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Exploration and Resource Geology (MESci)

  • F623

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.

Exploration and Resource Geology MESci

Cardiff is one of the few universities that run undergraduate courses specifically in Exploration and Resource Geology which has evolved from the long mining tradition in South Wales.

Globally there is an ever increasing need for oil, gas, metals, and construction materials in a world where resources are finite. This requires scientists to be able to research into their origin and processes of formation This MESci degree trains such people by building upon a solid grounding in geology and focusing on the applied understanding of exploration of the Earth's natural resources. The scheme provides knowledge of processes that lead to the formation of a natural resource, be it a hydrocarbon or a metalliferous deposit and enables you as an MESci student to undertake a major research project in your fourth year concentrating upon a topic that really excites you. Plus between Years 2 and 3 you will also have undertaken either an industrial placement or an applied geological mapping project. 

The fieldwork activities for this degree scheme are similar to those for our Geology programmes but with an applied aspect. In Year 1 the main locations visited are South Wales and Arran. Year 2 you will visit SW England to study sedimentary basins and the tin mining legacy and northern Spain, where rock exposure is completely different from the UK. In Year 3 you visit Cyprus where all that you have learnt previously about the formation and exploitation of ore deposits can be synthesised into a picture that truly shows the essential practical skills needed by exploration geologists.  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.

We have a thriving Society of Economic Geologists (SEG) chapter that links us to this international society and enables us to attract specialist visiting lecturers and arrange field visits to working quarries and mines e.g. Navan in Ireland.

Key Facts

UCAS Code F623
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 Exploration and Resource 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

An exploration geologist requires a broad range of skills including: an aptitude for fieldwork, good ICT skills and the ability to make key decisions from limited information. This applied and vocationally orientated course will prepare you for a potentially exciting professional career as a geologist working in the global hydrocarbon, metaliferous or bulk mineral industries.

Exploration and Resource Geology MESci

The four year undergraduate programme is designed for high quality candidates who aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry. 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 Exploration and Resource Geology as well as modules giving skills in science and research in a field of your choice.

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 Exploration and Resource Geology and complete a research project on an aspect of Exploration and Resource Geology.

You will study the following modules:

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

Year 2

The Year 2 suite of modules in Exploration and Resource Geology are aimed at providing you with the basic knowledge and understanding in order to identify your own interests in Exploration and Resource Geology research. You will participate in an extensive field programme consisting of both day trips and residential courses to Dorset, Cornwall and Spain, which aims to train you in field techniques necessary for research in Exploration and Resource Geology. You will have the opportunity to research on a field topic of your choice and will present the results in the form of a research poster at the annual MESci Research Conference.

You will study the following  modules:

  • Field skills in Exploration and Resource Geology
  • Geological Resources (ores, minerals, oil & energy)
  • Structural Geology
  • Data Acquisition and Analysis
  • Applied GIS
  • Plate Tectonics
  • Metamorphic Geology
  • Sedimentary Petrogenesis and Stratigraphy
  • Igneous Geology
  • Earth Surface Processes
  • Geophysical Exploration

In your second summer, you are encouraged to undertake an industrial placement project with an exploration company in the UK or overseas. Alternatively, you can complete an exploration project or geological mapping topic under our academic supervision.

Year 3

In your third year, you will write up a research report on your placement or mapping project, in addition to completing a specific MESci research project.  You will learn how to prepare a research paper for publication and present the results of your research as a lecture at the annual MESci Research Conference. You will also follow core modules in both mineral and hydrocarbon resources, plus an overseas field course to Cyprus.

You will meet visiting guest lecturers and learn to design a professional exploration project.

You can choose specialist final-year modules from the following:

  • Water Resources
  • Dynamic Earth
  • Advanced Sedimentology and Stratigraphy
  • Structural Techniques
  • Volcanic and Magmatic Processes
  • Environmental Law
  • Engineering Geology

Year 4

The major element in the fourth year of the programme is a research project on an exploration topic of your choice. This project will enable you to master and demonstrate the skills you will need in your future career.

The research project 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
  • Process Geomorphology

You may also be able to choose Year 3 modules you were unable to take previously as options.

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

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 should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths

Typical WBQ Offer

WBQ Core will be accepted in lieu of one A level, excluding the required science Geology/Geography A level(s). .

Typical Int Bacc Offer 32-33 points, including at least two Sciences 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 such as Gemcom Software, SRK Exploration, Kuwait Oil Company and Anglo American.

Career destinations included: engineering geologist, geological consultant, exploration geologist, field geologist, mineralogist, mineral exploration, geological consultant, field mapping, oil geologist, mining software analyst, geophysical surveying, water industry.

Careers case studies

Sarah Fenwick – Exploration and Resource Geology 2006
Working for AngloGold Ashanti Australia.  Based in Perth and working in Australian outback, exploring for gold in underground and open pit mining environments. Job involves living in small bush camps and helicopter supported surveys of prospective areas.

Sarah says: “I thoroughly enjoyed my time studying at Cardiff. The geology modules offered at the school were interesting, up to date, varied and the field trips were a real highlight. Cardiff itself is a vibrant and enjoyable city to live in with a great student community and plenty of things to do and see.”

Fieldwork is an integral part of the 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 will be provided by the School and students will be issued with specialist equipment appropriate for their degree after enrolment.

Exploration and Resource 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.  As an Exploration and Resource Geology student you will take part in induction activities with all our new 1st Years but will also go as a cohort to Dolaucothi Gold Mine.

Throughout Year 1 you will undertake various local day trips as well as a residential fieldtrip to Pembrokeshire, learning field skills such as sedimentary logging, mapping and structural analysis.  Fieldwork is a major component of all degree schemes in Year 2, as an Exploration and Resource 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.

Between Year 2 and Year 3 all students undertake a five week individual project.  As an Exploration and Resource Geologist you will either do (i) an independent placement that allows you to carry out a project in an exploration company to include some form of data collection including geological mapping, core logging, seismic interpretation, or evaluation modelling (which can take place anywhere in the world, we have recently had students in Australia, Peru, Senegal, Namibia, Alaska, Greenland, Finland, RSA and China as well as based locally) or (ii) 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 if mapping and, depending where you are based, you may also get a visit in the field or whilst on a placement.

In your final year, Year 3 (or Year 4 for those of you that do a year in industry) 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 residential trips to examine mineralisation in north Wales and Cyprus.

Next intake: September each year

School Contact

Name: Dr Jenny Pike  




School Website:

More information

School of Earth and Ocean Sciences