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Exploration Geology (BSc)


Entry year

Why study this course

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Professionally accredited

Accredited by the Geological Society, the professional body for geosciences in the UK.

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Summer placement opportunities

Many students have the opportunity to complete a summer placement, working as a junior geologist and experiencing real exploration work. In the past, our students have travelled to locations like Finland, Canada, Africa, Australia and Kazakhstan.

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Alumni mentorship scheme

Through our digital support scheme via LinkedIn you can be assigned to an exploration geology graduate, who will act as a mentor to you during your studies. Our mentorship scheme helps our students to gain confidence, receive support, and learn more about navigating the world of careers.

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Student support tutorials

You will be in close contact with an assigned tutor with expertise in exploration geology. They will be there to help you through regular formal sessions, as well as to offer guidance on anything relating to your course or the subject matter.

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Flexible course

In most cases, you may request a transfer to programmes with a professional placement year, with a year of study abroad, or to the MSci. You may also request a switch to another course in the school at the end of the first semester.

People have been using Earth’s natural resources like metals, minerals, oil and gas for centuries to build our towns and cities, power our homes, and make the vehicles, devices and tools that we depend on. New resources are increasingly hard to find, and specialist skills and technology are required to locate and use them responsibly.

On our Exploration Geology course, you will discover how Earth’s processes have created natural resources and how to explore for them to meet future demand. You will develop skills in data analysis, confident decision making and fieldwork, both above and underground. Through specialist exploration modules and practical classes, you will learn to characterise minerals and experience modern software and datasets used by professionals in the sector. All students will gain an introduction to the environmental, social and governance factors affecting the exploration industry and can choose sustainability-focused modules on topics such as hazard resilience and environmental geology as options.

Cardiff University has been training mining engineers and geologists for over 100 years, and our Exploration Geology degree is the only undergraduate degree in the UK that focuses on specialist training in resource exploration. We have a strong and established network of industry connections that allows us to offer our students summer placement opportunities, working in exploration organisations around the world.

As a student on this course you will gain access our Alumni Mentorship Scheme, a digital support resource run via LinkedIn, where you can get career advice, support and inspiration from our graduates.

Accreditations

Subject area: Earth and environmental sciences

Subject area: Geology and geoscience

Entry requirements

We accept a combination of A-levels and other qualifications, as well as equivalent international qualifications subject to entry requirements. Typical offers are as follows:

A level

ABB-BBB (with 1 science subject) or BBB-BBC (with 2 science subjects). Acceptable science subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Maths, Physics.

Extended/International Project Qualification: Applicants with grade A in the EPQ/IPQ will typically receive an offer one grade lower than the standard A level offer. Please note that any subject specific requirements must still be met.


This grade range reflects our typical standard and contextual offers. We carefully consider your contextual data (the circumstances in which you've been studying) upon application. Eligible students applying for this course will be given an offer at the lower end of the advertised grade range.

International Baccalaureate

32-31 overall or 665 in 3 HL subjects (with 1 HL science subject) or 31-30 overall or 665-655 in 3 HL subjects (with 2 HL science subjects). Acceptable science subjects: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Maths, Physics.

Baccalaureate Wales

From September 2023, there will be a new qualification called the Advanced Skills Baccalaureate Wales (level 3). This qualification will replace the Advanced Skills Challenge Certificate (Welsh Baccalaureate). The qualification will continue to be accepted in lieu of one A-Level (at the grades listed above), excluding any specified subjects.

Other qualifications from inside the UK

BTEC

DDM-DMM in a BTEC Extended Diploma in Animal Science, Applied Science, Health Science, ICT, or Sports and Exercise Science.

T level

Acceptance of T Levels for this programme will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Academic School. Consideration will be given to the T Level grade/subject and grades/subjects achieved at GCSE/Level 2.

Qualifications from outside the UK

See our qualification equivalences guide

Additional entry requirements

GCSE

Grade C or grade 4 in GCSE English Language.

IELTS (academic)

At least 6.5 overall with a minimum of 5.5 in each subskill.

