Geology BSc (Honours) 2024 entry

Geology is the study of Planet Earth. The BSc in Geology at St Andrews explores the origin and evolution of our planet and its biosphere over time, using the geological record and the fundamentals of chemistry, physics, and biology to understand the processes and events that have shaped the Earth system. Research-led teaching will introduce you to cutting-edge questions, such as why the Earth is unique in our solar system, how planets and atmospheres form and change, why volcanoes erupt, and how life originated and evolved. You will learn how Earth resources will fuel the global energy transition and contribute to a sustainable future, and how to locate these resources. Applied training will provide you with the skills and knowledge required by the energy, mineral and environmental industries, and research projects will allow you to undertake novel, independent field and laboratory research. 

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the  Environmental Earth Sciences BSc, or the Earth Sciences MGeol Integrated Masters course , which allows you to graduate with a Masters in Earth Sciences.  

UCAS code
Start date
September 2024
End date
September 2028
Four years full time
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
“I chose St Andrews because of the multitude of fieldwork opportunities within and outside of Scotland. The staff are incredibly dedicated to their students and the result is a lively and positive atmosphere. I had absolutely no need to worry about making friends – there are so many University events, societies and sporting activities to get involved in, which means you are always going to find like-minded people.”
- Franschhoek, South Africa

Entry requirements

The University offers different entry requirements, depending on your background. 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.

For degrees combining more than one subject, the subject with the higher entry requirements determines the grades you need. You will also need to meet any further subject-specific entry requirements as outlined on their pages.

  • Standard entry grades:
    AAAB, including two of the following subjects: Biology (or Human Biology), Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    AABB, including two of the following subjects: Biology (or Human Biology), Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, Mathematics and Physics.
    Gateway entry grades:
    Applicants who have narrowly missed the minimum entry grades, but meet the University's contextual criteria, may be interested in one of the University’s Gateway programmes.
  • Standard entry grades:
    AAB, including two of the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    ABB, including two of the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Mathematics and Physics.
  • Standard entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,6,5), including HL6 in two of the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics and Physics.
    Minimum entry grades:
    36 (HL 6,5,5), including HL5 in two of the following subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Geography, Mathematics and Physics.

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:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing science
    • Geography
    • Lifeskills Mathematics (A grade)
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.
  • GCSE (5) in English language or English literature, and one GCSE (5) from the following:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Computing Science
    • Geography
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • Psychology.

Other qualifications

We accept a wide range of qualifications for entry on to our programmes. Please see our entry requirements for more information.

More information on how to apply via other entry routes or accreditation of prior learning and experience can be found on the University’s entry requirements web page.

Do I need to have studied this subject before?

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 will be given to candidates with strong science qualifications.

Alternative study options

Students interested in this course may also be interested in the following:

Direct entry to second year

Well-qualified school leavers may be able to apply for admission directly into the second year of this course.

Integrated Masters

It is possible to take Earth Sciences as a five-year Integrated Masters course, allowing you to graduate with a Master of Science.

Gateway programmes

Applicants who have narrowly missed the minimum entry grades but meet the University's contextual criteria may be interested in the Gateway to Science programme.

Study abroad

Earth and environmental sciences students can apply to participate in the University-wide St Andrews Abroad programme. You may also have the opportunity to participate in the School Abroad exchange programme. For information about study abroad options, please see the study abroad site


International applicants

If English is not your first language, you will need to provide an English language test score to evidence your English language ability. Find out more about approved English language tests and scores for this course.

Course details

The BSc (Hons) in Geology is a four-year course, or three years for direct entry students, run by the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, which  provides students with a combination of academic skills and vocational training. During your degree, you will be able to take advantage of hands-on field and laboratory-based research projects that investigate topics as varied as addressing the challenges of finding and harnessing Earth's green energy resources to better understanding the formation and development of the Earth-Moon system, including how, when and why life evolved. Your degree will provide key skills training designed to prepare you for working life in a range of environments from PhD research to geotechnical engineering and from mining to environmental protection. Teaching is strongly integrated with our leading research programmes, allowing our degrees to address the most exciting challenges in the Earth and environmental sciences. 

In first year, you will be introduced to the main concepts of geology, such as Earth structure and Earth history, including the origin of the planet and biosphere. 

In second year, modules provide additional and deeper study into mineralogy, sedimentary systems, palaeontology, geophysics, geochemistry and Earth's surface processes.  

Alongside geology, 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. Find out more about how academic years are organised.  

At Honours level, there is a shift from broader-themed to more specialised modules that introduce students to a wide variety of exciting new research trends and findings, as well as providing skills training in GIS and computer modelling and coding. Modules involve the opportunity to get first-hand experience of new research discoveries and advances. 

The School is home to state-of-the-art analytical facilities supported by full-time technicians. These allow for the detailed characterisation of natural materials, culturing of micro and macro organisms in extreme environments, and geological, geophysical and environmental field deployment. These facilities will enable you to address topics from fundamental field geology to the drivers of environmental change. Find out more about research facilities


Geology at St Andrews provides outstanding field-based training. Students have the opportunity to take numerous day to 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 field trips that are part of the BSc Geology degree include: 

  • First year: the four-day “Highland Fling” to renowned field sites in the Scottish Highlands;  and day-trips exploring the wealth of geological and environmental sites surrounding St Andrews. 
  • Second year: six days of geological mapping in central Spain, examining multiple phases of continental collision and mountain building; multiple days providing key field skills for environmental sciences. 
  • Third year: twelve days of mapping the iconic Moine Thrust system and Caledonian igneous complexes in the Scottish Highlands. 
  • Fourth year: a two-week transect of the Alpine orogenic belt through northern Italy and central Switzerland. 

