MSci Geology and Physical Geography with an International Year

Start date
4 years
UCAS code
Course Type
Undergraduate, Single Honours
£9,250 (Home - 2024-25)
£25,860 Fee Band 3a (International Students - 2024-25)
More detail

Our Geology and Physical Geography MSci with an International Year course is a flexible degree, supported by an extensive fieldwork programme, that will give you a broad-based knowledge of the Earth sciences.

What drives the occurrence of natural hazards, and how can we forecast and respond to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes? What can past climate records teach us about future climate change? How is the movement of tectonic plates reflected in the landscape around us? If these are questions that you might ask, then this is the course for you.

The Geology and Physical Geography with an International Year MSci programme gives you the opportunity to spend a year studying in an Earth sciences department overseas, before returning to Birmingham in Year 4 to specialise further. You will graduate with a broad range of experience and independent research skills - an ideal background for a wide variety of professional careers. You may go on to work in pollution control or hydrogeology, or you could opt to become a geotechnical engineer, work for the British Geological Survey, carry out research or go into teaching. A Geology and Physical Geography degree from Birmingham sets you up for a wide range of exciting careers.

Year 1 of our Geology and Physical Geography programme shares multiple modules with the Geology programme. Hence, it is possible to transfer between these courses in your first year. View our full range of Earth Sciences programmes 

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This Geology and Physical Geography with an International Year MSci course gives you a broad and comprehensive training and allows you to develop your own specialist interests. 

A varied fieldwork programme builds on a variety of lecture and laboratory based teaching, providing you with a range of practical scientific skills.

The first year of the course provides you with a strong foundation in geology and physical geography through a range of exciting core modules. You will build on this in the second year, where you can start to choose from optional modules, covering topics as diverse as continental deformation, geological natural hazards, hydroclimatology and environmental protection.

The third year of your degree is spent at a partner institution overseas, where you will study from a range of optional modules. Placements are available at a large number of prestigious international institutions. In recent years, students have studied at universities in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Denmark. This allows you to experience living and studying overseas for a year, and to potentially study some topics that may not be available in the UK. Depending on performance, it is possible to transfer onto this programme at the end of your first year.

You will return to Birmingham in your fourth year, where additional options allow you to specialise further and to develop key career skills through leading your own research project. This independent project accounts for half of your final year, and may involve links with industry. You will develop your research plans with an academic member of staff. Several MSci students have published their research or presented it at conferences, and the MSci year provides excellent training for further research or a professional geoscience career.


Montana Negra field trip

Getting out of the lecture theatre and into the field is an exhilarating experience. Whether you're sampling, mapping or collecting data, the subject matter really comes alive. There's no better way to learn about the natural and the built world than by being in the great outdoors.

Fieldwork is a key element of our degree programmes, and Earth Sciences at Birmingham has an outstanding reputation for providing its students with high quality field training. It offers you the chance to travel, work independently as well as in a group and learn valuable technical skills. We will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate students with disabilities for field courses throughout your time at Birmingham.

The field courses help you to develop as an observational Earth scientist. In year one, semester one there is a one-week residential field course to Northern Ireland. In semester two, there is a one-week residential field course to Pembrokeshire in SW Wales. These courses will provide you with practical skills and theory spanning the breadth of Earth Sciences. All students taking Earth Sciences courses do these trips together giving you the opportunity to get to know those on the Geology, and the Palaeontology and Geology courses.

In year two, we continue to develop your core Geology as well as new Physical Geography field skills. There is a one-week residential field course to NW Scotland. This trip focuses on Quaternary Geology and geomorphology. In semester two, there is a one-week residential field course to SW England working on the world famous “Jurassic Coast" and then down in Cornwall. 

The first two years of field training lead to your dissertation project, which will involve field data collection of approximately one week usually carried out between years two and three. This could be in a wide range of topics to suit your interests, from glacial geomorphology to groundwater pollution to volcanic hazards. You will also have the option to undertake your project with an industrial partner, leading to an industry-linked dissertation project. Your project may focus on an aspect of resource or applied geology. Students have recently worked on projects linked with local councils, extraction companies and the British Geological Survey. 

In years three (and four if you stay for an MSci), you will select one residential field course each year giving you more control over the shape of your degree: Volcanology in Tenerife, Sedimentary Basin Analysis in SE Spain or Resource Geology in the UK.

The travel and accommodation costs of field courses are included within your fees, and we also offer financial support towards your dissertation field costs. We will make the necessary arrangements to accommodate students with disabilities for field courses throughout their time at Birmingham.

Basic fieldwork kit for all new starters

fieldwork kit

When you start in Birmingham, we will provide you with the basic field supplies (worth ~£85) that you will need for your degree program. Please note that you are responsible for providing suitable outdoor clothing for fieldwork. For more details see fieldwork costs and funding.



The projects gave me the courage and knowledge to identify minerals and rock types and make connections between relationships.

Stacie Jones, Geology and Geography alumnus

Why study this course?

  • World top 150 for Earth and Marine Sciences in the QS World University Rankings by subject 2020
  • Employability - Our Earth and Environmental Science graduates are highly employable with 100% in jobs or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2016/17)
  • The Lapworth Museum of Geologyone of the oldest and finest specialist geological museums in the UK, housing more than 250,000 specimens. Reopen following a £2.7m redevelopment project, it is an invaluable study resource.
  • Accreditation - Our Earth Sciences degree programmes are accredited by the Geological Society of London, highlighting that they offer sound training for a professional career in the geosciences, and satisfy the academic requirements of Fellowship and Chartered Geologist status.
  • Research - The latest Research Excellence Framework (REF) results rank research at the University of Birmingham as 3rd* in the UK for ‘Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences’.
  • Fieldwork – (as above). Recent destinations have included South East Spain, the Scottish Highlands and Tenerife. The costs of travel and accommodation on all compulsory field courses will be covered by the University.

Find out why our students are glad they chose us


Year 1

The first year provides you with broad training across a wide range of Earth Science and Geography topics. All modules are compulsory. We don’t assume any prior knowledge; any chemistry, physics and maths that you require is taught in the context of individual modules, and applied to the problems that you’re investigating.  Residential field trips to Northern Ireland and South West Wales will train you in key skills in geological observation, data recording and interpretation.

Compulsory modules

Year 2

In Year Two, following the broad introduction provided in Year One, you can start to shape your degree based on your interests by selecting three optional modules from Earth Sciences and/or Physical Geology alongside a small number of compulsory modules. Compulsory modules build on the knowledge and understanding gained in the first year to develop specialist skill in key areas required to ensure that your degree meets the accreditation requirements. As part of this you will undertake two UK-based residential field courses, which typically includes SW England. You will cover a wide range of field skills on these trips from palaeontology, sedimentology, environmental geology, Quaternary processes to geomorphology.

Compulsory modules

 Optional modules

Year 3

Your third year is spent at a partner institution overseas.

There you will have the opportunity to study a number of modules which will count towards your final degree. You will also complete an Independent Earth Science Research Project - you may take advantage of the different geological environments to do this in your host country. The year abroad will deepen your learning by exposing you to a new environment with different opportunities.

Year 4

A major component of Year Four is your compulsory research project – in a topic that you devise with an academic to suit your interests and aspirations – and a skills-based field module that involves an international residential field trip.  The remainder of your program is based on two optional modules drawn from Earth Sciences allowing you to further specialise and follow your own interests (these should differ from Year Three choices).

Compulsory modules

*This module is only available to students following a palaeontology pathway that also select both of the modules Evolution of Vertebrates and Evolutionary Palaeobiology in the same year.

Optional modules

You can specialise further by choosing modules from a wide variety of options, ranging from more applied and resource-based topics through to environmental and ecological modules. 

 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 2024. 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.


