As one of the highest-ranking programmes in its field, the Master’s Programme in Geoengineering provides world-class education in the disciplines of geoscience, material science, mechanics and construction. As geoengineering is a discipline involved with soil and rock, working as the primary basis for our built environment, one could call it the hidden science of everyday life. Simultaneously, geoengineers play a key role in urbanisation and circular economy, fighting climate change and the growing use of natural resources. Thanks to their highly appreciated knowledge and skills, as well as the programme’s close collaboration with the industry, graduates tend to find great job opportunities with ease.
Objectives of studies
As raw materials – construction materials, household items, energy, groundwater, basically all common goods – originate in the earth, experts in soils and rocks are in high demand. Large construction projects, in particular, require geoengineers who design the foundations, roads, excavations and tunnels, to name a few. The Master’s Programme in Geoengineering gives its students a great variety of relevant skills and knowledge. Geoengineering graduates have:
- Extensive knowledge of geoengineering. Graduates are experts in soil and rock materials and possess wide knowledge related to geosciences, materials sciences, mechanics and construction.
- Applied expertise in one of the specification areas. Graduates are hands-on specialists in at least one of the three fields: geotechnical engineering, rock engineering or highway engineering.
- Numerical modelling skills. Graduates are skilled in advanced computational modelling.
- Wide understanding of tools and programmes. Graduates know the underlying logic and basic functions of the most frequently used tools and computer programmes within the industry.
- Co-operational and communications skills. Graduates are active team players and skilled team leaders who cope well with pressure in even the fastest-paced environments.
- Experience from the field. Graduates have hands-on experience related to real-world construction and testing.
Upon graduation from the Geoengineering programme, graduates possess a comprehensive view of the lifespan of geotechnical structures, from the initial investigations, to design, construction, maintenance and recycling
Content of studies
The teachers in the geoengineering programme are well recognised in Finland and abroad. Many of them have been involved in challenging engineering designs and projects and maintain strong industry links. It guarantees that students are provided with up-to-date courses and knowledge close to the needs of the companies. Also, geoengineering professors actively pursue research and don’t hesitate to introduce new novel methods in their teaching, keeping geoengineering graduates at the cutting edge of development. As a result, the daily studies include multiple learning methods like flipped classroom teaching, experiments in the above-standard laboratory facilities, field investigations (usually with machinery from industry, sometimes even with explosives), hands-on projects for the industry, visits to construction sites, and even certain projects carried out in tunnels under the campus or in virtual reality.
Working with foundations and ground improvement requires knowledge of soil types, mines and tunnels call for expertise in rock, and the construction of transportation routes needs highway engineers. Thus, in the Master's Programme in Geoengineering, students may choose to specialise in:
Sound geotechnical knowledge is the foundation of all construction. The main topics of interest in geotechnical engineering are the mechanical, hydraulic and thermal properties of soil and how they affect designs. In particular, students learn to select the foundation type, design foundations and other geotechnical structures, take into account soil-structure interaction and decide on ground improvement. Additionally, an essential feature of geotechnical expertise is the knowledge of mineral-based materials and their recycling possibilities. The integral part of the skills of geotechnical engineering graduates is the familiarity with the modern design methods and in-depth knowledge of soil mechanics.
Airports, highways, streets, low-volume roads, rails, subways and other high traffic areas form a crucial part of societal infrastructure. As such, they have a profound impact on everyday life and the functioning of the entire society. Highway engineering education focuses on the structural design of roads and the material science of bituminous materials, giving students an understanding of how to choose and design the appropriate material and structure for each application. Students will also learn methods to maintain and rehabilitate structures to prolong their life.
Rock engineering involves using bedrock as an underground space and as a mineral and energy source. The core fields of rock engineering are rock mechanics, excavation techniques, construction and geosciences. These are the tools required for designing optimal structures in the rock and carrying out plans in a safe and economical way without endangering the environment. Rock engineers are involved with tunnelling projects in the planning phase by designing the layout and reinforcement of the rock structures. In the construction phase, they materialise the plans of challenging rock excavation projects.
