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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 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 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
On Campus Learning
12 months or 24 months
Full Time or Part Time
What You'll Study
The information below applies to the 1 year full time / 2 year part time on campus learning MSc programme which runs in September.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
studies, workshops and field visits are used to encourage participative
learning related to components of the EIA process.
presentations and written reports provide opportunities to develop your
communication skills and to master the theory, policy and implementation
elements to EIA.
speakers from the local area provide practitioner perspectives on the role of
EIA in development decisions.
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.
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.
individually and with a group you will write and present a management plan for
a location of your choosing.
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.
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.
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.
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
a degree certificate showing your qualifications
a full transcript showing all the subjects you studied and the marks you have achieved in your degree(s) (original & official English translation)
a detailed personal statement explaining your motivation for this particular 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 (soils.org.uk), who provide links to practicing soil scientists in the UK and internationally.
Through links to the James Hutton Institute you will learn about soil management and field experiments exploring food security.
What our Alumni Say
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.