The MGeol in Earth Sciences will equip you with the skills and knowledge to investigate Earth as an interconnected system, integrating the study of the oceans, atmosphere, biosphere, and geosphere throughout its 4.6 billion year history. It will allow you to understand the processes that have formed Earth in deep time and those that generate environmental change today and into the future. Applied training is provided via hands-on experience with analytical techniques and focused field and laboratory-based study.
The MGeol allows you to combine undergraduate and postgraduate (Masters level) study into a single five-year programme, graduating with a Masters degree. The course is designed to enhance your research and workplace experiences, explicitly preparing you for a career in industry or a PhD in a competitive market.
The MGeol in Earth Sciences from St Andrews is accredited by the Geological Society of London, which provides a faster track to gaining Chartered Geologist status.
Master in Earth Science (Integrated Masters degree)
Five years full time
Start date: 7 September 2020
End date: 30 June 2025
If you started this programme in 2019, you can find information about 2019 entry on the 2019 Earth Sciences MGeol page. Information about all programmes from previous years of entry can be found in the archive.
These grades are the overall standards required to consider you for entry. Find out more about Standard, Minimum and Gateway entry requirements using academic entry explained and see which entry requirements you need to look at using the entry requirements indicator.
Standard entry grades: AAAB, including B in two of the following subjects:
Biology (or Human Biology)
Minimum entry grades: AABB, including B in two of the following subjects:
Biology (or Human Biology)
Standard entry grades: AAB, including B in two of the following subjects:
Minimum entry grades: ABB, including B in two of the following subjects:
Standard entry grades: 36 (HL 6,6,5), including HL6 in two of the following subjects:
Minimum entry grades: 36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL5 in two of the following subjects:
We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes, please see our entry requirements for more information.
Direct entry to second year
Well-qualified school leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course. Find out more about direct entry to second year for Earth Sciences.
If English is not your first language you will need an overall IELTS score of 6.5, with a minimum score of 6.0 in each component (Reading, Writing, Listening and Speaking), or an equivalent English language qualification.
Most students who enrol on this course have not studied Earth Sciences at school, and choose Earth Sciences based on a love of the environment, the outdoors, and science. If you are interested in the processes that shape the planet and its environment, a degree in Earth Sciences is likely the right choice. Preference may be given to candidates with strong science qualifications.
General entry requirements
All applicants must have attained the following qualifications, or equivalent, in addition to the specific entry requirements for individual programmes.
SQA National 5 (B) in English and one SQA National 5 (B) from the following:
Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
GCSE (5 or B) in English language or English literature, and one GCSE (5 or B) from the following:
St Andrews students must meet with their Adviser of Studies at the beginning of Semester 1 in September to complete advising – a compulsory part of the matriculation process. After module choices have been decided, a timetable will be allocated indicating the dates and times of classes.
The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences conducts leading-edge research worldwide, and in the UK Research Excellence Framework 2014, the School was ranked first in the UK based on the impact of its research.
The University of St Andrews as a whole was voted top in the UK for student academic experience in The National Student Survey 2019 as 95% of St Andrews final year students were satisfied with the quality of the learning and teaching experience.
The University has secured a TEF Gold award for the quality of teaching and the undergraduate experience.
The MGeol (Hons) in Earth Sciences is a five-year Integrated Masters course run by the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. The MGeol degree is designed to give you advanced experience prior to undertaking full-time employment or PhD research.
During your degree, you will be able to take advantage of hands-on field and laboratory-based research projects that investigate how Earth’s surface became oxygenated, planetary formation, and how the composition of the oceans and atmosphere have changed through time and their influence on the regulation of climate.
Alongside Earth Sciences, in the first year of your studies you will be required to study an additional two subjects. In the second year, you will usually carry on at least one of these subjects, sometimes two. Find out more about how academic years are organised.
As you advance in your degree, you are given more flexibility to choose your focus of study, whether that be in geological mapping, geochemistry, global biogeochemical cycles or climatology.
MGeol students have the chance to engage in either an internship with industry or a placement within a research group. as well as the option to take part in a self-organised and planned geological expedition during their degree. In both instances, these would be arranged in consultation with the course and module coordinators.
