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Exploration Geology (MSci)

Why study this course

Specialise in the exploration of our natural resources and gain valuable research skills on this four-year degree.

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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.

Our master's degrees involve a fourth year of study where you work on a research project with a scientist from the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences and their research team. This research can be in resource exploration, or in other geological fields. You will gain advanced research and problem-solving skills that will be invaluable to employers in academia, government and industry.

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.


We carefully consider your contextual data (the circumstances in which you've been studying) upon application. Where a grade range is advertised this reflects our typical standard and contextual offers. Eligible students will be given an offer at the lower end of the advertised grade range. Where there is no grade range advertised you will usually receive additional points in the selection process. Learn about eligible courses and how contextual data is applied.

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

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £9,000 None
Year two £9,000 None
Year three £9,000 None
Year four £9,000 None

Students from the EU, EEA and Switzerland

If you are an EU, EEA or Swiss national, your tuition fees for 2023/24 be in line with the overseas fees for international students, unless you qualify for home fee status. UKCISA have provided information about Brexit and tuition fees.

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

Year Tuition fee Deposit
Year one £25,450 None
Year two £25,450 None
Year three £25,450 None
Year four £25,450 None

Learn more about our tuition fees

Financial support

Financial support may be available to individuals who meet certain criteria. For more information visit our funding section. Please note that these sources of financial support are limited and therefore not everyone who meets the criteria are guaranteed to receive the support.

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

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

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 four-year full-time course and you study for your Bachelor’s and Master’s degree at the same time. The first three years are structured in the same way as the BSc course and then in year four you will complete your Master’s qualification.

In your first year you will study core modules and get a strong foundation in exploration geology. In years three and four there are core and optional modules so you have some flexibility to choose to study the areas that you’re interested in. Year four is focussed on a major independent research dissertation that marks the culmination of your studies.

 

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

All of our 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. In total you will earn 120 credits for the year, through a mixture of 10-credit and 20-credit modules.

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
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

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

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

In your summer between years two and three 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.

Year three

In your third year, you will write up a research report on your placement or mapping project. You will also follow core modules in both mineral and hydrocarbon resources, visit ore deposits (currently in North Wales) and take part in an overseas field course - currently to Cyprus.

You will meet visiting guest lecturers and learn to design a professional exploration project.

The core MESci research skills module demonstrates how research is initiated, funded and executed.

Year four

You will complete a master's research dissertation in any Exploration and Resource 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 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 consultation with staff, you may seek to publish the principal results of your research project in the scientific literature.

In addition the Research Project module, you will take the year four field course, where you design and carry out a field study, learn how computer modelling can be used in Earth sciences, and participate in a student-led module on the evolution of planet Earth.

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. We teach you to think creatively and to reach conclusions from incomplete data which is a skill valued highly in sectors such as insurance, civil engineering and consulting.

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 (https://www.cardiff.ac.uk/earth-ocean-sciences/about-us/equality-diversity-and-inclusivity).

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 entire Programme students will be able to demonstrate the following:

  • The ability to acquire, integrate and synthesise information to address complex problems in earth sciences
  • Critical 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 and critically assess 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.
  • Rigorous appreciation and application of the scientific process, including the design and testing of hypotheses, and the formulation of new concepts.
  • Formulation, design and use of appropriate laboratory, field, and/or computational methodologies relevant to a research project in exploration geology.

Intellectual Skills:

On successful completion of the entire 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 The capability to evaluate and critically assess current research in applied and exploration geology, with commensurate appreciation of uncertainty and debate and limits to understanding.
  • Ability to model and interpret exploration geology data to generate hypotheses that can be tested with additional data or observation
  • The ability to solve complex scientific problems both creatively and independently.

Professional Practical Skills:

On successful completion of the entire 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 in a dissertation.
  • Ability to model complex numerical exploration geology data and draw realistic conclusions from such modelling
  • An ability to independently plan a complex exploration geology project at the frontier of a research topic.

Transferable/Key Skills:

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

  • Ability to design, implement and manage a project through to completion.
  • 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.
  • Commitment to lifelong learning through engaging in the process of personal development planning and ownership of own learning.
  • Problem solving, reliability, loyalty, social conduct, tact, attitude to learning and research, leadership, resilience, decision-making and reasoning.
  • Effective time management and organisation commensurate with successful delivery of an extended research project.

 

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.

Your advanced research skills, innovation and initiative from your postgraduate degree will be invaluable to employers in academia, government and industry. Many senior positions in exploration geology-related careers ask for a minimum of a master's degree level qualification and it is often the entry-level qualification for PhD research programmes.

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.

Placements

Summer placements 

Students on this course will have the opportunity to complete a placement for a minimum of five weeks in the summer term, between year two and year three. You will have the opportunity to work as a junior geologist and experience what it is like to carry out exploration in the real world, which will help you to gain an advantage when applying for a graduate career.  

We will help you to find a placement locally or with a range of international mining organisations that explore for base metals, gold, platinum and other commodities. In the past, our students have explored for nickel, platinum and diamonds in Greenland, gold in Finland, Ghana and Australia, and copper and lithium in Peru and Chile, as well as working in the UK and Ireland on projects focused on clay, zinc and gold Many alumni look back on this experience as a defining point in their career. 

Placement opportunities are based on merit. 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. Payment for the position, travel costs and other expenses vary depending on the placement provider.  

We advise students to undertake a summer placement if they want to, but it is not a requirement. Other summer project opportunities include mapping projects in the UK and overseas, where students will have the opportunity to generate data that can go into their dissertation and feature on their CV.  

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.

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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.