Undergraduate study - 2024 entry
Edinburgh. Extraordinary futures await.

BSc Geophysics and Geology

UCAS code: F690

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing BSc Geophysics and Geology

Do you:

  • have a curiosity about how our planet works?
  • want to help solve some of the biggest global challenges facing our planet?

Then geophysics may be for you.

Join us as we explore the amazing planet Earth, from its hot core to its crust, oceans, atmosphere, and everything in between.

What is geophysics?

Geophysics is about understanding the complex interactions between Earth's systems. We explore everything from liquid metal in the Earth's core to moving continents on the Earth surface. We study the composition of the deep Earth and the rapidly changing composition of the Earth's atmosphere.

Science of natural disasters

We can use geophysics to monitor the processes that result in catastrophic events. For example, earthquakes, tsunamis, and volcanic eruptions.

Big science and big data

We use a process called remote sensing to gather vast amounts of data. We often obtain this data through satellites, aircraft and drones. We can collect data from the edges of space to the very centre of the Earth to understand, model and predict how the Earth behaves.

Computer science

Using coding and building computer models helps us understand complex data and predict how the Earth will behave in the future.

Environmental science

We are seeking ways to provide renewable sources of energy. Plus, finding the materials and technologies that enable them. Geophysics is also about understanding the physics of environmental change. We can look for ways to mitigate the harmful impact of human activity and repair damages of the past.

Climate science

Understanding how the atmosphere and oceans interact also allows us to predict the impact of human activities on the rapidly changing climate. We can benchmark our progress towards a net-zero future.

Multiscale science

Our understanding can range from how atoms behave under immense pressures and temperatures deep within the Earth, to examining interactions between planetary bodies in our solar system and beyond.

Bringing it all together

It is the interdisciplinarity and interconnected nature of geophysics that defines much of what we do. It is also why geophysics plays such an essential role in creating a more sustainable and equitable future for us all.

Making a difference starts here. Are you ready?

What will I learn?

Our degree offers you the best of both subjects.

Many people confuse geology and geophysics, as both disciplines study the Earth and how it works. 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 Earth's physical processes, including its internal composition and atmosphere.

As a student in geophysics and geology, you will learn about:

  • the microscopic properties of minerals
  • the structure and composition of the Earth
  • how large scale forces such as gravity, seismology and magnetism shape the Earth
  • our Earth's past to forecast and safeguard its future
  • the impact of global climate change on our world

By studying this degree, you will learn from our wide range of experienced academics across a diverse range of Earth science disciplines. Our research-led, industry informed teaching ensures your degree has real-world relevance and make you highly sought after by employers.

We embrace a hands on approach to learning, so you can develop in-demand practical skills. Many of your activities simulate those that professionals perform in the real world.

Open to a world of possibilities

We are one of the largest and most successful groupings of geographers, Earth and environmental scientists in the UK, many of whom are world experts in their field.

  • We have pioneered research proving human-caused greenhouse gasses are warming our planet, which helped underpin the 2015 Paris Agreement.
  • We are working with major space agencies to monitor the environment using satellite data.
  • We are 15th in the world in the QS World University Rankings 2023.
  • We are also in the world's top 50 and the UK's top 10 universities for natural sciences, environmental sciences, geology, geophysics, Earth and marine sciences, (QS World University Rankings by Subject 2023).

Our staff will incorporate the latest research in your teaching, and share our discoveries with you.


  • Enjoy access to a world of experience with our research and industry networks.
  • Get advice and guidance with our dedicated Careers Service.

Join us as our planet and humanity face some of the biggest challenges we have ever known.

Life-changing field trips

Field trips are at the heart of this programme.

We know that getting out in the world is essential for understanding how it works.

We will take you beyond the classroom so that you can apply your learning to real-life situations.

Our field courses and day excursions are challenging and fun. Often they will provide some of your most memorable moments. You will have many opportunities to get your hands dirty!

For example, you could be:

  • mapping the subsurface of meteorite impacts and volcanic craters
  • exploring the geology of rocks found under the North Sea and comparing with offshore geophysical data
  • travelling abroad and working with international peers to conduct gravity and seismic surveys

What do you do on a field trip?

The answer is...a lot!

