Earth Science and Engineering

Build on your study of geophysics with a year abroad in this professionally accredited, integrated Master's degree.

Key information




4 years


Typical offer

Three A-level offer: AAA–A*AA

See full entry requirements

Applications : admissions ratio

3 : 1

Based on 2017 entry data

Professionally accredited

Read about this course's accreditation

  • UCAS course code: F664
  • ECTS: 270
  • Start date: October 2018
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The principal challenge facing the world’s growing population is how to maintain sustainable access to the natural resources – water, energy and food – that are necessary for us to enjoy a good quality of life, while protecting the environment.

The science and engineering behind understanding and solving this challenge lie at the heart of earth science, an interdisciplinary subject which encompasses physics, chemistry, mathematics and other sciences. It can be applied to the study of Earth to give us an understanding of how our planet works, from its internal core, crust and oceans, to the atmosphere and our solar system.

All our courses combine a strong traditional emphasis on observational and field skills with the numerical and analytical fundamental science required to understand Earth processes and systems quantitatively. 

We also emphasise the development of transferable professional skills such as group working, problem-solving, drawing inferences from incomplete data, IT, and oral and written communication. You can expect a balance between theory and practice, including a variety of field trips in the UK and abroad.

Study programme

Our Geophysics courses are aimed at students with a particular interest in physics and maths. Geophysicists use maths, physics and computer modelling to understand how the world works. 

The modular nature of the course enables you to gain a solid understanding of geosciences while tailoring your study programme to suit your interests. As the course progresses, you will be able to choose modules from specialist areas such as: surface processes, marine geophysics, volcanism, tectonics and geophysical techniques.

You will complete a range of computing modules to prepare you for using specialist electronic mapping packages. You can also diversify your studies with opportunities to study business, language and humanities modules, if you wish, through the Imperial Horizons programme.

You spend your third year studying abroad in a year which counts directly towards your final degree.

Your study reaches Master's level in the fourth year with a choice of advanced modules, a specialist field trip and a substantial research project. This means that you will require fewer years of work experience than graduates of our BSc degrees to apply for Chartership of the Geological Society (see Professional accreditation).

Year abroad

You spend your third year studying at a leading university overseas. This is an integrated year abroad, so the grades you achieve will count directly towards your Imperial degree. Opportunities are currently available at:

  • UCB (University of California, Berkeley), USA
  • UCLA (University of California, Los Angeles), USA
  • Australian National University, Canberra, Australia
  • University of British Columbia, Canada
  • University of Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Aachen University, Germany*
  • University of Strasbourg, France*
  • Université Paris Diderot, France*
  • University of Barcelona, Spain*

* Fluency in the local language is required to study at these locations. Free language classes are available at the College to help you prepare.

Limited places means competition for placements abroad is strong. Normally only students achieving first class marks in the first and second years will be eligible for selection. 

Field work

Student on a field tripWe place emphasis on field work across all our courses. It is a great way to apply your knowledge to the real world and learn essential observational and practical skills.

Our field trips are designed to help you gain experience of identifying rocks and interpreting the physical (including tectonic) processes that may have been involved in their formation.

You will also have the chance to gain experience in using technical equipment.

Depending on which course you choose, you could spend over 100 days in the field as part of your course. This can range from spending a couple of days along the Dorset coast to 10 days in the Pyrenees or Cyprus. Students on Geology courses (and some students on Geology and Geophysics) spend six weeks mapping the geology of areas such as the: Greek Cycladees, French Massif Central, Pyrenees, French Alps, North West Scotland, and others.

Transfer between courses

All of our courses follow a similar syllabus for the first two years. This high level of shared content means you may transfer between all our Geology and Geophysics courses up to the start of spring term in the first year if you meet the original entry requirements for the course you want to transfer to. As a result, you are encouraged to only apply for one course within the department.

