In literal terms, geography means ‘to draw/record the land,’ whereas geology means ‘to find knowledge of the land’. This alludes to a key difference between the fields – the former is concerned with what the land is, while the latter focuses on how the land came to be.
Geology achieves this through the scientific study of the Earth, and all that encompasses: from the history and formation of the ground beneath our feet and the processes at work that affect the land (such as plate tectonics), right through to hypothesising about the future of our planet.
Though far from being purely abstract or historical, geologists do vital work with pressing contemporary matters like conservation, pollution, and climate change. They are in constant demand, and can often travel the world depending on their specialties and current projects.
While entry requirements will vary from uni to uni, most ask for a combination of some of the following subjects: maths, geography, biology, chemistry, and physics.
A qualification in geology would of course also be beneficial to your application, but universities and colleges will be aware that not every applicant will have had the opportunity to study it before. In this case, focus on your personal statement, and persuading the admissions team at your chosen uni or college that geology is the subject for you.
A levels – Entry requirements range from BBB to AAA, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for ABB.
Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from ABBB to AAABB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AABBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for AAB.
Vocational courses – Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma, or an SCQF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative to A levels/Highers by some providers. It’s essential that you check alternative entry requirements with universities or colleges.
- Apply by the January deadline
- Personal statement
- Submit a portfolio
- Audition for a place
- Attend an interview
- Pass an entry test
- Show work experience
Geology is a subject for people passionate about the planet we share. During your degree, you’ll learn extensively about the world, how it works, and how to preserve it. You’ll leave uni equipped to solve some of the biggest problems that humanity currently faces, such as climate change, managing the diminishing supply of natural resources, and preparing and planning for natural hazards and disasters.
Studying geology will involve a range of learning and assessment methods, including lectures, seminars, lab work, and field, both in groups and alone. Ultimately, the varied nature of study will lead to a more enriching student experience, as well as preparing you for your work life as a graduate geologist.
Some modules you may study are:
- Environmental geoscience
- Computing for earth scientists
- Digital mapping and surveying
- Structural geology and tectonics
- Earth materials
- Quantitative research methods
Geology graduates have the potential to work in a number of different sectors, including conservation and museums, the oil, gas, and extraction industries, mining and quarrying, engineering, education, and consultancy. Many organisations also offer graduate schemes for recent geoscience graduates.
Students studying geology develop both field-specific and valuable transferable skills over the course of their studies, including data collection, analysis, and interpretation, communication and presentation skills, problem-solving, project management, high-level research, and more.
Studying geology at degree level will most often lead to a job as a:
The skills you’ll gain studying geology can help prepare you for a career as a:
- contaminated land engineer
- land surveyor
- quarry manager
- drilling and mechanical engineer
- climate change and sustainability consultant
- teacher/ academic
- environmental investigator
Though one particularly interesting path open to geology graduates is palaeontology – like the celebrated Jose Bonaparte (no relation), who discovered the remains of dinosaurs in Argentina. Or, Ross from Friends.
While geology is a focused discipline in theory, in practice it utilises skills and knowledge from across the sciences (biology, physics, and chemistry), geography, and maths.
During your time studying a geology degree, you’ll spend on average 16 hours a week attending lectures and seminars. There will also be a lot of fieldwork, from the local areas around the campus, to placements both around the country and abroad.
Over the course of your studies, you’ll be learning about a broad range of topics, from the evolution of dinosaurs to sustainability, climate change, and the ways in which humans have, and continue to, interact with the Earth. You’ll also see real-world examples of how geological processes can affect the planet, by looking at natural wonders like the Grand Canyon, the Great Blue Hole near Belize, or the Ring of Fire, which runs in a 25,000 mile horseshoe and houses 75% of the world’s active and dormant volcanoes.
Studying a geology degree is likely to involve:
- writing reports and essays
- conducting research projects
- attending lectures and seminars
- project, presentation, and group work
- independent study
Are you considering an accelerated degree? Click here to read more about the possibility of completing your undergraduate course in two years rather than three.
If you want to combine work and study while earning a salary, you could consider an apprenticeship. Which apprenticeships are available, and how you apply, depends on where you live.
Each apprenticeship sets out occupational standards for specific job roles, designed by employers. The standards outline the skills, knowledge, and behaviours required to demonstrate that an apprentice is fully competent in the job role.