TOEFL iBT

At least 90 overall with minimum scores of 17 for writing, 17 for listening, 18 for reading and 20 for speaking.

PTE Academic

At least 62 overall with a minimum of 59 in all communicative skills.

Trinity ISE II/III

II: at least two Distinctions and two Merits.
III: at least a Pass in all components.

Other accepted qualifications

Please visit our English Language requirements page for more information on our other accepted language qualifications.

You must have or be working towards:
- English language or Welsh language at GCSE grade C/4 or an equivalent (such as A-levels). If you require a Student visa, you must ensure your language qualification complies with UKVI requirements.
- GCSE Maths grade C/4 or equivalent qualification (subject and grade). If you are taking A-level Maths (or equivalent), GCSE Maths is not required. Core Maths may also be accepted in place of GCSE Maths.

We do not accept Critical Thinking, General Studies, Citizenship Studies, or other similar equivalent subjects.
We will accept a combination of BTEC subjects, A-levels, and other qualifications, subject to the course specific grade and subject requirements.

You are not required to complete a DBS (Disclosure Barring Service) check or provide a Certificate of Good Conduct to study this course.

If you are currently subject to any licence condition or monitoring restriction that could affect your ability to successfully complete your studies, you will be required to disclose your criminal record. Conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • access to computers or devices that can store images
  • use of internet and communication tools/devices
  • curfews
  • freedom of movement
  • contact with people related to Cardiff University.

Please see our admissions policies for more information about the application process.

Tuition fees for 2023 entry

Your tuition fees and how you pay them will depend on your fee status. Your fee status could be home, island or overseas.

Learn how we decide your fee status

Fees for home status

We are currently awaiting confirmation on tuition fees for the 2023/24 academic year. Fees for the previous year were £9,000.

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

We are currently awaiting confirmation on tuition fees for the 2023/24 academic year.

Fees for island status

Learn more about the undergraduate fees for students from the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

Fees for overseas status

We are currently awaiting confirmation on tuition fees for the 2023/24 academic year.

Additional costs

The fieldwork costs for your core modules are included but you will need to contribute towards food if it is provided during the trip. You will need to pay for any optional fieldwork modules. The cost of these trips will be capped at an amount determined by the school. Students facing financial hardship may be eligible to apply to the Cardiff Financial Assistance Programme for help with these costs.

Course specific equipment

You will need suitable clothing including warm weather, wind and storm-proof jackets and walking boots. The school will provide all health and safety equipment as well as specialised field equipment.

Accommodation

We have a range of residences to suit your needs and budget. Find out more on our accommodation pages.

Living costs

We're based in one of the UK's most affordable cities. Find out more about living costs in Cardiff.

Course structure

This is a three-year full-time degree. In your first year you will study core modules and get a strong foundation in exploration geology. In year two and three there are core and optional modules so you have some flexibility to choose to study the areas that you’re interested in.   

The modules shown are an example of the typical curriculum and will be reviewed prior to the 2023/2024 academic year. The final modules will be published by September 2023.

Year one

In your first year you will study core modules designed to give you a solid foundation in the science of Geology. We start with the basic principles, and cover topics like Earth’s surface plates and internal structure, the minerals that make our planet and the evolution of life through billions of years of geological time. You will develop essential skills like mapping and surveying, representing data in geographical information systems (GIS) and microscopy.

We will go on local field trips across South Wales and a week-long residential field trip to Pembrokeshire in West Wales to build on your learning from lectures and practical classes.

All of the degrees in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences study the same first semester. After semester one you can decide whether you want to continue with your original choice or switch to one of the other degrees (such as Geology or Environmental Geoscience).

You earn 120 credits for the year with each core module worth 20 credits.

