Geological and Environmental Hazards
Venture elsewhere in the UK and overseas to experience different environments first-hand
Why take this course?
This course focuses on the physical processes that generate natural hazards through an advanced understanding of geological and environmental processes.
You will be fully trained by internationally recognised experts in hazard identification, terrain evaluation techniques as well as hazard modelling and risk assessment techniques. Providing you with the essential skills to monitor, warn and help control the consequences of natural hazards.
What will I experience?
On this course you can:
- Be taught by experts, who have extensive industrial and consultancy experience and strong research portfolios
- Gain experience of environmental assessment techniques, plus a range of other skills such as mapping using GIS, GPS and remote sensing technologies
- Go on numerous fieldtrips, both locally and overseas, to undergo specialist field training
What opportunities might it lead to?
This course is accredited by the Geological Society of London. It offers advanced professional and scientific training providing an accelerated route for you to attain Chartered Status, such as Chartered Geologist (CGeol) and Chartered Scientist (CSci) on graduation.
Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:
- aid organisations
- environmental organisations
- offshore work
- civil sector roles
- insurance companies
This Master's is hands-on with very few exams, which suited my style of learning and learning in the field will help me achieve employment on completing this degree.
Becky Rainford, MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards student 2013
- 1 year full time, 2 years part time
- A 2:2 honours degree or equivalent in Geology, Earth Science, Applied Geology, Civil Engineering, Geography, Environmental Science or a related discipline. Industrial experience will also be considered on an individual basis. English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 with no component score below 6.0.
UK/EU/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students
2016/17 entry: full time: £6,400 part time: £3,200 p/a*
2017/18 entry: full time: £6,400 part time: £3,200 p/a*
2016/17 entry: full time: £13,700 part time: £6,850 p/a*
2017/18 entry: full time: £14,400 part time: £7,200 p/a*
*Tuition fee is subject to annual increase.
+44 (0)23 9284 5566
- School of Earth and Environmental Sciences
- Programme specification
- Accreditations & Endorsements
Structure & Teaching
You can opt to take this course in full-time or part-time mode.
The course is divided into two parts. The first part comprises the lecture, workshop, practical and field work elements of the course, followed by a five-month independent research project. The course is a mixture of taught units and research project covering topics including site investigation, hazard modelling and mapping, soil mechanics and rock mechanics, contaminated land, flooding and slope stability.
Here are the units you will study:
- Natural Hazard Processes: The topic of this unit forms the backbone of the course and give you an advanced knowledge of a broad range of geological and environmental hazards, including floods, landslides, collapsible ground, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hydro-meteorological and anthropogenic hazards. External speakers are used to provide insights and expertise from an industry, regulatory and research perspective.
- Numerical Hazard Modelling and Simulation: This forms an important part of the course, whereby you are trained in the application of computer models to the simulation of a range of geological and environmental hazards. You will develop skills in computer programming languages and use them to develop numerical models that are then used to simulate different natural hazard scenarios.
- Catastrophe Modelling: On this unit you will cover the application of natural hazard modelling to better understand the insurance sector exposure to a range of geological and environmental hazards. It includes external speakers and sessions on the application of models for this type of catastrophe modelling.
- Volcanology and Seismology: You will gain an in-depth knowledge of the nature of volcanism and associated hazards and seismology, associated seismo-tectonics and earthquake hazards. This unit is underpinned by a residential field course in the Mediterranean region that examines the field expression of volcanic, seismic and other natural hazards.
- Flooding and Hydrological Hazards: These are a significant global problem that affect urban environments, one that is likely to increase with climate change. This unit will give you an in-depth background to these hazards and opportunities to simulate flooding in order to model the flood hazard and calculate the risk.
- Hazard and Risk Assessment: This unit gives you the chance to study the techniques that are employed once a hazard has been identified and its likely impact needs to be measured. You will have advanced training in the application of qualitative and quantitative approaches to hazard and risk assessment and their use in the study of different natural hazards.
- Field Reconnaissance and Geomorphological Mapping: These techniques are integral to the course and an essential skill for any graduate wishing to work in this area of natural hazard assessment. On this unit you will have fieldwork training in hazard recognition using techniques such as geomorphological mapping and walk-over surveys, combined with interpretation of remote sensing and aerial photography imagery.
- Spatial Analysis and Remote Sensing: You will learn how to acquire and interpret aerial photography and satellite imagery, and the integration and analysis of spatial datasets using GIS – all key tools for hazard specialists.
- Geo-mechanical Behaviour of Earth Materials: You will train in geotechnical testing and description of soils and rocks to the British and international standards used by industry.
- Landslides and Slope Instability: This unit will give you an advanced understanding of landslide systems, types of slides in soils and rocks and methods for identification and numerical analysis.
- Impacts and Remediation of Natural Hazards: You will cover a growing area of study, including the impact of hazardous events on society and the environment, and potential mitigation and remediation methods that can be employed.
- Independent Research Project: This provides you with an opportunity to undertake an original piece of research to academic or industrial standards, typically in collaboration with research staff in the department or external industry partners. In addition to submission of a thesis report, you also present the results of your project at the annual postgraduate conference held at the end of September.
