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Degree type


Course length

3 years full-time


Durham City

UCAS code


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Typical offers

Typical offers
A Level AAB
International Baccalaureate 36

Course details

Understanding the physical processes that control the materials, structure and dynamics of our planet is key to predicting the Earth’s future behaviour and mitigating the global challenges faced by society. Geophysics is essential to creating a more sustainable future for humanity through monitoring natural hazard risks, detecting resources and computer modelling to predict future behaviour.

Our flexible Geophysics degree, puts you in control, giving you both the fundamentals and increased specialisation as you progress through the degree, allowing you to choose a pathway of most interest to you.

In the first year, you will gain a fundamental understanding of Earth Sciences, as well as developing university-level skills in Maths and Physics. Year 2 specialises in the geophysical methods associated with geophysical surveying, data analysis and mathematical modelling of Earth science processes. In Year 3, you will undertake a geophysical research dissertation and develop advanced knowledge in specialist geophysical topics of your choice with multiple residential field work opportunities.

Combining academic excellence and cutting-edge research, the course will equip you with the tools needed for employment in a range of sectors, including mineral exploration and extraction industries, in petroleum exploration companies, and with environmental and hydro-geological industries. The advanced quantitative skills developed during this course can provide a strong base for securing employment outside geoscience, for example, in finance, insurance and banking.

You may be able to transfer to the four-year MSci degree in Earth Sciences at the end of your second year. The fourth year combines a bespoke research project in your specialism, with advanced modules designed to integrate your Earth Science knowledge for vocational and/or research applications. You can also apply to add a placement year or a year abroad to your degree, increasing the course from three years to four.

Course structure

Year 1

Core modules:

Earth Materials introduces you to Earth minerals and rocks and teaches you techniques for identifying them.

Field Studies introduces techniques for description and interpretation of natural geological features. This module also covers mapping skills, and the observation, recording and processing techniques needed for fieldwork and imagery.

Further Mathematics for Geoscientists ensures that you have the basic maths techniques needed to solve a range of numerical problems in the geosciences.

Understanding Earth Sciences covers an introduction to the areas of petrology, sedimentology, structural geology and palaeontology and relates the processes to the plate tectonic cycle.

Environment and Resources covers the key concepts in environmental chemistry and the processes involved in shaping the Earth. From fossil fuels and ores to the water cycle, it introduces you to the formation, distribution and extraction of the Earth's resources and energy.

Geoinformatics introduces the fundamentals of Earth observation and remote sensing. You will learn how to apply geospatial and digital cartography skills to plot and interpret your own results.

Year 2

Core modules:

Geophysical Methods for Geoscientists introduces the main geophysical exploration methods and explains their application in understanding the geological structure of earth.

Field work (Geophysical) gives you hands-on experience of some widely used geophysical field methods used in geophysical surveys, in preparation for your dissertation project.

Geophysical Data Applications introduces the fundamental concepts of Earth observation and remote data acquisition techniques, using IT for the manipulation and display of resulting geophysical datasets.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Structural Geology and Tectonics
  • Sedimentary Environments
  • Isotopes and Climate
  • Igneous and Metamorphic Geochemistry and Petrology
  • Modelling Earth Processes
  • Ancient Life and its Environment.

Year 3 (Year 4 if undertaking a placement or year abroad)

Core modules:

Worth one-third of your final-year marks, you will produce an independent research Dissertation based on a computing, field or laboratory project chosen to suit your interests.

Earth Structure and Dynamics covers the structure and dynamics of the interior of the Earth, how these are investigated and modelled numerically, and current research approaches.

Earthquake Sources and Waves explores the mechanical properties of rocks and faults that lead to earthquake rupture, the methods used to characterize the behaviour and hazards of earthquakes, and how earthquakes help to reveal Earth's internal structure.

Geophysical Flows introduces the modelling and measurement of a wide range of geophysical flows, some of the most hazardous events on our planet.

Monitoring the Oceans: Geohazards and Climate Change covers emerging themes in ocean science, related to climate change, geohazards, renewable energy and data telecommunications. It outlines how new technologies are being used to monitor the oceans to understand geohazards and to monitor key processes (‘tipping points’) for climate change.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Tectonic Processes and Renewable Geo-resources

  • Environmental Geochemistry

  • Volcanology and Magmatism

  • Anatomy of a Subduction Zone: Western Alps Field Trip

  • Earth System and Climate

  • Earth Sciences into Schools
  • Environmental Management.

Additional pathways

Students on the Geophysics BSc can apply to be transferred onto either the ‘with Year Abroad’ or ‘with Placement’ pathway during the second year. Places on these pathways are in high demand and if you are chosen your studies will extend from three years to four.


You may be able to take a work placement. Find out more.


The course is mainly delivered through a mixture of lectures, practical classes, tutorials and fieldwork. The balance of these activities changes over the degree, as you develop your knowledge and your ability as an independent learner in preparation for professional life or postgraduate study.

In Year 1, lectures and practicals dominate the timetable. You are also expected to undertake your own independent study to prepare for your classes and broaden your subject knowledge.

