Earth Sciences MSci

London, Bloomsbury
Earth Sciences MSci (2024)

Earth sciences is the study of our home planet. Our flexible programme combines ideas and principles of Physics, Chemistry, Biology, Geology and Geophysics. We explore how our planet works at depth and at the surface, the biological processes that build diversity and cause extinction, the ocean and atmospheric processes shaping climate, and issues relating to resources, geohazards and climate change. As well as a highly flexible General stream, students may chose to follow a Palaeobiology stream within this degree programme. This allows students to take a range of modules in other departments which are not normally available to other students.

UK students International students
Study mode
4 academic years
UK tuition fees (2024/25)
Overseas tuition fees (2024/25)
Programme starts
September 2025
Application deadline
29 Jan 2025
UCAS course code

Entry requirements

Biology, Chemistry, Geology/Geography, Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Physics preferred
English Language and Mathematics at grade C or 4.

Contextual offer information

Contextual offers are typically one to two grades lower than the standard offer. Grade and subject requirements for contextual offers for this programme will be published in Summer 2024.

A total of 17 points in three higher level subjects to preferably include two sciences, with no higher level score below 5. Biology, Chemistry, Geology/Geography, Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Physics preferred

Contextual offer

Contextual offers are typically one to two grade boundaries (equivalent to A levels) lower than the standard offer. IB Diploma grade and subject requirements for contextual offers for this programme will be published in Summer 2024.

UK applicants qualifications

For entry requirements with other UK qualifications accepted by UCL, choose your qualification from the list below:

Equivalent qualification

Pass in Access to HE Diploma with a minimum of 30 credits at Distinction and 15 credits at Merit, all from Level 3 units. Science subject units preferred. Biology, Chemistry, Geology/Geography, Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Physics preferred

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma (RQF - teaching from 2016) with Distinction, Distinction, Distinction. Science subject units preferred. Biology, Chemistry, Geology/Geography, Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Physics preferred

D3,D3,M1 in three Cambridge Pre-U Principal Subjects. Two sciences preferred. Biology, Chemistry, Geology/Geography, Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Physics preferred.

AAB at Advanced Highers (or AA at Advanced Higher and BBB at Higher). Two sciences preferred at Advanced Higher. Biology, Chemistry, Geology/Geography, Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Physics preferred.

Not acceptable for entrance to this programme.

Not acceptable for entrance to this programme.

Successful completion of the WBQ Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate plus 2 GCE A levels at grades AAB. Biology, Chemistry, Geology/Geography, Mathematics, Further Mathematics or Physics preferred.

International applications

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

Access and widening participation

UCL is committed to widening access to higher education. If you are eligible for Access UCL you do not need to do anything in addition to the standard UCAS application. Your application will be automatically flagged when we receive it.

Undergraduate Preparatory Certificates

The Undergraduate Preparatory Certificates (UPC) prepare international students for a UCL undergraduate degree who don’t have the qualifications to enter directly. These intensive one-year foundation courses are taught on our central London campus.

Typical UPC students will be high achievers in a 12-year school system which does not meet the standard required for direct entry to UCL.

For more information see:

English language requirements

The English language level for this programme is: Level 1

Information about the evidence required, acceptable qualifications and test providers can be found on our English language requirements page.

A variety of English language programmes are offered at the UCL Centre for Languages & International Education.

Course overview

On entry to the programme, you will select one of two a pathways through the subject. These are either the General Earth Science stream, which allows the most flexibility in your choice of modules, or the Palaeobiology stream, which allows a range of more focussed modules, some not normally available to other students. The programme includes many optional modules across Earth Sciences.

The first and second years provide core skills and knowledge in the subject. The third year provides opportunities for specialisation and diversification, with an emphasis on individual initiative and problem-based learning. Fieldwork provides a unique opportunity to develop independent and team skills and problem-solving abilities.

The first three years of the MSci programme are identical to the BSc programme. However, the additional fourth year of the MSci allows for an individual research project and advanced optional modules, providing extra depth and breadth of knowledge.

What this course will give you

Our department delivers world-leading research embracing the origins and history of life, Earth’s composition and structure, earthquake and volcanic hazards, and past and present climate change, and these are fully integrated within our taught programme.

You will be taught by lecturers who are active researchers within their fields, ensuring everything you learn is up to date and providing you with opportunities to take part in cutting-edge research activities. 