The content of studies depends largely on the choice of specialisation. However, here are some examples from the wide course selection to give an overview of how extensively the programme educates its students:
- Advanced Soil Mechanics (5 ECTS)
- Numerical Methods in Geotechnics (5 ECTS)
- Environmental Risk Analysis (5 ECTS)
- Road Maintenance and Rehabilitation (5 ECTS)
- Foundation Engineering and Ground Improvement (5 ECTS)
- Rock Excavation (5 ECTS)
- Rock Mechanics (5 ECTS)
- Project Course in Geoengineering (5 ECTS)
Structure of studies
The Master’s Programme in Geoengineering is organised by the School of Engineering and comprises a total of 120 ECTS credits. The two-year programme consists of:
- Major studies (60 ECTS)
- Master’s thesis (30 ECTS)
- Elective studies (30 ECTS)
The major studies are comprised of compulsory first-year common studies (30 ECTS) and elective advanced studies (30 ECTS). This allows students to flexibly choose a more theoretically advanced path, a more applied and practical approach, or the desired combination of both.
At the beginning of their studies, students define their Personal Study Plans (PSP) together with an academic advisor. The primary purpose of the PSP is to ensure that the studies support the student’s interests and are completed in a logical order.
Personal Study Plan (PSP)
The Personal Study Plan (PSP) is a practical tool to define a student’s own study path, i.e. compiling an optimal selection of courses, aligned with the student's interests and programme requirements. The PSP is also a useful tool for keeping up with studies. At best, it shows the stage at which students are with their studies and sets concrete milestones for them to follow.
Thanks to the programme’s outstanding links with the industry, geoengineering graduates have worked closely with industry companies and experts already during their studies. The boundary between the industry and geoengineering studies is kept low to best serve the learning experiences of students as well as the future careers of graduates. For example, in 2017-2018 around 90% of the MSc theses were sponsored by the industry and virtually all the graduates were able to find a job related to their expertise. Overall, the companies are extremely active in attracting geoengineering graduates as they represent a scarce and unique talent, highly sought after in Finland and Estonia, as well as in Europe and around the world.
Geoengineers hold key positions in areas related to construction engineering, design and consulting to management, teaching and research, and usually, find themselves working as:
- Professionals at consultancy and industry-leading companies
- Founders or experts at industry-challenging startups
- Experts in governmental organisations
- Researchers in research institutions
Aalto University has well-established career services through which you can get employed in Finland and abroad. Aalto students tend to find good positions with ease upon graduation. An active entrepreneurship community is also present at Aalto, which can help as a springboard for founding your company. Finally, if an academic career is of interest, the Master’s programme in Geoengineering is a great foundation for doctoral studies.
Geoengineering students are actively encouraged to spend a semester abroad, studying at one of the top-tier international partner universities of Aalto University. Another typical internationalisation path goes through the several multinational companies that are partners of the geoengineering programme.
Aalto University is international by nature, welcoming thousands of degree and exchange students from abroad each year. These students join the diverse Aalto community not only through studies, but also multiple free time events, activities and celebrations around the campus. Programme administrators, active student tutors and student support services work rigorously to help international students integrate into the Nordic culture and welcome them at home in Finland.
For their elective studies, students can freely choose among courses offered by any of the schools of Aalto University. Some of the most favoured multidisciplinary options are combining structural engineering or traffic management to the geoengineering degree. There are also some collaboration opportunities between the programme and other universities around themes like circular economy and sustainability.
Aalto University is well-known for bridging disciplines of business, arts, technology and science. The lively campus and freedom to choose elective courses across the university bring students from different fields under one roof. This spontaneous multidisciplinary environment sparks new ideas gathers enthusiasts around them and gives birth to friendships, networks, and every so often, startups.
Aalto University's student selection process is competitive and paper-based. Applications that pass the eligibility check (administrative evaluation) conducted by Aalto University Admissions Services proceed to the school's programme-specific academic evaluation.
The following are used as criteria for academic evaluation:
- university/higher education institution; recognized for a high quality of education and research
- degree and relevance of studies; suit very well or excellent to the study option
- academic performance; need to be mainly very good or excellent
- motivation and commitment to the programme; should be clearly in connection with the study option
For applicants to the Master's Programme in Geoengineering, basic knowledge in the following fields is highly recommended: geology or geotechnics, mechanical and structural engineering, material sciences and statistics, mining or construction.
The following mandatory documents are required by the programme:
- a motivation letter
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