Study Geology – A Comprehensive Subject Guide

Geology is the scientific study of the Earth’s structure, composition, processes, and history. It encompasses a wide range of topics related to the Earth’s physical and chemical properties, as well as the dynamic forces that have shaped and continue to shape our planet. Geologists study the Earth’s rocks, minerals, fossils, landforms, and the processes that have led to the formation of mountains, valleys, oceans, and continents.


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What is Geology?

Geology is a dynamic and interdisciplinary science that not only helps us understand the Earth’s past but also plays a vital role in addressing contemporary environmental and resource-related challenges. Geologists use a wide range of tools, including fieldwork, laboratory analysis, remote sensing, and computer modeling, to unravel the Earth’s complex history and processes. Their work is fundamental for natural resource exploration, hazard assessment, environmental protection, and scientific exploration of our planet and beyond.

Essentially, geology investigates the Earth’s internal structure, which consists of distinct layers. The innermost layer is the solid inner core, followed by the liquid outer core, then the solid mantle, and finally the outermost layer, the Earth’s crust. Each of these layers has its own composition, temperature, and properties, and geologists study these layers to understand their characteristics and interactions.

Why Study Geology?

Studying geology offers numerous benefits and opportunities, making it a compelling field of study for those interested in the Earth and its processes. Here are some reasons why you might consider studying geology:

  1. Understanding the Earth: Geology provides a deep understanding of the Earth’s structure, composition, and history. It allows you to explore the planet’s mysteries, from its formation over 4.5 billion years ago to its ongoing geological processes.
  2. Solving Environmental Challenges: Geologists play a crucial role in addressing environmental issues such as natural disasters, climate change, pollution, and resource management. They help assess and mitigate geological hazards, protect water resources, and promote environmental sustainability.
  3. Exploration and Resource Management: Geologists are involved in the exploration and responsible extraction of Earth’s valuable resources, including minerals, oil, natural gas, and groundwater. This work contributes to economic development and resource conservation.
  4. Interdisciplinary Field: Geology is interdisciplinary, combining elements of physics, chemistry, biology, mathematics, and engineering. This multidisciplinary approach allows you to develop a wide range of skills and knowledge.

Best Universities for Geology in the UK

Here is a list of the top UK universities in this field according to the latest QS World University Rankings:

1University of Cambridge
2University of Oxford
3University of St Andrews
4Imperial College London
5Durham University
6University of Southampton
7University of Exeter
8The University of Edinburgh
9UCL (University College London)
10University of Reading
11University of Bristol
12University of Glasgow
13University of Leeds
14University of Birmingham
15University of Aberdeen
16Newcastle University
17Cardiff University
18Royal Holloway, University of London
19University of Manchester
20University of Hull
21University of Liverpool
22University of East Anglia UEA
23University of Derby
24University of Plymouth
25Keele University
26Coventry University
27University of Portsmouth
28Bangor University
29University of Leicester
30Aberystwyth University

Entry Requirements for a Geology Degree

  1. Academic Qualifications:
    • A-levels: Most universities will require A-level qualifications or their equivalent. Common subject requirements may include mathematics, physics, chemistry, or geography. Some universities may specify a requirement for at least one science subject.
    • International Baccalaureate (IB): Universities often accept the IB diploma with specific subject requirements, typically including higher-level mathematics or a science subject.
    • Scottish Highers/Advanced Highers: For universities in Scotland, you may need Scottish Highers or Advanced Highers in relevant subjects.
  2. GCSEs or Equivalent: Applicants are usually required to have a good pass in GCSEs (or equivalent) in subjects like mathematics, English, and science.
  3. Additional Entry Tests: In some cases, you may be required to take additional entry tests, such as the UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) or the Biomedical Admissions Test (BMAT). However, these are more commonly associated with medical and healthcare-related courses rather than geology.

Jobs for Geology Graduates

Here are the career prospects for graduates in this field:

  • Geologist: This is the most direct career path for geology graduates. Geologists study the Earth’s structure, composition, and processes. They often work in areas like mineral exploration, environmental consulting, and oil and gas exploration.
  • Environmental Consultant: Environmental consultants assess and manage environmental issues, such as contamination, pollution, and remediation projects. Geologists play a crucial role in understanding and addressing these challenges.
  • Hydrogeologist: Hydrogeologists study groundwater and its interactions with surface water. They work on projects related to groundwater exploration, resource management, and environmental impact assessments.
  • Geophysicist: Geophysicists use physics and mathematics to study the Earth’s physical properties, including seismic activity, gravity, and magnetic fields. They are often involved in oil and gas exploration, mineral exploration, and environmental studies.
  • Engineering Geologist: Engineering geologists assess geological conditions at construction sites to ensure the safety and stability of structures. They help mitigate geological hazards like landslides and foundation issues.

