Physical sciences

Top universities where you can study geology, environmental, earth & marine sciences

A number of specified courses come under the earth and marine sciences umbrella; these being geology, environmental engineering, oceanography, marine geography and geophysics, but at its core, this degree involves the study of the Earth’s structure, dynamics, oceans and planets. The aim of this degree is to understand how the Earth’s resources are used (and abused), and how sustainability of these resources can be developed in the future. 

As environmental concerns climb ever higher on the political agenda, so does the importance of a degree in earth sciences. Physics, chemistry and biology make up the degree study, but geography, maths, environmental sciences and engineering are also all key. Topics might include the evolution of life, earth surface processes, the cause of earthquakes, the ocean and how resources the seas provide can be used in a responsible and environmentally sustainable way.

Courses will be taught through practical sessions, so students should expect to split their time between the lab and the field. Expect plenty of field trips and the opportunity to spend a year in industry in a paid position at some universities.

Some universities may offer specialisations such as geology, meteorology and palaeontology as separate degrees, or internal specialised options within the degree. Whatever path you choose, you’ll need meticulous attention to detail for lab work, the ability to learn and retain a large amount of niche subject knowledge and be able to convert raw data into coherent findings. Essays, research projects, oral presentations and practical exams are all used to assess students on this degree.

A degree in geology, environmental, earth and marine sciences (or any combination of these disciplines) will put graduates in excellent stead to work at conservation or environmental campaign organisations. A career as an oceanographer or a marine biologist will require further study, although some courses feature an integrated master’s. Courses accredited by the Geological Society of London (the professional body for geoscientists) will allow you to apply for status as a chartered geologist. That is not to say that this sort of degree limits graduates to such industries, quite the opposite – the analytical skills, creative solution making and willingness to experience the field first hand are all valuable transferable skills.  

Other subjects within the discipline of physical sciences

An essential guide to what you will learn during a geology degree, what you should study to get your place on a course, and what jobs you could get once you graduate

16 March