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MSci Palaeontology and Geology

Start date
4 years
UCAS code
Course Type
Undergraduate, Single Honours
£9,250 (Home - 2024-25)
£27,180 Fee Band 3a (International Students - 2024-25)
More detail
Two of our students, Amani Kouasii and Charlotte White, talk about why they chose to study Earth Sciences at the University of Birmingham, and what they love most about it.

Studying this Palaeontology and Geology MSci degree course will give you a rigorous training in palaeontology, enabling you to use the fossil record to understand the evolution and diversity of ancient life, from dinosaurs to microfossils.

You will be taught by lecturers from one of the largest and strongest palaeontology research groups in the UK, and our focus on research-led teaching will provide you with exciting opportunities to carry out your own cutting-edge research projects. The rich fossil collections of our Lapworth Museum of Geology provide a unique resource that supports our teaching and research.

This course will provide you with the skills necessary to develop a career as a professional palaeontologist engaged in research and teaching or in museum curation, or as an applied palaeontologist/biostratigrapher within the oil industry. Your core training in geology will also provide opportunities for a potential career as a geoscientist, if this is the career path you would like to take. 

Our Palaeontology and Geology MSci programme offers the opportunity for you to develop your skills more fully, including more advanced and ambitious research training. 

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All first year modules are compulsory and span the breadth of Earth Sciences and include contributions from the Biology group. From year two onwards, there is more focus on palaeontology and an increasing amount of choice that allows you to select modules following your interests.

In year three (and four) you will also complete independent Earth Science research projects based on primary data collected in the field/laboratory or museum developing your practical, analytical and communication skills.

In addition to lectures and practical classes, you can look forward to fieldwork training in palaeobiological and geological techniques. This work is undertaken both in the UK and abroad, and is assessed by means of field-driven reports, presentations and field notebook.

The fourth year of the Palaeontology and Geology MSci includes a major research project (worth half the year) undertaken as part of active research in the school (for more information about research visit the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences research pages). Your research project, along with associated researched-focused modules including a field trip to Tenerife, will train you in academic research skills for either postgraduate study, a research degree (PhD), or employment.


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 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. 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.

fieldwork kit

Basic fieldwork kit for all new starters

When you start in Birmingham, we will provide you with the basic field sup

plies (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.

Video transcript here

Year 1

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. For more details please see the Modules tab. 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 Geology and Physical Geography Courses. 

Year 2

In year two, we continue to develop your core Geology skills but with an increasing emphasis on bespoke content relevant to your degree - in this case developing your field skills in Palaeontology. There is a one-week residential field course to NW Scotland. The first half of the week focuses on Palaeozoic and Quaternary Geology, and in the latter half of the week the evolution of Mesozoic terrestrial and marine ecosystems, and associated palaeoenvironmental change. In semester two, there is a one-week residential field course to SW England working along the world famous “Jurassic Coast. Between year two and three you will also complete approximately one week of fieldwork contributing towards your year three dissertation”.

Year 3

In year three, there is a residential fieldcourse to Utah, USA that will teach students about the processes involved in finding, collecting, preparing, studying and exhibiting fossils.

Birmingham offered a specialised course in Palaeobiology which was perfect for my interests, being a good blend of biology and geology - along with a good selection of field trips.

Matthew Kerr, Palaeobiology and Palaeoenvironments student

Why study this course?

  • The Lapworth Museum of Geology one 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’.
  • Scope - Be taught by enthusiastic and world-class lecturers from one of the largest and strongest palaeobiology research groups in the UK, with expertise spanning Paleozoic to modern ecosystems on land and in the oceans utilising traditional field based palaeontology as well as the latest in statistical and digital techniques. Our focus on research-led teaching will provide you with exciting opportunities to carry out your own cutting-edge research projects.
  • Fieldwork – Recent destinations have included South East Spain, the Scottish Highlands, and from 2020 the USA. The costs of travel and accommodation on all compulsory field courses are covered by the University.

Find out why our students are glad they chose us


We are committed to continual improvement of our programmes and to ensuring we respond to the changing needs of the world and our student body. As such we are in the process of updating our year one curriculum for this course (to be launched in 2025-26). These changes have developed with student and staff consultation and have research-based teaching at their core. Our core programme outcomes will not change, but module structures in year one will. More information will be available before the Summer 2024 open days.  

Below you can find the current year one structure to give you a sense of what you will learn.

Year 1

The first year provides you with a broad training in topics spanning the breadth of Earth Sciences, through 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

Compulsory modules

Year 2

The Year 2 content builds on the first year, covering a range of specialised topics. Compulsory modules cover sedimentology, past environments and resources, and you can also choose two additional options Earth Sciences, Biology or Physical Geography. The Year 2 field courses take you to North West Scotland and to SW England, where you will cover a wide range of exercises with an emphasis on palaeontology

Compulsory modules

Optional modules (select two of the following):

Year 3

In Year Three, you will complete a research project (dissertation) that is usually based on a short period of field and/or laboratory work undertaken in the summer between Yrs 2 and 3–this focuses on addressing a scientific research question in Earth Sciences. You will also undertake a unique training in museum and palaeontological field skills which includes a residential international trip typically Utah or South Africa. The remainder of your program is based on three optional modules drawn from either Earth Sciences, Physical Geography and/or Biology allowing you to further specialise and follow your own interests.

Compulsory modules:

Optional modules:

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 usually to Tenerife.  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:

Optional 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) £27,180

Learn more about fees and funding

Learn more about our scholarships and award

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.

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, 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.

Standard English language requirements apply 
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, Prof. Richard Butler is shedding new light on the major patterns and drivers of terrestrial biodiversity change, as exemplified by four-limbed vertebrates (tetrapods), over the last 375 million years whilst 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 Stephan Lautenschlager uses cutting-edge computational techniques to restore the morphology of fossil organisms and reconstruct their biology whereas Dr Kirsty Edgar uses the remains of microscopic marine organisms to reconstruct past environments. Our research is truly global taking us to all corners of the Earth from remote Antarctica to sprawling metropolises. For more info see Earth Sciences research.

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 Palaeontology and Geology MSci degree you can expect an average of about 11 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 7 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 6-9 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 2 and 5 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 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. Some modules only have an exam, others only project work. We place strong emphasis on individual project work/the research dissertation in Years 2 and 3.

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 assessments within 15 working days, so that you can learn from and build on what you have done as well as opportunities for formative assessment.

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.

Where could a degree in Earth Sciences take you?

This course will provide you with the skills necessary to develop a career as a professional palaeontologist engaged in research and teaching or in museum curation, or as an applied palaeontologist/biostratigrapher within the oil or engineering industry. Your core training in geology will also provide opportunities for a potential career in a range of geology and geology-related industries, if this is the career path you would like to take. You will also acquire a wealth 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.

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 exteremely 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.

Professional Accreditation