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.

Exploration Geology fieldwork in Dolaucothi Gold Mine

The MESci builds upon the equivalent BSc course 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 highly qualified candidates who might aim to pursue a research career in academia, government or industry.

Geologists and Earth scientists are much sought after in many professions because of their global view of natural processes.

Our degree in Geology gives you 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.

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 one the main location visited is currently Pembrokeshire while in year two students usually visit Arran, southwest England and northern Spain. In year three you will usually visit Cyprus, where all that you have learned previously can be synthesised into a picture that truly shows the nature of our dynamic earth.

For students interested in professional research careers in Geology, the four-year MESci provides a strong basis for investigation and research in this subject.

Distinctive features

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

A key component of this course is that you will undertake fieldwork in all three years, enabling you to learn how to record observations, analyse and interpret rocks and structures in the field and make a geological map.

You will be taught by highly qualified Earth scientists from a wide variety of disciplines, involved in national and international research programmes.

In year four you will complete a master's research dissertation which can widen your career opportunities.

I wanted to study geology and travel. The MESci Geology (International) course at Cardiff incorporated these two criteria, with the added bonus of being taught key research skills. I spent my 3rd year in America at the University of Wyoming. Every University department is different so by studying abroad I was taught different aspects of geology by a wide variety of experts, an experience that allowed me to make friends from all over the world, network in a professional field, expand my knowledge and experience different cultures.

Eva Marquis, MESci International Geology 2011

Key facts

UCAS CodeF601
Next intakeSeptember 2017
Duration4 years
ModeFull time
AccreditationsGeological Society
Typical places availableThe School typically has approx 150 places available.
Typical applications receivedThe School typically receives approx 740 applications.
Typical A level offerAAB. At least two A-levels should be a Science, Geography, Geology or Maths.
Typical Welsh Baccalaureate offerAAB. WBQ Core will be accepted in lieu of one A-level, excluding the two required Science/Maths/Geology/Geography A-levels.
Typical International Baccalaureate offer32-34 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
Admissions tutor(s)

This is a full-time four-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 four you will undertake a major research project as well as taking specialised optional modules. 

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2017/18 academic year. The final modules will be published by July 2017.

Year one

The programme structure is very flexible. All of our degrees share a common first semester. This is designed to give you a sound foundation in Earth sciences upon which to build. In total you will earn 120 credits for the year, through a mixture of 10-credit and 20-credit modules.

You will study the following general topics:  The Sedimentary System; Introduction to Earth Science Fieldwork; Introduction to Earth Science Skills; Life Through Time; Earth Materials; Earth and Planetary System Science; Formation of the British Isles; Natural Resources and Energy; Geological Maps, Sections and Structures and Dangerous Earth.

At the end of your first semester you will decide whether to continue with your original degree choice or choose another of our Earth Science degrees.

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

Year two

You take a suite of modules aimed at providing the basic tools for understanding geology and for fieldwork. In total you will earn 120 credits for the year, through a mixture of 10-credit and 20-credit modules.

You will study the following general topics: Applied GIS (Geographic Information System); Structural Geology; Metamorphic Geology; Plate Tectonics; Geological Fieldwork and Mapping Training; Palaeoecology; Geological Resources; Geophysical Exploration; Igneous Geology; Sedimentary Processes, Petrology and Stratigraphy.

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

In your summer between years two and three you will undertake a five-week independent mapping project in the UK or overseas. 

Module titleModule codeCredits
Structural GeologyEA210810 credits
Plate TectonicsEA210910 credits
Geological Field Skills and Research TutorialEA211820 credits
Geological ResourcesEA211110 credits
Igneous GeologyEA212510 credits
Applied GISEA213010 credits
PalaeoecologyEA210610 credits
Metamorphic GeologyEA212410 credits
Sedimentary Processes, Petrology and StratigraphyEA213520 credits
Geophysical ExplorationEA210710 credits

Year three

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

The MESci research tutorial module demonstrates how research is initiated, funded and executed

Optional modules will vary from year to year and there are sometimes restrictions in availability due to lack of demand, oversubscription, timetable clashes or the need for you to have taken certain other modules first.

Module titleModule codeCredits
Dynamic EarthEA313510 credits
Research SkillsEA314010 credits
Geology FieldcourseEA312810 credits
Geological Mapping ProjectEA310430 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Volcanic and Magmatic ProcessesEA310110 credits
Global GeomorphologyEA310310 credits
Water ResourcesEA311710 credits
Advanced Sedimentology and StratigraphyEA311810 credits
Petroleum Geology and Basin AnalysisEA311920 credits
PalaeobiologyEA312710 credits
Structural TechniquesEA313110 credits
Engineering GeologyEA312310 credits
Hazards and RiskEA313910 credits
Marine MicrofossilsEA310210 credits
Applied MineralogyEA314410 credits
PaleoclimateEA314710 credits
GlaciologyEA314610 credits
Evolving BiosphereEA314810 credits

Year four

You will complete a master's research dissertation in any Geology related topic that can be supervised in the School. You will work one-to-one with a research supervisor and may interact with a research group.