  • Transfer onto our Year Abroad courses is not normally possible as places at our partner institutions are limited.
  • Transfer to the equivalent three-year BSc course is normally allowed up until the start of year three.

If you are an international student, transferring to a different course could have an impact on your Tier 4 visa. Please visit our International Student Support webpage for further information.


Please note that the curriculum of this course is currently being reviewed as part of a College-wide process to introduce a standardised modular structure. As a result, the content and assessment structures of this course may change for 2018 entry. We therefore recommend that you check this course page before finalising your application and after submitting it as we will aim to update this page as soon as any changes are ratified by the College.

Find out more about the limited circumstances in which we may need to make changes to or in relation to our courses, the type of changes we may make and how we will tell you about changes we have made.

Year 1

In the first year, you will take advanced maths and physics classes with an emphasis on calculus, statistics and mensuration, as well as the subjects studied by Geoscience students, with an introduction to programming in both Python and Matlab.

Theory 1

  • Dynamic Earth 1
  • Maths Methods 1
  • Physical Processes
  • Stratigraphy

Theory 2

  • Chemistry for Geoscientists or Solid Earth Geochemistry
  • Igneous and Metamorphic Processes
  • Maths Methods 2
  • Surface Processes


  • Earth Materials
  • Numerical Methods 1
  • Programming for Geoscientists
  • Structural Geology 1


  • Field Geology 1
  • Graphics and Statistics for Geoscientists
  • Introduction to Field Geology
  • Projects, Tutorials and Workshops 1

Year 2

Theory 1

  • Applied Geophysics 1
  • Global Geophysics
  • Maths Methods 3
  • Vibrations and Waves

Theory 2

  • Earth Resources
  • Maths Methods 4
  • Seismology

You choose one of the following:

  • Low Temperature Geochemistry
  • Solid Earth Geochemistry


  • Mechanics
  • Numerical Methods 2
  • Remote Sensing and GIS
  • Structural Geology 2


  • Data Processing, Modelling and Interpretation of Morocco Data
  • Field Geophysics
  • Projects, Tutorials and Workshops 2

Year Abroad

You spend your third year studying abroad (80%), and also complete an Independent Geophysics Project (20%).

While abroad, you study modules and complete a major project at your host university, undertaking a similar programme of study to the third year at Imperial.

You can read more about the year abroad above and on the Department’s website.

Limited places means competition for placements abroad is strong, and cannot be guaranteed. Normally only students achieving first class marks in the first and second years will be eligible for selection. Students receiving the highest marks are normally given the first pick of the host universities. If there are more students wishing to go than places available, only the top-performing students will be considered.

Please note the above is an illustrative list of universities located abroad which the Department is currently partnered with. Partnerships with universities are subject to continuous review and individual partnerships may or may not be renewed.

There may be limitations placed upon your ability to live and study in these locations. If applicable you will need to successfully apply for the relevant visa. This applies to all students, including Home students, in light of the vote for the United Kingdom to leave the European Union.

Year 4

MSci project

You spend the first term of your fourth year working on a publishable independent research project. This may involve a mixture of fieldwork, laboratory/computing analysis and literature review of a relevant specialist topic.

Optional modules

You take Science Communication and choose seven modules from below:

  • Advanced Applied Geophysics
  • Advanced Exploration Seismology
  • Advanced Programming
  • Applied Sedimentology
  • Basin Analysis
  • Biogeochemistry
  • Dynamic Stratigraphy
  • Earth Systems
  • Environmental and Engineering Geology
  • Environmental Impact Assessment
  • Flow and Reactive Transport
  • Geodesy and Geomagnatism
  • Geodynamics
  • Geohazards
  • Geomorphology
  • Geophysical Inversion
  • Hydrogeology & Fluid Flow 2
  • Hyrdothermal and Ore Forming Processes
  • Low Temperature Geochemistry
  • Minerals Processing
  • Mining Water and Waste Management
  • Palaeo and Environmental Magnetism
  • Physical Oceanography
  • Physics of Planet Earth
  • Remote Sensing and GIS 2
Business and Humanities

You also have the choice of modules from Imperial Horizons and Imperial College Business School to broaden your studies.

