as we explore our magnificent planet, from its hot core through to its crust and oceans, atmosphere and beyond.

Why geophysics?

Geophysics has a significant impact on the welfare of society and our world.

In fact, exploration geophysics has helped us find the energy sources that have driven many of the social and economic advances over the last century.

Now, these techniques are increasingly being used to safeguard our natural environment.

For example:

  • gravity surveys can tell us about mass losses from the ice sheets of Greenland and Antarctica
  • these surveys can also identify changes in the water table in regions reliant on groundwater
  • large scale global seismology has helped us to identify areas at risk from earthquakes and tsunami, saving lives

The use of Earth's natural resources is also evolving. You will:

  • learn how the applications for natural resource exploration are shifting into new and innovative technologies
  • understand these technologies, helping ensure the Earth's resources are used and disposed of more sustainably
  • benefit from the research and expertise of our academics, many of whom are at the forefront of this change

What will I learn?

You will learn to understand our world, so you can help safeguard its future. You will explore the properties and forces, small and large, that act on planetary or even inter-planetary scales, including:

  • the microscopic properties of minerals
  • large scale forces such as gravity and magnetism
  • the inner workings of the Earth

We will train you in the fundamental physical principles and mathematical techniques of geophysics. You will learn to apply these techniques to diverse fields, for example:

  • monitoring the Earth's changing environment and climate
  • mapping environmental pollution above and below ground
  • measuring rock and soil properties prior to civil engineering work
  • carbon capture, energy storage and management of water resources
  • mineral exploration
  • understanding the behaviour of the Earth's deep interior
  • understanding how the Earth and other planets have formed and changed over their lifetime

Why study in Edinburgh?

By studying geophysics 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 geophysicists 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.

Applying geophysical techniques and using equipment in the field is also fun, rewarding, and brings the subject to life. You will:

  • interact with fellow students and staff
  • meet new people
  • see how geophysics is applied in the real world

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

On recent field trips, students have mapped the subsurface at sites of meteorite impacts and volcanic craters.

Edinburgh is an ideal location for geophysics, 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 trip locations

Geophysics is both a practical and a theoretical subject and we want to enable you to explore both aspects. Our field trip locations and itinerary reflect that. You will:

  • enjoy several local trips to sites where many of the founding ideas of geology were formed, all in your first two years
  • take a week-long trip in Year 3 where you will be able to relate geology to offshore geophysical data - a vital skill for exploration geophysicists (previous trips have included North Scotland where students explored the geology of the rocks found under the North Sea)
  • take another week-long field trip in Year 4 to intensively explore a specific site, with students from France and Germany

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

Our degree programmes are flexible. This means you can easily switch between the different geophysics programmes at the start of your second year.

There are three variants of the Geophysics degree in terms of topics:

  • Geophysics
  • Geophysics and Geology
  • Geophysics and Meteorology

This description is for the Geophysics BSc variant. You do not need to choose between these programmes when applying.

The geophysics programmes:

  • have the same entry requirements
  • all share the same first year
  • include the possibility of switching degrees at the end of Year 1

From Year 2, the programmes subsequently diverge.

You can also make your degree an undergraduate masters (Master of Earth Physics) for each of these variants:

  • during your degree (dependent on grades)
  • by taking an industrial placement year (between the academic years three and four)
  • or, by adding an extra research-focused year

Year 1

You will study a first year that is shared with all geophysics variants, introducing you to the foundations of:

  • physics
  • geophysics
  • mathematics
  • geology

Year 2

You will take:

  • more advanced maths and physics courses
  • a further geology course
  • a specialist geophysics course

You can also choose two option courses from a wide selection in the Schools of Physics and Astronomy, GeoSciences or elsewhere in the University.

If you have direct entry to Year 2, you will take a specially tailored set of courses in the first semester, but join the standard programme in the second semester.

Year 3

Your courses become more specific to geophysics and you will spend more time learning detailed skills.

Courses cover:

  • maths and computing
  • measurements and modelling
  • geophysical imaging and inversion
  • structural geology
  • field skills
  • general research skills

Year 4

You will apply the skills you have acquired up to this point and take a week-long field trip to intensively explore a specific site. Your field trip will be shared with students from France and Germany.

You will employ a wide range of geophysical techniques and equipment looking at:

  • gravity
  • magnetics
  • electromagnetism
  • seismology

Recent trips have included studies of meteorite impact and ancient volcanic craters, containing a variety of fascinating geophysical and geological structures. The trips move around various sites in Europe.

You will also:

  • commit around a third of the year to independent research projects (either one large one, or two smaller ones)
  • continue with specialised compulsory courses
  • take one option course from across GeoSciences

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 or masters with professional placement (MEarthPhys) in four 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 geophysics 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

The programme is delivered at sites on the Central and King's Buildings campuses. In some cases, teaching may be delivered at different sites.

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

Placements

Placements are possible on different degree variants - please see the 'Geophysics with Professional Placement' degree.

Study abroad

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

Exchanges are typically taken in Year 3.

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 geophysics means you will have a diverse learning experience throughout your years with us.

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 and measuring the physical properties of rocks. 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 19 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 enhance your ability to work independently and manage project work as the programme progresses.

Your 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 research dissertation under the guidance of our expert academics

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 (2021/22)

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

Additionally, our programmes equip you with the critical thinking and research skills to be prepared for competitive entry into relevant postgraduate degree programmes. A significant proportion of our students progress to further postgraduate study and research.

The demand for quantitative Earth scientists has never been greater. Our world faces numerous challenges including:

  • global climate change
  • extreme weather and hazards
  • depleting natural resources
  • a growing population

Where do our graduates find employment?

Our graduates have successfully entered challenging and rewarding areas of geophysics including:

  • environmental geophysics
  • hydrology
  • industrial management and administration

Traditionally, geophysicists have mainly entered careers in oil and gas, or mineral exploration. However, as the world has woken up to the need for more sustainable development, geophysicists are increasingly employed in the fields of:

  • renewable energy
  • environmental protection
  • natural hazards

Your skills will be highly transferable, allowing you to apply your skills to other disciplines such as:

  • engineering
  • finance
  • business
  • consultancy
  • governmental or civil service positions

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

  • geophysicist
  • meteorologist
  • waste resource manager
  • hydrogeologist
  • resource discovery
  • environmental consultant
  • sustainability consultant
  • minerals surveyor
  • energy resources manager

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 the Earth sciences, 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

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: 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 655 at HL - 32 points with 655 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 655 at HL.

More information for widening access applicants

Required subjects

The grades used to meet our entry requirements must include:

  • SQA: Highers: Mathematics at A and Physics at B. Higher Applications of Mathematics is not accepted in place of Higher Mathematics. National 5s: English at C.
  • A Levels: Mathematics at A and Physics at B. GCSEs: English at C or 4.
  • IB: HL: Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) at 6 and Physics at 5. SL: English at 5.

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: AAA to include Mathematics and Physics, and one of Biology, Chemistry, or Geography.
  • A Levels: A*AA in one set of exams to include Mathematics at A* and Physics, and one of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, or Geology.
  • IB: 38 points with 666 at HL to include Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) and Physics, and one of Biology, Chemistry or Geography 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 (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 Geophysics

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