Our hands-on approach to learning helps build your confidence and practical experience. It also gives you valuable field skills prized by employers.

  • Your training leads to the opportunity to conduct your own independent research project. An experienced academic will supervise and support you through your work.
  • Field experiences help deepen your sense of community within your cohort. You will engage in a dynamic learning experience through peer learning where knowledge, ideas, and discoveries thrive.
  • Working on multidisciplinary problems prepares you for the real world, where collaborative solutions are crucial to solving local and global challenges.

Our trips also enable you to experience working with different types of field equipment, which will help you develop in-demand practical skills. You will become familiar with a range of tools and modern high-tech equipment to obtain and interpret field measurements, such as:

  • Unoccupied Aerial Vehicles (UAV) - also called 'drones'
  • digital mapping tools
  • geophysical instruments to acquire electrical resistivity and magnetic data
  • geophysical instruments to conduct seismic surveys

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary. We want to enrich you with a broad understanding of how the world works. Our goal is to minimise our carbon footprint while providing you with the best training opportunities.

Our compulsory field trips or field courses are free, including travel and accommodation. To ensure our degrees are accessible and inclusive, we offer alternative learning experiences where necessary.

Want to know more?

You can find more information about field trips within our courses by accessing them through the Programme Structure link under 'What you will study'.

You can also access blog posts and videos on the School of GeoSciences website.

What is it really like to study with us?

No one knows what it's like to study here better than the students themselves.

Our students are sharing their experiences - from studying to living in Edinburgh and everything in-between.

Get social with us:

Edinburgh is your ideal base

Edinburgh is ranked 2nd in the UK and 10th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2023. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life.

Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in; it is also the perfect location to study geography and the Earth sciences. Did you know that Edinburgh is the 'birthplace' of modern geology and Earth sciences?

An ancient volcano known as 'Arthur's Seat' forms part of a magnificent park in the middle of our city. Superb geological locations are right on our doorstep, providing you with world-class outdoor training grounds. Many of these sites are of scientific importance. For example, the world-famous "Hutton's Unconformity" at Siccar Point is just a short trip away.

We will help you make the most of our local surroundings throughout your studies.

Immerse yourself among rugged coastlines, misty mountains, forest glens and sparkling freshwater lochs.

It is no surprise we are regularly voted one of the most desirable places to live in the world!

The exciting nature of geophysics and geology means you will have a diverse learning experience during your years with us.

What (and how) you learn will depend on the courses you take, and the nature of the topics explored.

Your programme begins with a broad grounding of topics across Earth sciences and the environment.

You will:

  • build on this foundation while exploring new and varied topics in the following years
  • develop independence and confidence as you progress through your studies

You can find details for compulsory and option courses through the 'Programme Structure' link.

Study pathways

The information on this page is for our BSc Geophysics and Geology degree.

We have three degree streams that specialise in geophysics:

You do not need to apply to more than one geophysics degree when applying. You can switch between the different geophysics degrees in your first year of study as you discover the subjects you like best.

Our geophysics degrees:

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

From Year 2, our geophysics degrees diverge to become more specialised for their particular degree streams.

In addition, many of the courses in your first and second years are also shared with our range of Earth science and environment degrees.

Depending on the courses you take, it may be possible to switch between these degrees as you discover the subjects you like best.

You will then specialise in the subject of your choice in later years.

Second year entry option

You have the opportunity to shorten the length of your studies by one full year.

This option may be for you if you know exactly what you want to do and are ready to study your chosen field right away. You can also fast track your career by graduating earlier.

However, during your first year, you will have fewer course options and flexibility.

But, you can:

  • graduate with the BSc in three years, or
  • graduate with an integrated masters (MEarthPhys) in four years, or
  • graduate with the BSc, followed by a separate one-year postgraduate degree within four years

In your first year through this route, you will:

  • join the cohort of students entering their second year of study (Year 2)
  • take the same number of courses as your Year 2 peers, so there is no extra increase in your study workload
  • have fewer option courses than your Year 2 peers. Instead, you will need to complete the compulsory courses of Year 1 and Year 2 within your first year

Please note: You must be suitably qualified if you want to shorten your studies. Make sure you view the entry requirements under 'Second Year Entry' below.

