Environmental Science MSc 2024 entry

The information on this page is for 2024 entry. If you are considering applying for 2025 entry or later, some of these details may differ and we advise you to check the page again before you apply. To receive a notification of when applications open for 2025 entry, please register your interest.

The MSc in Environmental Science equips students from diverse scientific backgrounds with the practical and theoretical skills needed to tackle the biggest environmental challenges of our time. The degree includes training in analytical sciences and data analysis, modelling techniques, remediation practices, and reconstruction of biogeochemical processes from the atmosphere to soils, rivers and oceans.

The course includes a capstone field-based exercise in to a globally recognised environmental disaster site, such as Rio Tinto, Spain, and concludes with a dissertation centred around an independent environmental impact assessment project. The course is suitable for motivated graduates with a background in biology, chemistry, physics or natural sciences such as geology, environmental science or geography who seek employment in the professional environmental sector or research opportunities at PhD level. 

Start date
September 2024
End date
September 2025
One year full time
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Application deadline

Thursday 8 August 2024

Applicants should apply as early as possible to be eligible for certain scholarships and for international visa purposes.

“I have felt very welcomed in this community – being able to talk to someone is particularly important as an international student. The academic environment is challenging and inspiring with field trips, laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment. Furthermore, I can find inspiration just walking round the historic town and the beaches.”
- Buenos Aires, Argentina

Entry requirements

Application requirements

  • CV or résumé  
  • personal statement  
  • one original signed academic reference 
  • academic transcripts and degree certificates  


For more guidance, see supporting documents and references for postgraduate taught programmes.

English language proficiency

If English is not your first language, you may need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability.

Course details

The MSc in Environmental Science is a taught postgraduate programme run by the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences.  

This degree places a strong emphasis on the provision of hands-on technical training grounded in theoretical concepts required to tackle the major environmental challenges of our century. This includes investigating and implementing solutions to global climate change, remediating and reducing the pollution of natural waters, and securing and managing the supply of natural resources. Candidates are trained in survey and experiment design, field-deployable as well as lab-based analytical techniques and technical report writing as a core element of the degree programme. 

The course includes a set of core modules that provide graduate level training on world class analytical equipment and the application of this knowledge to quantitatively assess natural and polluted systems. The range of optional modules allows students to tailor the degree towards their personal background, interests and career goals spanning from managing Earth’s natural resources to study of the oceans, atmosphere and climate change.


  • Field excursion to a real-world site of extensive pollution (currently planned to be in Rio Tinto, Spain). 
  • Dissertation project centred around an environmental impact assessment.
  • Training in industry-standard software packages, including GIS, R, Python, Geochemist’s Workbench, PHREEQC. 
  • Year-long training in field skills and sample analyses.
  • Preparation for employment in the private or public sector. 
  • Small class sizes with frequent inperson interaction with your lecturers.


The modules published below are examples of what has been taught in previous academic years and may be subject to change before you start your programme. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the module catalogue.

  • Analytical Methods in Geochemistry: trains students in the advanced techniques and methodologies used to address fundamental and applied questions related to the Earth system.   
  • Geochemistry Field Excursion: covers best practice field skills in documenting the human, geological and environmental factors that lead to major environmental disasters such as the Rio Tinto contamination site, Spain. Students learn how to collect samples, perform geochemical analyses in the field and present data in a written report. 
  • Global Resource Challenges: tackles the economic, environmental, societal, geopolitical and ethical issues regarding mining, and future challenges shaping mineral exploration into the mid-21st century. It includes field trips to see the environmental impact of mining. 
  • Pollution and Aqueous Chemistry: provides a combination of the underpinning hydrological theory and the analytical tools required to better understand and ameliorate problems of water in the environment.   
  • Statistics and Analytical Sciences: provides students with a strong background in statistics and methods of data analysis used in Earth Sciences.   

Students choose one module from the following list:

  • Geographic information Systems for Environmental Management: provides training in GIS systems and their use in environmental problem solving. 
  • Isotope Geochemistry: Theory, Techniques, and Applications: explores the theory behind, and geochemical applications of, the natural variability measurable in both radiogenic and stable isotope systems.  
  • Managing Natural Resources: examines the challenges encountered by organisations in managing biodiversity, climate change and water resources.

