School of Earth and Environment

Exploration Geophysics MSc

(Full time) 2016/17

Masters in Exploration Geophysics


Key facts

  • Duration/Mode:
    12 months full time
  • UK/EU fees: £9,250
    International fees: £22,500
  • Entry requirements:
    A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) in a related subject
  • Language requirements:
    IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component
  • Course terms and conditions

Geophysics is the remote study of the Earth through physical techniques – principally analysing seismic data, but also applying gravity, magnetic, electromagnetic, and electrical methods. It is a key element of geological analysis for oil, gas and mineral exploration or for environmental and engineering assessment.

This course prepares you to embark on a career in resource exploration, environmental and engineering geophysics. Running for over 50 years it is well-established and has strong links to industry. It provides you with a broad range of practical skills, underpinned by a theoretical understanding that equips you to become a professional in your chosen field. You will also undertake a four-month individual project, mostly in association with an external company or institute and often in their offices.

Demand for geophysicists continues to be high and this well-established programme has an exceptionally good record of job placement for both UK/EU and overseas students.

Alumni Profile

"The Leeds MSc gave me an excellent grounding in the theory and practical application of exploration geophysics on which I am building my career."

Ross O’Driscoll, Geophysicist at ION-GXT

Read More

Course highlights

  • Network with energy, geophysical acquisition, processing and software companies, who visit regularly to engage and recruit our students.
  • Undertake a four-month individual project, mostly in association with an external company or institute and often in their offices.
  • Access our state-of-the-art computer suite that runs a comprehensive range of industry-standard software on hi-spec twin-screen workstations.
  • Develop your field skills with our sector-leading portfolio of field geophysical equipment.
  • Apply for a scholarship – we have a large number of School and dedicated external (industry) scholarships for UK/EU applicants.

Programme team

The Institute of Geophysics and Tectonics (IGT), and the Institute of Applied Geoscience (IAG) provide a large pool of internationally recognised experts in geophysics and related subjects:

Dr Roger Clark (Prog Manager) Prof Andy Hooper
Dr Doug Angus Dr Phil Livermore
Dr Adam Booth Dr Estelle Mortimer
Dr Richard Collier Dr Phil Murphy
Prof Paul Glover Dr Jon Mound
Dr Chris Green Prof Graham Stuart
Dr Mark Hildyard Siddeequah Azmi


This programme is accredited by The Geological Society, the UK’s professional body for Earth science and the oldest geological society in the world.

Course content

The course consists of eight taught modules and an individual project.

Taught modules cover a broad range of geophysical disciplines as applied to resource, environmental and engineering industries.

The individual project is the most challenging and exciting part of the course for most students. It runs from May to September and tests your skills in applying the experiences acquired over the year to a specific problem. Most projects have an association with an exploration company or other external organisation and many students work alongside geoscience professionals in the offices of industrial partners. Projects typically include investigations of specific geological prospects, comparisons of novel seismic processing algorithms and integrated geophysical investigations from basin to quarry scale.

Course structure

These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions.

All modules are compulsory.
- Exploration Geophysics: Project and Dissertation (60 credits)
- Computational Inverse Theory (15 credits)
- Petrophysics and Petroleum Geology (15 credits)
- Seismic Reservoir Evaluation and Recent Developments (15 credits)
- Geophysical and Geological Field Methods and Geological Interpretation (15 credits)
- Gravity, Magnetic and CSEM Methods (15 credits)
- Seismic Fundamentals and Acquisition (15 credits)
- Seismic Data Processing (15 credits)
- Seismic Reflection Interpretation and Sequence Stratigraphy (15 credits)

Learning and teaching

You’ll be taught by leading academic geoscientists, with input from industry experts throughout the programme. You will learn through field-based and practical-based (individual and group) training. Lectures and seminars are supplemented by desk-based and workstation-based practicals and fieldwork.