Switching degrees

Our Earth science and environment degrees provide opportunities to switch between degrees in your early years.

Please note:

  • Some later courses may not be available if you have not taken the necessary pre-requisite courses.
  • In order to switch between the different geophysics degrees, you must decide by the end of Year 1.

You should discuss your interests with your Cohort Lead to ensure that these options are still available to you.

Option courses

One of the most exciting things about a Scottish undergraduate degree is option courses. You have the opportunity to take a number of courses outside your degree .

You can choose courses related to your degree, or you can try something completely different and new to you.

Changes to teaching and learning

We are committed to offering high-quality education to all our students. However, please be advised that there may be changes to course options and delivery. All decisions are made to ensure we can provide the highest standards for your educational experience.

Optional courses can be subject to change or cancellation at short notice. In addition, places on optional courses can be limited due to course capacity and timetabling constraints. It may not be possible to guarantee every offer holder their top choice of optional courses.

Changes to field trips

Field course locations may change for a variety of reasons, including due to Covid-19. Where necessary, 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.

Accessibility on field trips

We are committed to making our degree as accessible and inclusive as possible. In the event that you cannot attend all trips or only some of them, we will provide alternatives with comparable learning outcomes where necessary.

Year 1

All compulsory courses will be the same across our geophysics degrees.

We will introduce you to the foundations of:

  • geology
  • geophysics
  • mathematics
  • physics

We will help you develop a strong sense of purpose and foster an idea of what you might want to do as a geophysics graduate.

Year 2

You will advance your knowledge in:

  • geology
  • geophysics
  • mathematics
  • physics

You can also choose option courses from a wide selection in the Schools of Physics and Astronomy, GeoSciences or elsewhere in the University. You can choose courses related to your degree, or you can try something completely different and new to you.

Second year entry

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

Year 3

Your coursework will become more focused on specialised aspects of your degree.

You will spend more time developing detailed skills, and learning at the cutting edge of geophysics.

We will cover:

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

Year 4

You will develop expert knowledge in a field of your choice.

You can either complete:

  • one major project
  • two smaller projects, or
  • an independent mapping project

Your project/s will be an independent, original piece of research in your chosen specialist field. They can be inspired by your area of interest, aided by our world-class facilities and top scientists.

We will support you with individual supervision from an academic with experience in your chosen subject area.


Through fieldwork, you will apply the skills you have learned during your studies. We will intensively explore a specific site, which we often share with students from France and Germany. This gives you the opportunity to meet fellow peers and apply geophysics in the real world.

Our selected location will provide you with a variety of fascinating geophysical and geological structures. Previous trips have taken place across various sites in Europe.

You will employ a wide range of geophysical and geological techniques and equipment to study:

  • gravity
  • magnetics
  • electromagnetism
  • seismology

You will also continue to study courses that further your knowledge in geophysics and geology.

Year 5

Optional year

You can choose to add another year to this 4-year BSc degree to complete an integrated masters (MEarthPhys).

You have two options for your extra year, and will either:

  • complete a professional placement between Years 3 and 4
  • or, add an extra research-focused year after completing the four years of your BSc.

Are you unsure if you are interested in research or a professional placement yet? Don't worry, you can decide to change from the BSc programme:

  • to the MEarthPhys with Professional Placement programme up until your second year of study
  • to the MEarthPhys programme up until your fourth year of study

You can find more information under each degree:

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 (2023/24)

Our facilities

You will have access to the University's facilities across all University sites.

For example:

  • laboratories
  • libraries
  • study spaces (some of which are open 24 hours)
  • computing facilities
  • social spaces
  • leisure facilities

Depending on the option courses you choose, you may also study at various campus locations in Edinburgh.

King's Buildings campus

Most teaching occurs within the School of GeoSciences, located at the University's King's Buildings campus. The King's Buildings (KB) is the main campus of the College of Science and Engineering.

The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh. It is easily accessible by bus. You can also cycle (10 minutes) or walk (25 minutes) from the central area.

The School of GeoSciences houses a wide range of cutting-edge facilities and services. We also host several collaborative centres of research excellence.

You will attend lectures, tutorials and practicals in our state-of-the-art theatres and classrooms.

