Palaeontology and Geology MSci (Hons)

Start date
September
Duration
4 years
UCAS code
8C63
Course Type
Undergraduate, Single Honours
Fees
£9,250 (Home/EU - 2020-21)
£22,260 Fee Band 3a (International Students - 2020-21)
More detail

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 fieldtrip to Tenerife, will train you in academic research skills for either postgraduate study, a research degree (PhD), or employment.

Fieldwork

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?

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

  • 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)
  • 4th for Earth and Marine Sciences in The Guardian University Guide 2019
  • 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.
  • 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

Modules

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

  • Introduction to Evolution and Animal Biology
  • Earth History and Life
  • Earth Systems
  • Atoms to Volcanoes
  • Earth Structures & Tectonics
  • Geoscience Project
  • Introductory Field and Research Skills
  • SW Wales Field Course

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 from a diverse selection. 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

Compulsory modules in Year 3 include your dissertation where you will undertake fieldwork the previous summer and an additional palaeontologically focussed field-based module that will expand your field and technical skills within your chosen field.

Compulsory modules:

Optional modules:

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 to SE Spain- training you in research and science communication.

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 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

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

Scholarships
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 gov.uk website.

EU Referendum

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

How To Apply

Apply through UCAS at www.ucas.com
Learn more about applying

Standard offer

International Requirements



Number of A levels required:
3
Typical offer:
AAB
Required subjects and grades:
At least one science° A level subject

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.

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

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.

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.

Your personal tutor

Our School is a close-knit community and we adopt a very personal approach. You will be assigned a personal tutor upon arrival; an academic member of staff who will support your academic progress and assist with any academic or other issues throughout your time at Birmingham. 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. 

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.

Lecturers and world-leading researchers

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.

Resources and 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, 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.

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