Undergraduate study - 2022 entry
Open to the world

BSc Environmental Geoscience

UCAS code: F630

Duration: 4 years

Delivery: Full-time

School: GeoSciences

College: Science and Engineering

Introducing BSc Environmental Geoscience

Are you fascinated and curious about the world around you? Do you want to learn more about the air you breathe, the water you drink, and the soil beneath your feet?

The BSc Environmental Geoscience may be for you.

Our planet is facing numerous challenges, such as:

  • global climate change
  • pollution
  • environmental degradation

Each of those challenges is related to processes that control environmental conditions on Earth, including changes in the:

  • atmosphere
  • ocean
  • solid Earth

Environmental Geoscience studies these different components and the processes that maintain and modify them.

The programme covers the natural processes that have controlled Earth's history and - critically - how modern human activities are affecting our planet today.

What will I learn?

You will develop a scientific understanding of environmental processes controlling the:

  • hydrosphere
  • atmosphere
  • biosphere
  • geosphere

You will use this knowledge to study how the environment and climate have changed over time and how human activity may change the planet in the future.

This skillset will equip you to address critical questions about the processes controlling environmental conditions on Earth:

  • What were the drivers of environmental change in the Earth's past? How will these processes change in the future?
  • What is the interaction between humans and the environment and our impact on the world?
  • What are the effects of pollution and environmental change on the sustainability of marine ecosystems?
  • How can we safely and sustainably manage the use of energy and materials resources to ensure the continued functioning of modern society?

Why study in Edinburgh?

By studying the BSc Environmental Geoscience 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 Earth scientists at the forefront of their fields, undertaking world-leading research in a wide range of areas

By studying this degree, you can play a vital role in our transition into a more sustainable society.

Field trips

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.

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary, enriching you with a broad understanding of how our planet works.

You could be surrounded by rugged mountain scenery examining soil quality, practising field mapping, sampling stream and groundwater - or find yourself on a boat, investigating the chemical and physical properties of seawater.

Our trips enable you to experience different pieces of research field equipment. You will learn to become familiar with using field tools to obtain and interpret field measurements such as:

  • assessing biodiversity and water quality
  • measuring chemical and physical properties of seawater
  • mapping the three-dimensional structure of rock sequences
  • analysing microfossils retrieved from the bottom of the ocean
  • assessing anthropogenic pollution in various settings

Field trip locations for longer excursions have included:

  • the Scottish Highlands
  • the Lake District in England
  • Jamaica

Many of our courses also include short residential field trips.

Edinburgh is an ideal location for this rapidly evolving subject, with many sites of environmental interest right on your doorstep.

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 the programme 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.

What is it really like to study with us?

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

Student experience blog

Year 1

Your programme begins with a broad grounding across Earth science topics.

You will:

  • gain an understanding of the processes which shape the Earth
  • develop practical skills in recognising the evidence of these processes in rocks, both in the field and in the laboratory

This includes studying the fundamental physical and chemical principles shaping the modern Earth, as well as introducing Earth's evolution through time and the life it hosts.

You will also:

  • study core skills in mathematics as part of the teaching programme
  • gain key practical skills in mapping and cross-section analysis, developed during an integrated field trip (prior trips have included the Lake District)

Choose courses outside your degree

One of the most exciting things about the Environmental Geoscience degree is the opportunity to take a significant number of courses outside your degree programme in Years 1 and 2.

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

Year 2

You will study the:

  • processes controlling the chemical composition of the Earth's surface
  • composition of rocks
  • chemical processes that affect nutrients and pollutants

You will also be introduced to various aspects related to oceanography with a focus on the relation between the physical, chemical, and biological processes active in the modern ocean (and their changes through time).

Field trips

You will take part in several field trips, where you can practice many of the theoretical concepts learned in lectures and laboratory practicals. Previous locations have included the Lake District.

You will have significant flexibility in your option course choices, as in Year 1.

Year 3

During your junior honours year, you will be introduced to:

  • key environmental processes controlling the hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere
  • the crucial aspects of natural environmental/climate change through time

This broad basis allows you to deepen your knowledge through a selection of optional courses during the senior honours year.

