Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

MEarthPhys Geophysics and Geology

UCAS code: L3R7

Duration: 5 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing MEarthPhys Geophysics and Geology

How old is the Earth, and how has it evolved? Can we understand its innermost core through to its crust, oceans and atmosphere? How do these components interact within the Earth system? Can understanding the past help us interpret the current Earth and make future projections?

If you seek answers to these questions, love getting your hands dirty and want to apply your aptitude for science to the great outdoors, then the BSc in Geophysics and Geology may be for you.

Our world is facing unprecedented challenges including:

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

The need for Earth scientists has never been greater.

Through this programme, you will gain an understanding of the inner workings of our planet, to safeguard its future.

This degree offers you the best of both Geology and Geophysics. It integrates these subjects into an understanding of the Earth from its origin, composition and structure with an emphasis on physical processes such as gravity, seismology and magnetism.

Many people confuse geology and geophysics. Both geologists and geophysicists are geoscientists who study the Earth and how it works, and the study of geology and geophysics intersects. For example, they both explore the mechanisms behind plate tectonics.

  • Geologists focus on the materialistic surface of the Earth and its evolution.
  • Geophysicists are mainly concerned about the physical processes of the Earth, such as its internal composition to the atmosphere, as well as magnetic, gravitational and electrical forces.

By studying both approaches, you will gain deeper insights into both subjects.

As a student in Geology and Geophysics, you will have the opportunity to study all aspects of the Earth, from formation, planetary accretion and evolution of life through to the present-day surface and environmental processes and the impact of global climate change. Through this degree, you will be equipped with the skills and knowledge necessary for employment in a diverse range of areas such as sustainable exploration, environmental protection and the management of our natural resources.

You will have access to an extensive range of specialist facilities including

  • geophysics field equipment
  • airborne drone imaging
  • geochemistry laboratories
  • high-performance computing

Edinburgh is the birthplace of Earth sciences as a scientific subject, a legacy which continues to this day through world-leading research, teaching and the communication of science.

If you choose to study Geophysics and Geology at the University of Edinburgh, you will become part of an academic community in one of the leading geoscience departments in the UK and one of the top-ranked universities in the world. As a result, you will experience teaching and learning at the forefront of this knowledge and learn from one of the largest groupings of geoscientists in Europe who are undertaking world-leading research in a wide range of areas.

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

This five-year programme follows the 4-year BSc Geophysics and Geology programme until the end of Year 4. In Year 5 you will work on an additional independent research project.

Flexible options

Our degree programs are flexible, allowing you to easily switch between the different Geophysics programmes at the start of your second year. Depending on your future plans, you can choose from Geophysics, Geophysics and Geology, or Geophysics and Meteorology. The course structure also makes it possible to transfer to Physics at the end of your first year.

All of our Geophysics degrees are available as a 4-year BSc. You also have the option to stay an extra year and do an MEarthPhys integrated Masters (this variant). You can also choose the 'Professional Placement' option, and spend a year at an external organisation between years three and four, to similarly graduate with an integrated masters degree.

Field trips

Field trips are at the heart of this programme. You will get your hands dirty during local and international field trips throughout your studies. Exploring rock exposures in the field, applying geophysical techniques and using equipment in the field is fun, rewarding, and brings the subject to life. On recent field trips, students have mapped the subsurface at sites of meteorite impacts and volcanic craters. These trips will take you beyond the classroom, where you can gain valuable hands-on experience by applying what you have learned into real-life situations. Edinburgh is also an ideal location for this rapidly evolving subject, with many sites of geological interest right on your doorstep.

Geophysics and Geology are both practical as well as theoretical subjects, and we like to give you the opportunity to explore both aspects. Within the geology courses over the first two years, there are several local trips to sites where many of the founding ideas of geology were formed.

Within the geology courses over the first two years, there are several local trips to sites where many of the founding ideas of geology were formed. There is also a week-long trip, usually to the English Lake District.

During a week-long trip in Year 3, you will be able to relate geology to offshore geophysical data – a vital skill for exploration geophysicists. Previous trips have been to Spain, or North Scotland where students explored the geology of the rocks found under the North Sea.

In Year 4, there is a week-long field trip that links up with students from France and Germany. You will apply a wide range of geophysical techniques and equipment (gravity, magnetics, electromagnetism, ground-penetrating radar, seismology) to intensively explore a specific site. These trips move around various sites in Europe but have recently been to meteorite impact and ancient volcanic craters, with a variety of fascinating geophysical and geological structures.

These trips are fantastic opportunities to interact with fellow students and staff, meet new people, and see how geophysics is applied in the real world. You will be taken beyond the classroom to apply the skills you have learned towards real-life situations.

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. Field trips may also be changed due to Covid-19, and where suitable, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled.

