School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

MSc Environmental Geochemistry

Environmental geochemistry is central to the environmental sector which has grown rapidly over the last decade. The global environmental consultancy market, a key destination for suitably skilled graduates, is currently increasing at its strongest rate for five years. Geochemical expertise is vital to many aspects of the day to day work of environmental consultants, civil, structural and mining engineers, environmental regulatory authorities, mining and oil companies.

Environmental geochemistry is the scientific discipline concerned with the sources, distribution and interactions of chemical elements in rocks, soils, waters, air and biological material. It particularly is tasked with studying a wide variety of environmental materials using a broad suite of analytical tools, inclusive of field measurements, chemical instrumentation and digital modelling methods.

20% fee reduction for 2020 only

To promote the launch of this new programme we have introduced a 20% fee reduction on our home and international fees for the 2020 entry year only. The new reduced fees are shown in the table under the ‘Fees, costs and funding’ section below.

Careers with this subject

Environmental geochemistry provides strong employment opportunities for appropriately skilled graduates. Research amongst chemistry, science and general employers suggests the majority of employers are seeking additional skills from graduates, particularly numeracy (including data analysis), independent learning, commercial/business awareness, flexibility/adaptability, leadership, interpersonal and research skills. Similarly, the last relevant environmental research council review published by NERC (2012) cited most important skill gaps identified by employers as modelling, multidisciplinarity, data management, numeracy, translating research into practice, fieldwork and risk and uncertainty. These are all central to the field of environmental geochemistry which, in comparison to other environmental management postgraduate programmes, places a particular focus on understanding the chemical nature of environmental issues and a rigorous approach to data acquisition, data management, modelling and uncertainty thus providing graduates with unique and desirable skill set.

Environmental geochemistry graduates would be ideally suited to both environmental consulting, specialising in interpretation of complex data sets and chemical behaviour, or as an analytical scientist for a commercial or research laboratory. The MSc Environmental Geochemistry programme has been developed in response to this demand for high level skills in this field. Specifically, the MSc programme is designed to be an effective transition between the typically scientific focus of an undergraduate education in geoscience and chemistry (or a closely related discipline) and a career in the application of environmental geochemistry within the private or public sector. The programme also develops students’ professional skills, such as understanding business and the environment ethics, with those required to work in an interdisciplinary environment such as stakeholder engagement and communicating risk and uncertainty.

Key features

  • The only taught postgraduate programme dedicated to the study of environmental geochemistry in the Southern region of the UK.
  • State of the art analytical instrumentation, plus the opportunity for students to work in our ISO 9001 certified laboratories used in industry for high quality data.
  • Case study and field excursions to current and legacy extractive industry sites in close proximity to Plymouth, including metal mining, china clay extraction, urban redevelopment and industrial processing sites.
  • An employability focused hands-on course. You will learn how chemicals of environmental concern move through the environment, how to analyse them and how to interpret the data to support environmental management decisions. 
  • Drawing on the expertise of our academic and technical staff from chemistry, environmental sciences, geology and geography whom have experience within industry and world-class scientific research profiles.

Course details

  • Programme overview
  • You will learn how chemicals of environmental concern move through the environment, how to analyse them and how to interpret the data to support environmental management decisions. This involves using a broad suite of analytical tools, inclusive of field measurements, chemical instrumentation and digital modelling methods. Geochemical research guides oil exploration, can help improve water quality and is also used to develop plans to manage contaminated sites.

    Core modules
    • CHM5004 Quality Assurance and Accreditation

      This module introduces the fundamental concepts of Quality Management, ISO9001 certification for analytical chemistry, and training in ISO17025 application.

    • ENVS5002 Investigation and Assessment of Contaminated Environments

      Students are introduced to the scientific principles underpinning pollutant behaviour in the environment including the use of modelling and the process of site investigation and risk assessments. Students undertake a risk assessment of a contaminated site using literature and field investigation. Case study examples are used to highlight environmental consultancy approaches to site investigation and evaluation.

