Soil Science, MSc

Soil Science, MSc

Introduction

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.

Study Information

At a Glance

Learning Mode
On Campus Learning
Degree Qualification
MSc
Duration
12 months or 24 months
Study Mode
Full Time or Part Time
Start Month
September
Location of Study
Aberdeen

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 School 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 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.

The prestigious Queen's Anniversary Prize was granted to the University of Aberdeen for world-leading research and education in Soil Science promoting the control of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable food production. Our scientists have established a world-leading centre of excellence in Soil Science which strives to find solutions to some of society’s greatest threats including the climate crisis and environmental change.

What You'll Study

Stage 1

Compulsory Courses

Getting Started at the University of Aberdeen (PD5006)

This course, which is prescribed for all taught postgraduate students, is studied entirely online, takes approximately 5-6 hours to complete and can be taken in one sitting, or spread across a number of weeks.

Topics include orientation overview, equality and diversity, health, safety and cyber security and how to make the most of your time at university in relation to careers and employability.

Successful completion of this course will be recorded on your Enhanced Transcript as ‘Achieved’.

Ecological Data Analysis Using R (BI5012)

15 Credit Points

This course is uniquely tailored for ecologists and will provide students with the required background theory and practical skills relevant to modern ecology. Our example-led lectures and real-world based practical sessions will provide you with a foundation to become confident and proficient in analysing real data. Throughout this course, we will introduce you to using the programming language R to implement modern statistical modelling techniques. You will use the flexible linear and generalised linear modelling frameworks to analyse ecological data with an emphasis on robust and reproducible statistical methods.

Ecosystems 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.

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.Lectures focus on how soils form, how soils work, soil classification, soil as part of the environment, human impacts on soil, and the use of mapping and soil data to optimise the management of this fragile resource.

Your assessments are geared towards developing practical skills. This includes a presentation on a particular soil that requires research akin to detective work, quizzes on soil properties and classification and a critical essay on a selected topic.

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 and climate change. You will learn a variety of processes that affect soil productivity, accompanied by practical sessions that will teach relevant analytical methods. Students are introduced to modelling of agricultural impacts on soils and the environment, particularly in relation to greenhouse gas emissions and carbon sequestration, so that mitigation strategies can be assessed.

There are two practical sessions with assignments, a debate and a modelling exercise that involves and quiz and assignment.

Stage 2

Compulsory Courses

Applications of GIS (EV5517)

15 Credit Points

Lectures and structured workshops develop your knowledge of the principles and practice of geographic information systems, and familiarise you with ArcGIS software, enhancing your employability.

An individual investigation allows you to explore a specific application that you are interested in and demonstrate your proficiency with the software and your command of the conceptual underpinnings.

A flexible teaching and learning environment allows for individualised learning and enrichment for students with existing skills in GIS.

Environmental Analysis (EV5800)

15 Credit Points

The mixture of applied science and theoretical work on this course 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.

Land use and the Changing Environment (EV5803)

15 Credit Points

This course is a residential field course that takes place in the Cairngorm National Park. During this course you will gain experience relating to the broad theme of environmental science.

You will develop a greater understanding of the dynamics of the landscape and the interactions and conflicts between stakeholders. You will be focusing on issues associated with different land uses within the Cairngorms National Park and associated decisions which directly impact the environment. This will be done by a number of site visits to sporting estates, forests, farms, and national nature reserves.

Dates for this field course are 1st April - 5th April 2024

Optional Courses

Students also select one of the following optional courses.

Land Remediation (SS5508)

15 Credit Points

This highly interactive course explores the principles and practice of contaminated land assessment and remediation. It provides broad knowledge of underlying science, as well as practical skills related to the assessment of contamination sources, pathways and risks to human health. While the lectures introduce theoretical background and gradually build the expertise, the practical have been based on various assessment tools and develop practical knowledge and quantitative skills. The learning activities replicate tasks that one would encounter in environmental consultancy and provide valuable transferrable skills.

Ecology, Conservation and Society (EK5510)

15 Credit Points

This course looks at current theory and practice in the interface between ecology, conservation and society. We will explore diverse topics, including how ecology is changing, impacts through climate change, ecosystem services, evidence-based conservation, interdisciplinary approaches, citizen science, policy workshop, communicating science, decolonising ecology and conservation, stakeholder conflicts and data visualisation.Sessions are composed of lectures and workshops from staff and guest speakers, and structured in-class activities, which will challenge you to consider problems and evidence from different perspectives. These will increase your capacity for self-reflection and awareness of ethical and moral issues embedded in problems often framed as ecological.

Stage 3

Compulsory Courses

Project in Soil Science (SS5903)

60 Credit Points

The three-month individual Research Project can cover any area of soil science and is undertaken under the supervision of a member of staff who is an expert in your chosen field. Many projects are also done in collaboration with an external organisation. The project provides opportunities for you to develop your abilities and skills, generate hypotheses and design ways of testing them and to analyse, report and discuss your findings. You will learn to take responsibility for implementing your own plans and modifying them as necessary. The project is written up in the style of a scientific paper manuscript or a consultancy report.

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.

Fee Information

Fee information
Fee category Cost
EU / International students £27,000
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year
Home / RUK £12,200
Tuition Fees for 2024/25 Academic Year

Additional Fee Information

  • 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 James Henry Scott Scholarship – Funded by The Swire Charitable Trust, the scholarship covers full international postgraduate tuition fees of £27k plus a maintenance award of £5k. Candidates must be from Mainland China or Hong Kong commencing one of the MSc postgraduate degrees offered by the School of Biological Sciences in September 2023. The application deadline is 1st June 2023.

