Taught course


University of St Andrews · Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences

Entry requirements

A good Honours degree (UK 2.1) or equivalent from a recognised overseas institution is required.

Months of entry


Course content

What is Geochemistry? Geochemistry provides scientists with the techniques and knowledge to undertake research that addresses fundamental questions, such as: was there ever life on Mars, what was the chemistry of Earth’s ancient atmosphere, how has the mantle evolved through time, how do we improve exploration methods for natural resources, and what are the rates and drivers of past and current climate change on Earth?

What careers do geochemists follow? Geochemistry has widespread applications in understanding and solving contemporary problems, ranging from assessing and mediating pollution of soils and water, to quantifying rates and impacts of ocean acidification, and to exploring and managing Earth’s natural resources. Career paths for geochemists therefore include mining, oil and gas, environmental consultancy, and government agencies, as well as academia.

What will I do during my degree course? Our MSc in Geochemistry, run by the Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences at St Andrews, delivers postgraduate-level knowledge and skills training in modern geochemical methods, involving field work, hands-on laboratory training, and experience with state-of-the-art equipment. This broad and rigorous course provides preparation for either pursuing a PhD, by incorporating a lab-based research dissertation, or direct employment in industry through incorporation of applied economic and environmental geochemistry modules.

Programme Structure

MSc Geochemistry students normally obtain 180 credits over a 12 month period of study. Semesters 1 and 2 are teaching-intensive with core modules covering subject knowledge and laboratory skills, geochemistry-related field work skills, and current “hot topics” in geochemistry. Optional modules allow students to tailor their degree towards more environmental and low temperature, more geological and higher temperature, or more chemistry-focussed applications. The taught component of the course prepares the groundwork for the independent research project which is conducted in the third and final semester.

The programme consists of:

  • 90 credits of core skills modules.
  • 30 credits of optional modules from Earth & Environmental Sciences or Chemistry
  • 60 credits of independent research

Core skills modules include: Introduction to Geochemistry, Isotope Geochemistry, Physical Chemistry Laboratory, Advanced Geochemistry*, Earth's Greatest Hits*, and the Rio Tinto Geochemistry Field Excursion. Optional modules can be chosen from modules offered by the Department of Earth & Environmental Sciences (ES) or the School of Chemistry (CH). They include: Water in the Envionment* (ES), Advanced Petrogenesis (ES), Biogeochemistry* (ES), Metallogeny (ES), Advanced Spectroscopic Methods (CH), Processing of Materials (CH), Energy Conversion and Storage (CH), and Advanced Molecular Inorganic Solids (CH).

* Subject to final approval.


The Rio Tinto field excursion in southern Spain is a key component of the degree programme. This seven-day residential trip covers the geochemistry associated with the Iberian pyrite belt, including applied geochemistry in the context of mineral exploration and the environmental impact and remediation of acid mine drainage. Research is also conducted on rock-water interactions, aqueous geochemistry, and acidophilic microbial life.


Your coursework will include laboratory exercise and field excursion reports, homework problem sets, reading assignments and essays, discussion seminars, oral and poster presentations, lab tests and examinations, and a written dissertation. Assessment styles will, in many cases, emulate the reporting formats and communication styles used in industry. You are evaluated on your understanding of the principles taught in the course, your skill in undertaking laboratory and field work in a methodical manner, your ability to think critically, and how you integrate your knowledge and skills into a piece of independent research.

Information for international students

A recognised English Language qualification such as IELTS 7.0 or equivalent is normally required.

Fees and funding

UK students
International students


Qualification and course duration


full time
12 months
part time
24 months

Course contact details

Postgraduate Secretary