An errupting volcano; orange and yellow molten lava splashes up through black, silhouetted rock
Mode of Study
Part-time, full-time
Duration
1 year full-time, 2 years part-time
Start Date
September 2023
Accredited
Yes

Overview

If you're interested in becoming part of the global network of professionals who predict and prepare for geological and environmental hazards such as earthquakes or volcanic activity, this Geological and Environmental Hazards Master's course will give you the technical skills, training and fieldwork experience you'll need.

Earth systems and environmental sciences at the University of Portsmouth is ranked 4th of all post-1992 universities for research quality

The course focuses on the physical processes that take place in the Earth that cause geological hazards. You'll be trained by experts in hazard identification, terrain evaluation, hazard modelling and risk assessment techniques. You'll learn how to manage – and mitigate – the impact of floods, earthquakes, landslides, volcanoes and coastal erosion.

You'll use our geotechnics and rock mechanics labs to analyse and charactorise geological materials. You'll use spatial analysis tools, simulation software and data analysis to assess the risks of natural hazards. And, you'll design and implement an advanced research project, and produce a detailed report.

A field trip to Sicily is an integral part of the Volcanology and Seismology module, where you'll record and report field data related to volcanic activity, seismology and earthquake geology in the Mediterranean region.

When you graduate, you'll have the vocational skills you need to work in this specialist field – and the educational qualifications to progress to Chartered Geologist (CGeol) or Chartered Scientist (CSci) status.

Scholarships for international students

Eligibility

This course accepts UK, EU, and international students.

Course highlights

  • Become skilled in the application of specialist techniques including numerical hazard modelling and simulation, catastrophe modelling, field reconnaissance and geomorphological mapping, geotechnical testing, spatial analysis and remote sensing
  • Learn about physical processes that affect and control natural hazards, including volcanology and earthquakes, flooding and hydrological hazards, coastal erosion, slope instability and landslides
  • Take part in research-based field trips, both locally and to Sicily where you’ll research volcanics and active tectonics
  • Complete your own independent research project with opportunities to work with industrial partners on a joint project. Previous partners have included SOCOTEC and Fugro

Accredited by:

Our MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards degree course is accredited by The Geological Society of London. It provides advanced professional and scientific training, and an accelerated route for you to attain Chartered Status, such as Chartered Geologist (CGeol) or Chartered Scientist (CSci) when you graduate.

Learn more about this MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards degree
Hear from Dr Malcolm Whitworth

Malcom: We, obviously, cover topics on each of the natural hazards that we deal with so things like environmental, hydro, meteorological hazards, obviously volcanoes, earthquakes, landslides, flooding. And then we focus on how we might essentially model them, understand them better and try to predict them.

The best thing about this course is it provides students with an opportunity to really look at matters in-depth and ultimately go on to have a career where they're making a real difference.

The MSc course has a number of field excursions. We go to the Isle of Wight, we also go to the Cotswolds, and we also spend eight days in Sicily, in southern Italy to look at varied types of natural hazards in the field setting. 

What you'll study on this MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards degree course

Full-time

Modules studied
All modules on this MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards course are core.

