MGeol Earth and Environmenal Sciences

The MGeol degree at St Andrews provides an unparalleled training in the Earth Sciences, spanning topics from the solid earth to environmental change, and providing opportunities to undertake industrial placements or detailed field or laboratory-based research. The MGeol degree takes place over 5 years, allowing students to engage deeply with fundamental questions in Earth Sciences, such as the formation of the planets and the path of future climate change. The broad and flexible structure of the degree introduces students to topics across the Earth Sciences, and provides ample room for development of specific interests. The programme includes the opportunity for an internship with industry, an extended research project, and a major fieldwork expedition.

Teaching style and degree structure

Our teaching philosophy is to provide a thorough understanding of the Earth Sciences, grounded in experiential learning via field and lab-based study, first-hand experience in collecting data and testing hypotheses, and student-led investigative research. Alongside training in the Earth Sciences, we emphasise the development of critical thinking, written and oral presentation skills, and intellectual creativity.

All of our undergraduate degree pathways share classes in the sub-honours years, which are the first two years of your degree. This provides a broad foundation in the Earth Sciences, from which you can find your specific interests and strengths before specialising in your final (honours) years. During your sub-honours years you also have the option to take modules from other subjects, providing the dynamic inter-disciplinary scholarship for which St Andrews is internationally renowned.

Each sub-honours module consists of 4-5 lectures and 1 laboratory session per week, several single-day field excursions during each semester, and tutorial sessions to hone your problem solving skills. Assessment is split between coursework and examination, including both practical and written components.

Honours classes consist of core training, furthering your skills and understanding in key aspects of the earth sciences, and optional modules, allowing you to focus on particular areas of interest and conduct your own research projects. Assessment is either split between coursework and examination, or is based entirely on project work.

MGeol students can integrate honours level modules from both the BSc Geology and Environmental Earth Science degrees, and also take postgraduate MSc level modules. Honours modules include:


  • Advanced Geological Mapping
  • Global Biogeochemical Cycles
  • Petroleum Exploration and Geophysics
  • Global Climate Change
  • Earth’s Greatest Hits
  • Metallogeny
  • Structural Geology and Tectonics
  • Geodynamics
  • GIS for Environmental Management


All compulsory field trips are fully subsidised and include associated travel, accommodation and subsistence costs.

Fieldwork is a key component of our undergraduate degrees, and our graduates are valued as independent and confident field scientists. In total, students participate in at least 70 supervised field days over the length of the degree, and in most cases the amount of fieldwork is over 100 days with the research project component. Time spent in the field not only provides an immersive learning experience, but also builds lasting friendships, and generates the bonds that define our Department’s strong sense of community.

Field courses are fully integrated within all of our undergraduate programmes, developing and enhancing material taught in laboratories and classes. Trips range from day-long excursions to the world-class localities on our doorstep, to 2-week trips across Europe.

Field trips in the MGeol degree can include options from both BSc degree programmes:

  • The “Highland Fling” (5 days, first year) – renowned geological sites in the Scottish Highlands
  • Central Spain (8 days, second year) – geological mapping, with excellent outcrops (and weather!)
  • Rio Tinto (6 days, second year) – investigating the geochemistry and geobiology of acid mine drainage in Southern Spain
  • “Mullapool” (14 days, third year) – classic igneous and metamorphic sites around Mull and Ullapool in the NW Highlands
  • West Coast Cruise (5 days, third year) – oceanography, marine biology, and sedimentology on a research vessel on Scotland’s beautiful West Coast
  • The Alpine Traverse (14 days, fourth year) – a traverse through the Western Alps, integrating skills, knowledge, and understanding from throughout your degree.

Research dissertation projects can incorporate extensive field and laboratory work, and students are encouraged to present their results at the European Geosciences Union conference in Vienna. Recent MGeol dissertation topics have included reconstructions of CO2 levels during the age of the dinosaurs, and the use of seismic data to probe past environments in North Sea oil reservoirs.

Our placement record has been consistently above 80% and graduates have gone on to jobs across the academic, industry and environmental sectors.

Richard Bates

Reader, Director of Impact, Careers and Enterprise, University of St Andrews


The School is proactive about developing career opportunities, and career activities are provided for all students from first year onwards. There are a wide variety of career options for Earth and Environmental Sciences graduates, both specifically in the energy, natural resources, and environmental sectors, as well as in wider science and policy areas. Several of our honours level courses feature lectures and laboratories run by industry professionals, providing hands-on experience with industrial problem solving. Many students undertake research in PhD programmes before embarking on careers in industry or academia. Our graduates are recognised internationally as being highly trained, independent thinkers with the appropriate skills required to problem solve in a variety of research or applied areas.

Our MGeol degree is accredited by the Geological Society of London, a professional recognition that our teaching is of the highest standard. Accreditation is a benchmark of quality and employability, and provides a faster track to chartered status. Recent employers of our MGeol graduates include Chevron, Maersk Oil Ltd, BHP Billiton, BP, Scottish Natural Heritage, Shell, the British Geological Survey, Norsk Hydro, Neftex, Red Rock Mining, Fugro, Geotechnics Ltd., and the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency.

For more information on careers please click here.

Course information & How to apply

All aspects of application to our undergraduate degree programmes are considered carefully, including school grades and the personal statement.  Specific entry requirements and further information on how to apply are available on the Earth and Environmental Sciences Courses webpage.

A full list of the current Core and Option modules is available from the University Course Catalogue.

More Information: University of St Andrews Admissions