Coursework, practical and synopsis

  • Earth Science General Paper
  • Research Conference or Field Geology 5

Professional accreditation

This degree leads to a Master's level qualification and is professionally accredited by the Geological Society of London.

Achieving a professionally accredited degree demonstrates to employers that you have achieved an industry-recognised standard of competency. It also brings international recognition of your qualification, which is particularly useful for students preparing for a career abroad.

As professionally accredited qualifications, our MSci courses in Earth Science reduce the number of years of post-graduation experience you need in order to register as a Chartered Geologist (CGeol). This is a highly respected qualification earned by professionals working in the geosciences industries, which can lead to higher earning potential and better career prospects.

Our accreditation agreement with The Geological Society is renewed every six years.

The current accreditation agreement is due to be renewed for students starting their studies in the 2017–18 academic year. The Department expects to be accredited into the future.


As well as your main Imperial degree, you will also receive the award of the Associateship of the Royal School of Mines on completion of this course.

The Royal School of Mines is one of three historic Colleges that came together to form Imperial College London in 1907.

Find out more about our Associateships.

Teaching and assessment


Our Geology courses are both theoretical and practical, and teaching will be enhanced by fieldwork throughout your degree.

You can expect the following teaching methods:

  • Lectures
  • Tutorials
  • Field work
  • Group exercises
  • Laboratory work

Teaching, independent study and placement hours

 Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Lectures, seminars and similar 504 (34%) 544 (36%) 264 (14%) 339 (18%)
Independent study 996 (66%) 956 (64%) 111 (6%) 1,536 (82%)
Placement 1,500 (80%)
Based on the typical pathway through the course; percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number


There are a number of different assessment methods for this course including:

  • Written Examination
  • Coursework
  • Reports
  • Poster presentation
  • Seminar
  • Vivas

Assessment types

 Year 1Year 2Year 3Year 4
Coursework 25% 28% 100% 50%
Practical 9%
Written 75% 72% 41%
Based on the typical pathway through the course; percentages have been rounded to the nearest whole number

Staff expertise

For each module you will have a designated coordinator, who will be a teaching fellow, lecturer, senior lecturer or professor.

You receive tutorial time with post-doctoral research assistants/fellows, who will themselves be researching specialised areas of geology and geophysics, with a depth of subject knowledge and experience of study to share.

As you progress through your degree, the areas covered become specialised and more advanced. Towards the end of your studies modules are taught by senior lecturers, professors and experts in the field.

Compare this course

See how this course compares with similar courses at different institutions using the Unistats information below.

You can use the Unistats website to find out how this course compares in areas such as student satisfaction and what our graduates are doing six months after completing this course.

Entry requirements

We welcome students from all over the world and consider all applicants on an individual basis – see selection process below.

For advice on the requirements for the qualifications listed here please contact the Department (see Contact us).

We also accept a wide range of international qualifications. If the requirements for your qualifications are not listed here, please see our academic requirements by country page for guidance on which qualifications we accept.


Typical offer range

As a guide, the typical offer made in 2016 to at least 85% of applicants studying A-levels was AAA–A*AA.

Subject requirements (2018 entry)

We expect applicants for 2018 entry to meet the following grade requirements in these subjects:

  • A*/A in Mathematics
  • A*/A in Physics
  • A in a third subject

General Studies and Critical Thinking are not accepted.

Practical endorsement (practical science assessment)

If you are made an offer you will be required to achieve a pass in the practical endorsement in all science subjects that form part of the offer.

Language requirement

The Department has a wide range of world-leading partner universities, both within and outside of the Erasmus programme.

There are many placement opportunities in English-speaking counties, and some European partners teach courses in English. For these opportunities foreign language competency is not required.

