Faculty of Science - Leading creativity and innovation in the sciences

Earth Sciences - Postgraduate options

*This subject is available as area of PhD study within other subjects in the Faculty of Science. Please consult our postgraduate advisers for availability.

Subject description


Earth Sciences is the study of planet Earth. It is a diverse science and includes the study of the history of the planet and its life forms since its origin, the materials that the Earth is made of, the processes that act on these materials, and the products formed through these processes. Earth Sciences considers the physical forces that act on the Earth, the chemistry of its constituent materials, and the biology of its past inhabitants as revealed by fossils. Geological investigations span a broad spectrum, from the microscopic to those of planetary dimensions.

The School of Environment offers a wide variety of courses at postgraduate level. These cover a diverse range of subject matter including, but not limited to, volcanology, geothermal energy, paleo-climates and -environments, economic geology, natural hazards, applied geophysics and the various rock and mineral forming processes. Study at postgraduate level requires significant student commitment and a high degree of self motivation.


Structure and prerequisites

Bachelor of Science (Honours) (BSc(Hons)) - Earth Sciences

The prerequisite is a major in Earth Sciences, Geography, or Geology and at least 90 points at Stage III with at least 45 points at Stage III in Earth Sciences or Geology courses, or GEOG 330, 331, 334, 351, 360 or equivalent.



Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci) - Earth Sciences

The prerequisite is a major in Earth Sciences, Geography or Geology, with at least 45 points at Stage III in Earth Science or Geology course, or GEOG 330, 331, 334, 351, 360 or equivalent.



Master of Science (MSc) - Earth Sciences

The prerequisite is a BSc(Hons) or PGDipSci in Applied Geology, Earth Sciences, Geography, or Geology.

Requirements: Research Masters


Career opportunities

Careers involving Earth Sciences (Geology) are many and varied, whether you specialise in Geology, or include Geology as part of another discipline. A career as a geologist is very rewarding as you are always working for the benefit of society, helping to increase understanding and make life easier and safer for the general public. In February 1992, Money Magazine ranked Geologist as second overall out of the 100 perceived best occupations, and Geologist was also in the top 10 for job satisfaction.

A degree in Geology provides the holder with excellent career opportunities, both locally and internationally. Virtually every graduate from the Geology Department can find employment in the field of geology. The Geology Department has a reputation for producing superior, well-rounded geology graduates with a broad range of geological knowledge and skills. Graduates of the Geology Department have found employment world-wide and in virtually every geological discipline.

Listed below are some of the more prominent career opportunities for geologists. These are necessarily generalised and not divided into individual geological disciplines, as a particular job description can include a range of disciplines.


Engineering Geology

All of the major engineering consultants in New Zealand (e.g. Beca, Opus, Maunsell, SKM, URS, Tonkin & Taylor, GHD, Riley, PDP, etc) employ geologists. There are also many small engineering geological consultants who employ geology graduates (Soil and Rock, Engineering Geology, etc). At present this industry is one of the largest employers of geology graduates, and demand continues to grow as New Zealand's population growth requires more and better infrastructure. Geologists employed in this capacity generally work closely with geotechnical engineers, providing geological assessments of sub-surface conditions (for foundations, roads, airports, tunnels, dams, large excavations), rock slopes, etc. Geological work with these companies can include, but is not limited to, geological mapping, hydrogeology, environmental geology, hazard analysis, drill-core logging, etc. There is also the opportunity for travel, both local and international.


Resource and Environmental Management

Local, regional (e.g. Auckland Regional Council, Rodney District Council) and national government, and agencies such as the Department of Conservation, regularly employ geologists (see here for links to all local bodies). Work in this sector includes resource management/assessment, land use assessment, hazard assessment, hydrogeology, hydrology, etc. Engineering geologists, resource/economic geologists, groundwater geologists, geophysicists, geochemists, etc can all find employment in this sector in disciplines such as resource planning and consenting, hazard monitoring, hydrogeology/hydrology, environmental management, geophysics and seismology. This field is one of the strongest growth areas for employment of geologists as councils strive to better manage their resources under increasing pressure from growing populations and the Resource Management Act.


Exploration Geology

Oil and mineral companies are constantly looking for new resources, and geologists play a very important part in the discovery and development of these. Geothermal energy is also becoming increasingly important in many parts of the world. Work is varied depending on the resource being sought. Energy companies are constantly prospecting for new resources, and require expertise in geophysics, sedimentology and paleontology. Mineral exploration, e.g. for precious metals, requires expertise in mineralogy and petrology, economic geology, structural geology, geochemistry, etc. Work in these industries can take you overseas to many and varied locations, both on land and off shore.


Mining Geology

Once mineral resources have been discovered, geological expertise is required to manage their extraction. Job opportunities always exist for geologists in this capacity, both locally and worldwide. Mining geologists use a wide range of geological expertise in the safe and economic management of the mineral extraction process. These include skills in mineralogy and petrology, structural geology, hydrogeology, engineering geology, environmental geology, geochemistry, etc. They are utilised in mine planning, mineral extraction, mineral processing, ensuring mine safety, and controlling environmental issues.


Research Geologists

Although competition is fierce, there are always opportunities in teaching and research for outstanding geology graduates. The Geology Department has an excellent international reputation, and Auckland graduates can be found in research/teaching positions all over the world. Institutions where such opportunities exist include universities, government and industrial research laboratories, and museums. The positions are generally geared towards a specific geologic discipline, so a degree of expertise is necessary. This is gained through graduate study and research, e.g. MSc and/or PhD. Opportunities exist in all of the geologic disciplines.


Other opportunities

There are many and varied opportunities for graduates with a geological background, or with geology as part of their degree. Any industry that utilises earth materials requires a degree of geological input, e.g. steel, ceramics, power generation, construction, quarrying, etc. Opportunities also exist in teaching, law, commerce, architecture, engineering, etc., for graduates with some geological background in their degree.


Help and advice

For further information, please refer to the Earth Sciences Postgraduate Handbook or contact:

Dr Michael Rowe
Room 109, Building 114, City Campus
Phone: +64 9 373 7599 ext 87412
Email: m.rowe@auckland.ac.nz