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 web page.


In the first two years of your degree (known as sub-honours), you will take the required modules in geology alongside modules in at least one other subject.  

In first year, you must complete at least one compulsory module, and in second year, you must complete two compulsory modules. At Honours level, you will take seven to eight compulsory modules.

Students will take at least one of the following first-year modules alongside other optional modules in geology or in another subject: 

  • Understanding Planet Earth: provides a foundation in the study of the Earth, introducing key elements of geological and environmental sciences.
  • Earth's Resource Challenges: introduces the fundamental roles Earth and environmental scientists play in society, addressing issues including natural resources, the hydrological cycle, natural hazards, and solutions to the climate crisis. 
  • *Astrobiology: The Search for Life in the Universe: covers diverse topics in biology, geology, astronomy, chemistry, philosophy and international relations which together comprise the field of astrobiology. The course will study the origins and evolution of planets and life on Earth including exploring how science interfaces with society.

    *Students who take Astrobiology: The Search for Life in the Universe only in their first year are required to take Understanding Planet Earth and Dynamic Earth: the Earth System concurrently in Semester 1 of the second year.  

Students are required to take the following compulsory modules in their second year: 

  • Dynamic Earth: The Earth System: focuses on Earth's history, including plate tectonics and its role in the evolution of Earth’s environment and the history of life. 
  • Dynamic Earth: Magma, Minerals and Metamorphism: focuses on the geology and geochemistry of the solid Earth and processes in Earth's interior. 

Direct entry students are also required to take:

  • Practical and Field Skills for Earth Sciences (Direct Entrants): provides basic practical and fieldwork skills that are not taught at secondary school and which characterise University-taught, accredited Earth Science programmes.

Optional module

  • Dynamic Earth: Earth Surface Processes: focuses on the processes that occur in the outer envelopes of the Earth including land-atmosphere interactions, oceanography, biogeochemical cycles and geomicrobiology. 

If you decide to take geology in your third and fourth years, you choose from a wide variety of advanced options, including modules in Earth resources, geodynamics and geophysics. 

Honours modules involve rigorous theory and skills training and first-hand experience of new research discoveries and advances in Earth Sciences.

Compulsory modules in third year:

  • Advanced Field Skills in Earth and Environmental Sciences  
  • Coding and Modelling in Earth Sciences 
  • Data Analysis in Earth Sciences 
  • Geochemistry 
  • GIS and Spatial Analysis for Earth Scientists 
  • Igneous and Metamorphic Petrology
  • Processes and Products in Sedimentary Systems 
  • Structural Geology and Tectonics

Compulsory modules in fourth year: 

  • Field Excursion and Map Interpretation
  • Research Review
  • Research Dissertation: an individual research project on an area of Earth 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.  


Optional modules available in fourth year in the past, included:

  • Communication and Teaching in Science
  • Core to Crust Ore Genesis - High Temperature
  • Evolution and dynamics of the silicate Earth
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Global Climate Change
  • Global Resource Challenge 
  • Subsurface Modelling and Geophysics for Earth Scientists

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 appropriate to the programme for the current academic year can be found in the programme requirements.


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 and undertaking analyses, and student-led investigative research. 

The BSc in Geology is taught through a combination of: 

  • lectures 
  • seminars 
  • tutorials 
  • practical classes 
  • field work 
  • research projects. 

Typical class sizes: 

  • First year: lectures 140 to 230 students, tutorials 6 to 10 students 
  • Second year: 50 to 60 students 
  • Honours: 20 to 40 students 

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. 

During first and second year, all modules are assessed by a combination 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 Honours dissertation is assessed through a written dissertation, project proposal and presentation. 

The School aims to provide feedback on assessments and coursework within three weeks. 

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. To find out the classification equivalent of points, please see the common reporting scale.

You will be taught by an experienced teaching team with expertise and knowledge across the geological sciences. 

You can find contact information for all staff on the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences website

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.



England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland

Channel Islands, Isle of Man

EU and overseas

More information on tuition fees can be found on the undergraduate fees and funding page.

Additional costs

All fieldwork costs associated with travel and accommodation are covered by the School. 

Accommodation fees

Find out about accommodation fees for University accommodation.

Funding and scholarships

The University of St Andrews offers a number of scholarships and support packages to undergraduate students each year.

Joint Honours degrees

You can also take Geology as part of a joint Honours degree in which you will take core modules of your chosen subjects.

  • UCAS code CFC6: Bachelor of Science (Honours) Biology and Earth Sciences
  • UCAS code FF16: Bachelor of Science (Honours) Chemistry and Earth Sciences
  • UCAS code CFC7: Bachelor of Science (Honours) Earth Sciences and Geography


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, and provide training in industry-standard software packages. As a result, graduates are well prepared for a wide range of career options 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: 

  • Accenture 
  • BHP Billiton 
  • BP 
  • British Geological Survey 
  • The Civil Service
  • Fugro 
  • Gemfields 
  • Geotechnics Ltd. 
  • Hinkley Point C nuclear power station 
  • JBA Consulting 
  • JP Morgan 
  • The Met Office 
  • National Museums Scotland 
  • Norsk Hydro 
  • Scottish Environmental Protection Agency 
  • Scottish Natural Heritage. 

Many graduates undertake further study, both at MSc and PhD level. Recent PhD destinations include: 

  • Boulder 
  • Caltech 
  • Cambridge 
  • Durham 
  • ETH Zurich 
  • MIT 
  • Oxford 
  • Penn State 
  • Stanford. 

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.

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.

Undergraduate visiting days

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

Contact us

01334 463940
School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
The Irvine Building
St Andrews
KY16 9AL

School of Earth and Environmental Sciences website

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