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MSc Soil Science

Programme Details

With one of the most established soil science centres in Europe, Aberdeen is proud to maintain this MSc programme that teaches characterisation and basic properties of soils, combined with state-of-the-art techniques.

The University of Aberdeen has been producing high quality Soil Science graduates for over 60 years, with world leading researchers, renowned consultants and senior government staff amongst our alumni. You will receive intensive training in soil and environmental sciences, with a large focus on field and laboratory based teaching.

Our department maintains expertise in all core areas of soil science (biology, chemistry, physics and pedology), so you can be assured of teaching by experts in the field. The final component of the MSc is a research project, conducted under the supervision of either departmental staff or institutions and agencies with whom we have close links.

The MSc Soil Science aims to provide students with:

  • A fundamental understanding of the nature and properties of soils.
  • An ability to apply knowledge in academic and real world contexts, such as food security or environmental sustainability.
  • Opportunities to learn from world renowned researchers from a range of specific topics in soil science.

MSc 12 months full-time | On-campus learning | September start

Why Choose Aberdeen?

  • You will receive training by active researchers which ensures topical, research based teaching and a wide range of cutting-edge project topics.
  • As the only dedicated MSc Soil Science remaining in the UK, and one of the few remaining in Europe, you can be assured of a specialist programme.
  • In the most recent assessment of research excellence in UK universities (REF 2014), our soil and plant science research was ranked top overall in the UK for Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science.
  • In the field, you will be introduced to soil science by following a series of excursions developed by the famous University of Aberdeen pedologist, E.A. Fitzpatrick. This gives unique access to a range of interesting soils formed in NE Scotland that demonstrate a wide range of soil formation processes.
  • The skills you will learn and the professional network that you will have access to may benefit you in your future career.
  • We provide ‘hands-on’ teaching in field trips and laboratory tutorials, providing transferable skills useful for future employment. We consult with industry to ensure delivery of the core skills they require from graduates.
  • The department boasts cutting-edge technologies for soil science, including analytical equipment, model development, X-Ray CT to study soil structure, molecular biology and isotopic approaches.
  • Core skills in writing, data analysis, presentation, field working and laboratory methods are an important component of the programme.
  • You will learn essential research skills that will better prepare you, should you choose to progress to PhD level.

Contact Information

College of Life Sciences and Medicine Graduate School
Tel: +44 (0)1224 272692


Compulsory Courses

Core Skills for Environmental Sciences (Credits 15)

The course will provide the students with valuable skills required in developing their research and general study skills, essential for their progression during the MSc programme, as well as to the rest of their academic and professional careers. The course introduces basic statistical analysis, teaches data handling skills and exposes students to literature searching and reference styles. During the course, students will get experience in handling real-life, large data sets and will work together with the lecturer and demonstrators in analysing the data and presenting the results. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Global Soil Geography (15 Credits)

Field based course that takes you across northeast Scotland exploring an ancient tropical rainforest, hill farming in action, survey techniques and soil formation. A long tradition of soil science teaching at the University of Aberdeen assembled into lectures and field trips delivered by senior academics. Your assessments are geared towards developing practical skills. This includes a field log book to teach survey techniques, as well as a scientific poster and presentation on a particular soil that requires research akin to detective work. An essay will also be assessed. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Literature Review in Environmental Sciences (3 Credits)

This enables graduate students to formally begin their critical understanding of principles and practices as they move towards the project stage. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Land Use and the Environment on Deeside (3 Credits)

An introduction to landscape and associated conflicts by using the Cairngorm National Park as the setting. Visits to sporting estates, forests (plantation and semi-natural), farms, river management, ski centres and national nature reserves are used to exemplify the complex relationships between semi-natural and management environments and the people that occupy and use them. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Biology & Ecology of Mycorrhiza (7.5 Credits)

You will be exposed to the latest research findings through teaching delivered by world experts. Fundamental knowledge about mycorrhiza is delivered in the context of pressing societal issues, notably food security, biodiversity loss and ecosystem functioning. The course involves detailed hands-on observation of field samples to put taught material in context. The major assessment develops group learning and provides experience in communicating research findings in poster format, as is done at most conferences. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Environmental Analysis (15 Credits)

The mixture of applied science and theoretical work places you in a valuable position for understanding the procedures and applications in modern environmental science. A number of laboratory classes allows you to familiarise yourself with the current analytical instrumentation in environmental science. The course uses examples of environmental issues allowing you to understand the problem, how the analysis was conducted and the implications of the results. The main assessment in this course is a practical write up that is written in the style of a scientific paper giving you an opportunity to perfect this style of writing. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Soils for Food Security (15 Credits)

This advanced soil science course provides additional teaching of physical, chemical and biological properties of soils in the context of food security. You will learn a variety of processes that affect soil productivity, accompanied by practical sessions that will teach relevant analytical methods. The wide range of soil processes taught will be brought together at the end of the course to provide a working knowledge of agronomy, including the interactions between crops and specific chemical or physical properties of soils. Read full details in our course catalogue.

