Palaeontology students Hamzah Imran on Southsea beach by the old seawall

UCAS code


Mode of Study



3 years full-time, 4 years sandwich with work placement

Start date

September 2024




Are you interested in studying the processes of how life on Earth began, evolved and diversified? Do you enjoy getting your hands dirty as well as spending time in the lab?

Get ready to dig up the past on our BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree course, which is accredited by The Geological Society of London.

Course highlights

  • Reveal the secrets of ancient life in our petrology and palaeontology laboratories, stocked with rock, mineral and fossil specimens
  • Work alongside our active academic research team on the latest palaeontological theories and models, as they integrate new ideas and data into teaching
  • Unearth your own discoveries on field trips in locations such as the Isle of Wight, Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site locations Lulworth Cove and Lyme Regis, and other famous fossil localities
We try and make our students as employable as possible by giving them access to some really excellent resources and expertise. Portsmouth's really well located for easy access to some famous fossil localities.

Dr Anthony Butcher, Course leader, BSc (Hons) Palaeontology

The Geological Society Accrediting body logo

Accredited by:

This course is accredited by The Geological Society of London.

Entry requirements

BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree entry requirements

Typical offers

  • A levels - BBB-BBC
  • UCAS points - 112-120 points to include a minimum of 2 A levels, or equivalent, with 32 points from a Science subject (Applied Science, Archaeology, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science/Studies, Geography, Geology, Mathematics or Physics). (calculate your UCAS points)
  • T-levels - Merit. Acceptable T Level Subjects:
    T Level in Construction: Design, Surveying and Planning, T Level in Health, T Level in Healthcare Science, T Level in Science 
  • BTECs (Extended Diplomas) - DDM-DMM
  • International Baccalaureate - 25

You may need to have studied specific subjects – find full entry requirements and other qualifications we accept at UCAS.

English language requirements

  • English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.0 with no component score below 5.5.

See alternative English language qualifications

We also accept other standard English tests and qualifications, as long as they meet the minimum requirements of your course.

If you don't 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.

We look at more than just your grades

While we consider your grades when making an offer, we also carefully look at your circumstances and other factors to assess your potential. These include whether you live and work in the region and your personal and family circumstances which we assess using established data.

Explore more about how we make your offer

If you don't meet the entry requirements, you may be able to join this course after you successfully complete a foundation year.

Facilities and specialist equipment

Palaeontology and Advanced Microscopy Laboratories

Examine rock, mineral and fossil specimens using the specialist kit in these labs, such as transmitted light, polarising and scanning electron microscopes, and explore processes including acid digestion, air abrasion and microfossil extraction.

Students examining fossils in palaeontology lab
Learn more about the labs

Geochemistry Laboratory

Study the ancient properties of the Earth’s surface materials in this lab, using techniques including palynology processing – the study of strewn particles – for acid dissolutions of rock matrices, sample sieving and heavy liquid separation.

A river delta
Explore the lab

Cutting Laboratory

Get a closer look at the cores of bulk rock formations, excavated by our diamond-tipped coring drill, and examine rock chips cut by our diamond-bladed saws, to discover what they can help us understand about past climates and environments.

Technology Facilities; 31st May 2019
Learn more about the lab

Palaeontology facilities at the University of Portsmouth

Course leader Dr Anthony Butcher talks about the facilities on offer on the Palaeontology BSc (Hons) at the University of Portsmouth.

Dr Anthony Butcher: Palaeontology, the word itself means the study of ancient life. From the earliest algae right through to the biggest dinosaurs and even early human ancestors as well. It's satisfying seeing students come in with a real enthusiasm for dinosaurs and actually seeing their interests explode in some of these other areas.

We try and make our students as employable as possible by giving them access to some really excellent resources and expertise. Portsmouth's really well located for easy access to some famous fossil localities. We offer virtual alternatives to our field trips and those were approved by our accrediting body, the Geological Society of London. It's very rewarding to see our students go on to utilise those skills after graduation. 

The lecturers are helpful and enthusiastic, and there is a lot of new lab equipment as well as extensive fossil collections. There are also fantastic opportunities for field trips.

Lucy Hicks, BSc (Hons) Palaeontology

Careers and opportunities

Palaeontology is the study of ancient life, from the earliest algae to the biggest dinosaurs and our first human ancestors. It seeks to uncover the ways in which life on Earth evolved through the ages, and in turn, how this can help us better understand the natural world today.

Studying fossilised lifeforms can reveal facts about biology, ecology and evolution vital to many modern environmental issues, including climate change.

