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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:

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.

Introductory Data Science introduces the fundamentals of data acquisition and analysis in a geoscientific context. You will learn how to apply computational tools to manipulate and visualise a range of scientific and geospatial data.

Sustainability introduces global issues and concepts around sustainability, with an emphasis on aspects most relevant to Earth Sciences such as water, climate, energy and mineral resources, food resources, and natural hazards, and is thematically taught around the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Earth Materials
  • Environmental Earth Science

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.

Fieldwork (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 Processes 
  • Modelling Earth Processes 
  • Ancient Life and its Environment
  • Frontiers in Palaeontology
  • Earth System and Climate: The Quaternary
  • Earth System and Climate: Long Term Processes

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. 

Monitoring the Oceans: Geohazards and Climate Change will provide a better understanding of a series of emerging themes in ocean science, related to climate change, geohazards, renewable energy or data telecommunications

Earthquake Sources and Waves gives a fundamental understanding of the mechanics of rocks and faults that lead to failure and earthquake rupture and looks at the seismological methods used to monitor and characterise earthquakes in current hazard mitigation research.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Western Alps Fieldtrip (Anatomy of a Subduction Zone)
  • Geophysical Flows
  • Earth Structure and Dynamics
  • Groundwater Hydrology
  • Atmospheric Circulation and Dynamics
  • Environmental Geochemistry 
  • Volcanology and Magmatism 
  • Earth Sciences into Schools
  • Tectonic Processes and Renewable Geo-resources
  • Environmental Management
  • Polar Quaternary Environmental Processes
  • Habitable Environments (Astrobiology)
  • Geochemistry of the Earth.

Additional pathways

Students on the Geophysics with Geology 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.

The range of assessment methods is designed to assess your knowledge and understanding of subject-specific knowledge, alongside transferable skills in mathematics, scientific writing, informatics, policy, critical analysis and project management.

Entry requirements

A level offer – AAB including Mathematics or Further Mathematics plus one other science from Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Environmental Science,Geography, Geology, Physics or Psychology.

Contextual offer – BBB/ABC including Mathematics or Further Mathematics plus one other science from Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Environmental Science, Geography, Geology, Physics or Psychology.

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

IB Diploma score – 36 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 also consider other level 3 qualifications, including T-levels.

  • 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

The tuition fees for 2025/26 academic year have not yet been finalised, they will be displayed here once approved.

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, Centrica and the Environment Agency.

Of those students who graduated in 2020-21:

  • 91% 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 £26,825

(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

Our lives on Earth are at a turning point. Studying Earth Sciences provides knowledge and insight into the implications of this and explores society’s options to secure a sustainable future for the Earth, its environment and its inhabitants.

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, volcanoes, 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 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 is in sync with the latest thinking 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

  • 7th in The Guardian University Guide 2024

  • 5th in The Complete University Guide 2024
  • 7th in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2024


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)


Situated on the main Lower Mountjoy Campus, our teaching takes 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, Python and Matlab). 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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