Specialist field course

You will take a specialist field course in the Easter holidays (vacation), designed to let you:

  • develop skills in observation, sampling and measurement
  • interpret natural environmental processes
  • consider human impacts

Previous trips have been to Jamaica.

A further field course takes place towards the end of Year 3, which covers coastal and marine processes.

Field courses may be subject to change

As the content of the programme is updated to reflect the advancing subject matter and student feedback, the location of the field course may change. Previous field courses have taken place in the Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban.

Your independent research project

You will begin an independent research project in the summer between Years 3 and 4. This is a mix of field and laboratory studies, culminating in your final year dissertation.

Year 4

You will deepen your theoretical understanding of the physical, chemical, and biological processes which control the Earth's near-surface environment - backed up by practical skills in measurement and interpretation of these processes.

You can also focus your degree across areas of environmental science that interest you, through option courses available from the School of GeoSciences.


Critically, you will focus on your dissertation - an independent, original piece of research in your chosen specialist field.

Year 5

You can continue studying with us by pursuing a Masters by Research degree, although the BSc Environmental Geoscience degree does not offer a taught MSc.

While this degree is largely focused on a research project, you do have the option to add taught courses to it.

MSc by Research one year individual project

MSc by Research one year individual project - Taught pathway

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 (2021/22)

Our facilities

In Year 1, many of your lectures are taught in the University's Central Area close to the city centre. Practicals and other teaching take place within the School of GeoSciences or the wider King's Buildings campus.

In later years you will mainly learn at the King's Buildings campus, depending on courses selected.

The King's Buildings campus is around 15 minutes from central Edinburgh via bus.

You may also study at various University campus locations in the vibrant city of Edinburgh, depending on the option courses selected.

Access to facilities

You can access the University:

  • libraries
  • study spaces (some study spaces are open 24 hours)
  • IT facilities
  • social spaces
  • leisure facilities

In addition, the School's laboratories provide a personal workspace with computing and microscope facilities during your honours years.

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

You will:

  • have access to this range of high-tech facilities enabling chemical and physical analysis of various types of samples
  • collect some of these samples during field excursions, which are a central component of our programmes
  • 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 computer models
  • geophysical computer models

You will become familiar with many of these facilities and techniques while studying here.

Research and Teaching Facilities

Virtual Visit

Why not pay a Virtual Visit to the University? Our interactive platform takes you on a guided tour through Edinburgh and helps you explore the campus for yourself.

Start your journey here

How will I learn?

You should review the Programme Structure - Degree Programme Table to see compulsory and option courses. Refer to individual course details to see the types of learning activities you will participate in.

The exciting nature of environmental geoscience means you will have a diverse learning experience throughout your years with us. You will be taught through a mixture of:

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

You will have access to the University's specialist research facilities and laboratories for analysing a broad range of samples. You will use our cutting-edge computational facilities to visualise and explore scientific data that you will create in your advanced projects.

How long should I study?

You will be expected to study for approximately 200 hours per 20 credit course, throughout your degree.

How this time is divided varies, and is dependent on courses you choose to study and 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 could be through lectures, tutorials, practicals or field trips.

You should expect to commit to approximately 17 hours a week of lectures, tutorials, and practicals. This will depend on the option courses you choose, during the first two years (pre-honours).

You will be expected to spend more time on independent work and self-directed study, as you progress into the 3rd and 4th years of study (honours).

You will design and execute your project dissertation in your final year, with guidance from our expert academics - helping you develop skills to become a researcher in your own right.


Most lectures last 50 minutes and many are recorded to support the revision of the material covered. The main form of contact you will have with academic staff will be through lectures.


You will apply the knowledge acquired in lectures and tutorials through practicals. The skills you learn in practicals are transferable beyond the immediate course and can be applied:

  • in other courses
  • in dissertations
  • beyond your degree


Tutorials are a form of small group teaching that is facilitated by a tutor. Many courses include tutorials. 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 and are:

  • hard work and fun (they will provide some of your most memorable moments)
  • an excellent way to learn, enabling you to apply the knowledge and skills you have developed in lectures to real-world contexts
  • part of your course (there are no additional costs)

Self-directed study

You will need to be well-motivated and organised, emphasis is placed on independent work.

