School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

MSc Environmental Geochemistry

Environmental geochemistry is central to the environmental sector which has grown rapidly over the last decade. The global environmental consultancy market, a key destination for suitably skilled graduates, is currently increasing at its strongest rate for five years. Geochemical expertise is vital to many aspects of the day to day work of environmental consultants, civil, structural and mining engineers, environmental regulatory authorities, mining and oil companies.

QS World University Rankings 2023

In top 15 UK universities for earth and marine sciences, geology and geophysics - QS World University Rankings by subject 2023.

Times Higher Education Impact Rankings 2022*

The University of Plymouth has been named among the top 5% of universities globally in 2022 for its contribution to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals*, in particular, work on marine issues and on climate change. In the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences, sustainability is at the heart of our research and teaching. From sustainable cities, affordable and clean energy, to climate policy, biodiversity, and natural hazards, our academic staff work with partners locally and overseas to help understand, communicate and solve fundamental and pressing sustainability challenges.
Find out more in our press release

Postgraduate opportunities – virtual drop-in session

Find out more about postgraduate study in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at our virtual drop-in session.

Careers with this subject

Environmental geochemistry provides strong employment opportunities for appropriately skilled graduates. Research amongst chemistry, science and general employers suggests the majority of employers are seeking additional skills from graduates, particularly numeracy (including data analysis), independent learning, commercial/business awareness, flexibility/adaptability, leadership, interpersonal and research skills. Similarly, the last relevant environmental research council review published by NERC (2012) cited most important skill gaps identified by employers as modelling, multidisciplinarity, data management, numeracy, translating research into practice, fieldwork and risk and uncertainty. These are all central to the field of environmental geochemistry which, in comparison to other environmental management postgraduate programmes, places a particular focus on understanding the chemical nature of environmental issues and a rigorous approach to data acquisition, data management, modelling and uncertainty thus providing graduates with unique and desirable skill set.
Environmental geochemistry graduates would be ideally suited to both environmental consulting, specialising in interpretation of complex data sets and chemical behaviour, or as an analytical scientist for a commercial or research laboratory. The MSc Environmental Geochemistry programme has been developed in response to this demand for high level skills in this field. Specifically, the MSc programme is designed to be an effective transition between the typically scientific focus of an undergraduate education in geoscience and chemistry (or a closely related discipline) and a career in the application of environmental geochemistry within the private or public sector. The programme also develops students’ professional skills, such as understanding business and the environment ethics, with those required to work in an interdisciplinary environment such as stakeholder engagement and communicating risk and uncertainty.

Key features

  • The only taught postgraduate programme dedicated to the study of environmental geochemistry in the Southern region of the UK.
  • State of the art analytical instrumentation, plus the opportunity for students to work in our ISO 9001 certified laboratories used in industry for high quality data.
  • Case study and field excursions to current and legacy extractive industry sites in close proximity to Plymouth, including metal mining, china clay extraction, urban redevelopment and industrial processing sites.
  • An employability focused hands-on course. You will learn how chemicals of environmental concern move through the environment, how to analyse them and how to interpret the data to support environmental management decisions.
  • Drawing on the expertise of our academic and technical staff from chemistry, environmental sciences, geology and geography whom have experience within industry and world-class scientific research profiles.
  • A diverse and respectful place in which to work and study is fundamental to everything we do. Find out more about equality, diversity and inclusion in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Science.

Course details

  • Programme overview

  • You will learn how chemicals of environmental concern move through the environment, how to analyse them and how to interpret the data to support environmental management decisions. This involves using a broad suite of analytical tools, inclusive of field measurements, chemical instrumentation and digital modelling methods. Geochemical research guides oil exploration, can help improve water quality and is also used to develop plans to manage contaminated sites.