The School of Earth and Environment’s £23 million building provides world class research, teaching and laboratory facilities. Masters students have access to specific facilities, as well as the general facilities available through the School and the University. Ongoing investment in leading geophysical survey equipment means that a range of techniques can be effectively demonstrated and practised in the field, including shooting seismic reflection surveys. Equipment includes seismic, gravity, magnetics, GPR, resistivity/IP, EM, GPS/positioning. These datasets are subsequently used in classroom/computer exercises to establish a practical link between field practice and data quality and interpretability.

A dedicated computer lab containing a suite of high-powered computers enhances your learning experience by providing access to a comprehensive range of industry-standard geophysical processing and interpretation software packages, e.g. MESA, SeisSpace/ProMAX®, KINGDOM, Petrel™, Geosoft and RokDoc. These can be used for individual projects, or in workstation-based teaching sessions. They also facilitate individual and team-based exercises designed to simulate industry practice, e.g. processing a reflection seismic line, assessing a hydrocarbon prospect for a drilling/ license bid.


Assessment is through written exams, coursework (both in-class and independently completed), project report writing and group presentations.

Alumni Profile

"The MSc Exploration Geophysics opened my eyes to the many applications of geophysics throughout a whole range of disciplines."

Dave Tierney, Geophysicist with GETECH

Read More

Entry requirements

A bachelor degree with a 2:1 (hons) or above in geosciences (eg geology or geophysics) or a numerate discipline, such as physics or mathematics, although relevant and extensive industry experience can also be taken into account.

Applicants should have mathematics to a good A-level grade (or equivalent) as a minimum. Mathematical competence will be assessed prior to joining and additional training may be required.

The course is computer-intensive and basic computer literacy including Windows and MS Office are assumed. EDCL/ICDL qualifications are not formally required, but represent the level expected. Familiarity with Linux would also be advantageous as it forms the platform for much of the workstation based training.

International qualifications

We accept a range of international equivalent qualifications. For information contact the School of Earth and Environment admissions team.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with no less than 6.0 in any component. For other English qualifications, read English language equivalent qualifications.

Improve your English

If English is not your first language, you may be able to take a pre-sessional course before you begin your studies. This can help if you:

  • don't meet the English language requirements for your course or
  • want to improve your understanding of academic language and practices in your area of study.

Our pre-sessional courses are designed with a progression route to the degree programme and are tailored to the subject area. For information and entry requirements, read Language for Science and Engineering B (6 weeks) and Language for Science and Engineering A (10 weeks).

How to apply

Apply by 12 midday on 29 April 2016.

This programme is very competitive. Whilst limited places may be available after the application deadline we advise you to submit your application for 2016 entry as soon as possible to avoid disappointment.

This link takes you to information on applying for taught programmes and to the University's online application system.
If you're unsure about the application process, contact the admissions team for help.

Or read their advice on how to apply.

Visas and Immigration

Read about visas, immigration and other information in International students. We recommend that international students apply as early as possible to ensure that they have time to apply for their visa.

Admissions policy

Link to admissions policy document


UK/EU fees: £9,250
International fees: £22,500

For fees information for international taught postgraduate students read Masters fees.

Scholarships and financial support

If you have the talent and drive, we want you to be able to study with us, whatever your financial circumstances. There is help for students in the form of loans and non-repayable grants from the University and from the government.  Find out if you can get help at Postgraduate funding.

Industry Scholarships

We appreciate that funding to undertake a postgraduate degree is a significant issue for individual students. Based on the programme's long history of developing well qualified graduates, it has had the largest number of masters-level geophysics industry scholarships open to UK/EU students.

Scholarships are typically available from Apache North Sea, BG Group, BP, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, ION GX Technology, NexenCNOC, Shell, TOTAL. Most scholarships cover full fees, living costs, and project and conference attendance allowances (eg the EAGE). Industry scholarships usually include a summer internship at the sponsoring company.

Find out more on the Industry scholarships webpage. Shortlisted applicants will be invited to an interview day, usually held on Monday 7th March 2016.

Petroleum Leeds Scholarships

You cannot apply directly for this scholarship but you will be automatically considered if you have applied for an Industry scholarship, and are not in receipt of any other source of funding. Scholarships are worth £5,000.

