School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

MGeol (Hons) Geology

The Earth sciences are critical to shaping the future of our planet. Geologists use their knowledge of the earth’s evolution and the physical, chemical and biological process that shape our planet, to pioneer sustainable futures.

Our four-year integrated master degree in geology will develop your knowledge and skills through advanced fieldwork, research training and opportunities to establish links with industry professionals, priming you for success in a range of geological careers in academia, government or industry. Modules explore geohazards and risk, clean energy transitions, and long term environmental change.

2021 NSS results for our Earth science degrees

  • 88% of students were satisfied overall with the quality of the course
  • 96% of students thought that staff were good at explaining things
  • 93% of students felt that staff made the subject interesting
  • 93% of students agreed that the course was intellectually stimulating
  • 91% of students agreed that they have been able to contact staff when needed.

Scholarships for outstanding applicants

The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences’ scholarship scheme recognises and rewards students joining our degree courses who have demonstrated outstanding academic achievement. 
Scholarships of £1,000 will be awarded to the two applicants in earth sciences who achieve the highest grades in their A level or equivalent exams. The scholarship will be awarded during their first year of study at the University of Plymouth.

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2022*

The University of Plymouth has been named among the top 5% of universities globally in 2022 for its contribution to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals*, in particular, work on marine issues and on climate change. In the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, sustainability is at the heart of our research and teaching. From sustainable cities, affordable and clean energy, to climate policy, biodiversity, and natural hazards, our academic staff work with partners locally and overseas to help understand, communicate and solve fundamental and pressing sustainability challenges.

Find out more in our press release

Innovative Earth Science courses

Our Earth Science courses are designed around a core which provides students with the skills and expertise that are critical to tackle today’s challenges of global environmental change. Ranging from locating and extracting the raw materials needed for a green energy transition to understanding climate history through time, the Earth Sciences play an active role and provide crucial perspectives on our planet's future. 

Careers with this subject

Our Earth science students have tremendous opportunities to gain the knowledge and skills necessary for employment in a variety of work settings. Our hands-on approach to teaching and learning throughout the course will provide you with the topical skills and experience that you can apply to the wide range of career options as graduates.

Where could an Earth science degree take you?

Key features
  • Four year integrated masters programme.
  • Sharpen your research skills working alongside staff on a research or industry-related project, with the potential to be published in a peer-reviewed journal.
  • 100 per cent of the final year is taught at masters-level.
  • Our approachable staff share their cutting-edge research and expertise through varied teaching practices in lectures, tutorials, practical classes and field courses.
  • Learn to apply the latest techniques in the field and laboratory. Our substantial fieldwork programme uses the unrivalled local range of geological and geographical locations. Residential overseas fieldwork visits regions of active tectonics such as Death Valley, Italy and Sicily.
  • All students have the opportunity to spend your second year studying abroad in Europe, Canada, Australia, USA or elsewhere through our bilateral and ISEP exchange programmes.
  • Students can undertake a placement year, between the second and final year, working full time for a geological employer.
  • Improve your skills in our open access laboratory, LABplus.
  • Develop your confidence with your personal tutor, providing you with regular guidance throughout your degree.
  • Get support from students in the year ahead via our PALS mentoring scheme.
  • Live and study close to the sea, Dartmoor and two geological UNESCO World Heritage sites.
  • Receive free essential field safety equipment as part of your welcome package.
  • Work towards becoming a Chartered Geologist, our accreditation by the Geological Society, the world’s oldest and most prestigious national learned society for geology, helps you to gain the required experience.
Course details
  • Year 1

  • Laying the foundations of geological knowledge, your first year provides you with an introduction to laboratory and field skills. You'll learn about key Earth processes including plate tectonics, and take a practical approach to the study of minerals, rocks, fossils and geological structures. Our tutorials will help you develop effective study techniques and computing skills and you'll undertake fieldwork, including residential classes, across the South West.

    Graphical overview of our course structure.

    Core modules

    • Earth Materials and Resources (GEOL1009)

      An introduction to Earth materials (minerals, rocks and resources) and geological structures, focussing on their formation, composition and properties from a theoretical and practical perspective, supported by case study(ies). The environmental and ethical issues associated with resource exploitation will be introduced. Students will be introduced to safe and professional field practice. 