    Core modules

    • Professional Practice in the Environmental Sector (GEES515)

      This module examines the place of sustainability and environmental management in modern business practice, and prepares students for professional work experience in semester 2. It also provides students with a critical understanding of the principles, ethics and methods of environmental law and regulation, and examines the role of economics in characterising and addressing human interaction with the environment

    • MSc Dissertation (GEES520)

      The student will complete an independent research project that they have designed in semester 1 as part of their research skills development. The record of the research will communicate the project aims, research problem, methodology, data analysis, interpretation, discussion/synthesis and conclusions in the format specified and to a professional standard.

    • Analysis of Chemicals of Environmental Concern (GEES526)

      Students will undertake a series of advanced analytical techniques in order to characterise and quantify a range of environmental pollutants commonly encountered in environmental investigations. Students are presented with case study examples based upon typical investigations undertaken in environmental consultancy.

    • Professional Placement Experience (GEES500)

      This module provides an opportunity to experience professional practice via work experience with a company / host organisation. It will allow you to apply and develop your subject skills and knowledge, learn more about professional careers within the sector aligned to your degree, develop contacts with potential employers, and refine your career aspirations.

    • Site Investigation and Land Quality (GEES533)

      This module introduces all the phases of a site investigation, including the assessment of contamination, how it may impact upon receptors and, remediation strategies. Students undertake a desk study and write a related report of known sites where historical land use may have impacted land quality. Non-intrusive assessment techniques and the use of novel and advanced remediation technologies are covered in the module.

    • Water Management and Sustainability in Mining (GEES534)

      This module considers sustainable water resource management and mitigation of environmental damage from mining. Threats to ground and surface water resources are explored at all stages of mine operation from exploration to closure and reclamation. Students develop necessary theoretical geochemical, hydrological and hydrogeological knowledge to predict and manage outcomes according to current international best practice.

    Optional modules

    • Environmental Observations and Quality Assurance (GEES531)

      This module introduces the fundamental concepts of ‘the analytical approach’ to working with environmental problems, including student-lead case studies that allowing them to learn and apply the principles of good practice for observational data collection, quality control and traceability. Research study skills sessions are included, leading to the planning of a research dissertation.

    • Marine Science (MAR514)

      This module provides an introductory overview of basic oceanography including physical, chemical, geological and biological aspects of the subject. There is particular emphasis on methods of quantifying and predicting coastal conditions, as well as interplay between physical, chemical and biological aspects of ocean science.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MSc Environmental Geochemistry Programme Specification September 2024 5790

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

An honours degree (upper second class or better) in a relevant discipline (e.g., BSc Chemistry, Geography, Environmental Science, Geological Sciences, Biological Sciences, Ocean Sciences) or overseas equivalent.
If you apply with a 2:2 and relevant industry experience, this would also be considered.
A minimum grade C in English Language at GCSE level OR a minimum overall score of 6.5 in IELTS with no less than 5.5 in any component.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our UCAS tariff glossary.
For an informal enquiry please contact Dr Alison Turner by email:

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £10,400 £10,900
International £18,000 £19,800
Part time (Home) £580 £610
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Tuition fee discount for University of Plymouth graduates

If you studied your undergraduate degree at Plymouth, you may be eligible for a fee discount if you complete your postgraduate studies here as well.
  • 10% or 20% discount on tuition fees for home students
  • For 2024/2025 entry, a 20% discount on tuition fees for international students (International alumni who have applied to the University through an agent are not eligible to receive the discount)

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

How to apply

When to apply
Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full.
Before you apply
Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance.
Disability Inclusion Services
If you have an impairment, health condition or disability, learn about the additional support the University provides.
International students
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office. Take a look at our how to apply information or email
Submitting an application
Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page).
What happens after I apply?
You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeksof us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.
We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail.
If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:
Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858
Admissions policy
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Meet the Programme Leader

My primary interest is the development of people through scientific practice and problem-solving. My interest areas are: closed mine rehabilitation, practicable waste and water management strategies, ground and surface water chemistry interpretation, hydrology and hydrogeology. I have most experience in the field of acidic and metalliferous risk and geochemical characterisation studies of mine waters and wastes, including tailings.
Dr Alison Turner
Lecturer in Chemistry and Environmental Geochemistry
Dr Simon Ussher working in the labs.

