University subject profile: earth and marine sciences

What you’ll learn
With the climate crisis climbing ever higher on the global political agenda, there has never been a better time to study the planet. This field touches on various disciplines, namely biology, chemistry and physics, but also includes geography, maths, engineering and other sciences.

A number of courses fall under the Earth and marine sciences banner, such as geology, environmental engineering, oceanography, marine geography and geophysics, but broadly speaking, students will study the structure and dynamics of the Earth, its oceans and its planets. You’ll develop an understanding of how the Earth’s resources are used and abused, and how they could be managed sustainably.

Depending on how you decide to specialise, you could find yourself investigating the disappearance of dinosaurs, developing ways to safely dispose of nuclear waste, or diving in the tropical reef systems of the Indian Ocean.

How you’ll learn
Courses include plenty of hands-on study and involve using the latest technology to collect and analyse data. Lots of courses will require you to undertake an independent research project.

Expect lots of field trips – and potentially time abroad. There are plenty of oceans, volcanos and faultlines to study, and time abroad will extend your academic horizons. The University of Brighton holds field trips to Portugal and Wales, while Essex University encourages students to attend underwater lectures at Wakatobi Marine National Park in Indonesia. Equally, you may want to choose a university near the seaside: studying marine biology at Plymouth University will have you spending a lot of time exploring the south Devon coastline. Remember, you may have to front the costs for field trips, especially ones overseas.

You may also have the option of spending a year in industry, working in a paid position to develop your work experience and contacts.

Entry requirements
The most selective universities normally ask for at least two A-levels in biology, maths, physics or chemistry. Geography, geology, computing or computer science will also help your application.

What job can you get?
Further study will be required to become a marine biologist or oceanographer, or to work in industry or academia. If your course is accredited by the Geological Society of London – the professional body for geoscientists – you will be able to apply for chartered geologist status. Some courses include an integrated master’s, which can boost your employability.

Your degree will see you well placed for a job in a conservation or environmental campaigning organisation. You could also work in research, government, the mining or civil engineering industries, or as an oil spill consultant or underwater filmmaker.

Whatever you decide to do, your analytical abilities, the ability to come up with creative solutions and a willingness to get your hands dirty mean you’ll have a healthy bunch of transferable skills.

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