    • Climate Tectonics and Hazards (GEOL1010)

      This module provides an introduction to Earth Surface processes and their interactions with plate tectonics, at present and in the geological past. Participants learn how an understanding of Earth surface processes and environments can be used in determining the cause and nature of past and future climate and oceanographic change, and in the understanding, prediction and mitigation of a range of geological hazards. 

    • The Life and Death of an Ocean (GEOL1011)

       This module will explore the concept of the Wilson Cycle whereby major oceans periodically open and close, causing reconfiguration of the size, shape and position of the continents through geological time. Students will develop an in-depth understanding of the interactions between plate tectonics and earth surface systems and palaeontological evidence for past environments and environmental change.   

    • Sustainable Geoscience (GEOL1008)

      An introduction to sustainable geoscience and the role of geoscientists in the solution of global challenges and UN sustainable development goals.  Introduction to good, professional and ethical scientific practice. The module also introduces the Earth as a system of interlinked spheres (geosphere, hydrosphere, biosphere, atmosphere), and the unifying paradigms associated with geological time and plate tectonics. 

  • Year 2

  • Year 2 consolidates the knowledge and skills developed in Year 1, with an emphasis on the practical side of geology. You'll develop observational, analytical and interpretive skills and the ability to use these skills to answer fundamental geological questions. You'll also learn to make geological maps and develop new field skills which will be used in fieldwork you undertake in both the UK and in Spain. You’ll also have the opportunity to spend your second year studying abroad in Canada, Australia, USA or Europe.

    Core modules
    GEOL2014 The Earth Surface and Critical Zone
    GEOL2016 Ocean Geoscience
    GEOL2015 The Earth's Interior and Resources
    GEOL2017 The Building of Britain

    Core modules

    • The Earth Surface and Critical Zone (GEOL2014)

      This module provides a practical and theoretical understanding to the analysis of the Earth surface and near surface (the Critical Zone), integrating a range of data and analytical methods to explore present and ancient environments. 

    • The Earth's Interior and Resources (GEOL2015)

      This module provides a theoretical and practical understanding of the analysis of the Earth’s subsurface. Students learn how to analyse and interpret subsurface data (including geophysical techniques) and geological materials formed in the subsurface, applications of these techniques and knowledge in resource exploration and production, and the impacts of subsurface investigations. 

    • Ocean Geoscience (GEOL2016)

      This module develops an in-depth understanding on modern ocean basins and the role the oceans play in Earth’s evolution. Students will build up knowledge on mid-ocean ridge processes, sedimentary environments,  palaeoceanography and palaeoclimates (and how these inform models for future environmental change, with an awareness of the limitations of such models), ocean hazards and resources. 

    • The Building of Britain (GEOL2017)

      This provides an understanding of key periods in the geological evolution of the British Isles within a plate tectonic and palaeoenvironmental context. Students gain a practical understanding of the relationships between tectonic and palaeo-climatic/oceanographic events in the stratigraphic, structural, magmatic, metamorphic and fossil record of Britain and environs, and their relationship to resource/hazard distribution. 

    • Placement Preparation (GEES2000)

      This module explores the role of placements, work experience and volunteering for enhancing employability whilst at university and as a future graduate. It considers placement options (types, durations) and supports students in developing applications and preparing for interviews.

  • Optional placement year

  • Take advantage of our optional placement year, giving you the opportunity to develop your geological skills in the workplace and gain valuable experience.  Find your perfect placement with the help of our employability service and benefit from specialist workshops and tutorials in your second year, helping you prepare for your year in industry. 

    Core modules

    • Placement (GEES3000)

      This module is a placement position, where a student undertakes a programme of work within a host company or organisation. The placement occurs within a yearlong period, meeting minimum duration requirements. Students experience applying their degree, experience professional practice, develop enhanced subject-related knowledge and skills, and undergo personal-professional development.

  • Year 3

  • In your third year, you will develop specialised geological knowledge and skills through an exciting choice of sustainability-focused option modules, including advanced fieldwork. New option modules from September 2021 include geohazards and risk, energy transition geoscience, and paleoenvironmental analysis. Students can also take engineering geology, advanced tectonics, igneous and volcanic processes, Geological Information Systems (GIS) and remote sensing. Those students taking advanced fieldwork will develop additional professional field-skills in locations such as Sicilian volcanoes, Italy, or the Death Valley, USA.