All students have the opportunity to obtain fieldwork skills via numerous day and multi-week-long field trips associated with individual modules, as well as up to four weeks of fieldwork associated with their independent research projects.
Examples of the field trips that are part of the MGeol in Earth Sciences include:
five-day “Highland Fling” to renowned geological sites in the Scottish Highlands during first-year studies
six days exploring the varying sources of iron, nitrate and phosphate level in river systems in Yorkshire and their impact on pH and invertebrate life
six days of geological mapping in central Spain examining the polyphase Hercynian and Alpine orogenic belts during second-year studies
six days in Rio Tinto investigating the geochemistry and geobiology of acid mine drainage in southern Spain
twelve days of mapping the iconic Moine Thrust system and Caledonian igneous complexes in the Scottish Highlands during third-year studies
a two-week transect of the Alpine orogenic belt through northern Italy and central Switzerland during fourth-year studies.
Well-qualified school leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course. Find out more about direct entry to second year for MGeol Earth Sciences.
The University of St Andrews operates on a flexible modular degree system by which degrees are obtained through the accumulation of credits. More information on the structure of the modules system can be found on the flexible degree structure webpage.
In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours) you will take the required modules in Earth Sciences alongside modules in at least one other subject.
Typically, you will take one to two Earth Sciences modules per semester during your first two years, and three to four during your third, fourth and fifth years (known as Honours).
Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their first year:
Planet Earth: provides a foundation into the study of Earth through a study of key elements of the planet and environmental sciences.
Earth Resources and Environment: builds on the knowledge from Semester 1, including addressing issues related to natural resources.
Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their second year:
Dynamic Earth: The Earth System: focuses on understanding the behaviour of the solid Earth and its interaction with the atmosphere, biosphere and beyond.
Dynamic Earth: Magma, Minerals and Metamorphism: focuses on the geology and geochemistry of the solid Earth and processes in Earth's interior.
Dynamic Earth: Earth Surface Processes: focuses on the low temperature processes that operate in land-atmosphere interactions, glacial processes, tectonic geomorphology, geomicrobiology and oceanography.
Honours modules involve key skills training and first-hand experience linked to new research discoveries and advances in Earth Sciences, and courses that have been offered in the past include:
Advanced Field Skills in Earth & Environmental Sciences
Global Biogeochemical Cycles
Global Climate Change
GIS and Spatial Analysis for Earth Scientists
Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
Petroleum Exploration and Geophysics
Structural Geology and Tectonics.
During your final year you will be able to take a number of modules at Masters level, providing advanced training in Earth Sciences. In previous years, Masters-level modules have included:
Isotope Geochemistry: Theory, Techniques, and Appications
Hydrothermal Ore Deposits
3D Geological Modelling
Water in the Environment.
You will also undertake an individual research project on an area of geological sciences which will allow you to pursue a topic of personal interest in depth. You will present your project both orally and in dissertation form.
The compulsory modules listed here must be taken in order to graduate in this subject. However, most students at St Andrews take additional modules, either in their primary subject or from other subjects they are interested in. For Honours-level, students choose from a range of Honours modules, some of which are listed above. A full list of all modules available for the current academic year can be found in the module catalogue.
The School’s teaching philosophy is to provide a thorough understanding of Earth Sciences through experiential learning via field and lab-based study, first-hand experience in collecting data, testing hypotheses, undertaking analyses, and student-led investigative research.
The MGeol in Earth Sciences is taught through a combination of:
Each sub-honours module consists of four to five lectures (80 to 110 students) and one laboratory session per week, several single-day field excursions during each semester, and tutorial sessions (typically between four and six students).
At Honours level, students attend lectures (20 to 30 students) and continue to develop core skills in Earth Sciences through optional modules and their own research project.
When not attending lectures, tutorials and workshops, you will be expected to continue learning independently through self-study. Typically, this will involve:
reading relevant literature
working on individual and group projects
undertaking research in the library
preparing coursework assignments and presentations
preparing for examinations
You will be taught by a research-led teaching team with expertise and knowledge of Earth Sciences. Postgraduate research students who have undertaken teacher training may also contribute to the teaching of tutorials under the supervision of the module leader.