Elective Courses

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Research Project

Advanced Project (90 Credits)

For students that select to undertake the MRes Programme this reflects a higher credit bearing project over a longer period of time.

Project in Environmental Science (60 Credits)


A module with 60 credits that focusses on the development of a research theme within the discipline of soil science. This could be soil physicals, chemistry or biology and could be field or laboratory or indeed both. Students may undertake this in Aberdeen or from an alternative national or international base. Supervision is by means of a designated supervisor with whom there should be frequent meetings. Assessment is by thesis which may take the form of a scientific manuscript or a consultancy report or a technical memoir- depending upon the nature of the project. Read full details in our course catalogue.


The degree programme is assessed on the basis of performance in the research project and continuous assessment of coursework.


A range of teaching methods are used at Aberdeen to ensure that you’re able to learn in a way that suits your learning style and enables you to achieve the best possible outcome. Our class sizes are small and we have a low tutor to student ratio, meaning you will have the full support of your group tutors.

The teaching of our MSc Soil Science programme is mainly lecture based with self-directed learning and tutorials to support the lecture material. Many lectures are recorded and can be viewed again whenever they are needed.

The MSc also provides you with ample opportunity to learn outside the classroom so you can apply both theory and practice to real life situations. Some of the teaching methods employed include:

  • Outdoor field work
  • Access to industry experts
  • Insight into real-life situations

The dedicated research project you will undertake as part of the MSc provides training in technical skills, recording results and observations and analysing results. Longer projects are available for students seeking a more advanced programme.


Graduates of the MSc Soil Science have a variety of career options in industry including environmental and agricultural consulting, mining, forestry, laboratory analysis and utilities. Many graduates are also employed by government environmental agencies in the UK and internationally. Environmental and food security concerns have increased opportunities for soil science graduates. Students are encouraged to develop professional connections through the British Society of Soil Science (, who provide links to practicing soil scientists in the UK and internationally.

Prospective students should normally have, or expect to be awarded, a minimum of a 2.2 Honours degree (or equivalent) in a relevant subject and from a recognised university.

Please check the In My Country pages to find out if your degree is equivalent.

Enquiries are welcomed from all prospective students, regardless of first degree subject, who can demonstrate an adequate level of competence and ability for postgraduate training. In recent years students who have completed the programme successfully have come from backgrounds including biology, ecology, chemistry, physics, engineering, geology, geography and agriculture.

Document requirements

For this application we need at least:

  • An official full Bachelor degree transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) so far (original & official English translation)
  • Degree certificate (if you have already graduated)
  • Academic reference letter OR a reference letter from your employer (if you have 2+ years of work experience in an industry relevant to the programme)
  • Detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme
  • Ideally - current CV/resume

It is important when submitting an application that you ensure you have completed all the necessary sections and enclosed all the relevant documentation to ensure that your application can be processed as quickly as possible. Any missing document may result in delay.

English Language requirements

Even if you have been educated in the medium of English you must meet our English Language requirements (certain countries may be exempted from this requirement). Full details are available on our English language requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the 'Postgraduate Standard' level of English proficiency.

University of Aberdeen offers also pre-sessional English courses that when successfully completed will remove language conditions for studying at the University of Aberdeen. Further details are available on the Language Centre website.


Tuition Fee Rates 2016/17 - MSc Soil Science

  • UK/EU students: £4,500
  • International students: £17,200

Further information about tuition fees and cost of living for both UK/EU and International students can be found on the Finance and Funding web pages.


  • New £4000 bursary for 2016/17

New £4000 bursary now available for our Environment and Biological MScs for 2016/17. Read full details here.

  • Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan (PTFL)

This programme is also supported by SAAS in the form of the Postgraduate Tuition Fee Loan (PTFL). For more information, please visit

  • University of Aberdeen Alumni Discount Scheme

The University of Aberdeen is very pleased to offer a 20% discount on postgraduate tuition fees for all alumni who have graduated with a degree from the University of Aberdeen. More Information can be found here.

(Please note this cannot be claimed in conjunction with any other scholarship award)

Prospective students should also visit the University's Postgraduate Funding Database.


Related Information

General Information

Student Recruitment & Admissions Service
University of Aberdeen
The Hub
King's College

Tel: +44 (0)1224 272090 / +44 (0)1224 272091
Fax: +44 (0)1224 272576