Why Geology and Physical Geography is the best undergraduate degree

Now that I am nearing the end of my degree at university, I have been reflecting a lot on my time here. This has led to me thinking about everything that I have been able to achieve and learn by studying Geology and Physical Geography (GPG) at Edinburgh University and why it is such a great degree.

I came to university with a love of geography especially glaciology and nature and so decided that a mix of geography and geology would be perfect. However, I had a really small geology and science background so had no clue to what I had really just signed up to apart from learning about rocks. By the end of 1st year I was really happy with my choice to study this degree and since then my love for geology and physical geography has continued to grow.

Reasons for why Geology and Physical Geography is the best degree:

1: Field trips – Over the course of four years we spend over seven weeks in the field from the Lake District in first year, the Northwest of Scotland and Spain in third year to Cyprus in fourth year. It is such a great way to learn how to take on group work and learn the skills of geological and geomorphic mapping along with a greater understanding on the landscape and geology.

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Taking field sketches in the sunshine in Spain.

2: Small class size – Not many courses can say that they know their full course and can chat to everyone. The degree is very small with only 30 people in my year making it super easy to make friends. A lot of my closest friends at university are from my course too. We are also mixed in with Geology, Environmental Geoscience and Geography so there are plenty of chances to meet other people too.

3: Large range of subjects – Unlike some degrees, there is a lot of choice to what subjects you want to study and so you can tailor the degree for your interests. For example I am really interested in more physical geography courses and so have been able pick specific glaciology and Quaternary courses making the degree really interesting for me. While you could also pick more geology courses if you preferred.

4: The ability to learn a range of skills – While some courses focus more on essay writing or scientific reports, studying GPG allows for you to develop in both skills with a mix of different science components. However, there are so many more things to be learnt. For example, looking at rocks in thin-sections, learning to use GIS and Remote Sensing computer software or Python coding. These are great skills for future employment and open your job prospects for both geology and geography industries.

5: Freedom of dissertation – When it comes to your dissertation there is a massive amount of choice meaning that you can pick a topic and tailor it to something that you’re truly interested in. The dissertation topics spanned from paleontology, natural hazards, glaciology to planetary science. You also need to conduct a week of self-led fieldwork helping become an independent researcher.

My dissertation field work area.

6: A good work life balance – As there are field trips in some of the university breaks, it takes the pressure off during the semester a little resulting in a smaller workload during the semester. This means that days working from 9-5 during the week allow for enough time to complete the work in a relatively stress free experience in comparison to some other degrees. This has allowed for me to have a fun time at university during the evenings and weeks and I’m proud to say that I have never had to work an all nighter in order to get my work done in time.

7: Helpful lectures – The core lecturers are all so helpful and friendly for the degree which makes it a lot easier to get help and feel involved with the degree program. Rather than being anonymous in a massive course, the lectures know each of us and truly want to help us have an enjoyable time studying the degree by taking on any feedback and making changes.

Demonstrators and lecturers with the course on the Inchnadamph field trip.

So that’s my reasons for why I enjoy my degree – if you enjoy the outdoors and learning about the past and present world around you then I 100% recommend this degree as there is no degree I would have rather studied.


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