We embrace a hands-on approach to learning, so you will also have plenty of access to our specialist research facilities, laboratories, supercomputers and field equipment. And yes, we have drones!

You will:

  • have access to a range of high-tech facilities, letting you analyse various types of samples

  • collect some of these samples during field excursions and for your independent research project

  • conduct field measurements using various techniques used in Earth and environmental sciences

  • have access to digital field equipment and UAV unoccupied aerial vehicles (drones) to conduct measurements using various techniques

You will also be given a dedicated undergraduate student learning space during your honours years. You can use this space for your independent work, to study with others and socialise with your peers.

Computing facilities

We also have advanced computing facilities, where you will be able to:

  • perform advanced geographic information systems (GIS) analysis

  • run cutting-edge meteorological and geophysical computer models

  • make the most out of digital field mapping tools

College of Science and Engineering

The College and University's central units provide many essential services at the King's Buildings campus.

For example:

  • library and study facilities
  • catering outlets and shops
  • our Careers Service

You can find out more about King's Buildings campus on the College of Science and Engineering website:

A cluster of science and technology companies are also located on the campus. Many of these companies are spin-out companies based on College research. There are also start-ups which have located here to build close ties with the College.

Take a virtual tour

You can take a closer look at the School of GeoSciences and explore our facilities and campus on the University's Virtual Visit site.

Discover our city's landmarks, our campuses, accommodation and get video tours - all in one place.


There are no compulsory placements or internships as part of this degree.

However, you do have opportunities for work-integrated learning during your studies. For example, we can help you with self-arranged internships or summer work placements.

Geophysics and Geology with Professional Placement.

If you are interested in a one-year placement, you can undertake an extra year of study. This is through our integrated masters: the MEarthPhys Geophysics and Geology with Professional Placement.

This five-year degree follows our BSc Geophysics and Geology degree. However, it has the addition of a one-year placement between academic Years 3 and 4. This additional year gives you valuable professional experience with an external organisation.

You don't need to worry about making this choice yet. If you think you might want to change to the MEarthPhys Professional Placement degree, you will have until the end of your second year of study on the BSc to decide.

Study abroad

There are exciting opportunities to study abroad as part of the University's exchange programmes.

Many of our students spend their third year in Europe or further afield. A year abroad can give you invaluable academic and life skills.

In addition to University-wide exchanges, the School of GeoSciences has several subject-specific exchanges. We have partner universities in:

How will I learn?

You will learn from a wide range of experienced academics at the forefront of their field. Our research-led, industry-informed teaching incorporates the latest developments in your field. By sharing our discoveries with you, we keep your degree up-to-date, diverse, and exciting.

The types of learning styles depend on the courses you choose and the nature of the topics explored.

Teaching can be through a mix of:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • practical classes
  • laboratory work
  • workshops
  • field trips and field courses
  • project work

You will also design and execute your own research dissertation in your final year.

You can find more information about teaching methods for individual courses by accessing them through the Programme Structure link under 'What you will study'.

Technical training

This degree has a hands-on approach to develop you with a range of practical skills.

We will carefully balance:

  • data science
  • programming and computing simulations
  • use of specialist computer programmes
  • laboratory experience in a range of analytical techniques
  • observational and analytical skills in different field settings
  • geographical information systems (GIS)

You will have access to our wide range of specialist research facilities, laboratories and field equipment.

We also have cutting-edge computational facilities. They enable you to visualise and explore the scientific data created in your advanced projects.

How will you support me?

We want to help you make the most of your studies with us.

You will have access to a range of resources and activities to support you during your studies. You will be assigned a Student Adviser for the duration of your degree, who will be your main contact if you have any questions related to academic or pastoral support. The Student Adviser works closely with academics in your degree, as well as with wider University support services. They are also able to help you with a wide range of administrative and practical issues, and they can direct you to relevant resources or people.

You will also be assigned a Cohort Lead who will organize activities to help you get to know the other students on your degree. They will also advise and support you on a range of topics, including course choices, how to develop and improve your academic skills, how to effectively use feedback and provide advice on your future career opportunities.

For your honours dissertation project, you will also receive individual supervision and guidance from an academic with experience in your chosen subject area.

