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Earth Sciences Research MSc

Start date
MSc (Research); 1 year full time. Part-time options are available.
Course Type
Postgraduate, Distance learning, Doctoral research
£4,778 FT (UK students)
£27,360 FT (International Students)
More detail

The Earth Sciences Research MSc facilitates independent research. Our research groups focus on the following themes: palaeobiology, palaeoclimatology, plate tectonics and volcanic processes.

Earth Sciences is a vibrant research and postgraduate teaching department with staff working on a broad range of research topics. An Earth Science Research MSc is a specialist research training pathway on a specific project, often taken by candidates with a future PhD in mind or with some prior work or research related experience. Taught content is minimal and the focus is on independent research. As such, the research training delivery is dependent on supervisory capacity and alignment with research group interests. We are always pleased to discuss individual research proposals from students. Applications would require a well-formulated research proposal, and would be followed by an interview stage. Note that additional bench fees or costs associated with laboratory work and/or field data collection may be required, depending on the project, and are not covered by the programme fees.

Many past and current graduate students on the Earth Science Research MSc receive funding from employers, overseas governments or are self-funded.

Our research groups focus on the following themes:

I chose an MSc by research (Earth Sciences) to explore an area of personal and professional interest. Studying part-time while working full time and remote from the University sounds daunting but worked well for me with the support of my supervisors and the range of online resources available. Besides the satisfaction of developing new skills and knowledge in my subject area, I am surprised just how much I have gained from research at the University of Birmingham. The skills I’ve gained are of real value in a highly skilled and competitive industry.

Alistair Dewar

Why study this course?

Postgraduate students joining the School benefit from a thriving research community, expert supervision, dedicated training programmes and the opportunity to participate in research seminars and discussions with academic staff. All postgraduate students are provided with dedicated workspaces and have access to excellent computing and laboratory facilities.


Fees for 2024/25

  • Code 9314: UK students £4,778 FT
  • Code 9309: UK students £2,389 PT
  • Code 9314: International students £27,360 FT only 

Learn more about fees and funding.

Are you an international applicant?

All international applicants to this course will be required to pay a non-refundable deposit of £2,000 on receipt of an offer, to secure their place.

Find out more about the deposit >>.

International students can sometimes gain funding through overseas research scholarships, Commonwealth scholarships or their home government.

For further information contact the School directly or get in touch with the Funding, Graduation & Awards via the online enquiries system.

How To Apply

How to apply

To apply for a postgraduate research programme, you will need to submit your application and supporting documents online. We have put together some helpful information on the research programme application process and supporting documents on our how to apply page. Please read this information carefully before completing your application.

Apply now

Our Standard Requirements

Entry on to the courses requires a 2:1 Honours degree in a relevant subject. 

Learn more about entry requirements.

International Requirements

International Students

English language requirements

You can satisfy our English language requirements in two ways:

  • IELTS 6.0 with no less than 5.5 in any band
  • TOEFL: 80 overall with no less than 19 in Reading, 19 in Listening, 21 in Speaking and 19 in Writing
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) including online: Academic 64 with no less than 59 in all four skills
  • Cambridge English (exams taken from 2015): Advanced – minimum overall score of 169, with no less than 162 in any component


The palaeobiology research theme at Birmingham spans an extraordinary range of biological, temporal and spatial scales.

Our research theme includes world-leading systematists and palaeoecologists specializing in organisms ranging from single-celled algae to the largest vertebrates to have walked the Earth (as well as the plants they ate). Researchers have made fundamental contributions to understanding the evolution and diversity of life on Earth, such as the radiation of the earliest fish, the origins of terrestrial vegetation, patterns of dinosaur diversity and the long-term evolution of marine phytoplankton. We have strong synergies and overlap with palaeoenvironmental geochemists and paleoclimatologists with in the Geosystems research group and are actively pursuing research into the complex inter-relationships between the Earth’s biosphere, climate and environment.


Palaeoclimate research at Birmingham integrates sedimentologists, palaeontologists, geochemists and climate modelers to produce an integrated view of ancient palaeoenvironmental change.

Our time periods of study stretch from detailed investigations of the sedimentology and glacial process of Proterozoic “snowball earth” events, to super high-resolution speleothem reconstructions and General Circulation Model simulations of Holocene climate. Analytical facilities available to palaeoclimate researchers in the group include a new organic geochemistry suite dedicated to palaeoenvironmental reconstruction (GC-FID, GC-MS, GC-ir-MS, LC-APCI-MS) as well as trace metal (ICP-MS and –OES), stable isotope and nannoparticle characterisation facilities within the School. Researchers also benefit from significant recent investment in central University analytical capability including, SEM/TEM suite, Secondary Ionistation Mass Spectrometry (SIMS), state-of-the-art XRF and XRD suite. We also have a strong relationship with the NERC Ion Microprobe Facility at the University of Edinburgh with numerous successful grants in the past 2/3 years.

Dynamic Earth

Research in this area includes a range of work on the evolution of rifted margins with a current focus on an international collaborative project involving 3-D seismic profiling of the Iberian margin. The work has important implications for the role of deeply ingressing water, through serpentinization, in guiding the structural history of margins.

Fundamental research on spatial and temporal scales of mantle convection, currently extensively supported by the Irish government, focuses on Cenozoic evolution of the north Atlantic and links to global climate via both modulation of deep-water flow around Iceland and uplift-associated dissocation of gas hydrate. The development of techniques for detecting and quantifying gas hydrates and emissions of methane has been a key aspect of shallow geophysical investigations on continental slopes over the past two decades, including major participation in European programmes as well as NERC support.

The employment record for our Earth Science masters course are excellent. Graduates take up careers in the public and private sectors in the UK and abroad and many have gone on to reach senior levels in industry, academia, and governmental positions, in the UK and overseas. Many take up PhD opportunities and move into research. A number have won national and international awards for their contributions.