Micropalaeontology MSc

Our Micropalaeontology MSc will give you rigorous training in Micropalaeontology, documenting the patterns of evolution in major microfossil groups and their wide-ranging applications from petroleum geosciences through to palaeoenvironmental/climate reconstructions.

Research-led teaching will provide you with exciting opportunities to carry out your own cutting-edge research projects. You will be taught by experts from one of the largest micropaleontology research groups in the UK and by industry professionals. External partners that contribute to this course include Shell, CGG, Petrostrat and Network Stratigraphic, as well as bodies such as the Natural History Museum, British Geological Survey and the Lapworth Museum of Geology.

You will gain sought-after skills that will enable you to forge a career in a range of geoscience disciplines and related industries, from petroleum to engineering to climate change mitigation, as well as a host of generic transferable skills. From data analysis and problem solving to communication and team-working, these skills are highly valued by employers and will enhance your employability in a competitive job market.

This course will provide you with the experience necessary to develop a career as a professional micropalaeontologist, whether engaged in research, teaching, or as a biostratigrapher in the energy or engineering sectors.

Early Applications are encouraged.

Visit our research website 

Find Micropalaeontology@Birmingham on facebook
Find us on Twitter @Palaeo_Bham
Find us on Instagram @Geology_Bham

EU Referendum

Answering your questions and concerns about the outcome of the EU referendum.

Please note this programme was previously named Applied and Petroleum Micropalaeontology MSc. 

Why study Micropalaeontology?

Microfossils provide the main method of dating the geological sequences essential for petroleum exploration and other sub-surface investigations, including engineering and CO2 sequestration. Micropalaeontology also underpins the academic study of past climates, environments and evolution back to the origin of life, 3.8 billion years ago. Further applications include forensic geology and archaeology.

The first six months of your course at Birmingham will be spent in lectures and practical classes which focus on the key microfossil groups and their applications (for age determination, environmental reconstructions, and understanding evolutionary processes). During this time you will broaden your understanding of petroleum geology and sedimentary basin analysis.

The remaining time is spent conducting an independent micropalaeontological research project, which gives you the training in academic research skills required for a research degree (PhD), or industry. You will also take part in a UK-based field trip to provide first-hand experience of collecting and preparing your own samples, as well as developing your knowledge of hydrocarbon exploration and sedimentary geology by visiting an active hydrocarbon system in an iconic region of UK geology.

You may also have the opportunity to view key micropalaeontology collections at UK museums, e.g., Natural History Museum, and to engage in UK-based scientific conferences.


“The specialist course modules and teaching by academics as well as industrial staff makes my course stand out”

Yasir Ashraf - MSc Micropalaeontology 

Amy Jones

"The knowledge gained during this course helped me secure my PhD which has now led to travelling internationally for conferences, partaking in my first research cruise, and industry and other institution collaborations “

Amy Jones  - MSc Micropalaeontology 


Core modules


Optional modules

Students will also choose one of the following modules:

In addition, you will conduct an Independent Micropalaeontology Research Project

Please note: The modules listed on the website for this programme are regularly reviewed to ensure they are up-to-date and informed by the latest research and teaching methods. Unless indicated otherwise, the modules listed for this programme are for students starting in 2019/2020. On rare occasions, we may need to make unexpected changes to compulsory modules after that date; in this event we will contact offer holders as soon as possible to inform or consult them as appropriate.

Fees and funding

Fees for 2019

  • Home/EU students £10,530 FT only
  • International students £21,690 FT only

Learn more about fees and funding

Funded scholarships available:
The Micropalaeontological Society Educational Trust Fund makes awards each year to the course. Applications should be made directly to the TMS; details can be found at the TMS Educational Trust Awards page.

Our database contains details of postgraduate taught and research scholarship and funding opportunities, including the Birmingham Alumni Scholarship Scheme, which are available to support your studies at the University of Birmingham. Find out more

For EU students applying for the 2020/21 academic year

The UK Government has confirmed that EU students will continue to be eligible for 'home fee status' for entry in September 2020, and will continue to have access to eligible financial support via the Postgraduate Masters or Doctoral loan for the duration of their course. For more information visit the gov.uk website.

You can also visit our EU Referendum information page for more information and updates.

EU Referendum

Answering your questions and concerns about the outcome of the EU referendum.

