Exploration and Resource Geology (BSc)

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. Our 3 year BSc degree builds upon a solid grounding in geology and focuses 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. Plus between years two and three it includes either an industrial placement or an applied geological mapping project. Thus because they are trained in specialist fieldwork and the IT skills needed by a professional exploration geologist, our graduates are in great demand in the mineral exploration industry.

The fieldwork activities for this degree scheme are similar to those for our Geology programmes but with an applied aspect. In year one the main location visited is Pembrokeshire. Year two 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 three 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.

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 CodeF621
Duration3 years
AccreditationsGeological Society
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 150 places available
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 740 applications
Scholarships and bursaries
Typical A level offerABB. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerWBQ Core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level, excluding the required science/Geology/Geography A-level(s). At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer30-32 points, including at least two Sciences at Higher Level
Other qualificationsApplications from those offering alternative qualifications are welcome.

Detailed alternative entry requirements are available for this course.
QAA subject benchmark

Earth sciences, environmental sciences and environmental studies 

Academic School
Admissions tutor(s)

Dr Andrew Kerr , Admissions Tutor

    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.

    Year one

    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.

    Year two

    Extensive field training during this year includes residential trips to Dorset, Cornwall and Spain during these trips you will learn a wide range of practical skills that are an essential training for exploration geologists.

    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.

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Data Acquisition and AnalysisEA210110 credits
    Applied GISEA213010 credits
    Structural GeologyEA210810 credits
    Metamorphic GeologyEA212410 credits
    Plate TectonicsEA210910 credits
    Geophysical ExplorationEA210710 credits
    Geological ResourcesEA211110 credits
    Field Skills in Exploration and Resource GeologyEA210320 credits
    Igneous GeologyEA212510 credits
    Sedimentary Processes, Petrology and StratigraphyEA213520 credits

    Year three

    In your third year, you will write up a research report on your placement or mapping project. 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.

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Exploration and Resource Geology FieldcourseEA311110 credits
    Petroleum Geology and Basin AnalysisEA311920 credits
    Ores and Ore GenesisEA312420 credits

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Exploration and Resource Geology ProjectEA311230 credits
    Exploration Placement ProjectEA311330 credits
    Water ResourcesEA311710 credits
    Advanced Sedimentology and StratigraphyEA311810 credits
    Structural TechniquesEA313110 credits
    Environmental LawEA313410 credits
    Engineering GeologyEA312310 credits
    Hazards and RiskEA313910 credits
    Applied MineralogyEA314410 credits
    Volcanic and Magmatic ProcessesEA310110 credits
    The University is committed to providing a wide range of module options where possible, but please be aware that whilst every effort is made to offer choice this may be limited in certain circumstances. This is due to the fact that some modules have limited numbers of places available, which are allocated on a first-come, first-served basis, while others have minimum student numbers required before they will run, to ensure that an appropriate quality of education can be delivered; some modules require students to have already taken particular subjects, and others are core or required on the programme you are taking. Modules may also be limited due to timetable clashes, and although the University works to minimise disruption to choice, we advise you to seek advice from the relevant School on the module choices available.

    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.

    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
    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."


    • Engineering Geologist
    • Geological Consultant
    • Field Mapping
    • Oil Geologist
    • Mining Software Analyst
    • Geophysical Surveying
    • Water Industry

    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.

    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.

    Years one and two 

    Throughout year one 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 two, 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.

    Individual project 

    Between year two and year three 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.

    Final year 

    In your final year, year three (or year four 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.


    3 Year(s)

    Next intake

    September 2016

    Places available

    Typical places available

    The School admits 150 students each year to its undergraduate degree programmes, usually between 35-40 on its Exploration and Resource Geology programmes.

    Applications received

    Typical applications received



    QAA subject benchmark

    QAA subject benchmark

    Earth sciences, environmental sciences and environmental studies 

    What are the aims of this Programme?

    There is an ever increasing need for oil, gas, metals, and construction materials in a world where resources are finite. This degree provides students with the skills to work in global mineral industries and contribute to providing materials in a sustainable way both locally and for world markets.  This vocationally-orientated degree course is a preparation for a professional career as a geologist working in metaliferous, bulk mineral or hydrocarbon industries. The degree scheme is both academically and practically broad-based involving field work and where ever possible industrial placements and contact with the exploration industry. The three year BSc degree builds upon a solid grounding in applied geology, with the understanding and exploration of the Earth's natural resources as the main focus of study. The aim is to provide knowledge of the geological, physical and chemical processes active within the Earth that lead to the formation of a natural resource. The course provides training in the specialist fieldwork and IT skills, including GIS, required by the modern professional exploration geologist using whenever possible field-based project work. 

    What is expected of me?

    Students will be expected to attend all lectures, practical laboratory classes, field excursions and tutorials. They will also be expected to carry out independent work including mapping projects and/or company placements. Students are expected to adhere to safety regulations.