Scholarships

Eligible self-funded international Masters students will receive the Aberdeen Global Scholarship. Visit our Funding Database to find out more and see our full range of scholarships.

How You'll Study

A wide range of teaching methods are used at Aberdeen to ensure that you are 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 student to tutor ratio, meaning you will have the full support of your group tutors.

Our great diversity in teaching methods is coupled by the use of latest digital technology to ensure course content is accessible to all students through a wide range of electronic formats.

The MSc also provides students with ample opportunity to learn outside the classroom so you can apply both theory and practice to real life situations. The majority of courses regularly extend activities and learning to outdoor field work, visits by industry experts and insights into real-life situations and problem-solving. The MSc programme includes, without additional cost, a one week residential field course (at Ballater, Aberdeenshire) plus several day-long field trips from Aberdeen.

The dedicated research project you will undertake as part of your MSc provides training in study design, technical skills, recording results and observations and analysing results. Great flexibility is available in project selection; projects can be chosen from a list of developed by the students themselves in collaboration with supervisors. Projects can be field, lab and/or computer based and flexible to fit the student’s interests, aspirations and skill set.

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.
  • Our research is conducted across the globe, finding solutions to soil degradation, food security and greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • A team from the University developed the award winning ‘Cool Farm Tool’ a greenhouse calculator used by Unilever, Marks & Spencer’s, Costco and Heinz.
  • The prestigious Queen's Anniversary Prize was granted to the University of Aberdeen for world-leading research and education in Soil Science promoting the control of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable food production. Our scientists have established a world-leading centre of excellence in Soil Science which strives to find solutions to some of society’s greatest threats including the climate crisis and environmental change.

Entry Requirements

Qualifications

The information below is provided as a guide only and does not guarantee entry to the University of Aberdeen.

MSc

Minimum entry requirement for this programme is a degree in a biological, environmental or physical science, geography, or other relevant discipline at 2:1 (upper second class) UK Honours level, or an Honours degree from a non-UK institution which is judged by the University to be of equivalent worth. Candidates with at least a 2:1 or equivalent in other disciplines may be considered if they can demonstrate relevant experience and motivation.

Please enter your country to view country-specific entry requirements.

English Language Requirements

To study for a Postgraduate Taught degree at the University of Aberdeen it is essential that you can speak, understand, read, and write English fluently. The minimum requirements for this degree are as follows:

IELTS Academic:

OVERALL - 6.5 with: Listening - 5.5; Reading - 5.5; Speaking - 5.5; Writing - 6.0

TOEFL iBT:

OVERALL - 90 with: Listening - 17; Reading - 18; Speaking - 20; Writing - 21

PTE Academic:

OVERALL - 62 with: Listening - 59; Reading - 59; Speaking - 59; Writing - 59

Cambridge English B2 First, C1 Advanced, C2 Proficiency:

OVERALL - 176 with: Listening - 162; Reading - 162; Speaking - 162; Writing - 169

Read more about specific English Language requirements here.

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. If you have not yet completed your current programme of study, then you can still apply and you can provide your Degree Certificate at a later date.

CV
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

Careers

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 (soils.org.uk), who provide links to practicing soil scientists in the UK and internationally.

Career Opportunities

  • Environmental Consultant
  • Land Remediation Specialist
  • Soil Surveyor

Industry Links

We have active links with industry through our research, with these partnerships producing products of real impact, such as the CoolFarmTool carbon calculator. Our environmental scientists also work closely with colleagues in research institutions all over the world:

  • The James Hutton Institute
  • Scottish Natural Heritage
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency
  • Marine Scotland Science
  • Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
  • British Trust for Ornithology
  • Forestry Commission and Forest Research
Image for useful fact about this Subject

Queen's Anniversary Prize

This prestigious award was granted to the University for our world-leading research and education in Soil Science promoting the control of greenhouse gas emissions and sustainable food production.

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REF 2021

We are ranked in the top quartile for Research Power in Earth Systems and Environmental Sciences in the latest Research Excellence Framework

Nature on our Doorstep

Current and former students tell us why they choose to study biological and environmental sciences at Aberdeen

What our Alumni Say

Adams Kehinde

Adams Kehinde

Adams Kehinde

Job Details
PhD Student
Graduated 2018

My study in Aberdeen gave me a good research foundation and skills that has enabled me to embark on a PhD. It also made me aware of some hi-tech equipment that are available for cutting-edge soil science research.

Jessica Brook

Jessica Brook

Jessica Brook

Graduated 2020

The favourite part of my degree was the field trips. They were a great opportunity to meet others on my course at the beginning of the year and to gain hands-on experience and put what we’d learned in lectures into practice.

Find out more

Adetunji Adekanmbi

Adetunji Adekanmbi

Adetunji Adekanmbi

Job Details
PhD Student
Graduated 2015

I studied modules containing core skills in writing, data analysis, presentation, field work and laboratory methods which gave me essential training and research skills required for my current role as a PhD student and career in academia.

Our Experts

The University of Aberdeen hosts one of the most diverse teams of soil scientists in the UK, including two Fellows of the Royal Society. The academics listed below play a major role in teaching or hosting MSc projects.

Other Experts
Professor Paul Hallett
Professor Graeme Paton
Dr Ashish Malik
Dr Lenka Mbadugha
Dr Cecile Gubry-Rangin
Professor Jo Smith
Professor Pete Smith
Programme Coordinator
Dr Vasilis Louca

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.

Facilities

Image for Sir Duncan Rice Library
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

Address
Student Recruitment & Admissions
University of Aberdeen
University Office
Regent Walk
Aberdeen
AB24 3FX