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Critically review how soil characteristics are derived and quantified, and be able to specify, analyse and interpret laboratory and field tests to appropriately characterise soil.
  • Analyse the deformability and strength of soils and the importance of the principle of effective stress.
  • Evaluate the movement of water through particulate materials and the implications of this for effective stress conditions and soil mass behaviour.
  • Determine how intact rock characteristics are derived and quantified, and be able to specify, analyse and interpret laboratory and field tests to appropriately characterise rock.
  • Analyse the deformability and strength of intact rock under a range of different stress regimes.
  • Critically evaluate the importance of stress and strain analysis and to use this to evaluate intact rock response to a change in stress state.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Critically assess spatial and probablistic hazard and risk assessment techniques and evaluate their application for the study of different natural hazards.
  • Design and develop advanced software algorithms and construct software code to analyse and model natural hazard processes.
  • Recommend appropriate data sources and methodologies for the advanced analysis of different natural hazard scenarios.
  • Systematically collate, integrate and critically analyse a range of data to solve different types of natural hazard scenarios.
  • Critically discuss the results of a hazard assessment and communicate the results in a format suitable for publication in a named journal.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Design and implement an advanced research project that is based upon the systematic collation, synthesis and analysis of primary data acquired by the student.
  • Prepare a comprehensive literature review and critically evaluate and discuss the research literature in the context of the students own research project.
  • Systematically analyse primary and/or secondary data using new skills and knowledge and use this new information to critically evaluate a clearly defined research hypothesis.
  • Undertake advanced analysis to generate new understandings and critically discuss these results in relation to identified limitations and within context of previous published research.
  • Report scientific results through different media including: thesis report written to a specified word limit using publication quality diagrams and figures.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Review the origin and distribution of different types of volcanic and earthquake-related phenomena at an advanced level in the context of a dynamic Earth.
  • Develop skills in recognising, recording and reporting field data, particularly where relevant to volcanic and seismic hazards.
  • Identify volcanic and earthquake hazards and critically evaluate potential mitigation measures.
  • Critically appraise the types of seismic waves and explain the controls on their propagation at the surface and within the Earth.
  • Review earthquake focal mechanism determinations in the context of local and regional tectonic regimes.
  • Appraise and critically evaluate techniques of earthquake prediction and earthquake forecasting.

Explore this module

This module is designed to develop an overview of different geological and environmental hazards, and terrain evaluation methods for their identification and assessment.

Further module information to be confirmed.

Explore this module

Part-time

Year 1
Year 2
All modules on MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards course are core.

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Critically review how soil characteristics are derived and quantified, and be able to specify, analyse and interpret laboratory and field tests to appropriately characterise soil.
  • Analyse the deformability and strength of soils and the importance of the principle of effective stress.
  • Evaluate the movement of water through particulate materials and the implications of this for effective stress conditions and soil mass behaviour.
  • Determine how intact rock characteristics are derived and quantified, and be able to specify, analyse and interpret laboratory and field tests to appropriately characterise rock.
  • Analyse the deformability and strength of intact rock under a range of different stress regimes.
  • Critically evaluate the importance of stress and strain analysis and to use this to evaluate intact rock response to a change in stress state.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Critically assess spatial and probablistic hazard and risk assessment techniques and evaluate their application for the study of different natural hazards.
  • Design and develop advanced software algorithms and construct software code to analyse and model natural hazard processes.
  • Recommend appropriate data sources and methodologies for the advanced analysis of different natural hazard scenarios.
  • Systematically collate, integrate and critically analyse a range of data to solve different types of natural hazard scenarios.
  • Critically discuss the results of a hazard assessment and communicate the results in a format suitable for publication in a named journal.

Explore this module

The learning outcomes of this module are:

  • Review the origin and distribution of different types of volcanic and earthquake-related phenomena at an advanced level in the context of a dynamic Earth.
  • Develop skills in recognising, recording and reporting field data, particularly where relevant to volcanic and seismic hazards.
  • Identify volcanic and earthquake hazards and critically evaluate potential mitigation measures.
  • Critically appraise the types of seismic waves and explain the controls on their propagation at the surface and within the Earth.
  • Review earthquake focal mechanism determinations in the context of local and regional tectonic regimes.
  • Appraise and critically evaluate techniques of earthquake prediction and earthquake forecasting.

Explore this module

This module is designed to develop an overview of different geological and environmental hazards, and terrain evaluation methods for their identification and assessment.

Further module information to be confirmed.

Explore this module

All modules on MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards course are core.

The learning outcomes of this module are:
  • Design and implement an advanced research project that is based upon the systematic collation, synthesis and analysis of primary data acquired by the student.
  • Prepare a comprehensive literature review and critically evaluate and discuss the research literature in the context of the students own research project.
  • Systematically analyse primary and/or secondary data using new skills and knowledge and use this new information to critically evaluate a clearly defined research hypothesis.
  • Undertake advanced analysis to generate new understandings and critically discuss these results in relation to identified limitations and within context of previous published research.
  • Report scientific results through different media including: thesis report written to a specified word limit using publication quality diagrams and figures.

