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Environmental Hazards (MSc)

This course provides an advanced understanding of environmental hazards and technical expertise in risk assessment with a focus on the methods needed to analyse past hazards and forecast future ones.

Our society is facing unprecedented environmental hazards driven by climate change and the rapid expansion of the world population. Global and local disasters cause many fatalities and cost billions of pounds every year. Earth scientists with expertise in the specialist hazard field are able to mitigate the impact of natural hazards, such as floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes and coastal erosion, and environmental hazards created by people, such as air and water pollution.

On this course you will develop an advanced understanding of environmental hazards and technical expertise in risk assessment. This will include crucial skills in numerical and statistical modelling, remote sensing, fieldwork, and data analysis. There will be plenty of opportunities to gain hands-on experience using state-of-the-art field and laboratory equipment and high level, professional software. You will handle the latest modelling methods using remote sensing data from satellites such as CubeSat constellations and Sentinel, which are used to image the surface of the Earth.

With the skills required to predict, track and mitigate disasters, you will be an attractive candidate for a range of employment and research opportunities within government, government agencies, environmental consultancies, flood risk, utility and insurance companies. Plus, you will become part of the global effort to make our society more resilient against natural disasters as outlined in the Sendai framework and endorsed by the United Nations General Assembly.

Distinctive features

  • Study a modern, interdisciplinary course with a focus on methods for analysing past hazards and forecasting future ones.
  • Our location in South Wales provides a rich, field environment to explore within the context of UK environmental hazards.
  •  Focus your studies in the areas that are interesting and important to you through an advanced research project driven by your own interests.
  • Experience research-led teaching from leading practitioners who will share their diverse expertise in the modern, interdisciplinary science of hazard assessment and risk management.

Key facts

Next intakeSeptember 2020
Duration1 year
Academic Tutor contact(s)

Admissions criteria

We welcome applications from graduates who have a good honours degree, or equivalent professional qualification in a subject such as Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, or related discipline.

Applicants will usually possess a 2:1 honours degree in environmental science, geography, geology or related subject. Applicants with a 2:2 honours degree in environmental science, geography, geology or related subject may be invited to participate in a telephone or remote interview.

If your first language is not English you must provide evidence of competence in English. Our standard requirement is an overall IELTS score of 6.5 with no area less than 5.5.  The University offers English language courses that can help you achieve this.

Please feel free to supplement your application with a detailed CV or any other supporting material you may consider to be appropriate.

Programmes start in September each year but applications are considered as they arrive throughout the year. You apply directly to the University online for a postgraduate taught course.


English Language Requirements or non-UK applicants

Typical IELTS offer: 6.5 with no area less than 5.5


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

This is a full-time course undertaken in one academic year.

For the first seven months, from September to April, you will complete taught modules to a total of 120 credits during the Diploma stage of your degree.

If you pass the Diploma stage you will progress onto the Master’s stage, where you will undertake an individual project (worth 60 credits) culminating in a dissertation. This project will be carried out during the summer under the supervision of a member of academic staff.

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2020/21 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2020.

The first year is composed of compulsory modules. The autumn term provides an introductory theoretical background and advanced methodological training. The spring term provides a more integrated view of the issues of risk assessment, vulnerability, and resilience.

Finally, the 60-credit dissertation provides students with an opportunity to conduct hazard research in their specialised area of interest.

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 a strong and active research culture which informs and directs our teaching. We are committed to providing teaching of the highest standard allowing students from a range of backgrounds to fulfil their potential.

The methods of teaching we employ may vary from module to module. Generally we teach using a mixture of methods including lectures, small group workshops, computer based laboratory exercises, and field based trips. Where possible, lectures will be recorded so you can watch and study in your own time.

Most of your taught modules will have further information for you to study and you will be expected to work through this in your own time according to the guidance provided by the lecturer for that module.

How will I be supported?

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 who is there to provide assistance and feedback on how your advanced project work is progressing. You should keep in in regular contact with your academic supervisor by email and attend at least one personal progress interview at Cardiff University during the dissertation period.


We use the University’s virtual learning environment, Learning Central, to share course materials, including handouts, professional reports, videos, images, further reading and links to government agencies. You may also use Learning Central to communicate and share ideas with fellow students and course tutors in discussion circles. Where possible, lectures will be recorded and shared via Learning Central so you can watch and study in your own time.

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.      

Support services

Cardiff University 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 aim to create an inclusive, supportive and welcoming environment that respects the dignity of staff and students of all ages, ethnicities, disabilities, family structures, genders, nationalities, sexual orientations, races, religious or other beliefs, and socio-economic backgrounds.

We are committed to the Athena SWAN principles and have been awarded a Bronze status.



How will I be assessed?

Modules are entirely assessed based on a range of different coursework assessments that combine both individual and group exercises. The delivery of the coursework is balanced between different modes of assessment from presentations, written assessments (essays and reports), and laboratory practical assessments.


Feedback on coursework may be provided via written, oral, or video-based comments on work submitted, by provision of ‘model’ answers and/or through discussion in contact sessions.

You will usually receive your feedback from the module leader. If you have questions regarding your feedback, module leaders can give advice and guidance on your progress.

What skills will I practise and develop?

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the course you should be able to:

  • Categorise environmental hazards in terms of their underlying processes and drivers.
  • Critically evaluate the causes and impacts of vulnerability to environmental risk.
  • Develop a working definition of resilience to cope with global environmental hazards.
  • Appraise the risks of complex environmental hazards.

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the course you should be able to:

  • Test deterministic and probabilistic models of environmental hazards.
  • Critically evaluate and objectively analyse environmental hazard problems and develop appropriate, creative solutions.
  • Summarise and critically assess complex hazard data and theory to forecast future risk.

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the course you should be able to:

  •  Design risk assessments for environmental hazards.
  •  Handle the range of data needed to critically assess environmental hazards and an ability to incorporate these into specific case studies.
  • Prepare to pursue opportunities for career development and lifelong learning and appreciate the potential effects of global change.

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the course you should be able to:

  • Create analysis using complex deterministic and probabilistic models.
  •  Critically evaluate literature to effectively communicate ideas, principles and theories by oral, written, and electronic means.
  • Work effectively as a team member or leader in a team and as an individual, cultivating initiative, personal responsibility and decision-making in complex and unpredictable situations.
  • Handle a range of remote sensing methodologies.

Following this degree you will be an attractive candidate for a range of employment opportunities within government, government agencies, environmental consultancies, flood risk, utility and insurance companies. Potential career paths could include international development or environmental hazard science.

If you prefer to continue on a more academic career pathway, you may choose to continue your studies with a PhD on a hazard-related topic.


Tuition fees

UK and EU students (2020/21)

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 (2020/21)

Tuition feeDepositNotes

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

Additional costs

Not for any compulsory activity

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