Please note you are required to demonstrate competency in a relevant foreign language where placements are at institutions which teach in a language other than English.

International Baccalaureate

Typical offer range

As a guide, the typical offer made in 2016 to at least 85% of applicants studying IB was 38–39 points overall.

Subject and grade requirements (2018 entry)

We expect applicants for 2018 entry to meet the following grade requirements in these subjects:

  • 6 in Mathematics at higher level
  • 6 in Physics at higher level
  • 6 in one other subject at higher level

Please note the International Baccalaureate entry requirement has changed since the print prospectus was published in December 2016.

Language requirement

The Department has a wide range of world-leading partner universities, both within and outside of the Erasmus programme.

There are many placement opportunities in English-speaking counties, and some European partners teach courses in English. For these opportunities foreign language competency is not required.

Please note you are required to demonstrate competency in a relevant foreign language where placements are at institutions which teach in a language other than English.

Advanced Placements

Our minimum requirement for this course is grades 5, 5, 5 to include:

  • 5 in Calculus (AB or BC)
  • 5 in Physics

You may also require a relevant language qualification for this year abroad degree.

Selection process

Assessing your application

Admissions Tutors consider all the evidence available during our rigorous selection process and the College flags key information providing assessors with a more complete picture of the educational and social circumstances relevant to the applicant.

Some applicants may be set lower offers and some more challenging ones. It is the College’s policy to not make offers below three A’s at A-level in relevant subjects, 38 IB points with at least a grade 6 at higher level in relevant subjects, or their equivalent.

A typical range of offers made by this Department in 2016 (encompassing at least 85% of applicants who studied A-level or IB) is shown above.

Post-application open day and interview

If your UCAS application indicates that you are likely to satisfy our requirements and you live within reasonable travelling distance of the College you will be invited for an interview.

You will be introduced to the Department, the staff, our courses, teaching facilities and methods and life at College through meeting our current students. You will have a one-to-one interview with a member of the academic staff. For overseas applicants, or those unable to visit, we may arrange a telephone interview.

We place great emphasis on interview and take other qualities as well as academic ability into account when deciding whether to make you an offer. We will also take the comments of the staff member who has met you or spoken to you by telephone into account, particularly when we decide after A-levels whether to confirm our offer should you marginally fail to meet the terms of your offer.

English language qualifications (all applicants)

All candidates must demonstrate a minimum level of English language proficiency for admission to the College.

For admission to this course, you must achieve the standard College requirement in the appropriate English language qualification. For details of the minimum grades required to achieve this requirement, please see the English language requirements for undergraduate applicants.

Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS)

An ATAS certificate is not required for overseas students who apply for this course.

For more information about the Academic Technology Approval Scheme (ATAS), please see the International Student Support website.

Tuition fees and funding

We charge tuition fees for every year that your course lasts. The fee you will be charged is based on your fee status, which is determined by government regulations.

Tuition fees (Home and EU students)

2018 entryYear Abroad
£9,250 per year 15% of the relevant fee for that year

Read more about funding for year abroad placements.

The above fee applies to the academic year 2018–19 only.

The fee for Home/EU students is controlled by the UK government.

Please note that the fee you pay may increase annually by an amount linked to inflation and approved by Parliament under the Student Fees (Inflation Index) Regulations 2006 – currently the measure of inflation used is the RPIX.

Government funding

If you're a Home student, you can apply for a Tuition Fee Loan from the UK government to cover the entire cost of tuition for every year of your course.

You can also apply for a means-tested Maintenance Loan to help towards your living costs.

EU students

The UK government has confirmed that funding arrangements for EU students starting a course in 2018 means they will continue to pay the Home rate of tuition and have access to the Tuition Fee Loan for the duration of their course.

This will remain the case even if their course finishes after the UK's exit from the European Union.

Tuition fees (Overseas and Islands students)

2018 entryYear Abroad
£29,000 per year 100% of the relevant fee for that year

Read more about funding for year abroad placements.

