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Planetary Science MSc

This interdisciplinary MSc offers a wide programme of study related to the physics of planetary and space environments, including planetary interiors, atmospheres and magnetospheres; the impact of the space environment on human physiology; and research project work which provides potential opportunity to work with established planetary researchers at UCL and Birkbeck, some of whom are involved in active or planned space missions.

Key information

Programme starts

September 2017

Modes and duration

Full time: 1 year
Part time: 2 years

Tuition fees (2017/18)

£9,840 (FT) £4,970 (PT)
£25,130 (FT) £12,950 (PT)

Application dates

All applicants
Open: 3 October 2016
Close: 28 July 2017

Note on fees: The tuition fees shown are for the year indicated above. Fees for subsequent years may increase or otherwise vary. Further information on fee status, fee increases and the fee schedule can be viewed on the UCL Current Students website.

Optional qualifications: This degree is also available as a PG Diploma with fees set accordingly.
Location: London, Bloomsbury

Entry requirements

A minimum of an upper second-class Bachelor's degree in a relevant discipline, preferably with substantial physics content, from a UK university or an overseas qualification of an equivalent standard.

English language requirements

If your education has not been conducted in the English language, you will be expected to demonstrate evidence of an adequate level of English proficiency.

The English language level for this programme is: Standard

Further information can be found on our English language requirements page.

International students

Country-specific information, including details of when UCL representatives are visiting your part of the world, can be obtained from the International Students website.

International applicants can find out the equivalent qualification for their country by selecting from the list below.

Select your country:

Degree information

Students develop insights into the techniques used in current projects, and gain in-depth experience of a particular specialised research area through project work as a member of a research team. The programme provides the professional skills necessary to play a meaningful role in industrial or academic life.

Students undertake modules to the value of 180 credits.

The programme consists of a choice of three core modules (45 credits), three optional modules (45 credits), a research essay (30 credits) and a dissertation (60 credits).

A Postgraduate Diploma consisting of three core modules (45 credits), three optional modules (45 credits) and a research essay (30 credits); full-time nine months is offered.

Optional modules 1 (15 credits each)

Students choose three from:

  • Deep Earth and Planetary Modelling
  • Earth and Planetary Materials
  • Planetary Atmospheres
  • Space Plasma and Magnetospheric Physics
  • Remote Sensing and Planetary Surfaces
  • Physics of Exoplanets

Optional modules 2 (15 credits each)

Students choose three from the following:

  • Earth and Planetary System Science
  • Melting and Volcanism
  • Solar Physics
  • Astronomical Spectroscopy
  • Physics of the Earth
  • Space Medicine and Extreme Environment Physiology
  • Comets, Asteroids and Meteorites
  • Advanced Topics in Planetary Science

Alternatively students may also choose a fourth module from the Optional modules 1 list and two from the Optional modules 2 list above.


All students submit a critical research essay and MSc students undertake an independent research project which culminates in a substantial dissertation and oral presentation.

Teaching and learning

The programme is delivered through a combination of lectures, practical classes, computer-based teaching, fieldwork, and tutorials. Student performance is assessed through coursework and written examination. The research project is assessed by literature survey, oral presentation and the dissertation.

Further information on modules and degree structure is available on the department website: Planetary Science MSc


Candidates may be eligible for a Santander scholarship. For further details please visit:


For a comprehensive list of the funding opportunities available at UCL, including funding relevant to your nationality, please visit the Scholarships and Funding website.


Physics-based careers embrace a broad band of areas, e.g. information technology, engineering, finance, research and development, medicine, nanotechnology and photonics. Graduates of  MSc programmes at UCL go on to a variety of careers as research associates, postdoctoral fellows, consultants, and systems test engineers.

Top career destinations for this degree

  • Chartered Surveyor, Dunphys
  • PhD in Planetary Science, The Open University (OU)


An MSc qualification from UCL is highly regarded by employers. Students engage in a variety of learning activities, including undertaking their own research projects, which encourages the development of problem-solving skills, technical and quantitative analysis, independent critical thinking and good scientific practice. In addition, teamwork, vision and enthusiasm make physics graduates highly desirable members in all dynamic companies.

Careers data is taken from the ‘Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education’ survey undertaken by HESA looking at the destinations of UK and EU students in the 2012–2014 graduating cohorts six months after graduation.

Why study this degree at UCL?

UCL Physics & Astronomy is among the leading departments in the UK for graduate study. The curriculum of the Planetary Science MSc draws on a variety of other academic departments within UCL including Space & Climate Physics (Mullard Space Science Laboratory), Earth Sciences, Cell & Developmental Biology and Birkbeck's Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences. The programme thus has a strong interdisciplinary flavour, in line with the ethos of the Centre for Planetary Sciences at UCL/Birkbeck.

The combination of taught courses, tutorials and project work allows prospective students to study a wide variety of topics related to planetary and space environments, such as: planetary interiors, atmospheres and magnetospheres; the impact of the space environment on human physiology and life; and the application of current knowledge to investigations of extrasolar planets, i.e. worlds in other stellar systems.

Department: Physics & Astronomy

Student / staff numbers › 230 staff › 30 taught students › 200 research students

Research Excellence Framework (REF)

The Research Excellence Framework, or REF, is the system for assessing the quality of research in UK higher education institutions. The 2014 REF was carried out by the UK's higher education funding bodies, and the results used to allocate research funding from 2015/16.

The following REF score was awarded to the department: Physics & Astronomy
75% rated 4* (‘world-leading’) or 3* (‘internationally excellent’)

Learn more about the scope of UCL's research, and browse case studies, on our Research Impact website.

What our students and staff say

Student view

"At UCL I took part in four different international summer schools/field schools, and enjoyed UCL hosting the 2013 European Planetary Science Congress, which brought all the top international researchers to London. I also visited UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory, the largest university space research group in the UK. Since graduating I am now a PhD research student at the Space Research Centre, University of Leicester, studying martian meteorites."

Jane MacArthur

Planetary Science

Application and next steps


Students are advised to apply as early as possible due to competition for places. Those applying for scholarship funding (particularly overseas applicants) should take note of application deadlines.

Who can apply?

This MSc is particularly suitable for students with an undergraduate degree in physics, astronomy, astrophysics or a related discipline, who wish to develop a career in planetary science, space science and related fields. The programme provides an ideal foundation for further research and entry onto the PhD programme.

Application deadlines

All applicants
28 July 2017

Any late applications will only be considered after all those received by the closing date.

For more information see our Applications page.

Apply now

What are we looking for?

When we assess your application we would like to learn:

  • why you want to study Planetary Science at graduate level
  • why you want to study Planetary Science at UCL
  • what particularly attracts you to the chosen programme
  • how your academic and professional background meets the demands of this challenging programme
  • where you would like to go professionally with your degree

Together with essential academic requirements, the personal statement is your opportunity to illustrate whether your reasons for applying to this programme match what the programme will deliver.

Contact information

Page last modified on 27 October 2016 at 11:10 by UCL Publications & Marketing Services. Please contact us for content updates.


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