MSc in Strategic Earth Resources


Program Description

The MSc in Strategic Earth Resources prepares students for the challenges in resource extraction in the 21st century. It tackles not only the geological skills and understanding required for mineral exploration targeting and estimation, but also the economic, environmental, and social aspects of mining: from exploration, extraction to remediation. This is a new degree programme, which builds on the Mineral Resources MSc, which has now been withdrawn.


Course information

The MSc in Strategic Earth Resources is a one-year postgraduate degree run by the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences. It is designed to prepare students for the challenges in resource exploration in the 21st century, combining core knowledge, fieldwork, short courses, seminars, and a research dissertation. 

The course covers the fundamental processes leading to the formation of ore deposits. It provides hands-on training in both the classroom and field in the latest digital and remote sensing mapping techniques, 3D modelling software and geochemical mapping. It will additionally cover the economic, environmental, and social (ESG) aspects of mining: from exploration, extraction, to remediation, as well as topics such as critical metals and sustainable mining, the global climate challenge, and energy alternatives such as geothermal. Students also take additional optional topics either in geodynamics, climate science, or advanced geochemistry.

Students gain knowledge and experience through interactions with invited guest lecturers from industry and by visiting mine sites. Knowledge is consolidated through both an industry or research-focused dissertation, and through an international field course.

The MSc is targeted both at new graduates seeking a career in the resources industry or as preparation for an applied PhD, and also at professional exploration geologists with several years industry experience seeking to move into an exploration strategy role, which for 2021 entry is planned to be in South Africa.

Teaching format

The MSc in Strategic Earth Resources is a comprehensive course that combines core knowledge, fieldwork, short courses and a research dissertation. The MSc degree requires two semesters of full-time (or four semesters part-time) coursework equivalent to a total of eight taught modules. The assessment for the taught modules is based on coursework and written examinations.

The final three months of your course will be focused on independent research which concludes with a 15,000-word field or laboratory-based dissertation.


The modules in this programme have varying methods of delivery and assessment. For more details of each module, including weekly contact hours, teaching methods and assessment, please see the latest module catalogue which is for the 2020-2021 academic year; some elements may be subject to change for 2021 entry.


Across the first two semesters, students must take the following compulsory modules:

  • Core to Crust Ore Genesis - High T: focuses on the geological processes, geodynamic setting, and mineralogy of the principal metallic and non-metallic mineral deposits related to magmatic and magmatic-hydrothermal processes.
  • Core to Crust Ore Genesis - Low T: focuses on the geological processes, geodynamic setting, and mineralogy of the principal metallic and non-metallic mineral deposits related to low-temperature hydrothermal and surficial processes.
  • Applied Digital Field Methods: field-based module that focuses on creating and interpreting surface and underground maps, and on drone-based or other remote sensing exploration technologies.
  • Exploration to Estimation: explores the fundamental geochemical and geophysical concepts used by the mineral exploration industry, introduces three-dimensional geological modelling using industry-standard software, and covers key aspects leading to mineral resource estimation.
  • Global Resource Challenges: tackles the economic, environmental, societal, geopolitical and ethical issues regarding mining, and future challenges shaping mineral exploration into the mid-21st century.
  • Statistics and Analytical Sciences: provides students with a strong background in statistics and methods of data analysis used in earth sciences.
  • Field Excursion: international field course to see major deposit types and mining operations.


Students can choose from three optional modules:

  • Geodynamics: studies the geodynamic evolution of Earth's crust through geological time, the evolution of convergent and divergent margins, and the relationships between tectonics, erosion and climate. The module develops skills of geodynamic interpretation, field observation and use of numerical models.
  • Special Topics in Climate Science: tackles a variety of topical research subjects in climate science, such as climate sensitivity, past warm climates, external forcing, and geo-engineering.
  • Advanced Geochemistry: trains students in the advanced techniques and methodologies used to address fundamental and applied questions related to the Earth system and the cycling of natural materials between fluid and solid phases.


The third semester of the MSc course focuses on the independent field or laboratory-based research conducted with an academic supervisor. The topic is defined by the student and can be chosen from research foci within the School, or with an external industrial or academic partner. For laboratory-based dissertations, students will have full access to the state-of-the-art analytical facilities available at St Andrew's.

The research project will involve:

  • Project formulation, together with the chosen supervisor
  • Proposal writing and analytical design
  • Oral presentation for feedback on the proposed study
  • Data collection, integration and interpretation
  • Presentation of the project results via a poster conference
  • A dissertation of not more than 15,000 words, submitted by a date towards the end of August.

If students choose not to complete the dissertation requirement for the MSc, there is an exit award available that allows suitably qualified candidates to receive a Postgraduate Diploma. By choosing an exit award, you will finish your degree at the end of the second semester of study and receive a PGDip instead of an MSc.

The modules listed here are indicative, and there is no guarantee they will run for 2021 entry. 

Events and seminars

The School of Earth and Environmental Sciences holds weekly seminars with expert guest speakers from the UK and abroad. Students are invited to attend and to meet the speaker one-on-one. 

Members of the School also typically attend the annual Mineral Deposits Studies Group research-in-progress meeting, as well as the meetings of other specialist groups such as Geochemical Group or the Volcanic and Magmatic Studies Group. Students can apply for bursaries to attend these conferences, which take place in the UK.


Recent Graduate Discount

The University of St Andrews offers a 10% discount in postgraduate tuition fees to students who are eligible to graduate or who have graduated from St Andrews within the last three academic years and are starting a postgraduate programme with the University of St Andrews.

Entry requirements

  • A good 2.1 Honours undergraduate degree in a subject-related area. If you studied your first degree outside the UK, check the international entry requirements.
  • English language proficiency. 

The qualifications listed are indicative of minimum requirements for entry. Some academic Schools will ask applicants to achieve significantly higher marks than the minimum. Obtaining the listed entry requirements will not guarantee you a place, as the University considers all aspects of every application including, where applicable, the writing sample, personal statement, and supporting documents.

Application requirements

  • CV or résumé
  • Personal statement
  • Two original signed academic references
  • Academic transcripts and degree certificates
  • Evidence of English language proficiency (required if English is not your first language).

After the MSc

Research degrees

The comprehensive and rigorous MSc course provides relevant preparation for pursuing a career in the mineral industry sector and also prepares students for PhD-level research.


Because of the importance of the extractive industries to society, the economy and the environment, economic geologists are employed in:

  • Mineral, oil, gas and petroleum industries
  • Engineering, environmental and financial sectors
  • Geological surveys
  • Consultancy companies
  • Academia.

The Careers Centre offers one-to-one advice to all students on a taught postgraduate course and offers a programme of events to assist students in building their employability skills.

Last updated Dec 2020

About the School

As a 600-year-old institution, it's no surprise that the University of St Andrews is known across the globe as a world leader in education. We are Scotland’s best university ranked by the Complete Uni ... Read More

As a 600-year-old institution, it's no surprise that the University of St Andrews is known across the globe as a world leader in education. We are Scotland’s best university ranked by the Complete University Guide 2019, and 2nd overall in the UK (Guardian Good University Guide 2019). Read less
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