Undergraduate study - 2023 entry
Open to the world

Subject area: Earth Sciences and Environment

Why choose Earth Sciences and Environment at the University of Edinburgh?

  • We are 16th in the world in the current QS World University Rankings.

    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 2022).

  • A world of career opportunities are open to you.

    Our extensive networks ensure your degree has real-world relevance and that you are sought-after by employers. You will also have many networking, project, and work opportunities with us. We are ranked 5th in the UK for career prospects in the Guardian subject rankings 2022.

  • Learn from one of the UK's largest and most successful groupings of Earth and environmental scientists. Many of them are world experts in their field. We offer a wide choice of topics and can help tailor your degree to meet your specific needs.

    Our degrees also give you valuable in-demand practical skills. You will have plenty of access to our cutting-edge facilities, specialist laboratories, supercomputers, and high-tech field equipment.

  • Field trips are at the heart of our degrees.

    Our hands-on approach to learning takes you beyond the classroom to develop real-world experience and skills prized by employers.

    Your field experiences will be hard work, rewarding and loads of fun. Oh – and they're free.

Study abroad

I could not have chosen a better place for Earth science than Edinburgh. I have been able to study topics that most interest me and been supported every step of the way. There is a great mix of fieldwork, lab and class activities delivered by staff who are passionate about their subject. We also have an extinct volcano in the middle of the city, so what's not to love!

Vojtech Hybl BSc (Hons) Geology and Physical Geography
Vojtech Hybl BSc (Hons) Geology and Physical Geography

Introducing Earth Sciences and Environment

The world needs Earth scientists now more than ever before.

Every day, Earth scientists make significant contributions to the planet and our everyday lives.

They are helping us:

  • tackle the climate crisis
  • adapt to Earth and environmental changes
  • live more safely and sustainably on our dynamic Earth

Are you interested in learning more about these challenges and helping to solve them?

Then our degrees are for you.

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

Play a vital role in the climate crisis

The evidence is 'undeniable' – human activity is responsible for warming the atmosphere, oceans and land in ways unprecedented in hundreds and even hundreds of thousands of years.

All regions of the world are already experiencing the impacts, including:

  • rapid changes in climate
  • widespread loss of glaciers and sea ice
  • rising global sea-levels
  • increasing heatwaves, floods and droughts
  • oxygen levels dropping in ocean regions and acidification increasing
  • rising frequency and severity of extreme weather events

We are at a tipping point in human history.

Only drastic cuts in greenhouse gas emissions this decade can prevent us from rising global temperatures to a disastrous extent.

But not all hope is lost.

By studying with us, you will join one of the largest and most successful groups of researchers delivering crucial work on:

  • the science of climate change,
  • its impacts and risks,
  • options for adaption and mitigation
  • the transition to a low-carbon economy

Many of our researchers are pioneers in their fields, helping shape some of the most important international policy decisions in history. For example, our seminal work helped prove human-caused greenhouse gasses are warming our planet, which underpinned the Paris Agreement. Our method has become one of the central pillars of climate science.

Making a difference starts here. Are you ready?

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 seventeen 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 and environmental sciences are at the heart of these efforts.

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

As a world-leading University, we are playing a vital role in tackling numerous complex global challenges.

We also host national and international knowledge exchange centres, including:

Life changing field trips

Field trips are at the heart of our degrees.

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

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

We will take you beyond the classroom to apply your learning to real-life situations through our local and international field trips.

For example, you could be:

  • surrounded by Scotland's glorious mountains, gathering evidence to unravel its unique geological history
  • visiting worksites to meet Earth science professionals and find out what they do
  • hunting for fossils and chatting with your professor about their work on the latest Jurassic World film
  • on a remote and windswept island using instruments to study weather systems
  • swimming among tropical coral reefs, collecting samples to measure environmental pollution
  • using geophysical instruments to conduct gravity and seismic surveys, or exploring the landscape using airborne drones
  • exploring the impact of climate, tectonics and sea-level change on the landscape

The locations and experiences of each trip will vary. We want to enrich you with a broad understanding of how the world works.

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.

Want to know more?

You can access our blog posts and videos about fieldwork experiences on the School of GeoSciences website.

Our degrees

The exciting nature of Earth sciences means you will have a diverse learning experience and a vast range of career opportunities available to you.

Our Earth sciences and environment degrees share most compulsory courses in Years 1 and 2.

This gives you:

  • a solid foundation in Earth sciences and environmental topics
  • flexibility to switch between degrees as you discover the subjects you like best

Our degrees then become more specialised for their particular fields.

This means you do not have to worry about deciding which degree is right for you just yet. You also won't need to choose more than one Earth sciences degree when submitting your application.

How will I learn?

You will be taught by leading national and international academics across a diverse range of Earth science disciplines. Many of them are world experts in their field.

Our research-led, industry-informed teaching incorporates the latest developments in your field. We keep our degrees up-to-date, diverse, and exciting by sharing our discoveries with you.

We have also built relationships, and work with, a wide network of Earth science professionals across numerous disciplines. Together, we help ensure your degree enables you to develop the competencies most prized by employers. You also have opportunities to meet and interact with professionals from various sectors throughout your studies.

Along with your subject-specific knowledge, we will develop you with a range of in-demand practical skills. We carefully balance the latest data science, programming, and computing skills with traditional field and laboratory skills.

We embrace a hands-on approach to learning, so you will have plenty of access to our:

  • specialist research facilities
  • laboratories
  • supercomputers and specialist software
  • high-tech field equipment and tools

We also host several collaborative centres of research excellence.

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

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 12th in the world in the QS Best Student Cities 2022. Our vibrant capital is an irresistible blend of history and modern city life.

Edinburgh is not only a fantastic city to live in; it's also the perfect location to study the Earth and environmental 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. And 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.

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.

Take a virtual tour of the School of GeoSciences