MGeol Palaeontology - University of Portsmouth
A Gold rating in teaching excellence Read more


UCAS codeF642

Full Time4yrs

An integrated undergraduate and masters degree

Course Overview

Why take this course?

Our course is accredited by the Geological Society of London, and places great emphasis on practical learning and developing the transferable skills for employment as a professional palaeontologist/geoscientist.

You will learn in a friendly and supportive environment with a structured tutorial programme across all four years, excellent fieldwork opportunities, student-led extra-curricular activities, refurbished and re-equipped teaching facilities, and strong links with industry. All of these provide a broad-based degree experience that maximises career opportunities.

What will I experience?

The course covers all aspects of palaeontology, underpinned by general geoscientific and analytical principles. The school has extensive collections of fossil and geological specimens, and excellent teaching and analytical laboraties supported by recent investment.

On this course you can:

  •  Participate in an extensive fieldwork programme in the UK and abroad
  •  Get hands-on experience of modern analytical equipment in our new laboratories
  •  Complete an extended research project as preparation for a career in industry or further study

What opportunities might it lead to?

You will develop important problem-solving, communication and IT skills which will make you an excellent candidate for a wide range of careers. Recent graduates have been employed in the oil and gas industry, museum curation, teacher training, and progressed to Master's-level study and PhD research.

This course is accredited by The Geological Society. Accredited status provides added assurance to prospective students that a department's teaching is of the highest quality, and has been approved by an independent body of academics and industrialists. An accredited degree will reduce the amount of experience required for applications for Chartered Geologist and Chartered Scientist.


Daniel Pedrosa, Geology student

The University of Portsmouth has many opportunities for fieldtrips, with the Jurassic Coast a stone’s throw away.

Daniel Pedrosa, Geology student



Find out what our students say about studying at Portsmouth, including:

  • Fieldtrips in the UK and abroad providing invaluable practical skills
  • The open-door approach of the lecturers, many of whom have industry experience
  • Superb careers advice and support that is part of your course

Browse all courses in Earth and Environmental Sciences

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Structure & Teaching

Year one

The first year assumes no prior knowledge of palaeontology and is designed to give a broad-based introduction to palaeontology and geology as well as an understanding of the applications of maths, IT, physics and chemistry to palaeontological and geological problems.

Core units in this year include:

  • Biodiversity and Evolution
  • Sedimentology and Palaeontology
  • How The Earth Works

Year two

The second year focuses on developing core laboratory, IT and fieldwork skills prior to the project which is undertaken between years two and three.

Core units in this year include:

  • Palaeontology
  • Vertebrate Palaeontology I
  • Palaeontological Techniques
  • Micropalaeontology, Palaeobotany and Project Preparation

Year three

The third year develops broad concepts in palaeontology and provides focused tutorial support to assist the writing of the palaeontology project.

Core units in this year include: 

  • Palaeontology Project and Study Tour

Options to choose from in this year include:

  • Vertebrate Palaeontology II
  • Oceans, Climates and Environments
  • Evolution and the Fossil Record
  • Basin Analysis and Petroleum Geology

Year four

The fourth year involves an extended independent research project and training in advanced analytical techniques using state-of-the-art equipment in our new laboratories.

Core units in this year include:

  • Project
  • Advanced Analytical Techniques for Earth and Environmental Scientists


The wide variety of learning activities includes lectures, laboratory classes, field trips, tutorials (1:1 and group), seminars and independent project work. Staff have close links with industry and provide a dedicated career development programme.

The time you spend in teaching activities may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year typically spent their time as follows:

  • Year one students: 30% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 70% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year two students: 33% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 67% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year three students: 33% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 67% studying independently and 0% on work placement
  • Year four students: 9% in lectures, seminars and similar learning activities, 91% studying independently and 0% on work placement


You will be assessed in a variety of ways that are designed to develop your transferable skills in preparation for employment.

