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. This programme is also available as an MRes option.

This programme is studied on campus.

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/MRes Soil Science aims to provide you 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.

Key Programme Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
MRes or MSc
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month

Study Options

MRes 12 months or 24 months On Campus Learning Full Time or Part Time September

Please contact for more information about this programme.

MSc 12 months or 24 months On Campus Learning Full Time or Part Time September
Semester 1

Semester 1

Compulsory Courses

Core Skills in Environmental Science (EV5006) - 15 Credit Points

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.

View detailed information about this course

Global Soil Geography (SS5008) - 15 Credit Points

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, a presentation on a particular soil that requires research akin to detective work, and a quiz on soil classification. An essay will also assessed.

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Soils for Food Security (SS5305) - 15 Credit Points

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.

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Applications of GIS (EV5403) - 7.5 Credit Points

Applications of GIS will provide you with the opportunities to become familiar with ArcGIS software and understand the application of GIS technologies to address environmental management and research questions.

· Provide increasingly important GIS skills on your CV

· Practical based course so you learn how to use GIS as well as getting the theory

· Range of real management and research examples used in environmental sciences

Guest speakers from relevant industry on application of GIS in their role

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Optional Courses

Environmental Pollution (BI5301) - 15 Credit Points

Enables students to increase and enhance their understanding of atmospheric, aquatic and terrestrial environmental pollution issues;

Addresses the management, monitoring and control of environmental pollutants;

Allows students to engagement with stake holders from a number of different sectors;

Uses both qualitative and quantitative data to understand the impact of environmental pollutants.

View detailed information about this course

Ecosystem Processes (PL5303) - 15 Credit Points

Terrestrial ecosystems play a pivotal role in modulating the fluxes of energy and matter at the Earth’s surface, including the cycling of carbon, nutrients and greenhouse gases. Understanding the structure and function of terrestrial ecosystems is critical for understanding environmental challenges such as global warming, biodiversity loss, sustainable development and pollution. This course develops principles of systems ecology and biogeochemistry, focusing on the fundamental role played by living things in regulating key ecosystem processes such as carbon cycling, nutrient dynamics, trophic transfers, and land-atmosphere exchange of greenhouse gases.

View detailed information about this course

Semester 2

Semester 2

Compulsory Courses

Environmental Analysis (EV5800) - 15 Credit Points

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 report giving you an opportunity to perfect this style of writing.

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Land use and the Changing Environment on Deeside (SS5806) - 7.5 Credit Points

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.

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Optional Courses

Environmental Impact Assessment (EK5804) - 15 Credit Points

Environmental impact assessment (EIA) is a process for providing information about likely effects of certain human activities on ‘the environment’, and for identifying ways of minimising adverse effects and enhancing any positive effects.

Case studies, workshops and field visits are used to encourage participative learning related to components of the EIA process.

Oral presentations and written reports provide opportunities to develop your communication skills and to master the theory, policy and implementation elements to EIA.

Visiting speakers from the local area provide practitioner perspectives on the role of EIA in development decisions.

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Remediation Technology (SS5500) - 15 Credit Points

A highly interactive course, that uses extensively e-learning platforms to enable students to better understand the assessment of contaminated land. Students will learn how to interpret and apply current risk assessment regulations and predict as well as model contaminant pathways. Students will gain valuable experience in using the latest computer software and incorporate real data in order to quantify risk. Very importantly, students will be able to forecast remediation options for a variety of situations and consider the implications and processes involved.

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Catchment Management (EK5511) - 15 Credit Points

Field visits to examine river systems and forested catchments provide context and opportunities to discuss a diverse set of environmental management problems with professionals working in the field.

Practical sessions provide structured activities focused on the identification of freshwater invertebrates and applications of GIS approaches for analysing data to support catchment management planning.

You apply theoretical and practical knowledge to a case study, demonstrating your capacity to evaluate site specific data and to interpret relevant legislation and regulation.

Working individually and with a group you will write and present a management plan for a location of your choosing.

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Ecological & Environmental Modelling (BI5802) - 15 Credit Points

Introduction to techniques used in environmental and ecological modelling.

Main course materials are in four parts; model development, model construction, model evaluation and communicating modelling issues.

Hands-on practice is gained in model development and evaluation in two 4 hour computer classes.

Course assessment is based on the write up of the two computer sessions (30% each), and additional exercises on model construction and communication (20% each).

The course provides students with the key skills required for environmental and ecological modelling.