Since the School is very large and of international research standard, this means you have a wide 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.

In addition to a year four field course and the Research Project module you have a choice of optional modules.

In consultation with staff, you may seek to publish the principal results of your research project in the scientific literature.

Module titleModule codeCredits
MESci FieldcourseEA410510 credits
MESci Research ProjectEA412070 credits
Module titleModule codeCredits
Geological Mapping Research ProjectEA412170 credits
MESci Research ProjectEA412070 credits
Contaminated LandEA410310 credits
Evolution of AntarcticaEA410710 credits
ExtremophilesEA411610 credits
Process Geomorphology - from Source to SinkEA411010 credits
Advanced MetallogenesisEA411810 credits
GeodynamicsEA411910 credits
IPCC: The Physical Science BasisEA412310 credits
Advanced Igneous PetrogenesisEA410810 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.

How will I be taught?

The School of Earth and Ocean Sciences has an excellent tradition of teaching, delivered by lecturers who are experts in their field. 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 degrees. These cover a wide range of modern geosciences from the traditional geology approach to the more industry-focused 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 course in January of your first year. This offers you a chance to sample university teaching styles before committing to a particular degree or pathway.

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 with, in addition, specialist research training including:

  • in year one a literature review and analysis
  • in year two a research poster
  • in year three an understanding of how research questions are formulated, funded and executed.
  • in year four an extended research project.

The fieldwork programme spans all four years and includes both residential and day trips in the UK and abroad.

Year two posters and year four oral presentations of research come together for the annual MESci Research Conference which is open to all staff and students.

How will I be supported?

All students are assigned a personal tutor who will hold regular timetabled tutorials. Your tutor will be a specialist in your degree course and will advise you on both academic and pastoral matters.

You will have a nominated supervisor for your major final year project.

You will have access through the Learning Central website to relevant multimedia material, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, further links, electronic exercises and discussion circles. Opportunities for you to reflect on your abilities and performance are available through the Learning Central ‘Personal Development Planning’ module.

The University offers a range of services including the Careers Service, the Counselling Service, the Disability and Dyslexia Service, the Student Support Service, and excellent libraries and resource centres.


You will receive written feedback for written coursework assignments, oral feedback for assessed presentations. 

How will I be assessed?

Modules will be assessed to test knowledge and understanding through:

  • practical assignments
  • essay assignments
  • fieldwork
  • oral presentations
  • mapping dissertation
  • formal examinations.

NOTE: The University welcomes applications from students with disabilities and we may be able to offer alternative assessment methods. 

What skills will I practise and develop?

You will acquire and develop a range of valuable skills, both those which are discipline specific and more generic ‘employability skills’.

These include:

  • technical laboratory and fieldwork skills
  • communication and presentation skills, both oral and written
  • ability to collect, analyse and interpret data
  • independent learning and research skills through your major mapping project and other modules
  • a commitment to lifelong learning through engaging in the process of personal development planning and ownership of your own learning
  • problem solving, reliability, loyalty, social conduct, tact, attitude to learning and research, leadership, resilience, decision-making and reasoning. 

Based on responses from the 2013-14 Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education (DLHE) survey 96% of our graduates were in employment or engaged in further study within six months of graduation, with others taking time out to travel.

Employers included local government and 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 and water industry.

CAREERS CASE STUDY: Ben Lepley – MESci Geology 2008
Ben is working for SRK mining consultancy and is currently in Sweden helping to set up a new company base there.


  • Engineering Geologist
  • Exploration Geologist
  • Reservoir Geologist
  • Mineral Exploration
  • Geological Consultant
  • Field Mapping
  • Oil Geologist
  • Mining Software Analyst

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2017/18)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Students from outside the EU (2017/18)

Please see our fee amounts page for the latest information.

Will I need any specific equipment to study this course/programme?

Specialist equipment for working in the field and any other equipment appropriate for your degree will be provided by the School.

Fieldwork is an integral part of this degree, providing hands-on experience in real field situations.

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 course in informal surroundings, meet some of your lecturers away from the constraints of the classroom and see some of our local field areas.

Throughout year one you will undertake various local day trips as well as a residential field trip, learning field skills such as sedimentary logging, mapping and structural analysis.

In year two, students currently go on residential trips to Arran, Dorset, and Spain as well as undertaking various local day field trips. We will train you how to accurately make and record field observations, take field measurements and produce professional reports.

Between year two and year three all students undertake a five-week individual project. As a Geologist you will do a mapping project (working in a pair in various national and international locations – current areas include Spain, France, Scotland, North Wales and the Pennines). You will be supervised by a member of staff and currently all students are visited in the field.

In your third year the fieldwork programme is more research-led, focusing 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, usually to Cyprus where, among other things, you will be interpreting ophiolites and tectonics.

In your fourth year, your residential field trip takes place in an area in the UK or abroad selected by the student cohort. In recent years the MESci field trip has taken place in the northern Pennines, Malta, Ibiza, Sicily, Naples and Southern Spain. Students design and carry out field-based projects to explore their individual research interests with academic staff on hand to direct and help out.

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.