Students choose two modules from the following list (if not previously taken): 

  • Coding and Modelling in Earth Sciences: focuses on building understanding of fundamental concepts in scientific coding, gaining practical coding experience using the popular Python language and then the application of computer models to gain insight into topics across the Earth Sciences.  
  • Geochemistry: covers the origin and distribution of the elements, thermodynamics, redox reactions and aqueous geochemistry.
  • Geographic information Systems for Environmental Management: provides training in GIS systems and their use in environmental problem solving. 
  • Isotope Geochemistry: Theory, Techniques, and Applications: explores the theory behind, and geochemical applications of, the natural variability measurable in both radiogenic and stable isotope systems.  
  • Managing Natural Resources: examines the challenges encountered by organisations in managing biodiversity, climate change and water resources.
  • Oceans & Atmospheres: discusses theoretical concepts in marine biogeochemical cycles, ocean and atmospheric circulation, climate and weather.
  • Special Topics in Climate Science: tackles a variety of advanced topical research subjects in climate science, such as climate sensitivity, past warm climates, external forcing, and geo-engineering.
  • Subsurface Modelling and Geophysics for Earth Scientists: concepts, techniques and practices of subsurface exploration and storage, including C storage.


During Semester 1 and 2, students are introduced to field and analytical skills in environmental monitoring. This includes coaching in defining an efficent project workflow, fieldwork preparation desktop studies, note taking, sampling, field- and lab-based analyses, and data management. In the third semester, each student selects a field area and carries out an independent environmental impact assessment, guided by an academic supervisor and/or an external industry partner. The project will involve:  

  • project planning and workflow training 
  • desktop study strategy including background literature review  
  • project formulation  
  • analytical design  
  • data management,  integration and interpretation 
  • development of oral presentation skills 
  • production of a technical report . 

The assessment is based on digital notes, a poster presentation, and a written dissertation in the form of an environmental impact assessment technical report. The completed dissertation of not more than 10,000 words must be submitted by a date towards the end of August.  

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MSc, there is an exit award available that allows suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, students finish their degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of an MSc. 


The MSc degree requires two semesters of full-time (or four semesters part-time) coursework, normally equivalent to a total of nine taught modules, and a 10,000-word dissertation, usually completed over the summer semester.

The assessment for the taught modules is based on coursework and written examinations.


The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences holds weekly seminars during the semester, with expert guest speakers from the UK and abroad. 

The School also holds an annual full-day ‘FRESH’ seminar series (Frontline Earth Science Research at St Andrews). Each year’s FRESH seminar focuses on a different scientific theme and welcomes internationally recognised guest speakers to participate. Previous themes include:

  • The Evolution of Earth’s Atmosphere
  • Volcanic Impacts on Climate, Environment and Society 




Application fee

Before we can begin processing your application, a payment of an application fee of £50 is required. In some instances, you may be eligible for an application fee waiver. Details of this, along with information on our tuition fees, can be found on the postgraduate fees and funding page.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews is committed to attracting the very best students, regardless of financial circumstances.

15% Recent Graduate Discount

If you have graduated from the University within the last three academic years, you may be eligible for a 15% discount on postgraduate taught tuition fees. Terms and conditions apply.

Taught postgraduate scholarships    Postgraduate loans

After your degree


This degree prepares students for employment in a range of public and private sectors, such as environmental monitoring and consulting, analytical sciences, the mining industry, or resource management, as well as academic research in environmental and climate science. Graduates will gain a range of specialized and transferrable skills that are sought after in industry and academia alike. 

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students as well as a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.

Further study

This comprehensive and rigorous course provides relevant preparation for pursuing a PhD in Environmental Science by incorporating a lab-based research dissertation. Many graduates continue their education by enrolling in PhD programmes at St Andrews or elsewhere. 

What to do next

Online information events

Join us for one of our information events where you can find out about different levels of study and specific courses we run. There are also sessions available for parents and college counsellors.

Postgraduate online visiting days

We encourage all students who are thinking of applying to the University to attend one of our online visiting days.

Contact us

+44 (0)1334 46 3940
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
The Irvine Building
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences website