Geology and Physical Geography MSci (Hons)

Start date
4 years
UCAS code
Course Type
Undergraduate, Single Honours
£9,250 (Home/EU - 2020-21)
£22,260 Fee Band 3a (International Students - 2020-21)
More detail
Students on fieldwork

Our Geology and Physical Geography MSci 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 MSci programme gives you the opportunity to develop independent research skills and follow your interest in the Earth sciences more fully. It provides an ideal foundation for academic research or employment as a professional geoscientist. 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 MSci programme shares several modules with the Geology programme, and it is possible to transfer between these courses in your first year. You also have the option of transferring onto the Geology and Physical Geography with an International Year MSci programme, depending on performance. View our full range of Earth Sciences programmes  

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This Geology and Physical Geography 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 applied geophysics, hydroclimatology and geomorphological processes. In the third year you will lead the research for your dissertation. This could be anything from an industry-linked project with the British Geological Survey to a remote-sensing project investigating glacier retreat. You can also choose from a wide range of optional modules.

The fourth year allows you to specialise further and 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.


Fieldwork is an essential element of our degree programmes, and Earth Sciences at Birmingham has an outstanding reputation for providing its students with high quality field training.

Montana Negra fieldtrip

The field courses help you to develop as an observational Earth scientist. Each field course is part of a compulsory assessed module. Current residential field course destinations include South West Wales, the Scottish Highlands, Dorset and Cornwall, southern Spain and Tenerife (for four-year programmes), enabling you to explore a broad range of environments and processes. Some of these courses are shared with Geology students, while on others you will be covering different topics with other Geology and Physical Geography students. Year 1 field course in Northern Ireland

The first two years of field training lead to your dissertation project, which will involve field data collection. This could be in a wide range of topics to suit your interests, from glacial geomorphology to groundwater pollution. 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. 

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.

Find out more about 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, MSci Geology and Geography (2012) Alumni

Why Study this Course?

 There are plenty of reasons to study Geology and Physical Geography MSci at Birmingham:

  • Employability – Our graduates are highly employable with up to 100% in employment or further study within six months of graduation (DLHE 2016/17).
  • Fieldwork – Fieldwork is an essential element of our degree programmes, and we have an outstanding reputation for providing students with high quality field training. The costs of travel and accommodation on all compulsory field courses will be covered by the University.
  • Research-led teaching – Our world-leading research feeds directly into our programmes, meaning you will learn from academics who are experts in their field.
  • The portfolio of modules across the Geology and Physical Geography degrees is varied and intellectually stimulating, and gives you the choice to specialise in the areas that most interest you. Topics cover everything from natural hazards to environmental pollution, urban ecology to hydrogeology, and climate change to tectonic processes.

Find out why our students chose us


Year 1

Compulsory modules

The first year provides you with a broad training in topics across the subject, through several compulsory modules. We don’t assume any prior knowledge; the 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 trips to Northern Ireland and South West Wales will train you in key skills in geological observation, data recording and interpretation.

  • Earth History and Life
  • Earth Systems
  • Global Environmental Issues A
  • Global Environmental Issues B
  • Atoms to Volcanoes
  • Earth Structures & Tectonics
  • Geoscience Project
  • Introductory Field and Research Skills
  • SW Wales Field Course

Year 2

Compulsory modules

The Year 2 content builds on the first year, covering a range of specialised topics. Compulsory modules cover sedimentology, past environments, and a resources module, and you can also choose two or three options from diverse selection. The Year 2 field courses take you to North West Scotland, where you will focus on quaternary processes and geomorphology, and to Dorset and Cornwall, where you will cover a wide range of exercises, from palaeontology to structural geology.

Optional modules

Year 3

Compulsory modules

Compulsory modules in Year 3 include your dissertation including some fieldwork conducted in the previous summer – and  a field-based module. This course introduces a variety of new geological environments and rock types.

Select one of the following field based modules:

  • Volcanology
  • Sedimentary Basin Analysis
  • Sustainable Resource Geology

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. Example optional modules may include:

Year 4

The compulsory Year 4 modules include your major research project – in a topic that you will have devised with an academic – and a skills-based field module - training you in research and science communication.

Compulsory modules:

Select one of the following field based modules:

  • Sustainable Resource Geology
  • Sedimentary Basin Analysis
  • Volcanology 

Optional modules:

You also take two optional modules (except those taken in Year 3):

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 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.


Standard Home/EU student fees 2020-21

For UK students beginning their studies in September 2020, 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 2020-21

International fee
Fee Band (Undergraduate) Full-time
Band 3a (Laboratory) £22,260

Learn more about fees and funding

Learn more about our scholarships and awards


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 financial support available via student loans for the duration of their course. For more information take a look at the website.

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How To Apply

Apply through UCAS at 
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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.

International Students

International Baccalaureate Diploma: 6, 6, 5 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.

How you will learn

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.

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 use the Earth Imaging laboratory, where practical classes involve everything from microscope and map work to using specialist industry software. Our teaching is supported by the nationally important collections of the Lapworth Museum of Geology, an invaluable study resource.

Your personal tutor

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. We also have dedicated academic tutors 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.

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. 

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 taking, reading, writing and presentation skills.

Lecturers and world leading researchers

You will be taught by staff who are active researchers in their field, ensuring that taught material is at the cutting edge of the science, and that you receive a rich diversity of academic knowledge and experience. Find out more about staff in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences.

Resources and facilities

The learning experience extends way outside of the lecture theatre. Fieldwork, both in the UK and overseas, is an essential element of our degree programmes. As well as tutorials and practical classes you will have access to extensive educational facilities across the School and University including our brand new £60 million library resources, state-of-the-art laboratories and IT facilities.

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.

In Year 3 you can expect between an average of about 7-10 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 6 days of contact on a field course.

In your MSci year (Year 4), 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.

By choosing to study with us you will embark on an enriching journey building a strong foundation for your professional future. Your studies will take you many places; all the time giving you invaluable real-world experience.

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 dawnGeology careers 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

Colette Lyle-large

“The course provided me with the skills and knowledge needed to work within the petroleum industry.”

Colette - MSci Geology

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 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.

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.

Professional Accreditation