Gain valuable skills for a range of scientific careers

On this BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree, you gain the knowledge and expertise to become a skilled palaeontologist, without any previous experience in palaeontology or geology. 
When you graduate, you’ll have a strong set of transferable skills suitable for a range of scientific roles, in areas such as energy resources and exploration, environmental consultancy, teaching and museum curation.
You could also continue your studies with our research master's programme in Palaeontology, which would enable you to spend a year working on a dedicated project in an paleontological area that interests you. Many of our MRes students publish papers in scientific journals by the time they complete the programme.

A reconstruction of Brighstoneus simmondsi by John Sibbick

New dinosaur discovered by PhD student

PhD student, Jeremy Lockwood, discovered the new dinosaur on the Isle of Wight, with help from university and Natural History Museum scientists.

Read More

What areas can you work in with a palaeontology degree?

Previous students have gone on to work and study in areas such as:

  • energy resources and exploration
  • environmental consultancy
  • museum curation
  • teaching
  • academic research

What jobs can you do with a palaeontology degree?

They've gone on to work in the following roles:

  • researcher of vertebrate palaeontology
  • geographic information systems (GIS) editor
  • science teacher

What can you do with a palaentology degree?

Course leader Dr Anthony Butcher talks about the careers that Palaeontology BSc (Hons) students at the University of Portsmouth can go on to do.

Dr Anthony Butcher: After graduation, our students have a really strong set of transferable skills and general scientific skills as well.

So even if they're not able to go into a palaeontological role, they can go into things such as environmental consultancy, public outreach and engagement, teaching and museum work.

At Portsmouth, we run an MRes, a research master's programme in Palaeontology. That can range everything from palaeobotany to vertebrate palaeontology, dinosaurs, pterosaurs. Students are able to work on a dedicated project for an entire year and a lot of our students, by the time they finish their MRes, have actually published papers in scientific journals. 

Female student at computer

Ongoing career support – up to 5 years after you graduate

Get experience while you study, with support to find part-time jobs, volunteering opportunities, and work experience.

Towards the end of your degree and for up to five years after graduation, you’ll receive one-to-one support from our Graduate Recruitment Consultancy to help you find your perfect role.

Placement opportunities

After your second or third year, you can do an optional work placement to get valuable longer-term work experience in the industry. Placements give you the opportunity to apply what you've learnt so far in a real workplace, boosting your employability and making you attractive to employers after graduation.

You can work for a company or organisation here in the UK or overseas, or you could go independent by setting up and running your own business with other students. 

Previous students have enjoyed placements at civil engineering, mining and quarrying companies and the Dinosaur Isle museum on the Isle of Wight.

Whichever route you choose, you'll receive support and guidance. Our specialist team of Science and Health Careers advisors can help you with finding a work placement and improving your employability skills. They'll provide you with a database of placement vacancies, support with your job search – including help with applications and interviews – and support throughout your placement.

What you'll study on this BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree

Each module on this course is worth a certain number of credits.

In each year, you need to study modules worth a total of 120 credits. For example, four modules worth 20 credits and one module worth 40 credits.


Core modules in this year include:

  • Analysis of the Earth and Environment – 20 credits
  • Biodiversity and Vertebrate Anatomy – 20 credits
  • Earth Materials – 20 credits
  • Global Environmental Challenges – 20 credits
  • How the Earth Works – 20 credits
  • Sedimentology and Palaeontology – 20 credits

There are no optional modules in this year.

Core modules in this year include:

  • Early Vertebrate Evolution – 20 credits
  • Invertebrate and Analytical Palaeontology – 20 credits
  • Micropalaeontology, Palaeobotany, and Palaeoenvironments – 20 credits
  • Palaeontological Techniques – 20 credits
  • Professional Skills For Palaeontologists – 20 credits
  • Sedimentary Processes and Facies Analysis – 20 credits

There are no optional modules in this year.

Core modules in this year include:

  • Palaeontology Project and Study Tour – 40 credits

Optional modules in this year include:

  • Analytical Methods For Earth and Environmental Sciences – 20 credits
  • Applications of Palaeontology and Sedimentology – 20 credits
  • Dinosaurs and Mammals – 20 credits
  • Introduction to Teaching – 20 credits
  • Oceans, Climates and Environments – 20 credits
  • The Fossil Record – 20 credits

On this course, you can do an optional work placement after your second or third year to get valuable experience working in industry.

We’ll help you secure a work placement that fits your situation and ambitions. You’ll get mentoring and support throughout the year.

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.

How you're assessed

You’ll be assessed through:

  • laboratory reports
  • oral and poster presentations
  • reports on field-based projects
  • computer-based assessment

You’ll be able to test your skills and knowledge informally before you do assessments that count towards your final mark.

You can get feedback on all practice and formal assessments so you can improve in the future.


