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F644 Earth Sciences MSci Undergraduate  2018


UCAS code F644
Degree MSci
Duration 4 years
Location Durham City
Typical Offers A Level
International Baccalaureate
Please also check Requirements and Admissions.
Alternative qualifications

Department(s) Website
Telephone +44 (0)191 334 2198

Course Summary


A four-year Masters degree course that has been designed to provide a comprehensive and rigorous education in all aspects of Earth Sciences with the opportunity to interact with staff at the cutting-edge of scientific research. It provides the opportunity to follow the Geology (F600) or Environmental Geosciences (F630) or Geophysics with Geology (F662) Geoscience (F643) for the first three years and undertake a detailed Research Project in the area of your choosing in the fourth year. The MSci Earth Sciences course incorporates a substantial amount of independent (and group) project work which will involve you in high-level quantitative investigations, in addition to advanced key skills training.

Students who have been accepted on the BSc degree courses can choose to transfer to the four-year MSci degree in Earth Sciences (F644) at the end of their second year. This will depend on your progress in the first two years.

Year 1
Compulsory and optional modules:

  • Students are required to choose modules from one of the routes F600, F630, F662 or F643.

Year 2
Compulsory and optional modules:

  • Students are required to choose modules from one of the routes F600, F630, F662 or F643.

Year 3
Compulsory and optional modules:

  • Students are required to choose modules from one of the routes F600, F630, F662 or F643.

Year 4

Compulsory module:

  • Research Project

Optional modules:


  • Communicating Science
  • Earth Science Field Seminar
  • Earth Sciences into Industry
  • Petroleum Geoscience IV
  • Environmental Geochemistry IV
  • Deformation Processes in the Lithosphere IV
  • Advanced Geophysics IV
  • Earth System and Climate IV
  • Earth Structure and Dynamics

Course Detail

To find out more about the modules available to students studying at Durham University please click here.

Please note: Current modules are indicative. Information for future academic years may change, for example, due to developments in the relevant academic field, or in light of student feedback.

Course Learning and Teaching

The programme is mainly delivered through a mixture of lectures, practical classes, tutorials and fieldwork. Typically lectures provide key information on a particular area, and identify the main areas for discussion and debate. Practical classes and fieldwork allow students to gain direct experience of practical and interpretative skills in Geology while tutorials address specific transferrable skills and allow the students to raise particular problems.

The balance of these types of activities changes over the course of the programme, as students develop their knowledge and the ability as independent learners that is one of the key attributes that the programme develops in its students (thereby preparing them for work or further study once they have completed the programme). In the first year students typically attend 6 hours a week of lectures, and 12 hours of practical classes. Students are also required to attend 6 tutorial sessions during the academic year. Outside timetabled contact hours, students are also expected to undertake their own independent study to prepare for their classes and broaden their subject knowledge. Students are expected to attend a one week field course in the Lake District during the Easter vacation.

The balance starts to shift in the second year, as students develop their abilities as independent learners. Lectures still play an important role in supporting students in developing their knowledge and skills, with an average of 6 hours a week, and students participate in 6 two hour practical classes per week across the academic year that both introduce them to, and give them the chance to practice, Geological research methods. Students are expected to attend field courses with the location being dependent upon exact module choices.

This move towards greater emphasis on independent learning continues in the third year. Students are required to carry out a dissertation which may involve field or laboratory during the summer vacation depending upon the exact choices and preferences of the student. Students will be assigned a tutor appropriate to their dissertation. Support for the dissertation will take the form of one-to-one tutorial sessions. This provides students with the opportunity to engage with academic issues at the forefront of geological research, in a learning environment that is very much focused on discussion and debate of these issues. This places a premium on preparing effectively for classes. This emphasis on using the independent study and research skills developed in earlier years is continued through the dissertation that all final year students undertake and which is the cap stone of their undergraduate degree. Under the supervision of a member of academic staff with whom they will typically have three or four one-to-one supervisory meetings, students undertake a detailed study of a particular area resulting in a significant piece of independent research. At Level 3 students are required to attend a one-week field trip to Cyprus, and there is the optional module which requires students to attend a field trip to Tenerife.

In the final year the student will undertake another research-based dissertation that may involve field or laboratory during the summer vacation depending upon the exact choices and preferences of the student. The dissertation is conducted in collaboration with their academic tutor, the tutor being assigned dependent upon the nature of the research choice. Modules available in the final year mean that students will be expected to deliver seminars to their peers and to academic staff. Students also take part in a project developed in conjunction within an academic tutor and an industrial sponsor.

Throughout the programme, all students also have access to an academic tutor who will provide them with academic support and guidance. Typically a student will meet with their tutor 6 times a year, in addition to which all members of teaching staff have an open door policy and are available to meet with students on a ‘drop-in’ basis. The department also has an exciting programme of weekly one hour research seminars which undergraduate students are strongly encouraged to attend, and there is a seminar programme run throughout the year by the student-led Arthur Holmes Society.

Admissions Process

Subject requirements, level and grade

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study.
  • Two science subjects at A-level or equivalent are required for all courses.
  • For the Geophysics route, Mathematics or Further Mathematics at A-level at grade B or above, or a comparable qualification in Mathematics is required.
  • We do not include General Studies or Critical Thinking as part of our offer.
  • Typical IB score 37 to include 666 in higher level subjects. 
  • If you do not satisfy our general entry requirements, the Foundation Centre offers multidisciplinary degrees to prepare you for a range of specified degree courses.
  • Please consult the University website for required evidence of English language proficiency.
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

Science A-levels

Applicants taking Science A-levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A-levels with an English examination board.

English Language requirements

Please check requirements for your subject and level of study.

