Taught course


Birkbeck, University of London · Earth and Planetary Sciences

Entry requirements

This course is particularly relevant for recent graduates from physical scientific disciplines, such as geological, astronomical and life sciences, planning to undertake PhD-level research in astrobiology. Typically an undergraduate degree (2:2 or above) in a relevant subject is required, but individual applications will be considered on the basis of experience and merit.

Please note: students who have completed or who are enrolled on our BSc Planetary Exploration with Astronomy and Astrobiology may not find this course suitable for further study.

Applications are reviewed on their individual merits and your professional qualifications and/or relevant work experience will be taken into consideration positively. We actively support and encourage applications from mature learners.

Months of entry


Course content

Our MSc Astrobiology gives you the unique opportunity to gain a comprehensive grounding in the rapidly growing field of astrobiology. This highly interdisciplinary topic aims to understand the origins, distribution, evolution and future of life in the universe.

In recent years, research and public interest in astrobiology has expanded. This has been greatly driven by incredible discoveries in areas ranging from:

  • improving our understanding of the conditions under which life first arose on our planet
  • the search for life elsewhere in the solar system
  • the study of potentially habitable planets orbiting other stars in our galaxy.

This MSc Astrobiology explores such discoveries and is the first postgraduate degree dedicated to astrobiology in the UK. It is ideal if you are a graduate of the sciences, such as in biology, astronomy, chemistry or geology, with an ambition to undertake research in astrobiology at MPhil or PhD level but with undergraduate study that did not entail the interdisciplinary breadth that a subject like astrobiology demands.

We draw on the experience of our staff, who are recognised leaders in astrobiology research and education, and our strong connections with partner institutions in the University of London to offer this novel and pioneering course. Being of considerable breadth and depth, it will equip you with the knowledge, experience and tools required to make significant contributions to astrobiology research and leadership in the UK and beyond.


  • Birkbeck is a pioneer in astrobiology-focused research with a long teaching legacy in this area. This course further demonstrates our commitment to becoming a national and international centre for astrobiology education and training.
  • Our teaching staff are leaders in their respective fields within astrobiology, including experience gleaned working at NASA institutes, in leadership roles with the Royal Astronomical Society, alongside hundreds of citations in peer-reviewed literature.
  • We are part of the joint UCL-Birkbeck Institute of Earth and Planetary Sciences (IEPS) meaning we share laboratories, expertise and events, all open to students for research projects. Find out more about our research facilities.
  • To allow you to pursue your interests further you will be able to choose option modules from both Birkbeck and UCL.
  • Birkbeck was rated in the top 25 universities in the UK for its Earth Systems and Environmental Science research in the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.
  • Our Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences has been offering evening study courses for over 70 years and distance learning for more than 20 years.

Information for international students

If English is not your first language or you have not previously studied in English, our usual requirement is the equivalent of an International English Language Testing System (IELTS Academic Test) score of 6.5, with not less than 6.0 in each of the sub-tests.

If you don't meet the minimum IELTS requirement, we offer pre-sessional English courses, foundation programmes and language support services to help you improve your English language skills and get your place at Birkbeck.

Qualification, course duration and attendance options

  • MSc
    part time
    24 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    • Online learningis available for this qualification
    full time
    12 months
    • Campus-based learningis available for this qualification
    • Online learningis available for this qualification

Course contact details

Student Advice Service
+44 (0)20 3907 0700