Teaching methods on this course include:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • laboratory work
  • fieldwork

A pterosaur like no other

Professor of Palaeobiology, Dave Martill, explains how our palaeontologists discovered a new species of small toothless pterosaur. 

External Audio

Teaching staff profiles

These are some of the expert staff who’ll teach you on this degree course.

Anthony Butcher Portrait

Dr Anthony Butcher

Programme Lead (Geosciences)

School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

Read more
Pilar Mariem Saavedra Pellitero Portrait

Dr Mariem Saavedra Pellitero

Senior Lecturer

Read more
Nizar Ibrahim Portrait

Dr Nizar Ibrahim

Senior Lecturer

School of the Environment, Geography, and Geosciences

Faculty of Science and Health

PhD Supervisor

Read more
David Kendrick Loydell Portrait

Dr David Loydell

Reader in Stratigraphy

PhD Supervisor

Read more

How you'll spend your time

One of the main differences between school or college and university is how much control you have over your learning.

We use a blended learning approach to teaching, which means you’ll take part in both face-to-face and online activities during your studies.  As well as attending your timetabled classes you'll study independently in your free time, supported by staff and our virtual learning environment, Moodle.

A typical week

We recommend you spend at least 35 hours a week studying for your Palaeontology degree. In your first year, you’ll be in timetabled teaching activities such as tutorials, lectures, practical classes and workshops and external visits for about 11 hours a week. The rest of the time you’ll do independent study such as research, reading, coursework and project work, alone or in a group with others from your course. You'll probably do more independent study and have less scheduled teaching in years 2 and 3, but this depends on which modules you choose.

Most timetabled teaching takes place during the day, Monday to Friday. You may occasionally need to go to University and course events in the evenings and at weekends.

Term dates

The academic year runs from September to June. There are breaks at Christmas and Easter.

See term dates

Supporting your learning

The amount of timetabled teaching you'll get on your degree might be less than what you're used to at school or college, but you'll also get 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 independent study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your time at university.

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).

ASK provides 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 a librarian who specialises in your subject area.

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.

Course costs and funding

Tuition fees

  • UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students – £9,250 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
  • EU students – £9,250 a year (including Transition Scholarship – may be subject to annual increase)
  • International students – £20,200 per year (subject to annual increase)

Funding your studies

Find out how to fund your studies, including the scholarships and bursaries you could get. You can also find more about tuition fees and living costs, including what your tuition fees cover.

Applying from outside the UK? Find out about funding options for international students.

Additional course 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

Our accommodation section show your accommodation options and highlight how much it costs to live in Portsmouth.

You’ll study up to 6 modules a year. You may have to read several recommended books or textbooks for each module.

You can borrow most of these from the Library. If you buy these, they may cost up to £60 each.

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


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.

Your travel and accommodation costs for compulsory fieldwork are included in the course fee, with the exception of the Mapping Training Field Course, which takes place around the UK in the summer between the first and second year of study. Travel and accommodation for the Mapping Training Field Course costs around £100. You’ll also need to pay for meals and other living costs on compulsory fieldwork trips.

You’ll need to cover the cost of travel, accommodation, meals and other living costs for any optional fieldwork you do. These costs are normally around £1,200.

For compulsory project work, normally in the UK or Europe, costs for travel and accommodation will range from £0–£1,000.

You will be provided with essential health and safety equipment free of charge, and loaned equipment such as a compass clinometer, hammer, etc. where appropriate (though you may use your own equipment, if it is up to standard). You will, however, need to purchase your own clothing appropriate for fieldwork (e.g. waterproofs, rucksack, sturdy walking boots, etc.).

During your placement year or study abroad year, you’ll be eligible for a discounted rate on your tuition fees. Currently, this discount amounts to 90% of the year’s fees.

Tuition fees for that year are:

  • UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students – £925 a year (may be subject to annual increase)
  • EU students – £925 a year, including Transition Scholarship (may be subject to annual increase)
  • International students – £1,800 a year (subject to annual increase)

The costs associated with your specific destination will be discussed during your second year, as well as possible sources of additional funding.


How to apply

To start this course in 2024, apply through UCAS. You'll need:

  • the UCAS course code – F641
  • our institution code – P80

If you'd prefer to apply directly, use our online application form.

You can also sign up to an Open Day to:

  • Tour our campus, facilities and halls of residence
  • Speak with lecturers and chat with our students 
  • Get information about where to live, how to fund your studies and which clubs and societies to join

If you're new to the application process, read our guide on applying for an undergraduate course.

Applying from outside the UK

As an international student you'll apply using the same process as UK students, but you’ll need to consider a few extra things. 

You can get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region.

Find out what additional information you need in 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.

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.