Meet one of our Module Leaders

I have over 20 years of research experience as an analytical chemist and marine biogeochemist. I research trace metal biogeochemistry in the Atlantic Ocean, including basin scale processes of iron (Fe) biogeochemistry from the atmosphere to the deep ocean. My technical expertise includes the application of Flow Injection Analysis (FIA) and ICP-MS to analyse Fe and trace elements in aerosol and marine samples. I have worked as a Marie Curie research fellow at the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences and have undertaken fieldwork in the UK, European shelf sea and Atlantic research cruises through NERC, NSF and EU funded projects.
Dr Simon Ussher
Associate Professor of Marine and Analytical Chemistry

The Worshipful Company of Water Conservators Award

We are pleased to announce once again this year an award to the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Plymouth from London livery company the .
For informal enquiries about the award contact the course Programme Lead.
Applications for this award will close on 31 July 2024 and the successful applicant will be notified by the first week of September.
Applications must be submitted to: GEES Enquiries with the title of the award in the title and the programme you are applying to.
Company of Worshipful Water Conservators
srk consultancy logo

Scholarship opportunity

SRK (UK) is pleased to announce its scholarship programme for the academic year 2024/25, created to assist students undertaking a masters (MSc) degree in geochemistry or relates courses (geoscience, applied environmental geology, environmental science) which can be applied in the resources and engineering industries. The award is for £1500 towards tuition fees. The recipient may also have the opportunity to work alongside SRK’s geochemistry team and gain hands-on experience in their selected field, during their summer dissertation.
Closing date 28 July 2024. Please contact programme leader for more details and eligibility criteria.

"I began studying on the MSc Environmental Geochemistry in September 2020 after graduating from Plymouth’s chemistry undergraduate course. If your educational background is different, do not let this put you off from applying. As an MSc routed in environmental science, the course is naturally multidisciplinary and I have had the opportunity to be taught by and to study alongside geologists, geographers, ocean scientists and other environmental professionals. 

Throughout the MSc there have been many engaging guest lectures from industry professionals in areas such as environmental consultancy, sustainable agriculture, water management, renewable energy production, and contaminated land assessment. The modules and assessment structure of the MSc offer a solid grounding in not just how contaminants move through the environment but in other areas such as environmental law and economics, as well as practical experience with mapping and planning software widely used in industry. 

It is not a secret that university has been different this last year. However, the course has determined and passionate leadership and has been delivered exceptionally well. I do not hesitate to recommend the MSc Environmental Geochemistry to any graduate interested in a career in environmental science."

Dan Rogers
Current student

Environment geochemistry fieldwork
Graduate success - Matthew Cundell

Work experience

The MSc provides ‘real world’ experience during your placement (which can lead to permanent employment) of working with organisations who manage our environment, including:

  • Environmental consultancy at Pell Frischmann, WSP, Atkins, Aecom, Royal Haskoning-DHV, White Young Green, Arcadis, Black and Veatch, Ramboll, Mott MacDonald.
  • Catchment management at the Westcountry Rivers Trust, Environment Agency, Natural England as well as Tamar, North Devon, South Devon, Blackdown Hills, Cornwall Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Scientist in white safety suit examining polluted water in a river at industrial site. Image courtesy of Getty Images.

Discover facilities in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences

As student in the School of Geography, Earth and Environmental Sciences you will have access to a range of cutting-edge resources and facilities.
These will support your learning in the field and in the laboratory – whether in traditional chemistry lab or a high-performance computing room. Many are solely for the use of our students and researchers and you will also have access to LABplus Resource Centre and the Marine Station.
BSc (Hons) Environmental Science students on Dartmoor