Entry requirements

Applicants should have at least a 2:1 Honours degree in earth sciences or related discipline.

Learn more about entry requirements

International students:

Academic requirements

We accept a range of qualifications, our country pages show you what qualifications we accept from your country.

English language requirements

Standard English language requirements apply (IELTS: 6.0 overall with no less than 5.5 in any band)

How to apply

International students requiring visas

Monday 1 July 2019 is the application deadline for international students who require a visa to study in the United Kingdom. We are not able to consider applications for 2019 made after this date; a new application should be made for September 2020.

Home/EU students (and International students NOT requiring visas)

Thursday 19 September 2019 is the application deadline for 2019 entry. We are not able to consider applications for 2019 made after this date; a new application should be made for September 2020.

Applications are open for 2019 entry

Making your application

When clicking on the Apply Now button you will be directed to an application specifically designed for the programme you wish to apply for where you will create an account with the University application system and submit your application and supporting documents online. Further information regarding how to apply online can be found on the How to apply pages

Apply now

How you learn is as important as what you learn. The learning experience at Birmingham combines a wide variety of study methods extending beyond the lecture theatre, to include fieldwork and practical work. A unique aspect of this course is that you will be co-taught by academics and industry specialists in the field of Micropaleontology.

The first semester includes a short UK-based field trip to collect samples, and delivered through a series of modules focussing on the key microfossil groups and their applications. In the second semester, students will continue to study key microfossil groups but also take courses to broaden their understanding of petroleum geology or palaeoclimatology, and undertake an independent research project. Opportunities may also be provided for visits to view key micropalaeontology collections at UK museums, e.g., Natural History Museum and to engage in UK scientific conferences.

We will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate students with disabilities for field courses throughout their time at Birmingham.

Extensive facilities

As well as lectures, tutorials and practical classes you will have access to extensive educational facilities across the School and University including library resources, a well-equipped map room, SEM and IT facilities. You will also gain hands-on experience during a residential field course in the UK.

We are also home to the nationally important Lapworth Museum of Geology, one of the finest geological collections in the UK, and an invaluable study resource. Following a £2.7m redevelopment project, the Museum includes new galleries and innovative exhibits to showcase exceptional objects that have not previously been displayed. You will have the opportunity to get involved with the museum and the collections during your time in Birmingham.

Lapworth (4 of 67)

Support during your studies

You will have access to a comprehensive support system that will assist and encourage you, including personal tutors and welfare tutors who can help with both academic and welfare issues.

Our Academic Skills Centre also offers you support with your learning. The centre is a place where you can develop your mathematical, academic writing and general academic skills. It is the Centre's aim to help you to become a more effective and independent learner through the use of a range of high-quality and appropriate learning support services. These range from drop-in sessions with support with mathematics and statistics based problems provided by experienced mathematicians, to workshops on a range of topics including note talking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

Personal Tutor

You will be assigned your own Personal Tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies, providing academic and welfare advice, encouraging you and offering assistance in any areas you may feel you need extra support to make the most of your potential and your time here at Birmingham. 

Contact hours

You can expect an average of ~20 contact hours per week. On top of this there will be approximately three days of contact on fieldwork.

Assessment methods

120 credits are assessed through taught modules, 60 credits are awarded following the successful completion of the independent project, which is assessed through a written dissertation and oral presentation. A variety of assessment methods are used, ranging from written coursework, oral presentations and standard examinations.

At the beginning of each module, you'll be given information on how and when you'll be assessed for that particular programme of study. You'll receive feedback on each assessment within fifteen working days, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done. Options for formative assessment will be provided throughout and staff are always happy to discuss feedback and help you make better sense of it.

Related research

By choosing to study with us you will embark on an enriching journey building a strong foundation for your professional future. Your studies will give you invaluable real-world experience.

Where could an MSc in Micropalaeontology take you?

Recent graduates have found employment in a wide range of fields. Our most recent survey showed that many students were engaged in work or study directly related to their Master’s degree, with the remainder choosing career paths in areas outside of the subject where the transferable skills gained on the programme prove invaluable. Careers included: the energy sector (oil and gas) upstream and downstream, environmental and geological consultancy, other geological positions in industry, technical assistants, and academic publishing. Other graduates decide on a career in teaching either from primary or right through to further education. Many students also go on to careers around the world in locations including Tanzania, Oman, and Malaysia.