Explore this module

Changes to course content

We use the best and most current research and professional practice alongside feedback from our students to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.

Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry. If a module doesn't run, we'll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative module.

The course has a variety of lab equipment available for thesis work, and various fieldwork opportunities both within the UK and abroad. I’ve greatly increased my geological knowledge, developed new skills in coding … and learned that I am capable of more than I think.

Abi Robins, MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards

Facilities

Scientist testing soils

Geotechnics laboratory

Gain experience with fully automated testing equipment and kit for characterising fine and coarse grained soils in our geotechnics lab, also known as the soils lab.

Find out more about the lab

A female student standing in front of hydraulic equipment in our Rock Mechanics Laboratory

Rock mechanics laboratory

Measure the strength and elasticity of minerals and rocks under simulated geological stress conditions using high-pressure hydraulic apparatus in this lab, and explore properties including fluid-flow permeability, rock and joint friction, and induced seismicity.

Learn more about the lab

An aerial shot of a glacier

GIS and remote sensing lab

Discover more about the planet's physical structures and scientific processes, such as glaciers and coastal flooding, using drone data, aerial and satellite remote sensing and geographic information systems.

Explore the lab

Careers and opportunities

Careers this Master’s prepares you for

Once you complete this MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards degree, you'll be able to apply your lab and field experience in small and medium-sized enterprises or in global businesses or non-governmental organisations (NGOs). Alternatively, you could proceed to a research degree in earth and environmental sciences.

Each of the modules that make up this course has been designed with employability in mind, for example, assessment exercises such as presentations and reports are modelled on those that take place in professional settings. 

Each year we organise a programme of guest speakers from industry to talk about their work, new developments in their field, careers paths and opportunities.

When you successfully complete this course – and after your first few years of professional work experience – you'll be able to use your Geological Society of London accredited Master's qualification in your application to become a Chartered Geologist (CGeol) or Chartered Scientist (CSci).

Graduates of this course have gone onto areas such as:

  • Environmental consultancy
  • Marine and offshore consultancy
  • Flood risk consultancy
  • GIS and remote sensing consultancy
  • Engineering geology companies
  • Re-insurance and insurance sectors

Graduates of this course have gone onto roles such as:

  • Civil engineer
  • Geo-environmental consultant
  • Geo technical enginner
  • Geographic Information Systems Analyst 
  • GIS Geographical Information Systems Technician
  • Junior Catastrophe Risk Analyst
  • Project engineer
  • Technical integrator

Graduates of this course have gone on to work for companies such as:

  • Fugro
  • Radioactive Waste Management
  • Gateley

Career outcomes shown are sourced from the latest available graduate outcome surveys. The data shows career outcomes at 15 months after graduation.

Career planning

During your course you'll have expert career support from your tutors and our Careers and Employability Centre – which you can access for up to 5 years after you graduate.

Female student standing at careers and employability help desk

You'll benefit from:

  • Networking events
  • Applied projects with employers
  • 1-to-1 appointments
  • CV and cover letter advice
  • Interview preparation and practice
  • Workshops to enhance your employability skills
  • Recruitment events including the Student and Graduate Opportunities Fair
  • Support starting your own business

Learn more about your career support

How you'll spend your time

We recognise that you'll probably be juggling more demands when you do your Master's degree, as you may be working or you may have family responsibilities.

We'll give you as much indication here as we can of how much time you'll need to be on campus and how many hours you can expect to spend in self-directed study, but please note that these indications are always subject to change. You should receive your full timetable several weeks before you start with us.

It is our expectation that all international students will join us here on campus in Portsmouth.

Course structure

Full-time (1 year)

We recommend that full-time students allocate around 37 hours per week to their studies – equivalent to a full-time job. Approximately:

  • 12 hours (2 days) of on-campus, in-person teaching per week
  • 25 hours of self-directed study time per week

Part-time (2 years)

We recommend that part-time students allocate around 18 hours per week to their studies – equivalent to a part-time job. Approximately:

  • 6 hours (1 day) of on-campus, in-person teaching per week
  • 12 hours of self-directed study time per week

Teaching

Master's study is deeper and more specialised than an undergraduate degree. This means you'll focus on something that really matters to you and your career as you work closely with academics committed to the subject.