The balance starts to shift in the second year, with a move towards self-directed learning and the opportunity to practice research methods during a field course.

In the final year, you will carry out a dissertation, producing a significant piece of independent research.


You will be assessed through a combination of coursework, class tests and end-of-year examinations. A significant proportion of your final assessment will be through your research dissertation.

Entry requirements

A level offerAAB including Mathematics or Further Mathematics plus one other Science from Physics, Chemistry, Geology, Geography, Environmental Science, Economics, and Biology or Psychology.

BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma/OCR Cambridge Technical Extended DiplomaDDD plus two science A levels from the list above.

IB Diploma score36 with 665 in higher level subjects, including two science subjects from the list above.

In addition to satisfying the University’s general entry requirements, please note:

  • We welcome applications from those with other qualifications equivalent to our standard entry requirements and from mature students with non-standard qualifications or who may have had a break in their study.
  • If you do not satisfy our general entry requirements, the Foundation Programme offers multidisciplinary degrees to prepare you for a range of specified degree courses.
  • If you are an international student who does not meet the requirements for direct entry to this degree, you may be eligible to take an International Foundation Year pathway programme at the Durham University International Study Centre.
  • We are pleased to consider applications for deferred entry.

Science A levels

Applicants taking Science A levels that include a practical component will be required to take and pass this as a condition of entry. This applies only to applicants sitting A levels with an English examination board.

Alternative qualifications

International students who do not meet direct entry requirements for this degree might have the option to complete an International Foundation Year.

English language requirements

Country specific information

Fees and funding

Full Time Fees

Tuition fees
Home students £9,250 per year
EU students £31,250 per year
Island students £9,250 per year
International students £31,250 per year

The tuition fees shown for home students are for one complete academic year of full time study and are set according to the academic year of entry. Fees for subsequent years of your course may rise in line with an inflationary uplift as determined by the government.

The tuition fees shown for overseas and EU students are for one complete academic year of full time study, are set according to the academic year of entry, and remain the same throughout the duration of the programme for that cohort (unless otherwise stated).

Please also check costs for colleges and accommodation.

Scholarships and Bursaries

We are committed to supporting the best students irrespective of financial circumstances and are delighted to offer a range of funding opportunities. 

Find out more about Scholarships and Bursaries

Career opportunities

Earth Sciences

Our flexible courses have been developed to meet the needs of industry and provide you with the skills you need to succeed. You will graduate with the scientific foundations and transferable skills to move directly into the workplace or to progress to a more specialised postgraduate qualification.

Career prospects for Durham graduates are excellent. Geology and Earth Sciences graduates are highly valued by employers and go on to a wide range of highly successful careers in the sector and beyond, working in industry and research, including environmental management, water management, energy and engineering geology. Some of the high-profile employers our graduates have gone on to work for include ATKINS, ARUP, BP, Centrica and the Environment Agency.

Of those students who graduated in 2019:

  • 81% are in paid employment or further study 15 months after graduation across all our programmes

Of those in employment:

  • 100% are in high skilled employment
  • With an average salary of £27,000.

(Source: HESA Graduate Outcomes Survey. The survey asks leavers from higher education what they are doing 15 months after graduation. Further information about the Graduate Outcomes survey can be found here

Department information

Earth Sciences

Earth Sciences is the holistic study of the planet from the core to the surface, its water and the surrounding atmosphere.

Durham is one of the UK’s leading providers of Earth Sciences education. We offer six undergraduate courses, four of which are accredited by The Geological Society of London. Our courses explore the full geological spectrum including climate change, oceans, mass extinctions, rocks and minerals, and the structure and chemistry of the Earth. Our multidisciplinary approach applies physics, chemistry, mathematics, biology and physical geography to real world scenarios to make sense of today's major geoscience concerns .

Course structures are e flexible with a balance of formal teaching, fieldwork and active learning to put your theoretical knowledge into practice. You can tailor your degree to your interests through the wide range of optional modules and you may also be able to spend a year studying abroad, extending your degree by a year. All our degree courses are informed by the latest pure and applied research, and you can be sure your education will be in sync with the latest thinking in the discipline and will help you on your journey to a profession in the Earth Sciences sector and beyond.

For more information see our department pages.


  • World Top 50 in QS World University Subject Rankings 2023
  • 4th in The Guardian University Guide 2023
  • 5th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 8th in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2023


For a current list of staff, please see the Earth Sciences Department web pages.

Research Excellence Framework

  • Top 10 in the UK for research outputs (REF 2021)


We are on the main science campus, and our teaching taks place in the modern, purpose-built Arthur Holmes Building equipped with brand new optical microscopes and a large teaching collection of rocks, fossils, geological maps, and thin sections.

We use industry-standard and research-level software (e.g., ESRI ArcGIS Pro and Matlab), and if your dissertation or research project involves laboratory study, you can access our world-class geochemistry and rock mechanics labs.

Throughout your course you will have the opportunity to develop observation and analytical skills on residential field trips to study mountains, deserts, caves, volcanoes, rift valleys, faults and fossils.


Find out more:

Use the UCAS code below when applying:



The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) handles applications for all undergraduate courses.

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