Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

Subject area: Earth Sciences

Why choose Earth Sciences at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We're ranked in the world's top 20 universities for Earth and Marine Sciences in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020.

  • You will join a community of the largest group of Earth scientists in Europe. This not only feeds into what we teach but will also provide you with a broad programme of study in your final year and a greater choice of topics for your independent research dissertation.

  • We have a large range of specialist facilities that will be relevant to your programme, including geophysics field equipment, airborne drone imaging, geochemistry laboratories and high-performance computing.

Study abroad

The most challenging part of my programme is probably field work. It is non-stop work but you learn so much and it's great to use the information from the classroom in real-life situations.

Kyle Laing BSc (Hons) Geology & Physical Geography graduate
Kyle Laing BSc (Hons) Geology & Physical Geography graduate

Introducing Earth Sciences

If you have an aptitude for science, a sense of adventure for the great outdoors, and a passion for learning about how our planet works, then a career in Earth Sciences may be for you.

Studying Earth Sciences at Edinburgh enables you to examine all aspects of our planet, from its formation and the evolution of life through to present-day surface and environmental processes, including the impact of global climate change.

Our programmes all have a strong practical element where your observational, analytical and quantitative skills are developed, including computer modelling and programming.

The Earth Sciences embrace many natural and physical science subjects, to understand the Earth and its development through time, including:

  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Geography

Field trips

Field trips are at the heart of many of our Earth Science programmes. You will have many opportunities to get your hands dirty during local or international field trips throughout your studies. You could be exploring the traces of massive volcanic explosions one day, mapping tectonic faults the next, or swimming in coral reefs collecting water samples on another.

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary, enriching you with a broad understanding of how our planet works. Destinations may include iconic local landmarks, such as geologist James Hutton's unconformity at Siccar Point in East Berwickshire, or locations abroad such as Jamaica, Spain, Iceland or Cyprus.

Please note: Field trip locations may change for a variety of reasons, including due to Covid-19. Where necessary, fieldwork will be relocated or rescheduled.

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

Career opportunities

Studying Earth Sciences gives you a wide range of career opportunities. 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.

By studying Earth Sciences 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. Our research and industry networks give you access to a world-class experience with real-world relevance. 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.

Focused pathways

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

Scottish undergraduate degrees are designed to include four years of study to give you a broader education with greater flexibility and choice.

During your first two years of study, you can choose many option courses outside your degree so that you can experience a range of subjects before specialising. Alternatively, you can use the option courses to study topics related to your degree, adding breadth and depth to your education.

Our undergraduate Earth science degrees are four-year Bachelor of Science degrees (BSc) with honours. You can also undertake an additional year of study to complete an integrated masters (MEarthSci or MEarthPhys).

These integrated masters degrees entail a research focus, which is useful if you anticipate continuing your education into research such as a PhD. Of course, you could complete your BSc and then move onto a more vocational postgraduate masters such as an MSc.

Alternatively, suppose you are passionate about a particular subject and know what career you want. In that case, many of our Earth science programmes give you the opportunity to shorten the length of your studies by one full year.

This means you can earn a BSc (Hons) qualification in three years or an integrated masters in four years. You could even complete a three-year BSc then undertake a full one-year postgraduate masters to earn 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 for your degree with fewer option courses.

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’ for the particular programme you are interested in applying for.