The David Marsden Alumnus Award Scholarship (fees only)

You cannot apply directly for this scholarship but those holding a firm place on the MSc Exploration Geophysics programme will be automatically considered if you are not in receipt of any other source of funding. Funding has been provided by Dr David Marsden, an alumnus of the Master's course (1968-69) who went on to do a PhD here at Leeds, and has a highly successful career in the hydrocarbons industry. The scholarship is ideal if you have qualifications and skills outside those of the 'typical' applicant and is aimed at anyone who would be passed over by the mainstream scholarship providers. It includes a discretionary prize at the end of the course for a student achieving an overall Distinction grade.

Other funding sources

Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain (PESGB)

For information about full and partial scholarship awards, visit PESGB. Applications should be made directly to PESGB.

Society of Exploration Geophysics (SEG)

For information about full and partial scholarship awards, visit SEG. Applications should be made directly to SEG.

Career Development Loan

Past students have secured funding through a career development loan, for details visit UK Government website.

Many students on the course are sponsored by their employer. There are also a number of organisations which provide sponsorship for international students - often country specific.

***If you are thinking about funding the course yourself you should consider that historically graduates have had a high success rate in gaining (generally well remunerated) employment.***

Alumni Profile

"I applied to BP who offered to sponsor me through a Masters degree. The MSc Exploration Geophysics course at Leeds was highly recommended to me."

Caroline Selwood, Geophysicist, BP

Read More

Career opportunities

Demand for geophysicists has always been high. A Masters is generally considered an appropriate level to embark on a career in resource exploration and the course at Leeds has an exceptionally good record of job placement for both UK/EU and overseas students.

Many energy, and service-sector companies target the course directly for recruitment with numerous company visits through the year. Other opportunities arise from project placements, the EAGE, or the September Open Day of project seminars and presentations, with which the programme closes.

Most students join energy or minerals companies, or geophysical acquisition, processing, interpretation or software companies. Career prospects for students with a Masters are expected to be very good for the foreseeable future. Starting salaries are around £30,000-35,000 a year, with additional benefits for working overseas and/or offshore. Often, students have these destinations secured before the end of the course. Graduates are, of course, equipped for success in a wide range of other disciplines and some take up related careers, such as IT or finance sector jobs or jobs with government agencies. A significant number continue to higher degrees.


Careers support

We offer extra support and activities to help you stand out in your chosen field and achieve your career goals. The School of Earth and Environment has a strong commitment to enhancing student employability and has its own dedicated Employability Officer. Read more about our careers and employability.

We encourage you to prepare for your career from day one. That’s one of the reasons Leeds graduates are so sought after by employers.

The Careers Centre and staff in your faculty provide a range of help and advice to help you plan your career and make well-informed decisions along the way, even after you graduate. Find out more at the Careers website.

Alumni Profile

"In my first graduate position in the oil industry I saw that the majority of my peers had Masters qualifications. To excel in my career I decided to build my skills as a Geologist at Leeds."

Oliver Ward, Exploration Geophysics MSc

Read More

Industry links

Strong links with industry reinforce this vocational programme, helping you to develop a grounded perspective, as well as providing you with recruitment possibilities. In addition to the industrial experience of many School staff and contributions from University of Leeds geoscience spin-out companies, you will have numerous contacts with industry representatives throughout the year.

We have many visits from energy, geophysical acquisition, processing and software companies, primarily to engage with you and recruit Masters students throughout their degree. These visits include recruitment information, technical showcases and case studies of integrated geoscience in practice, as well as opportunities for you to network with geoscience professionals.

The majority of students attend the EAGE (European Association of Geoscientists and Engineers) annual meeting in May/June. This provides you with an opportunity to find out about the latest technological developments and to meet industry experts, including potential employers.

Your summer project is mostly carried out either with collaborating companies or institutes. These projects are linked to current activities, representing actual problems for which a research or business outcome is sought. Some are field-based: with placements often overseas, while others result in journal publications or conference presentations. The projects finish with an Open Day where you will present your work to a range of industry visitors.

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