    Students are expected to adhere to the Cardiff University policy on Dignity at Work and Study.

    How is this Programme Structured?

    This is a 3 year full time programme with Years 1 and 2 being compulsory but with optional modules in Year 3.

    Will I need any specific equipment to study this Programme?

    No specific equipment required

    What skills will I practise and develop?

    Students will acquire skills specific to exploration and resource geology and transferable skills such as communication and presentation skills. However there will be particular emphasis on vocational skills that will equip the student for the exploration industry, whether in multinational companies, junior exploration teams, government monitoring offices or research institutions. Students will be encouraged to become independent learners and develop self-awareness of their own aims and achievements. This will involve managing their own learning, both by organising collection of their own data and by review of scientific literature.

    How will I be taught?

    A diverse range of teaching and learning styles are used throughout this degree scheme. In addition to lectures students will participate in laboratory practicals, tutorials and learn fieldwork skills.  In year 1 there are day trips and a residential week where the skills of observation, measuring, recording and reporting field data are instilled. At level 2 students take part in geological fieldwork that emphasises rock recognition and mapping techniques. In the summer vacation between levels 2 and 3, students will normally acquire primary field data, often with in a host industrial placement company and this is used to produce a specific dissertation in the style of a company report. Third year field work usually includes an excursion overseas. Emphasis will be placed on field safety through careful planning of logistics, risk assessment and awareness of hazards in working environments. Scientific writing skills are developed progressively through the preparation of essays, guided study reports and the dissertation. The use of information technology is embedded in many modules from core material at level 4 to more specific requirements at level 5 and 6. Extensive computer facilities for students to practise these skills are provided specifically by the School. Feedback is provided on work at all levels.

    How will I be assessed?


    Discipline specific skills are assessed through continuous assessment of fieldwork, laboratory practicals, essays, dissertations, oral presentations and exams. Geological reports, technical data representation, geological map interpretation and processes leading to resource formation will all be examined.  Feedback will be given on written assignments, through tutorials and during practicals and fieldwork. 


    Feedback will be given on written assignments, through tutorials and during practicals and fieldwork. 

    How will I be supported?

    Individual support will be given through the tutorial system which includes scheduled meetings with a personal tutor. A supervisor will be allocated for major projects such as the independent mapping or placement project. Feedback and support will be given by staff at all times and through individual module support. Computer facilities and the universities virtual learning environment (VLE) or Central Learning facility will be provided including a chance to reflect on progress and personal performance through personal development planning available through the Central Learning centre. 

    What are the Learning Outcomes of this Programme?

    The student will be able to:-

    • Demonstrate understanding of the multi-disciplinary nature of exploration and resource geology.
    • Demonstrate a comprehensive knowledge of the core principles of exploration and resource geology.
    • Critically evaluate knowledge of the core principles of exploration and resource geology including basic geological themes such as igneous, metamorphic, structural and sedimentary geology, petrology, geochemistry and geophysics and therefore processes that concentrate ores, oil and industrial minerals.
    • Demonstrate a systematic knowledge of terminology, nomenclature and classification of earth materials, structures and resources.
    • Utilise knowledge and scientific evidence based methods in the assessment and solution of challenges in the field of exploration and resource geology.
    • Show originality and creativity in researching in this area of science. Frame a cogent argument, orally and in writing, with regard to aspects of the disciplinary context. Solve problems on the basis of ideas and methods in the context of current research in the discipline.
    • Collect evaluate, synthesise and interpret qualitative and quantitative data in a variety of ways especially using spatial data representation methods, GIS, and collect new data where necessary.
    • Demonstrate an appropriate level of practical and technical skills used for study of the Earth, Earth Resources and Earth Materials.
    • Be able to go out into the field and explore for natural resources using all the techniques listed above.

    Other information

    The distinctive features of the Programme include:

    ·      the opportunity for students to learn in a School which has a Grade 5A RAE rating with sophisticated analytical equipment routinely used on site

    ·      the involvement of research-active staff in Programme design and delivery

    ·      the variety of modules on offer in areas of academic research, applied studies including placement opportunities

    ·      the emphasis on independent learning in a research-led environment

    ·      a common first term in the first year allowing students to experience aspects of Earth Sciences and Geography at Cardiff University before finally deciding upon an honours degree programme

    ·      extensive fieldwork provision and supervision in the field for dissertation work

    ·      the generic nature of the scheme which provides graduates with a range of professional level skills appropriate for a range of further career pathways or advanced training options

    ·      the presence of an active SEG (Society of Economic Geology) chapter which facilitates links to the international exploration world

    ·      links with local consultancy companies and exploration companies worldwide. 

    Admissions tutors

    Dr Andrew Kerr , Admissions Tutor

      Key Information Sets (KIS) make it easy for prospective students to compare information about full or part time undergraduate courses, and are available on the Unistats website.