Module titleModule codeCredits
World of Dynamic EnvironmentsEA130020 credits
Exploring Planet EarthEA130120 credits
GIS, Maps and Analytical SkillsEA130320 credits
Earth Science FieldworkEA130420 credits
Earth MaterialsEA130620 credits
Life and Earth HistoryEA130720 credits

Year two

In your second year you will build on the knowledge from year one and start exploring more advanced concepts like sedimentary processes, the origins of igneous and metamorphic rocks and the formation of mineral deposits and hydrocarbon resources. You will gain skills and experience in surface and underground mapping, sampling, data collection and analysis ready for your dissertation in year three.

We will train you to map on residential field trips to Pembrokeshire and North Wales, study source rocks and reservoirs for oil and gas in Dorset and explore for base and precious metals on surface and underground in a historic gold mine.

From year two you can also take part in our Exploration Alumni mentoring scheme. We will partner you up with a recent graduate that’s working in the sector you’re interested in and they can offer practical advice on things like professional skills, career development and which optional modules are the most relevant to your career ambitions.

In the summer between year two and three you will do a five-week independent project to prepare for your dissertation in year three. This will either be an applied mapping project or an industry placement. In recent years exploration students have mapped in Scotland, Wales, Ireland and Spain and carried out placement projects with companies exploring in Greenland, Senegal, Canada, Finland, Turkey and Serbia.

You earn 120 credits for the year. This is made up of 40 and 20 credit core modules and a choice of 20 credit optional modules.

Year three

In your final year you will have more freedom to shape your degree and choose modules that fit with your career ambitions. You will also develop essential professional skills and knowledge that all employers are looking for.

You earn 120 credits for the year. The core modules include your dissertation, Mineral Exploration and Evaluation and Petroleum Geology, Geoenergy and Basin Analysis. You will carry out projects using industry standard exploration software and work individually and as teams to carry out regional exploration for metals and hydrocarbons using historical datasets donated by industry.

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.

Dolaucothi gold mine
Our Exploration Geology students panning for gold at Dolaucothi gold mine, South Wales.

Learning and assessment

We are a friendly and informal school and you will be supported and taught by world-leading experts involved in cutting-edge international research.

Our teaching approach is a mix of theory and practical and includes: lectures, laboratory work, fieldwork, tutorials, workshops and seminars. You will also be encouraged to learn independently throughout the course. 

How will I be supported?

Supervision

At the start of the course you will be allocated a personal tutor who you will meet with regularly for tutorials. Tutorials are fortnightly in the first year and then monthly in year two and three. Your personal tutor will be a specialist in exploration and can offer advice on academic and personal matters. In year three you will also be allocated a supervisor for your dissertation project.

    

Facilities

We have a Learning Central website where you can access videos, images, presentations, lecture handouts, bibliographies, links to further reading, electronic exercises and discussion circles. Where possible, lectures will be recorded so you can watch and study in your own time.

The Learning Central website also has a ‘Personal Development Planning’ module that supports you in regularly assessing your progress and meeting your development needs.

Support services

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

Diversity

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. Read about our commitment to the Athena SWAN principles and our Bronze status 

How will I be assessed?

We will be assessing your level of knowledge and understanding in each module through a combination of assignments, presentations, fieldwork, examinations and a dissertation. You will receive written and oral feedback on your coursework and there are opportunities for informal feedback throughout the course.

NOTE: The University welcomes applications from students with disabilities and we endeavour to offer reasonable alternative assessment methods wherever possible.   We have an Alternative Fieldwork Policy which is adopted in cases where a student cannot attend a scheduled, taught field course, or part(s) thereof, because of extenuating circumstances. 

What skills will I practise and develop?

The Learning Outcomes for this Programme describe what you will be able to do as a result of your study at Cardiff University. They will help you to understand what is expected of you. 

The Learning Outcomes for this Programme can be found below:

Knowledge & Understanding:

On successful completion of the Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • The ability to acquire, integrate and synthesise information to address complex problems in earth sciences
  • Knowledge and understanding of the structure of the Earth, its materials, lifeforms and resources and the processes that shape it at present and through geological time.
  • Ability to compile, assess and model information in order to predict where new natural resources may be discovered or how existing resources might be managed.
  • Ability to explain the role and impact of earth science in solving 21st century societal challenges such as the sustainable supply of water, energy and other natural resources to meet the needs of the world’s population.

