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Degree type

BSc

Course length

3 years full-time

Location

Durham City

UCAS code

F643

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Typical offers

Typical offers
A Level AAB
BTEC DDD
International Baccalaureate 36

Course details

Understanding the processes involved in shaping the Earth’s surface, our natural resources, natural hazards, water supplies and renewable energy can inform us about the impact of past and present changes in environmental conditions. This knowledge will allow us to predict behaviour and develop solutions to protect society and the planet’s future from today’s global challenges.

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

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 petroleum geology, engineering geology, environmental and hydrogeology consultancies, GIS, geological surveys, or for further study or research. Numeracy, critical thinking and problem-solving skills developed on the course are highly valued in a wide range of non-geology careers, including teaching, business management, insurance and accounting, banking and finance.

In the first year, you will develop a fundamental understanding of Earth Sciences. Year 2 specialises more in the geological aspects, during which you will develop your knowledge of core geological disciplines associated with igneous, metamorphic, sedimentary and tectonic processes. In Year 3, you will undertake a geological research dissertation and increase your understanding of specialist geological topics of your choice with optional residential fieldwork opportunities.

You may be able to transfer to the four-year MSci degree in Earth Sciences at the end of your second year. 

Course structure

Year 1

Examples of core modules in recent years:

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.

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:

  • Mathematical Methods in Geosciences 
  • Further Mathematics for Geoscientists
  • Earth Materials
  • Environmental Earth Science

Year 2

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Structural Geology and Tectonics 
  • Sedimentary Environments  
  • Geophysical Methods for Geoscientists
  • Isotopes and Climate  
  • Fieldwork
  • Igneous and Metamorphic Processes
  • Modelling Earth Processes  
  • Geophysical Data Applications
  • 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)

Core module:

You will produce an independent research Dissertation based upon field, laboratory or computer datasets chosen to suit your degree and interests.

In recent years, optional modules have included:

  • Monitoring the Oceans: Geohazards and Climate Change
  • Environmental Geochemistry
  • Volcanology and Magmatism
  • Earth Sciences into Schools
  • Habitable Environments (Astrobiology)
  • Earth Structure and Dynamics  
  • Earthquake Sources and Waves 
  • Environmental Management
  • Western Alps Fieldtrip (Anatomy of a Subduction Zone)
  • Groundwater Hydrology
  • Atmospheric Circulation and Dynamics
  • Tectonic Processes and Renewable Geo-resources
  • Polar Quaternary Environmental Processes
  • Geochemistry of the Earth.

Additional pathways

Students on the Geoscience 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.

Placement

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

Learning

The course is delivered via lectures, practical classes, tutorials and fieldwork. The balance 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 greater emphasis on self-directed learning and an opportunity to practice research methods during field work. There are optional field courses within this degree.

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

Assessment

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 in the final year.

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

Entry requirements

A level offerAAB including two sciences from Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Further Mathematics, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Physics or Psychology.

Contextual offer – BBB/ABC including two sciences from Biology, Chemistry, Economics, Further Mathematics, Geography, Geology, Mathematics, Physics 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 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 www.graduateoutcomes.ac.uk)

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.

Rankings

  • 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

Staff

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)

Facilities

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.

Apply

Find out more:

Use the UCAS code below when applying:

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F643

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