School of Biological and Marine Sciences

MSc Hydrography

Hydrography is the branch of marine science concerned with the measurement, description and depiction of the shape and characteristics of the seabed. Scientific knowledge and the ability to determine position underpins the movement of world trade, maintenance and development of ports, offshore renewables, safe navigation and exploration of energy and minerals. Core skills learnt upon the programme underpin these industries.

Careers with this subject

This programme has been developed in response to expressed commercial needs, with an international shortage of hydrographic surveyors. It provides the foundation for a career in industry, with Plymouth graduates sought to fulfil a range of onshore/offshore positions throughout the global marine sector.

Key features

  • Strong links with professional institutions and industry provide a vocationally focused education and practical skills appropriate to industrial needs.
  • Develop professional hydrographic competencies with our International Marine Contractors Association (IMCA) industry supported competency scheme. 
  • Practical hands-on approaches utilising modern equipment, software and technology. 
  • Use of the University's own research vessels for fieldwork within Plymouth Sound and its environments. 
  • Use of vessels for your research dissertation data collection. 
  • A programme supported by visiting speakers from industry and networking opportunities. 
  • Excellent employment record for graduates and opportunities within a wide-ranging field of industries, internationally populated by Plymouth alumni. 
  • Attracts an international student cohort. 
  • Prepare yourself on a commercially focused programme that’s been developed in response to industry requirements and an expressed commercial need. Progress to a career in hydrographic research and development, port and offshore/ nearshore surveying or environmental support. 
  • Equip yourself with the latest knowledge relating to hydrography in the fields of marine geophysics, oceanography, land survey techniques, geodesy, bathymetric surveying, tides, acoustic theory and marine resource management. Learn to use equipment including GNSS, SBES, MBES, ADCP and sidescan sonar. 
  • Benefit from our good relationship with industry – a number of companies visit each year. There is excellent recruitment from the programme to the marine sector with global opportunities and the potential to travel in conjunction with your employment.

Course details

  • Programme overview
  • Period 1 — an intensive 15 week programme of classroom learning and field activities prepare you for the technical aspects of surveying and the research required in master’s study. 70 per cent lectures/seminars and 30 per cent practical, either within the laboratory or afloat. Assessment is continual or by coursework.

    Period 2 — includes specialisms in advanced studies with a combination of the digital mapping and survey project management modules, designed to prepare students for practical roles and management decisions when completing hydrographic tasks on behalf of future employers. Modules are selected based on industrial expectations and potential career requirements. 80 per cent lectures/seminars, 20 per cent practical. Assessment is 50/50 coursework and formal examination for core modules, continuous for the one optional module.

    Period 3 — undertake a self-managed final dissertation, supervised by an assigned academic. May comprise a desk study, laboratory experimentation, field observations, data acquisitions and processing.

    Core modules
    • MAR513 Research Skills and Methods

      This module aims to equip students with the practical skills and contextual framework for conducting high quality research. Emphasis is placed on workshop opportunities to acquire and practice research planning, analysis, communication, writing and oral presentation skills.

    • MAR520 Hydrography

      Practical work afloat centred on a bathymetric survey and supported by lectures on key topics - electromagnetic waves & acoustic waves, measurement techniques, computational processes and reference frames, supported by practical work with survey software to develop an understanding of methods employed and practical limitations in all aspects of positioning for hydrographic surveying.

    • MAR521 Acoustic and Oceanographic Surveying

      The module provides an introduction to physical oceanography and applied sediment dynamical processes (including dredging practices) relevant to estuaries and coastal waters. The module also provides the underpinning acoustic theory to enable students to appreciate sonar survey task. A range of relevant practical data collection techniques and exercises are included within the module.

    • MAR522 Survey Project Management

      A central element of the module is the undertaking of survey planning through from survey tender, costing and project undertaking and reportage, to a review of the place of survey within wider project undertakings, ethics and the legislative framework surrounding activities.

    • MAR523 Digital Mapping

      To consider the information flow through a system for hydrographic survey system from data acquisition to the final product and the means of assurance of data quality throughout. To examine the influences of user interaction on the processing of data at the various stages.