How will I be assessed?

We will assess you in various ways, depending on the courses you choose and the nature of the topics explored.

Assessment can be through a mix of:

  • written or practical exams, including multiple-choice exercises
  • laboratory reports and field project reports
  • practical evaluation in the field or field notebooks
  • coursework such as essays
  • posters
  • individual or group projects and presentations

You may also be evaluated in computer programming exercises. Some senior honours courses and projects in Earth sciences and environment involve computational modelling elements.

For your independent research project in your final year, we will assess your presentation and scientific writing skills.

You can find more information about assessment methods for individual courses by accessing them through the Programme Structure link under 'What you will study'.

Our planet is rapidly approaching a critical state.

As a result, the demand for geophysicists and Earth scientists has never been greater.

With this degree, you will play a vital role in our transition into a more sustainable society.

During your studies, you will develop practical skills valued by future employers. Many of your learning activities will simulate those that professionals perform in the real world.

Our programme will also equip you with sought-after data skills, computational analysis and quantitative skills. Demand is growing for these skills across a range of employment sectors.

You could work in areas such as:

  • environmental geophysics
  • hydrogeology
  • industrial management and administration
  • renewable energy
  • environmental protection
  • natural hazards

Additionally, the skills you develop with us are transferable to other sectors, including:

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

Where do our graduates find employment?

Our graduates have gained employment in roles such as:

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

A sustainable future

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are a call for action to address the significant global challenges of our generation.

There are 17 overarching goals with a timeline set to 2030. Nearly all countries in the world have committed to this plan, with societies rapidly adjusting to meet these goals.

They address challenges such as:

  • climate change
  • environment
  • water
  • food inequality
  • protecting our planet
  • sustainable growth and energy supplies

Earth sciences and geophysics are at the heart of these efforts.

With this degree, you can work in fields that directly contribute to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals.

Play a vital role in the climate crisis

As one of the world's leading universities, we play a vital role in tackling climate challenges. Our internationally renowned research aims to mitigate climate change and transition to a low-carbon economy.

Read some of our stories:

Data innovation

A key feature of our programme is a strong focus on developing your skills around the generation and analysis of scientific data, aided by a wide range of computational techniques.

Demand is growing for these data skills across a range of employment sectors.

For example:

  • advanced computing and data skills
  • the ability to think in 3D and 4D
  • model building from limited datasets
  • the capability to integrate spatial and temporal information
  • understanding processes on a range of scales
  • extrapolating hypotheses based on small data sets
  • extracting key information from complex sets of observations
  • assessing large data sets and pattern recognition in complex data
  • dealing with complex systems and uncertainties


By studying with us, you'll join one of the largest and most successful groupings of Earth and environmental scientists in the UK.

This means you will have access to our wide range of research and industry networks. We have excellent relationships with many organisations and external practitioners. These range from local communities to government, industry, and academia.

Together, we help ensure this degree enables you to develop the competencies most prized by employers. Our links also provide you with valuable networking and potential employment opportunities.

All of this ensures your degree has real-world relevance.

Careers Service

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead.

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience. We also support you after graduation.

We provide:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance
  • 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 here is about laying the foundations for your future success. Whatever shape that takes.

Further study

Our programmes also 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: 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 (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

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.


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
  • 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: total 6.5 with at least 5.5 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 92 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 176 with at least 162 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE II with distinctions in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 62 with at least 54 in each component.

(Revised 29 August 2023 to remove PTE Academic Online)

We also accept a wider range of international qualifications and tests.

Unless you are a national of a majority English speaking country, your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start of the month in which the degree you are applying to study begins. If you are using an IELTS, PTE Academic, TOEFL or Trinity ISE test, it must be no more than two years old on the first of the month in which the degree begins, regardless of your nationality.

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 and Geology

Additional costs

The School of GeoSciences does not charge extra fees for compulsory field trips or field courses.

This degree involves 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, thanks to the continued support of our generous alumni community.


  • 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

Dissertation costs

There may be some costs associated with your dissertation research project, including field costs.

You can design your dissertation project to minimise costs. The School of GeoSciences also provides a £200 allowance for using facilities to support your dissertation project.


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