Standard Home student fees 2024-25

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2024, the University of Birmingham will charge the maximum approved tuition fee per year. The fees for your first year of study will therefore be £9,250. Visit our tuition fees page for more information.

Standard international student fees 2024-25

International fee
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 3a (Laboratory) £25,860

Students who are classed as Home/EU for fee purposes, are required to pay 15% of their normal annual tuition fee if spending the whole academic year abroad (for 2018/19 this is £1,388). Find out more about funding for your year abroad.

Learn more about fees and funding

Learn more about our scholarships and awards

How To Apply

Apply through UCAS at 
Learn more about applying

Standard offer

International Requirements

Number of A levels required:
Typical offer:
Required subjects and grades:
At least one science° A level subject

°Subjects considered to be sciences: Geology, Geography, Biology/Human Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Maths, Further Maths, Statistics, Electronics, Environmental Studies, Computing and Psychology.

Specified subjects excluded for entry: General Studies and Critical Thinking

BTEC Extended Diploma, Diploma and Subsidiary Diploma are accepted but subjects are considered on a case by case basis - contact us for further guidance.

Applicants who take the Extended Project Qualification (EPQ) and meet our offer criteria will be made the typical offer for the programme, plus an alternative offer, which will be one grade lower plus a grade A in the EPQ.

Alternative offers through our Pathways to Birmingham programmes and our Contextual Offer scheme

Students who are eligible and successfully complete a Pathways to Birmingham programme will receive special consideration from admissions tutors and an alternative offer (typically two grades below the standard offer). In addition, our Contextual Offer Scheme recognises the potential of students whose personal circumstances may have restricted achievement in school or college. If you are eligible to benefit from the contextual offer scheme, you will receive an offer which is one grade lower than the standard offer.

International Students

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6, 6, 6 in Higher level subjects plus 32 points overall. Higher level subjects need to include the required subjects as defined for the A-level qualification, where applicable.

Learn more about international entry requirements

Depending on your chosen course of study, you may also be interested in one of our foundation pathways, which offer specially structured programmes for international students whose qualifications are not accepted for direct entry to UK universities. Further details can be found on Birmingham International Academy web pages.

The Collaborative Teaching Laboratory is a brand new state-of-the-art facility designed to support the latest methods in laboratory teaching for STEM subjects.

Collaborative Teaching Laboratory

Earth Imaging LabEarth Imaging Laboratory

How you learn is as important as what you learn. The learning experience at Birmingham combines a wide variety of study methods extending way beyond the lecture theatre, to include extensive fieldwork, practical work and tutorials.

From the outset you will be encouraged to become an independent and self-motivated learner shaping your own intellectual development with us. The research-led teaching on our flexible degree courses ensures an inspirational and enquiry-based learning environment in the classroom, lab and field.

The world-leading research we do feeds directly into our undergraduate programmes, which means you will be learning from academics who are experts in their fields.

For example, Dr James Bendle, has uncovered direct evidence that palm trees grew in Antarctica about 50 million years ago, and leads a module in palaeoclimates. Dr Seb Watt is shedding new light on the mechanisms of large scale volcanic landslides and their hazards, e.g., the 2018 Anak Krakatou eruption, and leads the Tenerife fieldwork module focussing on volcanic processes. Prof. Tim Reston is rewriting our understanding of how seafloor spreading works and teaches on tectonic and magmatic processes. Our research is truly global taking us to all corners of the Earth from remote Antarctica to sprawling metropolises.

We are also home to the Birmingham Institute of Forest Research (BIFoR), a pioneering facility investigating the long-term impact of climate and environmental change on woodlands.

Find out more about staff in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

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, state-of-the-art laboratory and IT facilities, and purpose-built learning spaces. You will also have a wealth of opportunities to go out into the field; gaining hands-on experience on residential courses across the UK and overseas.

We are home to the Lapworth Museum of Geology, brimming with more than 250,000 specimens some over 500 million years old. As one of the oldest specialist designated and accredited geological museums in the UK, this is an invaluable study resource.