The tuition fees for Overseas and Islands students are set by Imperial College London.

You should expect and budget for your tuition fee increasing each year by an inflationary amount. The measure of inflation used will be the Retail Price Index (RPI) value in the April of the calendar year in which the academic session starts e.g. the RPI value in April 2019 will apply to fees for the academic year 2019–2020.

Additional course costs

This section outlines any additional costs relevant to this course, which are not included in your tuition fees. It is possible that all, or only some, of these will be relevant to you.

Please note that the figures provided are usually based on the cost in the most recent academic year. These are likely to change from year to year. However, it is useful for you to be aware of the types of things you may have to pay for and their approximate cost to help you budget for student life at Imperial.

This section indicates whether any additional costs that apply are mandatory or optional. Mandatory costs are those that you will need to pay to fully participate in and complete your studies. Optional costs are not essential to your studies so you will be free to opt out of these.

DescriptionMandatory/optionalGuide to cost
Field trip (independent mapping project) Mandatory for all Geology students and some Geology and Geophysics students Variable
Field trips (travel and accommodation on other field trips) Mandatory Included in tuition fee
Field trips (all fully catered trips) Mandatory £25 per week
Geological equipment Mandatory £70 (refundable)
Personal Protective Equipment Mandatory Provided
Please review the information below for more information on the costs listed in the table.

Field trips

Please note that all field trips referenced on this page are included in the cost of tuition, except for a contribution to food costs on fully catered trips (currently approx. £25/week) and the Year 2 independent mapping project which Geology students and some Geology and Geophysics students, undertake in a location of their choice. Costs vary by location.

Geological equipment

You can purchase or hire geological equipment from the Department. In the 2016-17 academic year students paid £70 for Compass-clinometer, Hand lens and Geological Hammer. If they wish, students can return these in reasonable condition at a point later in their degree programme when they are no longer needed for a refund of the same amount.

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Wearing personal protective equipment is compulsory for some activities on this course. Where this applies, the Department of Earth Science and Engineering will provide you with the necessary PPE free of charge.

Accommodation and living costs

Living costs, including accommodation, are not included in your tuition fees.

Over 90 per cent of Imperial undergraduates choose to live in our halls of residence in their first year. You can compare costs across our different accommodation options on our Accommodation website.

A rough guide to what you might expect to spend to live in reasonable comfort in London is available on our Fees and Funding website.


The growing importance of earth science in tackling some of the world’s most significant challenges means that the job prospects for our graduates have never been better.

Our three-year BSc degrees are excellent preparation for careers in geosciences and other professions, especially if followed by a relevant MSc and a research degree. Our four-year MSci degrees provide a deeper understanding of the subject and the chance to undertake a significant research project.

Recent graduates of the Department have become:

  • Graduate Environmental Scientist, Mott MacDonald
  • Environmental Advisor, BP
  • Geologist, CD Capital / Prairie Mining
  • Geosolutions Geophysicist, Schlumberger
  • Research Assistant, Natural History Museum

How to apply

UCAS key information

  • UCAS course code: F664
  • UCAS institution code: I50

UCAS Apply system

To apply to study at Imperial you must use the online application system managed by the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Application deadlines

All applications, other than those which include choices for medicine at Imperial, must be submitted to UCAS by 18.00 (UK time) on 15 January 2018 for entry in October 2018.

The deadline for medicine courses at Imperial starting in 2018 is 18.00 (UK time) on 15 October 2017.

Tracking your application

Once you’ve completed and submitted your application through UCAS’s online Apply service, you can use UCAS’ Track system to follow its progress and manage your choices.

See our How to apply section for further guidance.

You may also be interested in the following related departments and the courses they offer:

Contact us

Students on field trip

Got a question?

Dr Elizabeth Day
T: +44 (0)20 7594 7337

Read more on the Department of Earth Science and Engineering website.

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