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Comprehension and critical evaluation of science-based evidence to assess and formulate solutions to complex multi-component problems in earth sciences.
  • The ability to assemble and critically evaluate information on a variety of scales (from microscopic to planetary) and generate and interpret datasets in 2D, 3D and 4D to formulate realistic conceptual earth models as a tool for resource exploration, extraction and sustainable management.
  • The capability to evaluate current research in applied and exploration geology, with commensurate appreciation of uncertainty and debate and limits to understanding.

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Ability to recognise and interpret rocks, minerals and fossils to determine the geological relationships and reconstruct the history of any particular sample/outcrop/region under study.
  • Understanding and application of the methods used to acquire geospatial data and represent such data in 2D and 3D using maps, GIS and proprietary mining and exploration software.
  • Analysis and portrayal of numerical data in earth sciences, including using appropriate software.
  • Problem solving involving integration and analysis of diverse and often incomplete exploration data and using appropriate qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
  • The ability to design, implement and safely carry out a programme of field- or laboratory-based research in an applied setting and report the findings effectively in writing.

Transferable/Key Skills:

On successful completion of the Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • Ability to design, implement and manage a project through an independent dissertation.
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Application of the scientific method, numerical and spatial skills including visualization to the understanding of 3D (and 4D) data sets and their interpolation in space (and time).
  • Ability to communicate information and concepts effectively and clearly through oral, written and visual means to specialist and non-specialist audiences.
  • An understanding of the benefits of employment networking and continuing professional development.
  • Problem solving, reliability, loyalty, social conduct, tact, attitude to learning and research, leadership, resilience, decision-making and reasoning.
Fieldwork
Exploration Geology and Geology students sketching sedimentary rocks in Dorset.

Careers and placements

Career prospects

Our constant demand for metals, construction materials and other natural resources means the knowledge and skills of an exploration geologist are in high demand. With a degree in Exploration Geology, you have a range of career options open to you and can apply for roles like an exploration geologist, a hydrogeologist, a mineralogist or an environmental consultant. The practical and business-focused aspects of the degree will give you essential employable skills that sectors like insurance, finance, education also look for.

Some of our past students have gone on to work for Anglo American Plc, North American Nickel, Mineco, Karelian Gold Ltd, 6 Alpha Associates, Gemfields Ltd, Terravision Exploration Ltd, Bibby Hydromap and the engineering and mining consultancies Golder Associates and Royal HaskoningDHV.

Many of our students that spent time in industry as part of their dissertation project went on to work for the same organisation after graduation.

Placements

Any student who can secure a suitable placement with a company or organisation may transfer to our four-year programme and graduate with a BSc with a Professional Placement Year. We cannot guarantee placements as the recruitment and selection process depends on the company you are applying to.  However, we will support you in finding and applying for a placement and the University’s careers service can help you with your applications, CV and interview skills.   We have found that students who complete a professional placement year return to their studies with invaluable employability skills and industry experience.

Fieldwork

Exploration geologists must interpret complex data in order to focus exploration and evaluation efforts on the best targets. This key skill is underpinned by learning how rocks behave in different settings and at different scales through fieldwork. In the field, students learn to make maps, identify rocks and rock structures, and assess the evidence to determine whether they contain valuable resources.

We make the most of our location and take plenty of local field trips. In the past, we have visited Pembrokeshire, Snowdonia, Cornwall and Dorset, where the rocks contain metalliferous ores or energy resources. There will also be opportunities for overseas trips. Previously, we have visited northern Spain to learn how to map complex structures and Cyprus to explore mineral deposits that originally formed in magma chambers and submarine vents on the deep ocean floor.

Next steps

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How to apply

Find out how to apply for this course


HESA Data: Copyright Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited 2021. The Higher Education Statistics Agency Limited cannot accept responsibility for any inferences or conclusions derived by third parties from its data. Data is from the latest Graduate Outcomes Survey 2019/20, published by HESA in June 2022.