Exploration and Resource Geology (MESci)

The four year MESci course at Cardiff involves hypothesis testing, critical analysis and problem solving whilst learning about the process and outcomes of research.

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.

This course 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.

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 two and three 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 one the main locations visited are South Wales and Arran. 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.  In year four 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 CodeF623
Duration4 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 offerAAB. 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.

    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 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.

    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.

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    The Sedimentary SystemEA110210 credits
    Life Through TimeEA110810 credits
    MESci Earth Science FieldworkEA112520 credits
    Earth MaterialsEA111210 credits
    Research Tutorial with Earth Science SkillsEA112410 credits
    Earth and Planetary System ScienceEA110120 credits
    Formation of the British IslesEA110710 credits
    Natural Resources and EnergyEA110610 credits
    Geological Maps, Sections and StructuresEA111010 credits
    Dangerous EarthEA110310 credits

    Year two

    The year two 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.

    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
    Exploration and Resource Geology Field skills and Research TutorialEA211920 credits
    Geological ResourcesEA211110 credits
    Geophysical ExplorationEA210710 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, 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.

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Exploration and Resource Geology FieldcourseEA311110 credits
    Petroleum Geology and Basin AnalysisEA311920 credits
    Ores and Ore GenesisEA312420 credits
    Research SkillsEA314010 credits

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Exploration and Resource Geology ProjectEA311230 credits
    Exploration Placement ProjectEA311330 credits
    Volcanic and Magmatic ProcessesEA310110 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

    Year four

    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 four fieldcourse you have a choice of optional modules.

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    MESci FieldcourseEA410510 credits
    MESci Research ProjectEA412070 credits

    Module titleModule codeCredits
    Contaminated LandEA410310 credits
    Evolution of AntarcticaEA410710 credits
    Process Geomorphology - from Source to SinkEA411010 credits
    Advanced MetallogenesisEA411810 credits
    GeodynamicsEA411910 credits
    IPCC: The Physical Science BasisEA412310 credits
    Advanced Igneous PetrogenesisEA410810 credits
    MESci Structural TechniquesEA412410 credits
    MESci Magmatic ProcessesEA412510 credits
    MESci Professional Engineering GeologyEA412610 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.

    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
    • Exploration Geologist
    • Field Mapping
    • Mineralogist
    • Mineral Exploration
    • Field Geologist
    • Mining Software Analyst
    • Geophysical Surveying

    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.


    4 Year(s)

    Next intake

    September 2016

    Places available

    Typical places available

    The School admits 150 students each year to its undergraduate degree programmes, usually  ~ 20 on the MESci 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?

    Earth Science sets out to investigate the origin and development of the Planet, the natural principles that govern it, the processes that act in it, on it, and around it, and the life that has evolved with it. The MESci programmes provide students with the opportunity to extend their knowledge and understanding of Earth Sciences beyond that normally possible within a 3-year degree scheme and to provide a systematic understanding in the relevant discipline to masters level. The MESci involves a combination of classroom, laboratory and field-based teaching and includes a substantial component of original research and the writing of a research dissertation under the supervision of a leading scientist. The MESci programmes are thus designed to provide students with the necessary skills to pursue a career in research in the earth sciences, whether at doctoral level or in industry. Graduates from these programmes will have a combination of advanced knowledge and skills, making them highly attractive both to potential employers and research establishments. The MESci in Exploration and Resource Geology follows this philosophy by studying the ever increasing need for oil, gas, metals and construction materials to research level.

    What is expected of me?

    Students should attend lectures and are expected to attend all relevant seminars and timetabled laboratory and fieldwork sessions. Students are expected to engage in independent study alongside the taught module programme and within module guidelines. In both Year 3 and 4 students are expected to work more independently than on BSc programmes.

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

    How is this Programme Structured?

    The is a full time 4 year programme which follows the BSc route with the equivalent title for the first three years, but with additional small group teaching on the methodology and philosophy of research. In Year 4 students undertake a major research project as well as specialised optional modules. 

    Will I need any specific equipment to study this Programme?

    No specific equipment required

    What skills will I practise and develop?

    Students will have the opportunity to practise and develop a number of oral and written skills, including academic, subject-specific and more generic ‘employability’ skills. These include the ability to work constructively in small teams, find and synthesize relevant information from diverse sources, and to produce and interpret a wide range of quantitative and qualitative data. Particular skills include the keeping of a field or laboratory notebook, making and recording observations in the field or laboratory, making quantitative measurements in the field or laboratory, and making maps or recording spatial data. Students will be experienced in the planning and management of research projects to strict deadlines and in risk assessment in the field and in the laboratory. Students will develop and acquire a wide range of IT skills including use the internet, databases, spreadsheets, word processing, graphics packages as well as specialist software related to Geographic Information Systems.

    How will I be taught?

    Core and advanced knowledge and understanding are acquired via a diverse range of teaching and learning styles including lectures, practicals, seminars, fieldwork, laboratory projects, guided study and small group tutorials with a research scientist. For the first three years the taught content parallels the relevant BSc degree schemes with, in addition, specialist research training including in Year 1 a Literature Review and Analysis; Year 2 a research poster; Year 3 a laboratory or field based research project and writing of a scientific paper to publishable standard; and in Year 4 an extended research  project. The fieldwork programme spans all four years and includes both residential and day trips in the UK and abroad. Year 2 posters and Year 4 oral presentations of research comprise the annual MESci Research Conference which is open to all staff and students.

    How will I be assessed?


    The taught modules within the MESci in Exploration and Resource Geology are assessed by

    • Written examinations
    • Essays
    • Practical tests
    • Research posters
    • Research project reports
    • Oral presentations
    • A research dissertation (not more than 15,000 words)


    Feedback is provided through pastoral tutorials, research seminars, field courses and laboratory exercises. Continual feedback is provided at practicals through all 4 years and by individual research project supervisors in Year 3 and 4.

    How will I be supported?

    Modules within the programme make extensive use of Cardiff University’s Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) Learning Central, on which students will find course materials and links to related materials. Students will be allocated a nominated supervisor when undertaking their Year 3 and Year 4 research projects, who will schedule regular meetings to discuss progress, provide advice and guidance. Opportunities for students to reflect on their abilities and performance are made available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module and through scheduled meetings with personal tutors.

    What are the Learning Outcomes of this Programme?

    Graduates from this programme will be able to:

    ·        Demonstrate systematic understanding of knowledge in the Exploration and Resource Geology to masters level and to a research level in many areas

    ·        Critically evaluate current research and methodologies in Exploration and Resource Geology.

    ·        Demonstrate a comprehensive understanding of techniques applicable to their own research or advanced scholarship.

    ·        Propose new hypotheses and suggest methods for testing them.

    ·        Demonstrate self-direction and originality in tackling and solving problems, and act autonomously in planning and implementing tasks at a professional level.

    ·        Collect, evaluate, synthesise and interpret qualitative and quantitative data in a variety of ways, including preparing a research poster, writing a scientific paper in a form suitable for publication in a scientific journal.

    ·        Plan, conduct and manage an individual research project to professional standards and write an extended dissertation

    .        Communicate scientific conclusions clearly by oral presentation

    Other information

    In consultation with staff, students may seek to publish the principal results of their research projects in the scientific literature

    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.