What skills will I learn?

You will develop a scientific understanding of environmental processes throughout the programme. In addition, programme academics will incorporate the latest research in the teaching you receive, and share their discoveries with you.

You will also cover core topics in modern environmental sciences in a variety of settings, including practical laboratory and fieldwork.

You could be assessing the water quality in a river in the highlands on one day and swimming in coral reefs collecting water samples on another.

You will enhance your ability to work independently and manage project work as the programme progresses.

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).

You will also develop a range of transferable skills, including:

  • report writing
  • oral presentations
  • data analysis and interpretation
  • critical thinking
  • group working

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.

An 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 may also be evaluated in computer programming exercises - some senior honours courses and projects in Environmental Geosciences will involve computational modelling elements.

In your final year you will:

  • be assessed on elements of presentation and scientific writing skills
  • also complete a dissertation under the guidance of our expert academics

You will learn to become an independent, quantitative researcher who can apply critical skills in solving complex, real-world problems.

The activities you undertake during your degree simulate those that environmental science professionals perform in the real world.

You will also acquire a range of transferable skills that allow you to make significant contributions to the world in which you live and work. You will be equipped with:

  • critical thinking skills
  • ethical understanding
  • teamwork skills
  • project management skills

These combined skill sets are essential to future employers.

Additionally, our programmes prepare you for competitive entry into relevant postgraduate degree programmes. A significant proportion of our students progress to further postgraduate study and research.

Where do our graduates find employment?

Our graduates are highly sought after by:

  • government
  • energy (including renewables) and resource companies
  • environmental consultancies
  • the financial sector

Many also find employment in the areas of:

  • environmental planning and regulation
  • geoconservation
  • science communication and education
  • engineering

Our graduates have gone on to success in various roles including:

  • geoscientist
  • national park ranger
  • water quality engineer
  • waste resource manager
  • hydrogeologist
  • environmental consultant
  • sustainability consultant
  • policy advisor
  • energy resources manager

The School of GeoSciences is one of the largest groupings of geoscientists in the UK, giving you access to our wide range of research and industry networks.

You will be equipped with sought-after skills in environmental research, under the guidance of academics who are leaders in their field.

Professional advisory board

We have a professional advisory board that provides support on employability skills. The programme is designed for you to develop the competencies most prized by graduate employers:

  • a sound knowledge of basic science
  • a deep understanding of your chosen discipline
  • an ability to synthesise complex, multi-dimensional data and deal with uncertainty
  • critically analyse information
  • project management skills
  • effectively present your work

Careers Service

We support you to recognise the wealth of possibilities ahead, while at University and after graduation.

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • 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 at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

Careers Service

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: two of Biology*, Chemistry*, Environmental Science, Geography, Mathematics*, or Physics* (*include at least one) at B. Higher Applications of Mathematics is not accepted in place of Higher Mathematics. National 5s: English at C and Mathematics at A. If you achieved a B in Mathematics, please contact the College of Science and Engineering Admissions Office via the Enquiries link below.
  • A Levels: two of Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science/Studies, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, or Physics at B. GCSEs: English at C or 4 and Mathematics at A or 7. If you achieved a B or 6 in Mathematics, please contact the College of Science and Engineering Admissions Office via the Enquiries link below.
  • IB: HL: two of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) or Physics at 5. SL: English at 5 and Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only) at 5 (if not at HL). If you do not have Mathematics please contact the College of Science and Engineering Admissions Office via the Enquiries link below.

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: AAB to include two of Biology, Chemistry*, Geography, Mathematics*, or Physics* (*include at least one).
  • A Levels: AAA in one set of exams to include Mathematics, plus two of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Geology, or Physics.
  • IB: 38 points with 666 at HL to include three of Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics (from 2021, Mathematics: Analysis and approaches only), or Physics 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

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 Environmental Geoscience

Additional costs

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

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.

Costs of travel, accommodation, and subsistence on compulsory field trips are covered by the programme, due 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


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