Skip to content

Applied Environmental Geology (MSc)

Our vocationally focused MSc degree in Applied Environmental Geology provides the requisite skills for employment in professional geo-environmental and geotechnical consultancies and government environmental agencies.

Students on a fieldtrip at Bryn Pica recycling centre.

Professional geologists working in consultancies, regulatory authorities and government environmental agencies are required to apply a wide range of transferrable skills to their jobs. Candidates who are able to demonstrate skills in public engagement, communication, professional research and report-writing, in addition to academic knowledge and field skills, are therefore highly sought after in these professions.

This full-time MSc Applied Environmental Geology is part taught and part professional project. We aim to develop your transferrable skills in a professional context and give you a head start in the geology profession of your choice or starting a PhD.

Distinctive features

  • Our location in South Wales provides us with a wide range of highly relevant geoenvironmental and geotechnical locations, which we visit during fieldtrips and use in case studies.
  • Embed your skills in professional practice through a five month professional project, usually as part of a placement.
  • Strong links with industry and government agencies ensure the quality and relevance of the course, and give you the opportunity to make contacts.
  • Fully integrated with the professional development (CPD) lecture programme of the Southern Wales Group of the Geological Society of London.

The dual coverage of Geotechnical and geoenvironmental aspects within the course really prepared me for a career in ground investigation. I have been able to draw on content from a variety of modules, which I feel gave me the edge in a recent (successful) job interview for a new role. The hands on and practical nature of the course meant that when I left and started my first 'proper job' I not only felt well prepared for the tasks at hand, but also like I already had a year’s experience in industry under my belt.

Rhian Lynes, MSc Applied Environmental Geology

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2019
Duration1 year
AccreditationsGeological Society

Admissions criteria

We usually accept students with a 1st or 2nd class UK Honours degree or equivalent. This degree is suitable for graduates in Earth sciences, environmental science, mining, civil engineering, environmental engineering and related subjects.

Note: International students pursuing part-time programmes of study are not eligible for Tier 4 (General Student) visas and must have alternative leave to remain in the UK if they intend to study at the University in person.

Find out more about English language requirements.

Applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK must present an acceptable English language qualification in order to meet UKVI (UK Visas and Immigration) requirements

There are two stages to the MSc Applied Environmental Geology.

Stage 1 lasts for 7 months (September – April), where you will complete taught modules and fieldwork, with significant contributions from industry professionals.

In these modules, we will investigate general themes, such as the principles of geotechnical engineering and geophysics. We will also look into environmental themes in more depth including land contamination, environmental regulation, behaviour of soils and water.

If you pass Stage 1 you will progress onto Stage 2, which is a 5-month professional project from May to September culminating in a dissertation. We will, wherever possible, offer you an industrial placement with a professional company either in the UK or overseas over the summer to complete your project.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2019/20 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2019.

For the first seven months, from September to April, you will complete taught modules and fieldwork at Cardiff University. After this, you will progress onto a 5-month placement in the UK or overseas where you will undertake a professional project and complete your dissertation.

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 methods of teaching we employ may vary from module to module. Generally we teach using a mixture of lectures, practical work and fieldwork. We also have a series of lectures with invited speakers from across the profession, as well as strong links with the Geological Society.

On the course, you will undertake laboratory work in several modules. This includes standard laboratory tests covering the physical and mechanical properties of soils, and water flow experiments to learn hydrologic and hydrogeologic concepts.

You will also develop your knowledge of numerical tools to model real-world geotechnical problems. Application software, such as CorelDraw, Surfer, ArcGIS, as well as professional geoengineering software, such as Rockscience and Landsim, are used throughout the course.

Throughout the course we encourage communication and teamwork. For example, we may ask you to work in teams in laboratories and on field-trips. Our project training includes skills in supervision and co-ordination of a range of tasks designed to address specific geotechnical and geoenvironmental problems. 

How will I be supported?

During your course, you will be supported in a number of ways.

We use the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central, to share course materials, including lectures, professional reports and links to government agencies. You may also use Learning Central to communicate and share ideas with fellow students and course tutors.

You will have full use of the Science Library, which houses materials related to Earth and Ocean Sciences, as well as the other University libraries.

You will be allocated a personal tutor when you enrol on the course. A personal tutor is there to support you during your studies, and can advise you on academic and personal matters that may be affecting you. You should have regular meetings with your personal tutor to ensure that you are fully supported.

For your dissertation, we will allocate you an academic supervisor and, if your project is located outside of Cardiff, an industrial supervisor. You should keep in in regular contact with your academic and/or industrial supervisor by email and attend at least one personal progress interview at Cardiff University during the dissertation period.

Cardiff University also offers a wide range of support services which are open to our students, such as the Graduate Centre, counselling and wellbeing, financial and careers advisors, the international office and the Student Union.