Teaching and Assessment
The course provides a balanced structure of lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops. You will learn through hands-on practical sessions designed to give you the skills in laboratory, computer and field techniques. The course also includes extensive field work designed to provide field mapping and data collection skills.
How are you assessed?
Assessment is varied, aimed at developing skills relevant to a range of working environments. Here’s how we assess your work:
- poster and oral presentations
- project reports
- literature reviews
- lab reports
Dr Malcolm Whitworth
Earth and Environmental Sciences
This course provides excellent MSc accommodation, with state-of-the-art geotechical, computing and analytical laboratory facilities available to you throughout and the support of friendly and approachable staff who have extensive research and consultancy experience. It also offers excellent career prospects, and is run with a strong emphasis on employability with placement and work experience opportunities readily available.
Facilities & Features
Our field trips consist of a series of residential technique trips (typically two or three days in duration) undertaken in the UK. They include training in soil and rock descriptions to current UK and EU standards, rock mass assessment, geomorphological mapping, landslide mapping and terrain evaluation. You will also venture overseas for a week-long study tour to study field expression of active volcanic, flooding, landslide and seismic processes. There are also plenty of opportunities for you to complete your research project abroad with previous destinations including Costa Rica, Tenerife, North America, Caribbean, Canada, Italy and France.
We offer a fully equipped geological, geochemical and a recently refurbished geotechnics lab. Brimming with ultra-modern equipment, here’s a taste of what you’ll be able to work on:
- x-ray diffractometer and spectrometer equipment
- photogrammetry equipment
- a nutrient autoanalyser
- large shear box for soil testing
- triaxial test cell, Brazilian and uniaxial test rigs for rock testing
Specialist Software and Equipment
You will have access to field equipment, including GPS mapping and slope survey kit, as well as Geographical Information Systems (GIS) and image processing software (ArcGIS, ERDAS Imagine, ER Mapper and ENVI). All of these facilities are fully supported by dedicated technical support staff and are freely available whenever you should need to use them.
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.
When I visited an Open Day, it was interesting and informative, the labs seemed well equipped, the staff were friendly, and the University and city as a whole were really nice.
Kathryn Williams, MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards student 2013
Budgeting for your studies
There may be extra costs arising from your studies which you will need to consider when planning your expenditure.
Some are common costs to all courses of study. These may include the cost of study texts, reference books, photocopying and computer supplies. Others relate to specific courses and may include field trips, materials and specialist equipment.
Other costs to consider
You will be expected to buy your own field equipment (e.g. compass, clinometers, hammer, hand lens, notebook) at the start of your study. The costs are £125.
The cost of travel or accommodation for compulsory fieldwork is included in the course fee, but you will need to pay for meals and other subsistence costs. Compulsory project work is normally carried out in the UK, and you will be required to contribute to travel, accommodation and meals, These costs are likely to be in the region of £50 - £500 depending on the nature of the project. You will be provided with essential safety equipment for fieldwork and site visits (hard hat and reflective jacket). If you require additional field equipment you will be required to purchase these items. Total costs will be in the region of £130.
Careers & Opportunities
This course provides vocational skills designed to enable you to enter this specialist environmental field. These skills include field mapping, report writing, meeting deadlines, team working, presentation skills, advanced data modelling and communication.
You will be fully equipped to gain employment in the insurance industry, government agencies and specialist geoscience companies, all of which are tasked with identifying and dealing with natural hazards. Previous destinations of our graduates have included major re-insurance companies, geological and geotechnical consultancies, local government and government agencies.
It also has strong research and analytical components, ideal if you wish to pursue further research to PhD level.
We aim to provide you with as much support as possible in finding employment through close industrial contacts, careers events, recruitment fairs and individual advice.
One of the benefits of studying at Portsmouth is the support that we provide to our Master's and Research Degree students in career planning. Our careers and recruitment service can assist you in career research and finding employment opportunities. Help is also available if you wish to find a part-time job while studying your degree.
We offer our postgraduate students and alumni one-to-one appointments with a careers adviser, or an online service for those not able to travel back to the University. Our alumni can call on our career services for five years after graduation.
In addition, regular employability events offer you the chance to meet employers, find out about different career sectors and improve your applications or CV. The Graduate Summer Programme provides a range of guidance and employability seminars and workshops.
Benefits of Postgraduate Study
Regardless of whether you are seeking to build on your studies, further your career or pursue a career change, a postgraduate qualification adds to your achievement record.
- Postgraduate study may greatly improve your chances of getting that first break.
- Many graduate employers prefer the higher intellectual rigour displayed in postgraduate students.
- Recruiters for roles requiring specialist knowledge or research particularly target those with higher level qualifications.
- Postgraduate study shows you can take the challenge of in-depth study; acquiring transferable skills in team working and problem solving techniques.
- If you have a passion for a particular subject, postgraduate study can also be something undertaken as part of your own development at an appropriate time in your life.
The University of Portsmouth has a great reputation within the geology industry and has a high employability rate. I discovered many work colleagues in the industry, and lecturers from other universities, hold Master’s or Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Portsmouth and recommended Portsmouth to me.
Jon Butland, MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards student
Online application form
Apply direct using our online form
Your application will be received by the University Admissions Centre for consideration.
Postgraduate Information Days
Our Postgraduate Information Days for 2016 entry have now finished.
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Fees and Funding
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