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Geology (MESci)

  • F601

4 years (full-time) / n/a (part-time) / n/a (distance / e-Learning)

The four year MESci course at Cardiff involves hypothesis testing, critical analysis and problem solving whilst learning about the process and outcomes of research. It builds upon and augments the equivalent BSc programme by means of a fourth year which enables you to undertake a specialist research project in the area of your choice. It is designed for high quality candidates who might aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry.

Geology MESci

The evolution of the Earth and the life it supports is a key subject of human enquiry. This is why geologists and earth scientists are much sought after in many professions because of their global view of natural processes. Our MESci in Geology provides you with a broad view of the physical, geochemical and biological processes that formed planet Earth, its oceans, atmosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. You will learn how to observe this history within rock outcrops and interpret the processes controlling Earth's structure and environments. And as an MESci student you will get an opportunity to specialise through your project work and through small group research tutorials.

A key component of this course is fieldwork. You will travel to a number of classic localities both in the UK and abroad. On these excursions you will learn how to record observations, to analyse and interpret a wide range of rocks and structures in the field, and be trained in making a geological map. Our field courses are specifically designed to focus on key themes, such as the origins of oceanic crust, the development of sedimentary basins and their oil and gas potential, and the growth and collapse of mountain belts. In Year 1 the main locations visited are South Wales and Arran while in Year 2 you will visit SW England and northern Spain. In Year 3 you visit Cyprus where all that you have learnt previously can be synthesised into a picture that truly shows the nature of our dynamic earth. In Year 4 the MESci students chose their own fieldtrip destination, often a Mediterranean island, where they undertake research level fieldwork in their own discipline.

Key Facts

UCAS Code F601
Duration 4 years
How to apply
Accreditation  Geological Society of London
Typical places available The School admits 150 students each year to its undergraduate degree programmes, usually between 40-45 on its Geology programmes.
Typical applications received 850
Scholarships & Bursaries
Typical A-level offer AAB
Admissions Tutors Dr Jennifer Pike
Tel Number 029 2087 4830
Email address
School website

In this broad-based, accredited degree you will learn how to read the rocks, assess the processes involved in their formation, be able to reconstruct past environments and interpret how life evolved.

Geology MESci

A key component of this course is fieldwork. You will travel to a number of classic localities: current field excursions run to areas both in the UK and abroad (Spain and Cyprus). On these excursions you will learn how to record observations, to analyse and interpret a wide range of rocks and structures in the field, and be trained in making a geological map. Our field courses are specifically designed to focus on key themes, such as the origins of oceanic crust, the development of sedimentary basins and their oil and gas potential, and the growth and collapse of mountain belts.

The four year undergraduate programme is designed for high quality candidates who aim to pursue a research career. The course involves learning about the process and outcomes of research and enables students to specialise in areas of their choice. During the first two years you will study modules in common with students in the BSc programme but with small group teaching of up to six students provided through a research tutorial. These tutorials will allow you to explore your long term research interests and will provide more extensive opportunities than the three-year scheme. In the final two years you will concentrate on core topics in Geology as well as modules giving skills in science and research in a field of your choice.

Wales is a classical centre for geology. Most of the geological timescale is named after Wales or its people (e.g. the Silurian, Ordovician, Cambrian and Precambrian eras). The situation of Cardiff in a classical area of geology means that classical geology is on your doorstep.

Year 1

The course structure is very flexible. All Cardiff's School of Earth and Ocean Science degree programmes share a common first Semester. This is designed to give you a sound foundation in Earth Sciences upon which to build. At the end of your first Semester you will decide whether to continue with your original degree choice or choose another of Cardiff's Earth Science degrees.

You will have a tutor involved in research into Geology and complete a research project on an aspect of Geology.