  • Laboratory practical exercises
  • Written exams
  • Fieldwork exercises (e.g. maps, notebooks)
  • Oral and poster presentations (individual and group)
  • Independent project work
  • Computer-based assessment

The way you’re assessed may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • Year one students: 55% by written exams, 13% by practical exams and 32% by coursework
  • Year two students: 29% by written exams, 8% by practical exams and 63% by coursework
  • Year three students: 39% by written exams, 5% by practical exams and 56% by coursework
  • Year four students: 0% by written exams, 43% by practical exams and 57% by coursework

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Facilities & Features


You will have access to modern, petrology and palaeontology teaching laboratories stocked with a wide range of hand specimens of rocks, minerals and fossils. There are also transmitted light binocular microscopes and polarizing petrological microscopes for detailed analyses of rocks, minerals and some fossils in thin section.

Field Trips

Fieldwork is an important part of our courses. From excavations to palaeobiological data collection, current trips are to:

  • the Isle of Wight
  • Lulworth Cove
  • Lyme Regis
  • Barton-on-Sea
  • Osmington Mills
  • Beer
  • Wales
  • Germany

University Library

Modern, comfortable and a great learning environment, our library offers a wealth of information including 400,000 books, DVDs, maps and thousands of online ejournals and newspapers. Many electronic resources are available anywhere, 24/7 and our friendly staff are always on hand to help.

Project Work

Project work can be undertaken in collaboration with industry or abroad as part of an Erasmus exchange

Budgeting for your studies

There are extra costs associated with studying, which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.

Recommended texts:
If you wish to purchase recommended texts, rather than borrow from the University Library, the average price is £50-£60. You may be studying up to 6 units a year, each with a standard recommended text.

General costs:
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for costs of photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.

Final year project:
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose to develop.

Other costs to consider

The cost of travel or accommodation for compulsory fieldwork is included in the course fee. But travel costs will be incurred on the Mapping Training Field Course, which takes place at locations within the UK in the summer between course years 1 and 2 of study. This will be around £100. You will be expected to pay for meals and other subsistence costs associated with compulsory fieldwork.

For compulsory project work, normally in the UK or Europe, costs for travel and accommodation can be from £0 - £1000.

For optional fieldwork, costs of travel, accommodation, meals and other subsistence are around £1200.


In addition, you will be expected to buy field equipment, (e.g. compass, clinometers, hammer, hand lens, notebook) at the start of your first year. These costs are £130.

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Careers & Opportunities

Career prospects

Career prospects
Where next?

Our course is accredited by the Geological Society of London, the main UK professional body for geoscientists, and focuses on developing the modern practical, technical and transferable skills that are essential for developing a successful career. Fieldwork skills are particularly valued by employers and our broad-based fieldwork programme ensures a high standard of training. In addition, our well-equipped laboratories and IT facilities are industry-standard meaning that you will be well-prepared for the workplace.

Roles our graduates have taken on include:

  • Petroleum consultancy
  • Museum curator
  • School teacher in UK
  • PhD student in Dublin

Work experience

Work experience
Employment boosting opportunities

You will receive tutorial support in your first and second years to assist with finding a summer vacation placement. We provide a number of summer bursaries for students who wish to assist with research projects. Staff organise regular talks from palaeontologists from industry and other academic departments in addition to the formal teaching programme. The year 4 independent project may be taken in collaboration with industry.

Career planning

Career planning

To make sure you take the right steps on your career path, we’re here to give you help, support and advice throughout your study. Even after you’ve graduated, we continue to give you support for up to five years.

Employers tell us that they want graduates to be able to demonstrate certain skills when they come out of university. Our courses take account of this. We make sure we prepare you for employment through work-related learning, projects, placements and working in simulated environments that are designed to prepare you for the working world.

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Apply now or visit us

Apply for 2018 entry

To apply, you'll need this course's UCAS code, which is at the top of this page, and the University of Portsmouth institution code – P80.

Apply now

After you apply, we'll invite you to an Applicant Experience Day where you’ll get to speak to lecturers and meet your future classmates. You’ll also be able to explore course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

If you'd like to tour the campus or meet teaching staff before you apply, find out about our other visiting opportunities.

Open Days for courses starting in 2019

Booking for Open Days for 2019 entry opens soon. Register here for priority booking.

University of Portsmouth
University House
Winston Churchill Avenue
Portsmouth PO1 2UP

T: +44 (0)23 9284 8484