You'll spend more time in independent study and research than you did for your undergraduate degree, but the majority of your teaching time will be in-person and face-to-face.

Teaching on this course includes:

  • lectures
  • seminars
  • tutorials
  • workshops
  • practical sessions
  • field work

Assessment

You'll be assessed through:

  • coursework
  • poster and oral presentations
  • project and technical reports
  • literature reviews
  • lab reports
  • essays
  • online tests

Teaching staff

These are some of the expert staff who'll teach you on this course:

Dr Malcolm Whitworth, University of Portsmouth

Dr Malcolm Whitworth

I'm a Reader in Engineering Geomorphology and Natural Hazards. I'm also the MSc Engineering Geology, and MSc Geological and Environmental Hazards Course Leader.

I have extensive commercial experience in natural hazard assessment, terrain evaluation, gemorphological mapping, hazard assessment, GIS and remote sensing.

My current research projects include a study on the global distribution of natural hazards, landslide hazards assessment in Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and China using remote sensing and GIS, and numerical modelling of natural hazards – all of which feed directly into my teaching.

Read my full profile

Dr Andy Gibson, University of Portsmouth

Dr Andy Gibson

As an engineering geomorphologist, I'm interested in investiging and managing geological hazards, and adaptating to the impacts of climate change.

I’ve currently got active research projects looking at landslides in China, the geotechnical properties of the Hampshire Basin, and the impacts of geohazards on the UK economy and tourism industry.

Before joining the University in 2009, I was Chief Engineering Geologist and Head of Science (Land Use and Development) at the British Geological Survey.

Read my full profile

Term dates

September start

The Master's academic year runs from September to the following September. There are breaks at Christmas and Easter. Over the summer you'll be writing your project/dissertation.

See key dates

Joining us as an international student

You'll feel at home in our international community and our diverse city. You'll be joining over 5,000 international students from more than 150 countries who are studying with us.

Learn more about international student life and how we can help you with visas, applications, arrival and settling in. 

Information for international students

Supporting your learning

Master's study is more focused on independent learning than undergraduate study, but you'll get lots of support via video, phone and face-to-face from teaching and support staff to enhance your learning experience and help you succeed. You can build your personalised network of support from the following people and services:

Types of support

Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to postgraduate study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your Master's.

As well as regular scheduled meetings with your personal tutor, they're also available at set times during the week if you want to chat with them about anything that can't wait until your next meeting.

You'll have help from a team of faculty learning support tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study.

They can help with:

  • improving your academic writing (for example, essays, reports, dissertations)
  • understanding and using assignment feedback
  • managing your time and workload
  • revision and exam techniques

As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University’s Academic Skills Unit (ASK) for one-to-one support in areas such as:

  • academic writing
  • note taking
  • time management
  • critical thinking
  • presentation skills
  • referencing
  • working in groups
  • revision, memory and exam techniques

Our online Learning Well mini-course will help you plan for managing the challenges of learning and student life, so you can fulfil your potential and have a great student experience.

You can get personal, emotional and mental health support from our Student Wellbeing Service, in person and online. This includes 1–2–1 support as well as courses and workshops that help you better manage stress, anxiety or depression.

If you require extra support because of a disability or additional learning need our specialist team can help you.

They'll help you to:

  • discuss and agree on reasonable adjustments
  • liaise with other University services and facilities, such as the library
  • access specialist study skills and strategies tutors, and assistive technology tutors, on a 1-to-1 basis or in groups
  • liaise with external services

Library staff are available in person or by email, phone or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from the faculty librarian for science.

The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.

If English isn't your first language, you can do one of our English language courses to improve your written and spoken English language skills before starting your degree. Once you're here, you can take part in our free In-Sessional English (ISE) programme to improve your English further.

The Maths Café offers free advice and assistance with mathematical skills in a friendly, informal environment. You can come to our daily drop-in sessions, develop your maths skills at a workshop or use our online resources.