MSci students carry out a major fourth year research project within one of our research groups, with research often leading to student-led publications and conference presentations.

We are located in the Kathleen Lonsdale Building, providing you with access to world-class facilities including bespoke teaching laboratories, microscope facilities and student study areas, all in the heart of the department, next to staff offices and research laboratories.

Teaching and learning

In each year of your degree you will take a number of individual modules, normally valued at 15 or 30 credits, adding up to a total of 120 credits for the year. Modules are assessed in the academic year in which they are taken. The balance of compulsory and optional modules varies from programme to programme and year to year. A 30-credit module is considered equivalent to 15 credits in the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS).

Upon successful completion of 480 credits, you will be awarded a MSci (Hons) in Earth Sciences.


Please note that the list of modules given here is indicative. This information is published a long time in advance of enrolment and module content and availability is subject to change. Modules that are in use for the current academic year are linked for further information. Where no link is present, further information is not yet available.

The MSci Earth Sciences programme is intended to provide a complete education and training that will qualify students for a wide range of high-level professional employment or postgraduate education and research within and outside the subject area. We also offer an International programme variant incorporating a year abroad (see separate programme summary).

In each year of your degree you will take a number of individual modules (usually 8 per year), normally valued at 15 credits. The balance of compulsory and optional modules varies from year-to-year.

In Year 1, for the general Earth Science degree you will follow a set of mandatory modules which are similar to our other degree programmes. In this year you will develop a fundamental knowledge base in both practical, theoretical and field-based skills. A Mathematics module is taken appropriate to A level background.

The Palaeobiology stream has a somewhat different set of modules which can be seen on our web site.

In Year 2, you will be able to take a wide range of optional modules, depending on your interests. You will develop specific skills used in the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data and take modules which build on the first year programme.

In Year 3, you again will be able to take a wide range of optional modules depending on your interests and career place, and will have considerable scope to develop an individual portfolio of interests through a range of advanced, research-based optional modules. The modules include research-based activities and independent projects that match students to researchers one-to-one

In Year 4, you will gain specific training in research skills in preparation for postgraduate education or a professional career in Earth sciences. You will further develop your interests by choosing from a range of level 7 optional module, usually aligned with their chosen research project.

A major independent research project provides a focal point for the year and students are involved in project choice and design, perform the work within major research teams, and produce outputs that frequently lead to professional presentations and publications. The year closes with an Undergraduate Research Conference attended by students, staff and alumni.

In year one, those taking the General Strem will take a set of compulsory modules in the Earth Science department. These are similar to our other degrees and provide the background and fundamentals required for further years.  

Those on the Palaeobiology Stream will have a somewhat difference set of modules and will take two compulsory modules in the Biology Department (Quantitative Biology and Introduction fo Genetics) and Geochemistry, Earth Materials and Dynamic Earth will become optional modules.

Earth Sciences General Pathway:

As well as the three compulsory modules, you will also take GEOL0001 Earth Materials,  GEOL0003 History of Life, GEOL0004 Dynamic Earth, GEOL0008 Geochemistry, GEOL0015 Maps, Images & Structures and EITHER GEOL0005 Foundations of Physical Geoscience is compulsory for students who do not have A-Level Maths or equivalent OR GEOL0078 Mathematical Methods for Geoscience is compulsory for students who have A-Level Maths or equivalent.

Earth Sciences Palaeobiology Pathway:

As well as the three compulsory modules, you will also take GEOL0003 History of Life, GEOL0015 Maps, Images & Structures,  BIOL0001 Quantitative Biology, BIOL0003 Introduction to Genetics. (60 credits) and select a further 30 credits from GEOL0001 Earth Materials, GEOL0008 Geochemistry, BIOL0004 Life on Earth, BIOL0006 Methods in Ecology and Evolution.

In year two, both stream have a considerable number of optional modules. Those listed in this prospectus are for the General Stream. Those on the Palaeobiology Stream will have additional options available in the Biology Department too. These are listed on our departmental web pages. 

Both Streams take the same two compulsory modules (Independent MSci Project and Earth and Planetary System Science) with the rest of the modules as options.  