    • GEES515 Professional Practice in the Environmental Sector

      This module examines the place of sustainability and environmental management in modern business practice, and prepares students for professional work experience in semester 2. It also provides students with a critical understanding of the principles, ethics and methods of environmental law and regulation, and examines the role of economics in characterising and addressing human interaction with the environment

    • GEES518 Professional Experience in Environmental Management

      The work-based learning module provides you with the opportunity, via a placement with a relevant environmental organisation, to develop your skills, learn more about professional careers in the environmental sector, develop contacts with potential employers, and refine your career aspirations.

    • GEES520 MSc Dissertation

      The student will complete an independent research project that they have designed in semester 1 as part of their research skills development. The record of the research will communicate the project aims, research problem, methodology, data analysis, interpretation, discussion/synthesis and conclusions in the format specified and to a professional standard.

    • GEES526 Analysis of Chemicals of Environmental Concern

      Students will undertake a series of advanced analytical techniques in order to characterise and quantify a range of environmental pollutants commonly encountered in environmental investigations. Students are presented with case study examples based upon typical investigations undertaken in environmental consultancy.

    • GEES527 Migration of Pollutants in the Environment

      Conceptualisation and prediction of contaminant behaviour and transport through surface and sub-surface environments is key to the assessment of risk and effective environmental management. Students will use groundwater and catchment modelling techniques in their own case studies to determine best practice methods to model contaminant transport.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MSc Environmental Geochemistry programme specification 5790

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

An honours degree (upper second class or better) in a relevant discipline (e.g., BSc Chemistry, Geography, Environmental Science, Geological Sciences, Biological Sciences, Ocean Sciences) or overseas equivalent. 

If you apply with a 2:2 and relevant industry experience, this would also be considered.

A minimum grade C in English Language at GCSE level OR a minimum overall score of 6.5 in IELTS with no less than 5.5 in any component. 

We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary.  

For an informal enquiry please contact Dr Alison Turner by email: alison.turner@plymouth.ac.uk.

Fees, costs and funding

EU applicants should refer to our dedicated Brexit webpage for details of the implications of the UK’s plans to leave the European Union.

New Student 2020 2021
Home/EU £7,800 To be confirmed
International £11,800 To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) £450 To be confirmed
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances.

Studentship award

Delivered in collaboration with the JBA trust, the British Hydrological Society and the Environment Agency. 

Full details and how to apply 

Deadline for applications: 17 July 2020.

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full. 

Before you apply

Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.

Disability services

If you have a disability and would like further information about the support provided by University of Plymouth, please visit our Disability Services website. 

International students

Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office via our how to apply webpage or email international-admissions@plymouth.ac.uk.

Submitting an application

Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).

What happens after I apply?

You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeks of us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.

We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail.

If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:

Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858
Email: admissions@plymouth.ac.uk 

Admissions policy

More information and advice for applicants can be referenced by downloading our Student Admissions Policy Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Meet the Programme Leader

My primary interest is the development of people through scientific practice and problem-solving. My interest areas are: closed mine rehabilitation, practicable waste and water management strategies, ground and surface water chemistry interpretation, hydrology and hydrogeology. I have most experience in the field of acidic and metalliferous risk and geochemical characterisation studies of mine waters and wastes, including tailings.

Dr Alison Turner
Lecturer in Chemistry and Environmental Geochemistry

Meet one of our Module Leaders


I am an organic biogeochemist: I use chemicals of micro- and other organisms to find out what they eat, where they get their food from, and how much greenhouse gas they produce. I then use these molecules to answer questions about past environments - from thousands to hundreds of millions of years ago. In order to answer more questions and find better answers, I develop and improve analytical methods for these chemicals.

Dr Sabine Lengger
Lecturer in Chemistry

Work experience

The MSc provides ‘real world’ experience during your eight-week placement (which can lead to permanent employment) of working with organisations who manage our environment, including:

  • Environmental consultancy at Pell Frischmann, WSP, Atkins, Aecom, Royal Haskoning-DHV, White Young Green, Arcadis, Black and Veatch, Ramboll, Mott MacDonald.
  • Catchment management at the Westcountry Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Natural England as well as Tamar, North Devon, South Devon, Blackdown Hills, Cornwall Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

People