​Course costs and funding

Tuition fees (September 2022 start)

  • Full-time: £9,400
  • Part-time: £4,700 per year

(including Transition Scholarship)

  • Full time: £9,400
  • Part time: £4,700 per year

  • Full time: £18,300
  • Part time: £9,150 per year

University of Portsmouth graduates may receive a 20% alumni tuition fee discount

Fees are subject to annual increase. Read our tuition fees terms and conditions.

You'll be able to pay your fees in instalments. Find out how to pay your tuition fees.

Funding your studies

Explore how to fund your studies, including available scholarships and bursaries.

If you're a UK student, you may be eligible for a Government Postgraduate Master's Loan, which you can use to help with course fees and living costs.

If you're a UK student who achieved a first in your undergraduate degree you may be eligible for a £3,000 University of Portsmouth scholarship.

Environment, geography and geosciences scholarships

International students may be eligible for the School of the Environment, Geography and Geosciences (SEGG) Scholarship.

Find out if you're eligible and how to apply

Additional costs

These course-related costs aren't included in the tuition fees so you'll need to budget for them when you plan your spending. Additional costs could include:

  • Accommodation: Accommodation options and costs can be found on our accommodation pages.
  • Recommended reading: You can borrow key texts from the library and if you choose to purchase these texts they may cost up to £60 each.
  • General costs: such photocopying, memory sticks, printing charges, binding and specialist printing. We suggest budgeting £75 per year.
  • Field trips: Transport, accommodation and basic subsistance costs are covered by your course fee.
  • Final project transport or accommodation: where necessary, which related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose.

Read more about tuition fees and living costs, including what your tuition fees cover.

Entry requirements​

Eligibility

This course accepts UK, EU, and international students.

September 2023

  • A second class 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.

Please get in touch if you're not sure if your undergraduate subject is relevant to this degree.

Equivalent professional experience and/or qualifications will also be considered, such as previous study, employment, voluntary work and training courses, including courses and qualifications you didn't complete. Learn more about our Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL).

If you're applying as an international student with a non-UK degree, you’ll need to show you meet the UK entry requirements listed above.

To find out if your non-UK degree or other qualification is accepted, please visit our page for your country and view the UK equivalent of your qualification. 

  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.5 (or equivalent) with no component score below 6.0.

You do not need an IELTS or equivalent certification if:

  • you have a UK degree
  • you have a degree from a majority English speaking country (not taught by Distance Learning)
  • you are a national of a majority English speaking country

Degrees taught solely in English from non-majority English speaking countries will be considered on a case by case basis. Find out more about our English language requirements.

If you do not meet the English language requirements yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.

How to apply

Unlike undergraduate applications, which go through UCAS, applications for this Master's course are made directly to us.

There's no deadline for applications to this course. We accept applications right up until the start date in September, as long as there are places available. If you wait until September to apply, you may find that the course is full.

If you're applying as an international student, remember that you'll need to leave plenty of time to get your visa organised.

You can find more advice about applying in our Master's application checklist. International students and current students and recent graduates of the University of Portsmouth also have some different application options, which are detailed below.

Extra information for international students

If you're an international student, you can apply directly to us using the same application form as UK students.

You could also get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region. To find out what to include in your application, head to the how to apply page of our international students section.

If you don’t meet the English language requirements for this course yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.

Ready to apply?

Standard applications

Start this course in September 2023

Apply now (Full-time) – 1 year

Apply now (Part-time) – 2 years

I'm a current Portsmouth student, or a recent Portsmouth graduate

If you're currently in your final year of study at Portsmouth, or you graduated since July 2021, you're eligible to make a fast track application. You'll have:

  • a shorter application form to complete
  • access to the 20% Alumni fee discount
  • a guaranteed conditional offer, for most Master's courses 

Learn more about fast track

After you apply

Once we receive your application, we may ask you for further information. We will then either make you an offer or suggest alternatives if your application is unsuccessful.

You'll usually get a decision within 10 working days, so you shouldn't have to wait too long. Some courses have an interview stage – we'll let you know if you need to prepare for one.

Learn more about how we assess your application.

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.