Undergraduate study - 2021 entry

BSc Geophysics and Meteorology

UCAS code: FFP8

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Study abroad

Introducing BSc Geophysics and Meteorology

Imagine exploring our magnificent planet – from its hot core through to its crust and oceans, atmosphere and beyond. As well as being fascinating, geophysics and meteorology are important to us all, as the mounting impacts of global climate change and extreme weather events pose ever more significant challenges for society and the environment.

If you have a curiosity about how the Earth works, a desire to tackle complex world issues such as climate change, a love of the outdoors, and an aptitude for physics and maths, then this may be the degree for you.

Geophysics is the study of physical processes through the use of physics and mathematics and applying them to the Earth. Meteorology uses similar methods and techniques to study:

  • atmospheric dynamics
  • climate change
  • meteorological phenomena

There is a strong connection between geophysics and meteorology. Many of the Earth's processes such as gravity, heat transfer, ocean currents and volcanic eruptions can affect our atmosphere, climate and the weather.

This programme offers you a thorough grounding in geophysics, allied with an appreciation of atmospheric processes and the techniques which can be used to study them.

Through this programme, you will discover the inner workings the Earth to understand it and help safeguard its future. You will be equipped with the fundamental physical principles and mathematical techniques of geophysics, and their application to diverse fields including:

  • Examining the Earth's changing environment and climate through monitoring changes in sea level, surface temperatures, and polar ice sheets
  • Mapping environmental pollution above and below ground
  • Measuring rock and soil properties prior to civil engineering work
  • Exploration and production of energy and water resources
  • Mineral exploration
  • Examining the behaviour of the Earth's deep interior and understanding how the Earth and other planets formed and have changed over their lifetime
  • Understanding the Earth's atmosphere including its structure, thermodynamic processes, rain formation, radiation, and air pollution
  • Interpreting weather systems and climate processes

Geophysics and meteorology have significant impacts on the welfare of society and our planet. Exploration geophysics has helped us to 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, as well as 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 to help save lives.

The use of the Earth's natural resources is also evolving. You will learn how the applications for natural resource exploration are shifting into new and innovative technologies to ensure the Earth's resources are used and disposed of more sustainably. You will benefit from the research and expertise of our academics, many of whom are at the forefront of this change.

If you choose to study Geophysics and Meteorology 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 geophysicists and climate scientists 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.

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.

You also have the option to stay an extra year and do an MEarthPhys integrated Masters. 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.

Focused pathways

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 or the integrated masters or masters with professional placement (MEarthPhys) in four years. You could 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.

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’ below.

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. 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. You will sample the atmosphere using a wide array of meteorological equipment. 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, and a constant supply of interesting weather!

Geophysics is a practical as well as a theoretical subject, and we like to enable you 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.

In Year 3, you will take part in a week-long meteorological trip, where you will be introduced to many practical and measurement methods. Previous trips have been to the Isle of Arran (off the west coast of Scotland).

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.)

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.


This degree is accredited by the Royal Meteorological Society. This means upon completion of the degree you are eligible to apply to become a Fellow of the Royal Meteorological Society (FRMetS).

We encourage you to review the Programme Structure - Degree Programme Table to see compulsory and option courses.

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 BSc Geophysics and Meteorology 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, introductory meteorology courses and a specialist geophysics course.

In addition, you can choose two option courses 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 geophysics, and are focussed on teaching you detailed skills. Courses cover maths and computing, measurements and modelling, geophysical imaging and inversion, thermodynamics, atmospheric composition, atmospheric science 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 a 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.

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

The programme is delivered at sites on the Central and King's Buildings campuses, together with local, national and international field trips. In some cases, teaching may be delivered at different sites.

The School houses a wide range of cutting-edge facilities and services and is involved in several collaborative centres of research excellence. The School's laboratories provide a personal workspace with computing and microscope facilities during your honours years.

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. You will collect some of these samples 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

Depending on the option courses selected in your programme, you may also study at various University campus locations in the vibrant city of Edinburgh. The University provides a variety of libraries, IT facilities and study spaces to students, some open 24 hours. The University campuses have a wide range of social spaces and sport and leisure facilities, as does the surrounding city of Edinburgh.


Placements are possible on different degree variants. You can choose the 'Professional Placement' option, and spend a year at an external organisation between years three and four.

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 nature of geophysics 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 your final year, you will design your project dissertation 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 an excellent way to learn, 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 your final year, you will 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 (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 including:

  • environmental geophysics
  • the oil and gas sector (including sustainable departments)
  • hydrology
  • industrial management and administration.
  • the Met Office

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

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

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.


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 BSc Geophysics and Meteorology

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