Your learning

We use a mixture of lectures, practical classes, field courses, directed reading, problem-orientated learning, private study and tutorials to enable you to gain the theoretical knowledge and practical skills demanded by the programme, as well as to develop key transferable skills such as critical analysis, report writing, team working and organisational skills.

Typical weekly contact hours in the first three years will be 8 hours of lectures and 8 hours of practicals. Lecturers are also available for help outside these formal hours, as well regular tutorial sessions. During field trips, student will have constant contact with several members of staff (except for the independent mapping). Students are also expected to do an additional 15 to 20 hours per week independent study.


You will be assessed by a combination of written examinations, practical examinations, coursework, independent project reports and sometimes an oral examination.


Details of the accessibility of UCL buildings can be obtained from AccessAble. Further information can also be obtained from the UCL Student Support and Wellbeing team.

The foundation of your career

All our students are encouraged and helped towards making informed career choices. We have excellent relationships with many employers in diverse aspects of the Earth and planetary sciences, and students are actively guided towards achieving their potential at UCL in preparation for their future careers.

In addition to further study, main employment destinations include: exploration and production for mining, oil and engineering companies; groundwater resources management; investigating ground conditions associated with land use, such as planning, construction and waste disposal; geological surveying, and collecting geological information for maps and databases.


You will develop both discipline-based and highly sought after analytical skills, together with practical skills such as planning, conducting and reporting on investigations, collecting, recording and analysing data and the ability to undertake field and laboratory research.

Fees and funding

Fees for this course

UK students International students
Fee description Full-time
Tuition fees (2024/25) £9,250
Tuition fees (2024/25) £37,500

The fees indicated are for undergraduate entry in the 2024/25 academic year. The UK fees shown are for the first year of the programme at UCL only. Fees for future years may be subject to an inflationary increase. The Overseas fees shown are the fees that will be charged to 2024/25 entrants for each year of study on the programme, unless otherwise indicated below.

Full details of UCL's tuition fees, tuition fee policy and potential increases to fees can be found on the UCL Students website.

Additional costs

The department makes a substantial contribution towards fieldwork costs (ranging between £150-800 per student per trip), covering all accommodation and in-field transportation for all fieldwork which is organised by the department. The majority of the fieldtrips include breakfast and/or dinner. Some fieldtrips in the second year are self-catered. Students are expected to cover their transportation to and from the beginning of the field location for some of the 2nd and 3rd year non-UK field trips (cost of a return flight/train or bus), at an estimated cost of £200-£400.

In the third year, there is an optional fieldtrip for 30 days of independent mapping. For this fieldtrip, the department provides a cheque for ~£800 to each student. 

In the fourth year, there is a 4-day trip to Germany.  Students are expected to cover their transport to Germany (~£150). In-field transportation and accommodation (half-board) are covered by the department.

A guide including rough estimates for these and other living expenses is included on the UCL Fees and funding pages. If you are concerned by potential additional costs for books, equipment, etc., please get in touch with the relevant departmental contact (details given on this page).

Funding your studies

Various funding options are available, including student loans, scholarships and bursaries. UK students whose household income falls below a certain level may also be eligible for a non-repayable bursary or for certain scholarships. Please see the Fees and funding pages for more details.


The Scholarships and Funding website lists scholarships and funding schemes available to UCL students. These may be open to all students, or restricted to specific nationalities, regions or academic department.

Next steps

Your application

We are looking for students with a broad interest in science. Previous knowledge or experience in the Earth Sciences is not needed, but you should know why you wish to take our degrees. Students will need to be hard-working, self-motivated, bright and able to work independently but as well as part of a team.

How to apply

Application for admission should be made through UCAS (the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service). Applicants currently at school or college will be provided with advice on the process; however, applicants who have left school or who are based outside the United Kingdom may obtain information directly from UCAS.


For further information on UCL's selection process see: How we assess your application.

Although we do recommend that all applicants who receive an offer visit UCL, we recognise that this is not always possible; applicants from regions distant from London and from outside the UK are not normally required to attend. Instead thse applicants will have an opportunity to chat with current students and staff during an online Virtual Open Day.

We normally reach a decision on making an offer on the basis of the application alone. If you are resident in the UK and have been made an offer you will be invited to an applicant open day. This visit will include introductory talks on UCL Earth Sciences and our degree programmes, a tour of the department and UCL and a question and answer session.

Got questions? Get in touch

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