In addition to your studies in the School, optional academic support is available through practical study skills courses and workshops hosted within the University.
The University’s student services team can help students with additional needs resulting from disabilities, long term medical conditions or learning disabilities. More information can be found on the students with disabilities web page.
During first and second year, all modules are assessed by an equal weighting of coursework and written examinations, including short questions and essays.
At Honours level some modules are assessed through coursework (50%) and a final examination (50%), while other modules are based entirely on coursework.
The final-year dissertation is assessed through a written dissertation, project proposal and presentation.
The School aims to provide feedback on assessments and coursework within three weeks to help you improve on future assessments.
Undergraduates at the University of St Andrews must achieve at least 7.0 on the St Andrews 20-point grade scale to pass a module. To gain access to Honours-level modules, students must achieve the relevant requisites as specified in the policy on entry to Honours and in the relevant programme requirements. Please note that some Schools offer qualified entry to Honours, and this will be clearly specified in the programme requirements. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please visit the common reporting scale web page.
Online visiting days
If you are interested in studying at St Andrews, join one of our online visiting days to learn about the town, find out about our courses and talk to University staff.
The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.
Funding for fieldwork
Fieldwork expenses for Geology students are subsidised by the Irvine Bequest and contributions from alumni. There are financial awards at every level of study for students who have earned the highest marks in fieldwork.
The School is proactive about developing career opportunities, and career activities are provided for all students from first year onwards. Assessment styles imitate real workplace scenarios and many modules in Honours years are supported by visits to and by industry partners. As a result, graduates are well prepared for industry and graduate employment prospects are consistently among the best in the UK.
There are multiple career options for Earth and Environmental Sciences graduates, both specifically in the energy, natural resources, and environmental sectors, as well as in wider science and policy areas.
The degrees offered provide advanced training in a wide range of transferable skills, including scientific problem solving, written communication and oral presentation. The high quality of the field training is particularly valued by employers.
Recent employers of graduates include:
British Geological Survey
Hinkley Point C nuclear power station
Scottish Environmental Protection Agency
Scottish Natural Heritage
Many graduates undertake further study, both at MSc and PhD level. Recent PhD destinations include
The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students to build their employability skills.
Earth and Environmental Sciences students may participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the Study Abroad site.
From the outset, the University of St Andrews offers an array of events and opportunities which result in a truly unique student experience. Students participate in a range of traditions, notably, the red academic gown and the academic family, where older students adopt first year students as ‘children’ and help guide them in a system of mentoring. These traditions and the choice of over 150 sports clubs and student societies to choose from ensures a community feel amongst students from first year onwards.
Students in the School may be interested in joining the Geology Society, which organises activities such as lectures and networking events as well as social events and field trips across Britain.
The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences is housed within the Irvine Building, an attractive building close to the sea in the historical heart of the University between St Salvator's Quadrangle and St Salvator's Hall. Students will attend tutorials, seminars, lectures and individual meetings with tutors in this building and in designated lecture theatres elsewhere on campus.
The town of St Andrews itself has lots to offer. As University buildings are located throughout the town, walking around you encounter ancient and modern buildings and areas of greenery and seaside which provide a rich, beautiful backdrop to learning. If you want a change of scenery, St Andrews' position near surrounding towns and cities such as Anstruther, Dundee and Edinburgh makes it ideal for getting to know more about Scotland.
“Environmental Earth Sciences at St Andrews appealed to me due to the practical skills it equips students with through extensive fieldwork. Additionally, the close student-staff relations and small class sizes create a friendly atmosphere in the School. The flexible degree structure has allowed me to explore different fields of study and get involved in cutting-edge research”
Stella (Weimar, Germany)
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences University of St Andrews Irvine Building St Andrews KY16 9AL
As a research intensive institution, the University ensures that its teaching references the research interests of its staff, which may change from time to time. As a result, programmes are regularly reviewed with the aim of enhancing students' learning experience. Our approach to course revision is described online (PDF, 72 KB).