You will have access to a comprehensive support system to help you make the transition to Higher Education.

  • Personal tutors - You will be assigned your own personal tutor who will get to know you as you progress through your studies. They will provide academic support and advice to enable you to make the most of your time here at Birmingham.
  • Wellbeing officers - We have dedicated wellbeing officers who provide professional support, advice and guidance to students across a range of issues. They can meet with you to discuss extensions, disabilities, reasonable adjustments, extenuating circumstances, or talk through any problems you might be experiencing, and help you access wider support on campus and beyond.
  • Academic Skills Centre - The centre aims to help you become a more effective and independent learner through a range of high-quality support services. The centre offers workshops on a range of topics, such as note-taking, reading, academic writing and presentation skills.
  • Student experience - Our Student Experience Team will help you get the most out of your academic experience. They will offer research opportunities, study skills support and help you prepare for your post-university careers. They will also organise social events, such as field trips, to help you meet fellow students from your course.

During your first year it is important that you have a smooth transition into university. You will be able to talk to your tutors about this and discuss if there are particular areas where you need support.

Contact Hours

In Year 1 of your Geology and Physical Geography degree you can expect an average of about 10 hours of contact time per week over the two teaching terms (autumn and spring). This will be made up of lectures, practical laboratories, and small group teaching. On top of this there will be approximately 14 days of contact on field courses.

In Year 2 you can expect an average of about 8 hours of contact time per week over the two teaching terms (autumn and spring). This will be made up of lectures, practical laboratories, and small group teaching. On top of this there will be approximately 16 days of contact on field courses.

Year 3 of your degree is spent at a partner institution overseas.

In Year 4 of your Geology and Physical Geography degree you can expect an average of between 5 and 6 hours of contact per week over the two teaching terms (autumn and spring) depending on optional modules chosen. On top of this there will be approximately 5 days of contact on a field course. 

Assessment Methods

In addition to lectures, our degrees in Geology involve extensive fieldwork, practical work and tutorials. You'll be assessed in a variety of ways, and these may be different with each module that you take. You can expect to take examinations, make oral presentations, as well as carry out regular project work, practical and field-based exercises.

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 four weeks, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done.

Studying at degree-level is likely to be very different from your previous experience of learning and teaching at school or college. You will be expected to think, discuss and engage critically with your subject and find things out for yourself. We will support you in making this transition to a new style of learning, and the way that you are assessed during your studies will help you develop the essential skills you need to make a success of your time at Birmingham.

During your first year you will be given a formal transition review to see how you are getting on and if there are particular areas where you may need support. Your personal tutor who is based in the School can help with any academic issues you encounter.

Where could a degree in Earth Sciences take you?

Recent graduates have found employment in a wide range of fields. Our most recent student survey showed that many students from Earth Sciences were engaged in work or study directly related to their first degree, with the remainder choosing career paths in areas outside of the subject where the transferable skills gained on the programme prove invaluable. 

Rig at dawnCareers in Earth Sciences and Geography are extremely diverse, with students going into a wide range of professions. Increasing numbers of our graduates are employed in environmental planning, land remediation hydrogeology and pollution control. Opportunities in some fields, notably the oil and minerals industries, vary from year to year. Other employers include the British Geological Survey (BGS), local authorities, museums, government organisations and engineering and construction companies. 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 Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

Increasingly, a successful career in geology is helped by having a higher qualification. Nearly half of our graduates go on to further study before taking a job, either by completing a one-year MSc course or researching for a PhD.

See examples of what our graduates go on to do

Hear more graduate stories

Transferable skills

You will acquire sought-after skills that will enable you to forge a career in a range of geology and geology-related industries, from the environmental through to engineering sectors, 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.

Careers Network

Preparation for your career should be one of the first things you think about as you start university. 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. In addition, our employer-endorsed award-winning Personal Skills Award (PSA) recognises your extra-curricular activities, and provides an accredited employability programme designed to improve your career prospects.

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