You will study the following modules:

  • The Sedimentary System
  • Life Through Time
  • Earth and Planetary System Science
  • Fieldwork
  • Earth Science Skills and Research Tutorial
  • Natural Resources and Energy
  • Dangerous Earth
  • Earth Materials
  • Formation of the British Isles
  • Geological Maps, Sections & Structures

Year 2

You take a suite of modules which is aimed at providing the basic tools for understanding geology and for fieldwork. The MESci field skills and research module includes a number of day courses and residential trips to Dorset, Cornwall and Spain where you learn advanced field skills. As an MESci student you will have the chance to research in detail into one aspect of the field programme of your choice and produce a research poster which will be displayed and discussed at the annual MESci Research Conference.

You will study the following modules:

  • Research Tutorial
  • Geological Fieldwork and Mapping Training
  • Geological Resources (ores, minerals, oil & energy)
  • Structural Geology
  • Geophysical Exploration
  • Sedimentary Petrogenesis and Stratigraphy
  • Palaeoecology
  • Applied GIS
  • Igneous Geology
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Earth Surface Processes
  • Metamorphic Geology

In your second summer, you will undertake a five-week mapping project in the UK or overseas.

Year 3

In your third year, you will write up a dissertation on your mapping project. You will also follow core modules in Dynamic Earth, plus an overseas field course to Cyprus.

The MESci research tutorial module allows you to research in detail a subject of your choice and learn how to produce a research paper for publication. You will present a lecture on your research at the annual MESci research conference.

In addition to your mapping project, fieldwork, the research tutorial and a core module in the Dynamic Earth, you have a wide range of optional modules to choose from:

  • Marine Microfossils
  • Global Geomorphology
  • Palaeobiology
  • Water Resources
  • Engineering Geology
  • Global Climate Change
  • Advanced Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
  • Structural Techniques
  • Volcanic and Magmatic Processes
  • Petroleum Geology and Basin Analysis

Year 4

You will complete a Masters research dissertation in any topic that can be supervised in the School. You will work one-to-one with a research supervisor and probably interact with a research group. Since the School is very large and of international research standard, this means that you have an unsurpassed choice of dissertation topic. Many students develop their own topics and contact a researcher to see if they can supervise it. Alternatively a list of projects is published each year for you to choose from. The research dissertation is complemented by a Research Frontiers module, in which the latest ideas in Earth Sciences research are discussed. In addition to a Year 4 fieldcourse you have a choice of optional modules:

  • Advanced Igneous Petrogenesis
  • Evolution of Antarctica
  • Planetary Geology
  • Contaminated Land
  • Seismic Interpretation and Petroleum Exploration
  • Process Geomorphology
  • Marine Carbonate Chemistry

Or you can catch up on a third year module that you were unable to take previously.

Visit the Cardiff School of Earth and Ocean Sciences website for more information about modules and credits.

Below is the first in our mini-series of podcasts. It is a self-contained, engaging, fast-paced and fun introduction to a particular aspect of ancient oceans. The series aims to uncover surprising and little-known facts, highlighting the importance of the science to our understanding of the world and the impacts of human activities including climate change. The series contains five podcasts, if you would like to see more then please follow the links on our Youtube page.

The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences has an excellent tradition of teaching in the Earth Sciences.  This educational experience is enhanced by frontier earth scientists from a wide variety of disciplines, involved in national and international research programmes, teaching alongside its students as they learn.  This team ensures students receive the highest quality teaching, delivered by lecturers at the cutting edge of international research. In addition the School is able to maintain a friendly and informal approach brought about by staff-student interactions during fieldwork.

The modular course structure enables the School to offer an exciting and relevant spectrum of vocational degree programmes.  These cover a wide range of modern geosciences from the traditional geology approach to the more industry focussed exploration and resource geology through to the equally applied environmental geoscience and water borne marine geography.  The first semester is common to all degree schemes and you then confirm your chosen programme in January of your first year.  Thus there is a chance to sample university teaching styles before committing to a particular degree programme or pathway.

Teaching in the School is conducted by a variety of methods –

  • formal lectures
  • laboratory practicals
  • IT practicals
  • fieldwork – both on land and for the Marine Geography students on the sea in the School’s own research vessel too

Formal lectures and practical classes have the emphasis on students taking ownership of their own learning programme and “learning how to learn”.  Fieldwork is a vital format for understanding the earth sciences and all students go on at least one residential field trip each academic year as well as numerous specialist day trips.  All students are assigned a tutor who will hold timetabled tutorials: fortnightly in Year 1 and monthly during other years.  Your tutor will be a specialist in your degree programme and will advice on both academic and pastoral matters.