What are the Job Trends among Geology Graduates?

Among geology graduates, three of the top five jobs include roles as natural and social science professionals (12%), conservation and environment professionals (8%), and engineering professionals (7%). Overall, 46.3% of geology graduates are employed, while 24.7% pursue further study, and 13.7% are engaged in both work and study.

Salary for Geology Graduates

Check out the average salary for graduates in this field: 

Low skilled: £18,000

Medium-skilled: £20,000

High-skilled: £ 25,000

Topics for Geology Dissertation

Below, we present a diverse array of research areas, each offering an opportunity to delve into the complexities of geology and make a significant contribution to its advancement:

  • Volcanic Hazard Assessment: Investigate a specific active volcano or volcanic region and assess the associated hazards, eruption history, and mitigation strategies.
  • Groundwater Resource Management: Study groundwater quality and quantity in a particular region, evaluating its sustainability and potential impacts of climate change.
  • Sedimentary Basin Analysis: Analyse the sedimentary rocks in a basin to reconstruct its geological history, depositional environments, and tectonic evolution.
  • Mineral Exploration: Conduct a mineral exploration study, including geological mapping and geochemical analysis, to identify potential mineral deposits in a specific area.
  • Fossil Record and Climate Change: Examine fossils in sedimentary rocks to understand past climate change events, mass extinctions, and their implications for modern climate science.

How Much Does it Cost to Study in the UK

One of the most important things to consider is how much the degree is going to cost. Here is a general guide for 2023/2024:

  • For home students in England, universities can charge up to a maximum of £9,250 per year for an undergraduate degree.
  • In Wales, institutions can charge up to £9,000 for home students. However, Welsh students can apply for a fee grant to cover some of the cost of their tuition fees. This grant is currently not repayable or income-assessed.
  • Northern Irish universities will charge up to £4,275 for home students and may charge up to £9,250 for students from elsewhere in the UK.
  • Scotland does not charge home students fees at the undergraduate level; however, students from England, Wales, or Northern Ireland are expected to pay up to £9,250 per year. International students from outside of the UK will pay significantly more to study in Scotland.
  • International students can expect to pay between £10,000 and £26,000 annually for lecture-based undergraduate degrees at universities across the UK. An undergraduate medical degree can cost overseas students up to £58,600 per year. As for postgraduate degrees, the average cost is estimated to be around £17,109 per year.
Besides the tuition fees, there are also several other cost considerations such as food, accommodation, phone bills, books, social life, memberships, and others. Remember to check out our free student budget calculator

Other Subjects to Consider

Given that you are interested in this subject area, you might also want to consider the following options: 

  • Environmental Science: Environmental science focuses on understanding and addressing environmental challenges, including pollution, conservation, climate change, and sustainable resource management.
  • Earth Sciences: Earth sciences encompass a broader range of disciplines, including geology, meteorology, oceanography, and atmospheric science. You can explore various aspects of the Earth and its systems.
  • Geography: Geography studies the Earth’s landscapes, environments, and human interactions with the environment. It includes physical geography, human geography, and GIS (Geographic Information Systems).
  • Environmental Engineering: Environmental engineering combines engineering principles with environmental science to design solutions for environmental issues such as water and air pollution, waste management, and sustainable infrastructure.
  • Natural Resource Management: This field focuses on the sustainable management of natural resources, including forestry, fisheries, and wildlife conservation.

Frequently Asked Questions

Consider your interests, passions, and career goals. Research various degree programmes and their content to see which aligns best with your aspirations.

While earning potential is important, it’s also crucial to select a degree that you’re passionate about and suits your skills. A balance between your interests and potential career prospects is ideal.

Location can impact your overall university experience. Consider factors like cost of living, proximity to industry hubs, and personal preferences.

Evaluate tuition fees, available scholarships, and potential for part-time work. Create a budget to ensure you can manage your finances during your studies.

Consider combining your passions with practical skills. For example, if you love art but want job security, explore fields like graphic design or digital marketing.

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