Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

Subject area: Earth Sciences

Why choose Earth Sciences at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We are in the top 20 universities in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2021.

  • In the UK, we are ranked 4th for Natural Sciences, 6th for Environmental Studies and 6th for for Earth and Marine Sciences in the QS World University Rankings by Subject 2021.

  • 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

Through studying at the University of Edinburgh I have gained significant geological expertise, with exposure to industry through internships. The unique combinations of topics, an array of learning styles, and the use of planet Earth as a natural laboratory together hold an irresistible appeal.

Bethan Payne BSc (Hons) Geology
Bethan Payne BSc (Hons) Geology

Introducing Earth Sciences

If you have a curious mind, 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 the University of 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 causes and solutions to 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
  • geology
  • chemistry
  • biology
  • geography

Field trips

Field trips are at the heart of many of our Earth science programmes. 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.

You could be:

  • exploring the traces of massive volcanic explosions
  • mapping tectonic faults
  • swimming in coral reefs collecting water samples

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary, enriching you with a broad understanding of how our planet works. Previous destinations have included iconic local landmarks or locations abroad such as:

  • Jamaica
  • Spain
  • Iceland
  • Cyprus

Edinburgh is an ideal location for the Earth sciences, 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 trips may be subject to change

Please note: As we update our programmes 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.

Reputation, relevance and employability

Studying Earth sciences gives you a wide range of career opportunities. Our world faces numerous challenges including:

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

The need for quantitative Earth scientists has never been greater.

By studying Earth sciences 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 geologists and Earth scientists at the forefront of their fields, undertaking world-leading research in a wide range of areas

We hope that by learning with us, you can play a vital role in our transition into a more sustainable society.

Our Earth science degrees

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.

Focused pathways

Many of our Earth science programmes give you the opportunity to shorten the length of your studies by one full year.

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.

What is it really like to study with us?

Visit our student blog, where Earth science students in the School of GeoSciences share their experiences of undergraduate study, living in Edinburgh and everything in between.

Student experience blog