Increasingly, having a higher qualification helps a successful career. Many of our graduates go on to further study before taking a job by researching for a PhD.


Transferable skills

You will acquire sought-after skills that will enable you to forge a career in a range of geology, palaeontology and related industries, from mining to engineering, as well as a host of generic transferable skills. From data analysis and problem solving to communication and team-working, these transferable skills are highly valued by employers and will enhance your employability in the competitive job market. Close contact with colleagues from industry also provides a unique element to this course and direct guidance on potential careers.

Tailored careers support

Whether you have a clear idea of where your future aspirations lie or want to consider the broad range of opportunities available once you have a Birmingham degree, our Careers Network can help you achieve your goal. 

Our unique careers guidance service is tailored to your academic subject area. Our team source exclusive work experience opportunities to help you stand out amongst the competition, with mentoring, global internships and placements available to you. Once you have a career in your sights, one-to-one support with CV’s and job applications will help give you the edge.

Examples of what our graduates go on to do

Example of Employers

  • CGG
  • Concept Cons Logging
  • DeBeers
  • ENI
  • Ichron
  • Kraft
  • Nature publishing group
  • Network stratigraphic
  • Petroleum Development Oman (PDO)
  • Petrostrat
  • Shell
  • Tanzania Petroleum Development Corporation (TPDC)
  • WDE Environmental Consultants

Further research destinations include:

  • University of Aberdeen (PhD)
  • University of Birmingham (PhD)
  • University College London (PhD)
  • University of Leeds (PhD)
  • University of Southampton (PhD)

Example of Occupations

  • Biostratigrapher
  • Micropalaeontologist
  • Editorial assistant
  • Geo-environmental engineer
  • Geologist
  • Geospatial processor
  • Offshore chemist
  • PhD researcher
  • Resource co-ordinator
  • Research technician
  • Stratigrapher
  • Laboratory analyst
  • Design estimator
  • Market development manager
  • Teaching assistant
  • Resource co-ordinator
  • Teacher
  • Assistant brewer

Birmingham has transformed into one of Europe's most exciting cities. It is more than somewhere to study; it is somewhere to build a successful future.

Clubs and societies

The Guild has over 200 Societies, community volunteering groups and associations for you to join; they cover every topic and activity that you can think of - there really is something for everyone.

Shape your academic experience

Choose to study here and you will have a Student Representative, who works with the University and Students' Union on issues that directly affect students. You could even become one yourself. Not only would you be making a difference to the academic student experience, but you would also be developing transferable skills for the future. Find out more on the Guild of Students website


Coming to Birmingham might be your first time living away from home. Our student accommodation will allow you to enjoy your new-found independence in safe, welcoming and sociable surroundings.

The City of Birmingham

One of Europe's most exciting destinations, Birmingham is brimming with life and culture, making it a wonderful place to live, study and work.

Our students fall in love with the city - around 40% of our graduates choose to make Birmingham their home.

Societies, School and campus life

The School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences is one of the friendliest and most dynamic at the University. There’s a great atmosphere and sense of community among students and staff. Learning apart, there is a lot going on, much of it driven by the two main student societies:

The Kinvig Society - named after the first head of the Geography Department, Robert Henry Kinvig – is one of the biggest and most active student societies on campus. Run by students, it lays on a lively and varied programme of social events throughout the year, culminating in the black-tie Kinvig Ball at one of the city’s top venues in November and the Three Peaks challenge in aid of chosen charities. As well as trips to restaurants, bars and nightclubs, there are sporting events: Kinvig sports representatives organise teams for the inter-departmental University sports leagues. Football, rugby, hockey, netball, volleyball and squash are usually available for both men and women; in some cases, for mixed teams as well. If you’re a geographer or environmental science student, Kinvig will write to you before term starts with a full programme of events to help you settle in happily during your first few weeks.
Follow Kinvig on Twitter

The Lapworth Society (LapSoc) is the student society for Earth Sciences students. Named after Birmingham’s first Professor of Geology, Charles Lapworth, it organises social events such as pub quizzes, drinks nights and the end-of-year-ball in March. It fields intermural sports teams in the University’s netball and six-a-side football leagues, training regularly and playing matches every Wednesday afternoon against other schools across campus.
Follow LapSoc on Twitter