We offer written and oral feedback, depending on the coursework or assessment you have undertaken. You will usually receive your feedback from the module leader. If you have questions regarding your feedback, module leaders are usually happy to give advice and guidance on your progress.


How will I be assessed?

We use a wide range of assessment methods, depending on the module. These include exams, coursework, presentations, practical assessment, your industrial placement and dissertation (20,000 words).

What skills will I practise and develop?

On completing the course you should be able to:

  • Describe and explain the core scientific principles and concepts of soil/rock mechanics, water flow, and the pollution of soil, water and air.
  • Identify the standards, regulations, policies and legal frameworks required for the professional practice of applied environmental geology.
  • Research and write a professional site report of a geo-environmental hazard using primary sources and GIS techniques.
  • Design and execute a geotechnical, geophysical, hydrogeological and geoenvironmental site and laboratory investigation, analyse the data and develop remedial solutions for geoenvironmental problems.
  • Communicate effectively (both written and orally) in multi-disciplinary teams, act ethically and in conformity with health and safety regulations, and assess the sustainability of policies and projects.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the geotechnical, geochemical and hydrogeological factors that must be considered in investigating and providing solutions to a wide range of problems that exist in Applied and Environmental Geology.
  • Demonstrate an awareness and knowledge of; health, safety, scientific, technical UK standards, legal and commercial issues relevant to professional practice as an Applied Geologist.
  • Undertake an historical desk and remote sensing study of a previously industrialised site and develop a conceptual ground model of that site to aid redevelopment and planning.
  • Demonstrate advanced knowledge of the nature and geochemistry of contaminants found in ground and surface waters, soils, landfill sites, abandoned mines, and atmospheric pollution.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of the engineering properties and behaviour of rocks and soil with reference to ground stability issues, geohazards, construction and industrial mining legacy.
  • Show an understanding of the appropriate ground investigation and geophysical techniques to apply to any particular site investigation.
  • Demonstrate systematic understanding of the hydrogeological and geological parameters that determine groundwater character and flow.
  • Demonstrate high-level skills in risk-based assessment of remediation strategies for a range of contaminated land categories and end uses.
  • Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of Environmental Impact Assessment procedures and the regulatory legal framework applied in Law in the UK.

Our graduates are widely sought after in industry and often have an advantage in the job market, due to the applied nature of the course and the transferrable skills they have been equipped with.

Following this degree you may choose to work in consultancy, regulatory authorities or government environmental agencies across the world. You may also decide to conduct further research and complete a PhD.

Former students can be found working for the likes of Network Rail, Mott McDonald, Natural Resources Wales, Environment Agency England, WSP, Ove Arup, Atkins and numerous other specialist geo-environmental consultancies and agencies based around the UK.

Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2019/20)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

EU students entering in 2019/20 will pay the same tuition fee as UK students for the duration of their course. Please be aware that fees may increase annually in line with inflation. No decisions regarding fees and loans for EU students starting in 2020/21 have been made yet. These will be determined as part of the UK's discussions on its membership of the EU and we will provide further details as soon as we can.

Students from outside the EU (2019/20)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

More information about tuition fees and deposits, including for part-time and continuing students.

Additional costs

The School covers the cost of everything that is an essential part of the programme, this will be clearly detailed in all programme information and in any verbal instructions given by tutors.

The School provides hard safety hats, PPE clothing and a waterproof technical notebook, but students are required to individually purchase their own safety approved “rigger” type boots suitable for industrial site visits (can be purchased from under £20). Note that walking boots are not approved for industrial site visits as they have no steel re-enforcement.

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

We will provide any equipment that is essential to the course. However, we recommend that you bring a laptop computer with appropriate software (e.g. word processing), USB or a hard drive, and general stationary.

Specialist software for the programme is available on networked computers in the School of Earth and Ocean Sciences.

During the course, you will have access to the Science Library, and other University libraries, and study spaces across campus.

You will undertake a professional placement in industry as part of the second stage of the course. This placement will last for 5 months (May - September), during which you will undertake a research project and complete your dissertation.

We endeavour wherever possible to place students with industrial partners. This placement can be located in the UK or overseas as long as the project is deemed to be logistically safe and academically viable.

South Wales provides a wide range of highly relevant geoenvironmental and geotechnical case studies and site visits. These include site visits to the Cardiff Bay Barrage, acid mine drainage from abandoned mines and active landslides in the south Wales Valleys. Field work includes surveying skills, rock engineering to the Rhondda Valley and Cardigan, site investigation visits to the Mumbles, Bournville landslide, as well as contaminated land studies at Barry Docks and Bryn Pica landfill site. All fieldwork on this course is compulsory.