As you may have guessed, biology and geography play a large part, as do all the core sciences. The subjects that come under the banner of earth sciences are all very varied, but they are linked by their shared interest in the things that make our planet tick.
What A-Levels do you need?
Most earth sciences courses will want your A-levels to reflect your scientific skills and interests – because of this, many courses will require one, two or even three A-levels in a ‘science’ (don’t worry, this tends to include the likes of maths and geography – it’s not just physics, chemistry and biology). As with most courses, specific entry requirements vary massively between universities and courses; for their
four-year Geological Oceanography course Bangor want 120-136 UCAS points and two science subjects, while the University of Liverpool’s Geology MESci requires AAB and two sciences.
What are your study options?
Pretty varied, although the majority of earth science courses will be similar in terms of length – the standard three years (although some will offer the option of a sandwich year, which will allow you to undertake a year on placement in between your second and final years).
There are also some courses at certain unis that are four years in length, and which give you a Masters qualification on top of the standard undergraduate BSc (so you’ll end up with something along the lines of an MSci or an MEnv).
Why study Earth Sciences?
If you’re fascinated by the inner workings of our planet and you want to know more about how it works and how to preserve it, then you could do a lot worse than considering a degree in earth sciences. The course itself should give you a nice blend of lecture time and practical time, and the chances are you may even get a bit of time in the field, too, where you’ll be able to carry out project research and get to grips with the more hands-on elements of your course.
With issues such as climate change, pollution and conservation being given ever-increasing amounts of attention, there’s never been a more interesting time to study the earth and its changing environment.
After your degree...
If you think studying an earth sciences degree will force you into a career with an environmental organisation (or similar), then you’re wrong. While plenty of graduates do find work with campaign organisations and energy companies – which is always a good route to consider, as graduates with a knowledge of the earth and the environment are in demand at the moment – there are also plenty who use the skills they’ve learned to branch out into more varied job roles (government, agriculture and teaching, for example).
You can also consider going on to study a postgraduate course, in order to either give yourself a further specialism or retrain with a specific career in mind (you could take a law conversion course and go on to be an environmental lawyer, for example).
Q & A with a Geology lecturer
To find out more about what it’s like to study an Earth Sciences subject at university we spoke to Steve Hirons, Lecturer for the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences at Birkbeck...
Why should students study a degree in Geology?
Studying geology at Birkbeck provides a fascinating insight into how the many and varied branches of earth systems work to provide a rich diversity of natural features. There are so many different areas to enrich the imagination and the inquisitive mind, such as volcanoes and how their ‘plumbing’ systems work, the vast expanse of geological time (4.5 billion years of evolution and history), the rich diversity of fossils from the millions of microfossils making up chalk to the largest land predators (the dinosaurs), to the complex relationships of plate tectonics and mountain building.
What kind of skills will students learn on the course?
Throughout the degree programme students will develop observable and interpretative skills, independent thinking/reasoning, scientific literacy, and the ability to interpret chemical and mathematical data and write scientific reports. They’ll also gain an understanding of current research directions.
What key modules can students expect to cover in their first year?
Geology is a multi-disciplinary subject and therefore the first year curriculum is broad, covering principles of geochemistry, foundations of mineralogy, earth history, palaeontology, and an overview of geological processes and field-based mapping.
What kind of careers do students typically go into after they graduate?
Geology, being a multi-disciplinary subject, affords opportunities in many areas of employment, from the oil and gas industry and the extraction industry to conservation and environmental investigative work. There are also opportunities to go into teaching or even on to further study at MSc or PhD levels.