    Core modules
    GEOL3016 Geoscience Research Project
    GEOL3017 The professional Geoscientist

    Optional modules
    GEOL3013 Environmental Change in Earth History
    GEOL3014 Geohazard and Risk
    GEOL3015 Energy Transition Geoscience
    GEOL3018 Evolution of Tectonic and Magmatic Systems
    GEOL3010 Engineering Geology
    GEOL3019 Neotectonics, hazards and Resources

    Core modules

    • Geoscience Research Project (GEOL3016)

      This module involves the planning, data collection, data analysis and manipulation, interpretation and presentation of a substantive piece of original geological research, based around primary data collection by the student. The project may involve field, laboratory, desk-based or combination study. 

    • The Professional Geoscientist (GEOL3017)

      This module delivers an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of a professional geoscientist, within the context of environmental and social governance and sustainable development goals. It includes the execution of a multidisciplinary and inclusive team project to address a real-world industrial challenge, integrating a variety of data provided by industry. Teams present their work to a variety of audiences. 

    Optional modules

    • Engineering Geology (GEOL3010)

      This module examines the application of earth science techniques and knowledge to civil engineering. Includes desk studies, remote sensing interpretation, database analysis, UK and European Codes of Practice, site investigation design, ground model development, engineering geology in a range of construction situations, and technical reporting.

    • Geohazards and Risks (GEOL3014)

      This module will provide an overview of common and destructive geological hazards (e.g. earthquakes, landslides and volcanic eruptions), how they interact together and ways of assessing risk. Physical processes of the hazards will be covered and how they will interact together. Quantifying hazard and risk will be illustrated through case studies. Practicals will have a numerical theme and will link to employability.

    • Energy Transition Geoscience (GEOL3015)

      This module gives an understanding of current and predicted energy scenarios, impact of energy use and the role of geoscientists in decarbonisation and meeting global sustainable development goals. You learn how energy resources form (petroleum, geothermal, critical minerals) and theory, strategies and practical skills used in resource exploration, development and production, and evaluation of carbon capture & storage.

    • Environmental Change in Earth History (GEOL3013)

      This module evaluates cutting-edge techniques to understand and interpret modern and ancient environmental change. It uses an integrated approach using fossils, sediments and geochemistry to investigate topical and exciting case studies from the geological past and modern systems. The module has important implications for understanding and responding to modern-day environmental change.

    • Evolution of Tectonic and Magmatic Systems (GEOL3018)

      This module explores the fundamentals of plate tectonics as applied to crustal (magmatic and structural) evolution through deep geological time, including early Earth. We will take a holistic view of several Precambrian and Phanerozoic orogens, compare and contrast tectonic models that have been developed to explain them and consider when plate tectonics as we now understand it became established on Earth. 

    • Neotectonics, Hazards and Resources (GEOL3019)

      This module involves the study of a tectonically active setting to gain an in-depth understanding of how active tectonics and environmental change interact and have evolved to control the nature and distribution of geological and geomorphological features, natural hazards and resources. The impacts/mitigation of hazards and resource exploitation are evaluated, usually around field data.

  • Final year

  • The overall emphasis in your final year is to deepen and refine your field, research and professional skills. You'll build on your existing field skills by exposure to advanced field techniques and take part in modules aimed to develop research, analytical and science communication skills. Finally, you will carry out an advanced masters-level independent research project, developed by academic staff and with the potential to lead to publication in academic journals. 100 per cent of this year will be undertaken at master's level.

    Core modules

    • MGeol Project (GEOL5004)

      Advanced, independent research project, normally involving geological field and/or laboratory work. Autonomy will be expected with respect to the design and operation of the project. Professionally presented results will entail rigorous analysis, critical awareness, and current contextual significance.

    Optional modules

    • Analysis of Chemicals of Environmental Concern (GEES526)

      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.

    • Soil and Rock Mechanics, Characterisation and Field Skills (GEES528)

      This module covers the principles of soil and rock mechanics. How soil and rock behave under loading and what are the main parameters to characterize those behaviours. Laboratory testing is used to give an insight on the basic principle of soil and rock strength and how these are determined. Ground investigation techniques used to assess soil and rock characteristics are also described and demonstrated in the field.