How to apply

Information relevant to your country

Fees and Funding

Full Time Fees

EU Student £9,250.00 per year
Home Student £9,250.00 per year
Island Student £9,250.00 per year
International non-EU Student £23,100.00 per year

Please be advised that there is an additional fee of £110 to cover first year fieldwork. Fieldwork costs for subsequent years are dependent on modules chosen.

Note: Fees are subject to review and change in-line with inflation.

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and funding 

Career Opportunities

Earth Sciences

The Earth Sciences (geology, geophysics, geochemistry and environmental science) lie at the heart of every society worldwide providing materials and energy for society to develop and prosper. 

The nationally accredited undergraduate and postgraduate courses provided by the Department of Earth Sciences in Durham offer the perfect start to a career in the earth and environmental sciences. Our courses are tailored to suit both academic and industry career progression. Our degrees are also widely recognised as an excellent general degree qualification by a broad range of employers in the financial services and education sectors.

The pre-eminent position of Durham Earth Sciences in the UK coupled to our close links to industry, especially at a postgraduate level really give our graduates the edge they need when competing for jobs. The UK and indeed the world in the 21st century needs Earth Scientists more than ever and a degree at Durham will ensure that you are able to maximise this opportunity and develop a successful career and play your part in society.

Of those students that left in 2016:

- 89% are in employment or further study

Of those in employment:

- 81% are in graduate level employment
- Median salary £27,500

(Source: Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey of 2015/16 graduates. The DLHE survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing six months after graduation. Full definitions for the DLHE Record can be found

The exposure to both academic and industry circles during my time at Durham was invaluable, which was greatly helped by the CeREES Geo-Energy Scholarship Programme offered by the department of Earth Sciences. The department of Earth Sciences is a highly regarded department both in terms of research and the calibre of teaching.

Durham Earth Sciences graduates progress into successful and challenging careers in a range of sectors including oil and gas, environment, engineering, marketing, business, armed forces, healthcare and finance. Course related employers include BP, Wardell Armstrong, Halliburton, Sirius, Atkins and the National Oceanography Centre where graduates have taken roles as geophysicists, exploration geologists, geotechnical engineers, data scientists and mineral surveyors. Those interested in a different career route need not worry as our Earth Science graduates have also secured positions with renowned employers in other sectors. These include Deloitte, Royal Air Force, University of Edinburgh, RIPA International and Fairfax IS PLC where they work as accountants, research associates, trainee investment bankers, warfare officers and programme coordinators.

BP has enjoyed a productive relationship with Durham's Department of Earth Sciences, recruiting many geologists and geophysicists over the years and working collaboratively on a number of research projects. In recent years the establishment of CeREES has seen the quantity and quality of applicants increase. The 'industry-savy' aspects of the programme equip graduate students with a wider and deeper grasp of the challenges and opportunities the energy industry affords, adding value that clearly manifests itself in the students' applications and at interview. With the recent establishment of the Durham Energy Institute I look forward to this trend strengthening. In our current intake I've been particularly pleased to see a Durham undergraduate competing successfully against those with MScs and PhDs from other leading universities.

Professional recognition

All but one of our degree programmes are accredited by our professional body (The Geological Society of London - GSL), demonstrating that our undergraduate programmes cover the range of skills expected of a trained geoscientist at this level. The Geoscience degree programme (F641) was designed not to be an accredited programme in order to provide a more flexible route for some of our students who are unable to carry out the substantial amount of fieldwork required by the GSL for accreditation.

Open days and visits

Pre-application open day

Pre-application open days are the best way to discover all you need to know about Durham University. With representatives from all relevant academic and support service departments, and opportunities to explore college options, the open days provide our prospective undergraduates with the full experience of Durham University.

Please see the following page for further details and information on how to book a place:

Discover Durham Tours

Discover Durham tours offer a brief introduction to the University. The tour begins at one of our undergraduate colleges, where you will receive an introductory talk from a member of college staff, followed by a tour of the college by current students.

Overseas Visit Schedule

Department Information

Earth Sciences


Earth Sciences is a multidisciplinary subject, which examines our planet from the surface to the core. Earth Sciences draws upon elements of chemistry, physics, mathematics, biology and physical geography. You will study the past in order to understand the present and possibly to predict aspects of the future.

You will look at climate change, the formation of the oceans, the death of the dinosaurs, the nature of rocks and minerals, the structure and chemistry of the Earth, and Earth surface processes. Indeed, the subject embraces the entire planet from the surface to the core. Earth Sciences also contributes to our understanding of other planets and moons in our solar system.

The Department is very proud of its high-quality teaching underpinned by internationally recognised research. We are based in a purpose-built, modern building with state-of-the-art facilities for teaching and research. We pride ourselves on producing graduates who are eminently employable in a wide range of careers in the public and private sectors.

  • 97% of our Earth Sciences students were satisfied with their course overall in the National Student Survey 2016 (sector-wide average 89%).
  • 5th in The Complete University Guide 2016.
  • 6th in The Times and Sunday Times University Guide 2016.


For a current list of staff, please see the Earth Sciences Department web pages.


The Department has premises on the Mountjoy Site very close to the University’s IT facilities and Bill Bryson Library. We have excellent equipment including: extensive computing facilities (including multimedia PCs and UNIX workstations); microscopes; TV/microscope projection facilities; four lecture/practical laboratories with comprehensive A/V facilities; extensive state-of-the-art geochemical research laboratories; a micropaleontology laboratory; a geophysics seismic research facility; extensive rock sample and thin section teaching and research collections. Our Department is designated as a mainstream centre for teaching and research covering the broad spectrum of Earth Sciences. We are a friendly, social and informal community of about 80 staff and 300 students, more than 70 of whom are working for MSc and PhD degrees. In the recent HEFCE teaching quality review, the Department was graded Excellent.


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