We will also look at alternative arrangements that will ensure you achieve the quality learning outcomes of your degree. Any changes will be announced as soon as possible.

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

*(Revised 13 November 2020 to included notice about field trip changes.)

Field trip costs

The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses. Our Earth Science degrees all 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.

What is it really like to study with us?

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


The Royal Meteorological Society (pending).

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

(i) Geophysics (ii) Geophysics and Geology (iii) Geophysics and Meteorology

It is not crucial to choose between these programmes when applying. The Geophysics programmes have the same entry requirements, and all share the same first year. Switching degrees at the end of Year 1 is possible. From Year 2, the programmes subsequently diverge. For each of these variants there are options to make your degree an undergraduate masters (Master of Earth Physics), through either taking an industrial placement year (between the academic years three and four), or by adding an extra research-focused, additional year.

Conversion to these undergraduate master’s variants can also be arranged during your degree, dependent on grades.

This description is for the MEarthPhys Geophysics and Geology variant.

Year 1

You will study a first year that is shared with all Geophysics variants, introducing you to the foundations of physics, geophysics, mathematics and geology on which the rest of your programme will be based.

Year 2

You will take more advanced maths and physics courses, a further geology courses and a specialist geophysics course.

In addition, you can choose an option course from a wide selection in the schools of Physics & Astronomy, GeoSciences or elsewhere in the University.

Direct entry to 2nd year students take a specially tailored set of courses in the first semester, but join the standard program in second semester.

Year 3

In Year 3, the courses become more specific to geosciences and geophysics, and are focussed on teaching you detailed skills. Courses cover maths and computing, measurements and modelling, structural geology, geological field skills and general research skills.

Year 4

Year 4 is all about applying the skills you have learnt up to this point. It starts with an field course field course along with students from universities in France and Germany.

One third of the year is taken up with independent research projects (either one large one, or two smaller ones).

You will also continue with specialised compulsory courses, and one option course from across GeoSciences.

Year 5

Year 5 is focussed on research. Over half of the year is devoted to a major research project, with supporting research design and computing courses. Most other courses are options from across Geosciences.

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 (2020/21)

Our facilities

In Year 1, many of your lectures will be taught in the Central Area close to the city centre. Practicals and other teaching take place within the School of GeoSciences, located at the University's 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 personal workspace with computing and microscope facilities during your honours years.

The School houses a wide range of cutting-edge facilities and services and is involved in a number of 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. Some of these samples will be collected by you 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


Placements are possible on different degree variants – see the “Geophysics and Geology with Professional Placement” degree.

Study abroad

You will have opportunities to study abroad in Europe and/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 within Europe, Canada, and New Zealand. Study abroad is normally taken during the 3rd year.

Student Exchanges

How will I learn?

The exciting natures of geophysics and geology means you will have a diverse learning experience throughout your years with us. Teaching is 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 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.

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 training will also equip you with unique skills in problem-solving, making you ideally suited to work in environments where solutions to complex challenges need to be found based on 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, and 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 19 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.


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


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.


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 excellent ways of learning, 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?

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 will also be assessed on computer programming exercises. In the final year of all our programmes, there are elements of assessed presentation and scientific writing skills. Most senior honours courses and projects in the earth sciences will also involve computational modelling elements.

In Year 4 you will complete a research dissertation under the guidance of our expert academics.

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 (2020/21)

With the world facing numerous challenges including global climate change, extreme weather, depleting natural resources and a growing population, the demand for quantitative Earth scientists has never been greater.

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

  • environmental geophysics
  • the oil and gas sector (including sustainable departments)
  • 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
  • and natural hazards

The numerical and analytical skills you will gain, including the ability to interpret complex systems, are prized by potential employers. Your skills will be highly transferable, allowing you to apply your skills to other disciplines such as engineering, finance, business, consultancy or a variety of governmental or civil service positions.

Examples of roles our recent graduates have obtained include geophysicist, meteorologist, waste resource management, hydrogeologist, resource discovery, environmental consultant, sustainability consultant, minerals surveyor, or energy resources management.

We are one of the largest groupings of geoscientists in the UK, and our research and industry networks give you access to a world-class experience with real-world relevance. Under the guidance of our academics who are leaders in their field, you will be equipped with sought-after skills in Earth science research.

We have a professional advisory board that provides support on employability skills.

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.

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: Mathematics at A and Physics at B. 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) 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

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.


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

*(Revised 27 April 2020 to include TOEFL-iBT Special Home Edition.)

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 MEarthPhys Geophysics and Geology

Additional costs

The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses. Costs of travel, accommodation and subsistence on compulsory field trips will be covered by the programme. However, incidental/personal expenses are to be met by the student.


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