    • Environmental Observations and Quality Assurance (GEES531)

      This module introduces the fundamental concepts of ‘the analytical approach’ to working with environmental problems, including student-lead case studies that allowing them to learn and apply the principles of good practice for observational data collection, quality control and traceability. Research study skills sessions are included, leading to the planning of a research dissertation.

    • Geohards and the Built Environment (GEES532)

      This module will introduce geohazards and their impacts, exploring how to assess, monitor and mitigate them. Students undertake an assessment of a natural geohazard and produce a professional report on that assessment with a proposal for remediation. They will also learn about anthropogenic hazards and develop skills in public communication of these issues, via a practice based assessment.

    • Marine Science (MAR514)

      This module provides an introductory overview of basic oceanography including physical, chemical, geological and biological aspects of the subject. There is particular emphasis on methods of quantifying and predicting coastal conditions, as well as interplay between physical, chemical and biological aspects of ocean science.

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

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

MGeol (Hons) Geology programme specification_5368

The modules shown for this course are those currently being studied by our students, or are proposed new modules. Please note that programme structures and individual modules are subject to amendment from time to time as part of the University’s curriculum enrichment programme and in line with changes in the University’s policies and requirements.

In light of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the changeable nature of the situation and any updates to government guidance, we may need to make further, last minute adjustments to how we deliver our teaching and learning on some or all of our programmes, at any time during the academic year. We want to reassure you that even if we do have to adjust the way in which we teach our programmes, we will be working to maintain the quality of the student learning experience and learning outcomes at all times.
Entry requirements

UCAS tariff

120 - 128

IB
28-30 overall to include a science related subject.

A level
120 points including a minimum of 2 A Levels in a science subject (see subject list below) or 128 points including 1 A Level in a science subject (see subject list below).

We accept the following A Level subjects: Biology/Human Biology, Maths/Use of Maths/Further Maths, Statistics, Physics, Electronics, Chemistry, Environmental Science/Studies, Applied Science, Geography, Geology, Design and Technology, Psychology, Computer Science/Computer Programming, Information Technology/Information and Communication Technology.

BTEC QCF Extended Diploma/RQF National Extended Diploma: DDM – science related subject. You are encouraged to contact admissions@plymouth.ac.uk if you do not meet this criteria.

BTEC National Diploma modules
If you hold a BTEC qualification it is vital that you provide our Admissions team with details of the exact modules you have studied as part of the BTEC. Without this information we may be unable to process your application quickly and you could experience significant delays in the progress of your application to study with us. Please explicitly state the full list of modules within your qualification at the time of application.

Access
Pass a science Access to HE Diploma with 60 credits overall (including GCSE English and Mathematics grade C / 5 or above or equivalent). 45 credits at Level 3, of which 30 credits must be at distinction and 15 credits at merit or higher from science units: biology, mathematics, physics, chemistry, environmental science/studies, applied science, geography, geology or technology.  

English language requirements.

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

Fees, costs and funding

New Student 2022-2023 2023-2024
Home £9,250 £9,250
International £14,600 £16,300
Part time (Home) £770 £770
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. More information about fees and funding.

Undergraduate scholarships for international students

To reward outstanding achievement the University of Plymouth offers scholarship schemes to help towards funding your studies.

Find out whether you are eligible and how you can apply

Additional costs

This course is delivered by the Faculty of Science and Engineering and more details of any additional costs associated with the faculty's courses are listed on the following page: Additional fieldwork and equipment costs.

How to apply
All applications for undergraduate courses are made through UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). 

UCAS will ask for the information contained in the box at the top of this course page including the UCAS course code and the institution code. 

To apply for this course and for more information about submitting an application including application deadline dates, please visit the UCAS website.

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

Where could a career in geology take you?

Geologists are in demand globally. From meeting challenges associated with sustaining energy supplies, to developing low-carbon economies, and understanding, designing and mitigating against changing climates, there are many exciting opportunities available.

Research

Our world-class research keeps staff at the cutting edge of recent scientific developments within the field.
Explore the interdisciplinary research carried out within Earth sciences.
Aerial shot of an active volcano.

People

*These are the latest results from the National Student Survey. Please note that the data published on Discover Uni is updated annually in September.