View detailed information about this course

Semester 3

Semester 3

Compulsory Courses

Project in Soil Science (SS5903) - 60 Credit Points

Provides thorough training in managing all aspects of a research project from inception to delivery of a thesis;

It's an independent research project that can cover any area of soil science, and may be computer, laboratory, greenhouse, partner company or field based;

May be done in the UK or internationally;

There's a requirement for close supervision and training through individual meetings and tuition with a supervisor;

May use new technology and research or commercial deliverables to enhance learning experience and skill base of the student.

View detailed information about this course

Course Availability

We will endeavour to make all course options available; however, these may be subject to timetabling and other constraints. Please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

How You'll Study

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 when required.

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.

Learning Methods

  • Field Trips
  • Field Work
  • Lectures
  • Tutorials

Assessment Methods

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

Why Study Soil Science?

  • 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 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.
  • We are ranked number 1 in the UK in terms of overall research excellence in agricultural sciences (REF 2014).
  • Dr Jon Hillier and his team at the University developed the award winning ‘Cool Farm Tool’ a greenhouse calculator used by Unilever, Marks & Spencer’s, Costco and Heinz.

Entry Requirements

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.


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.

English Language Requirements

All students entering the University must provide evidence that they can use English well enough to study effectively at the University of Aberdeen.

Details of our English language entry requirements can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages. This programme requires that you meet the College of Life Sciences and Medicine Postgraduate Standard level of English proficiency.

If you have not achieved the required scores, the University of Aberdeen offers pre-sessional English courses. Further details are available on our Language Centre website.

Nationals of some English-speaking countries or those who hold degrees from some English-speaking countries may be exempt from this requirement. Details of countries recognised as English-speaking can be found on our English Language Requirements webpages.

Document Requirements

You will be required to supply the following documentation with your application as proof you meet the entry requirements of this degree programme.

an up-to-date CV/Resumé
Degree Certificate
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
Degree Transcript
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
Personal Statement
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular programme

Fees and Funding

You will be classified as one of the fee categories below.

MRes 12 months or 24 months On Campus Learning Full Time or Part Time September

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU / RUK Students £7,800
Tuition Fees for 2018/19 Academic Year
International Students £16,900
Tuition Fees for 2018/19 Academic Year
MSc 12 months or 24 months On Campus Learning Full Time or Part Time September

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
Home / EU / RUK Students £7,800
Tuition Fees for 2018/19 Academic Year
International Students £16,900
Tuition Fees for 2018/19 Academic Year

Additional Fees

  • In exceptional circumstances there may be additional fees associated with specialist courses, for example field trips. Any additional fees for a course can be found in our Catalogue of Courses.
  • For more information about tuition fees for this programme, including payment plans and our refund policy, please visit our InfoHub Tuition Fees page.

Funding Opportunities

The following options are available to support your studies. Please click the links for full details and eligibility criteria.

Our Funding Database

View all funding options in our Funding Database.


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.

As a taught, research focussed degree, the MRes Soil Science is intended to prepare students for a career in science, often as a precursor to PhD study.

Industry Links

Through links to the James Hutton Institute you will learn about soil management and field experiments exploring food security.

What our Alumni Say

  • Chris Cantle
    Chris Cantle, Graduate Environmental Scientist at

    Chris Cantle

    Job Details
    Graduate Environmental Scientist
    The workplace relevant modules on offer as part of this MSc, such as Environmental Impact Assessment and Remediation Technology, were incredibly important in improving my employability.

Our Experts

Information About Staff Changes

You will be taught by a range of experts including professors, lecturers, teaching fellows and postgraduate tutors. Staff changes will occur from time to time; please see our InfoHub pages for further information.

We are ranked No. 1 for research

Our soil and plant science research was ranked No. 1 overall in the UK for Agriculture, Veterinary and Food Science (REF 2014)


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Sir Duncan Rice Library

Sir Duncan Rice Library

The University’s award winning Sir Duncan Rice Library is listed in the “Top 20 spellbinding University libraries in the World”. It contains over a million volumes, more than 300,000 e-books and 21,000 journals.

Find out more
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Cruickshank Botanic Garden

Cruickshank Botanic Garden

The Cruickshank Botanic Garden is situated on our King's College campus. It is used to support both our teaching and research; existing to promote the diversity and importance of plants and their role in the natural world.

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Laboratory Facilities

Laboratory Facilities

Our laboratory facilities include advanced analytical equipment to study soil chemical, physical and biological properties. Students have the opportunity to access state-of-the-art facilities such as mass spectroscopy, GC-MS and XRay CT imaging.

Get in Touch

Contact Details

College of Life Sciences and Medicine Graduate School
University of Aberdeen
Polwarth Building
AB25 2ZD