    • MAR524 MSc Dissertation

      The student will complete a research project that they have designed in the semester 1 research skills module. The project can be submitted in the format of a journal paper or dissertation. The write-up will communicate the project aims, methodology, data analysis, interpretation, synthesis and conclusions.

    Optional modules
    • MAR507 Economics of the Marine Environment

      This module will provide students with a clear overview of the problems associated with economic activity in marine environment and the potential solutions to these problems.

    • MAR517 Coastal Erosion and Protection

      This module applies knowledge of waves and coastal processes to understand and predict coastal erosion and accretion. The hard and soft engineering methods used for coastal protection are covered, with an emphasis on how improved understanding of the natural processes (waves, currents, sediment transport) can improve coastal management decisions).

    • MAR518 Remote Sensing and GIS

      This module introduces the principles of geographical information systems and remote sensing of marine, polar and coastal environments. Field data will be acquired using GPS and radiometric instrumentation. Emphasis is placed on the critical evaluation of remote sensing data and analysis tools in varied scenarios and on developing practical computing skills.

    • MAR530 Managing Marine Ecosystems

      The module will provide students with an understanding of marine ecosystems and their vulnerability to anthropogenic threats. Anticipatory and responsive management measures will be discussed, including relevant marine conservation agreements, legislation and policy.

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 Hydrography programme specification 2218

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

You will need a 2:1 or above degree in survey, technology or science. You may still be acceptable without recent formal qualifications - enquire about your suitability.

If you are interested in following the programme on a part-time basis you're encouraged to contact the programme leader.

If you have overseas qualifications you can check your comparability with the UK equivalent through NARIC, who provide an advisory service.

English language requirements 

If your first language is not English then evidence of English proficiency is required. The level of proficiency that is required can vary with the type of programme for which you are applying.

The minimum IELTS score for acceptable English proficiency for entry is normally 6.5.

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 2019 2020
Home/EU £9,500 To be confirmed
International £14,400 To be confirmed
Part time (Home/EU) £550 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.

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

Find out about the postgraduate scholarships available to you as an international student

How to apply

When to apply

Most of our taught programmes begin in September, with some January starts also available. 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

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

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.

This course and qualification is accredited by...

Marine Station

Boasting lecture facilities overlooking the sea, a wet lab for sample examination and analysis, a seawater aquarium, and field equipment storage and changing facilities.

The Marine Station is a landmark £5 million development; a state-of-the-art teaching and research facility on the shores of Plymouth Sound.

Discover more about the Marine Station

Our graduates

Luke Rogers – BSc (Hons) Ocean Science; MSc Hydrography graduate

One of my favourite memories is going diving as part of my MSc studies to make sure that the artefacts I saw on the model of a wreck were correct.

Find out more about Luke Rogers

Georgios Georgopoulos – MSc Hydrography graduate

Plymouth University is a modern institution with all the necessary and adequate academic facilities.

Georgios now works for the Hellenic Navy Hydrographic Service as a Hydrographic Surveyor, mapping more than 8,000 nautical miles of coastline.

Find out more about Georgios Georgopoulos

Colin Entwistle - BA (Hons) Business Studies and MSc Hydrography graduate

I have so many memories from studying at Plymouth... I’ve been here over ten years now, so it’s too hard to mention just one

Read more about Colin's experiences on the course

Alan Robertson – MSc Hydrography graduate

My current line of work is a direct result of studying at Plymouth University. The hydrography masters course is held in high regard within the Industry and the modular structure meant that a vast array of subjects where covered.

Find out more about Alan

Research and employment opportunities

There’s an international shortage of hydrographic surveyors, meaning great opportunities and strong industrial and employment links for successful graduates. From deep seismic research to coastal management, work opportunities are interesting and varied.

Find out more about the varied work opportunities in this area.

Annual Student Presentations Evening

Sponsored by the Hydrographic Society, our students have the opportunity to present in front of prospective employers and students.

Watch this short video and find out how the students got involved and how it was of benefit to them

*RICS accreditation: Discussions are in progress with ICES and ICMA for the 2018 entry cohort.