As well as conventional BSc programmes, an optional one year industrial placement is available for some of the BSc degrees.  These placements provide an opportunity for students to gain in-depth experience in a range of relevant industries.  Students are supervised and visited by University staff while enjoying the experience and career enhancement that results from a ‘Year Out’. The four year MESci schemes focus on research training and critical analysis making students who take these programmes very employable in a range of professions.

Most modules will contain some element of course work so the ability to work independently is crucial.  Formal unseen exams and presentations are a key component of the way you are assessed.  You will also undertake group work and project work, with all students producing a substantial dissertation on a topic of their choosing in the final year.

Typical A-level Offer


At least two A-levels one should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths

Typical WBQ Offer  Grade A in the Core, plus grades AA at A-level. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Int Bacc Offer  32-33 points, including at least one Science at Higher Level
Other Applications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome. Please see detailed information about alternative entry requirements here

Please find here further information about admissions and selection criteria for this degree programme.

In 2010, 51% of the School’s graduates were in employment within six months of graduation while a further 20% were engaged in further study, with others taking time out to travel.

Employers included: local government plus companies and organisations such as the British Geological Survey, the Environment Agency, Digirock, Hummingbird Resources and BHP Billiton.

Typical career destinations for graduates in Geology include engineering geologist, exploration geologist, reservoir geologist, survey geologist, mineralogist, mineral exploration, geological consultant, field mapping, oil geologist, mining software analyst, geophysical surveying, water industry.

Careers case studies

Ben Lepley – MESci Geology 2008
Working for SRK mining consultancy. Currently in Sweden helping to set up a new company base there

Fieldwork is an integral part of degrees at Cardiff’s School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, giving our students hands on experience in real field situations. The fieldwork programme has been designed to give students the widest range of field experiences linked to classroom-based teaching. Specialist equipment for working in the field and at sea will be provided by the School and students will be issued with specialist equipment appropriate for their degree after enrolment.

Geology MESci

You will be out in the field with us during the first week of teaching, taking part in a variety of induction events which will help embed you in Cardiff, meet other students on your programme in informal surroundings, meet some of your lectures away from the constrains of the classroom and see some of our local field areas.

Throughout Year 1 you will undertake various local day trips as well as a residential fieldtrip to Arran, learning field skills such as sedimentary logging, mapping and structural analysis. Fieldwork is a major component of all degree schemes in Year 2, as a Geology student you will go on residential trips to Dorset, Cornwall and Spain as well as undertake various local day field trips. We will train you how to accurately make and record field observations, take field measurements and produce professional reports. All skills highly sought after by employers. As an MESci student you will also be expected to investigate an aspect of your fieldwork and produce and present a research poster to staff and students later in Year 2.

Between Year 2 and Year 3 all students undertake a five week individual mapping project. As a Geologist you will do a mapping project (working in a pair in various national and international locations – current mapping areas include Spain, France, Scotland, North Wales, The Pennines). Every student will get supervision from a member of staff including a visit in the field.

In Year 3 (for those of you not on the International scheme) the fieldwork programme is more research-led, focussing on interpretative skills, field techniques, teamwork projects and independent study. Again you will undertake field day trips to local areas and also a residential trip top Cyprus where amongst other things you will be interpreting ophiolites and tectonics in this iconic area. Those of you on the International scheme will find yourselves in one of our partner institutions (such as Miami, USA who currently offer a residential fieldtrip to Ecuador).

In your final year, when you are all back in Cardiff, your residential fieldtrip takes place in an area in the UK or abroad selected by the student cohort. In recent years the MESci fieldtrip has taken place in northern Pennines, Malta, Ibiza, Scilly and Naples. Students carry out field-based projects designed by themselves, to explore their individual research interests with academic staff on hand to direct and help out.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: Dr Jenny Pike  




School Website:

More information

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences