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Masters Degrees (Volcanoes)

We have 5 Masters Degrees (Volcanoes)

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This MSc examines the physical processes governing the behaviour of volcanoes. Read more
This MSc examines the physical processes governing the behaviour of volcanoes. The programme is taught by leading scientists who are working at the cutting edge of research into volcanoes, and will provide you with a strong background for independent research to PhD level or for a career in industry, the public sector or an NGO.

The programme is designed to equip you with knowledge of the physical processes of volcanoes, including both sub-surface and surficial behaviour, insights into important historical eruptions, understanding of risk and risk mitigation, and instruction and experiential learning on data gathering, handling analysis and presentation to publishable standard.

You will develop a wide range of skills, such as quantitative and computational skills, including the use of statistical and data handling software; proficiency in critical analysis of scientific material from a variety of sources, including primary research documents and original data; and the ability to synthesise concise and informative material produced for a variety of audiences.

Programme structure

Core units
-Physics of Volcanoes and Hazardous Flows
-Scientific Communication
-Literature Review (Volcanology)
-Research Methods in Volcanology

Optional units
-Frontiers in Earth Science
-Geophysical Fluid Dynamics
-Natural Hazards in Central America
-Natural Hazards in Central America (without fieldwork)
-Volcanic Hazards: Observation, Modelling and GIS

Research project
The final part of the programme consists of a research project. For further information on research projects, please see the School of Earth Sciences website: http://www.bristol.ac.uk/earthsciences/research/projects.html


The MSc in Volcanology prepares students for research-based careers. Most students then continue on one of three paths, using the skills they have acquired at Bristol. About 40 per cent of graduating students continue on to study for a PhD at a range of institutions in the UK, Europe, North America, Australia and Singapore. Most overseas students return to their home country to work for government agencies in hazard management.

Other graduates choose to work in the commercial sector for either geotechnical companies (who manage assets for large multinationals) or risk management and reinsurance companies, typically in London where we have a burgeoning presence within that community.

The volcanology programme is rigorous and quantitative, and prepares students for settings where both domain-specific knowledge and the ability to conduct independent research are highly valued.

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The School of Earth Sciences has strong international links and the presence of researchers from all over the world makes for an exciting and stimulating environment. Read more
The School of Earth Sciences has strong international links and the presence of researchers from all over the world makes for an exciting and stimulating environment. Research involves the full breadth of the earth sciences and has benefited from major investment in new laboratories and equipment in the past few years. Important initiatives include experimental and theoretical studies of physical, chemical and biological processes of the Earth.

Please note: If you are applying for this programme, you need to select Geology as the programme choice when completing your online application form.

Research groups

The research programme at Bristol is characterised by an expanding range of exciting subject areas. Research in the School of Earth Sciences encourages interdisciplinary collaboration between its five research groups, which in turn nurtures revolutionary research.

The Geochemistry group uses fundamental chemical techniques to understand natural processes on a range of temporal and spatial scales. This can be from single atoms on mineral surfaces and the environmental geochemistry of the modern Earth to the large-scale chemical structure of planets and the birth of the solar system. The group has considerable expertise in isotopic measurements, spectroscopy and first-principles calculations.

Geophysics uses physical properties of the solid Earth to measure structure and processes on scales from the single crystal to the entire planet. Members of the Bristol Geophysics group use gravity, seismic and satellite data to image the Earth in a variety of different contexts. These include the Earth's core, mantle and tectonic processes, volcanoes, oil and gas reservoirs and mines.

The Palaeobiology group uses the fossil record to study the history of life. Research focuses on major diversifications, mass extinctions, dating the tree of life, phylogenomics and molecular palaeobiology, morphological innovation, biomechanics, and links between evolution and development; the organisms of interest range from foraminifera to dinosaurs.

The Petrology group uses a combination of high-pressure and high-temperature experiments, petrology, geochemistry and mineral physics to attack a wide range of problems in the solid Earth - from the core to the surface.

The Volcanology group at Bristol aims to understand the physical processes underlying volcanic phenomena and develop methods of hazard and risk assessment that can be applied to volcanoes worldwide.

Recent case studies and collaborators include the Met Office, Montserrat Volcano Observatory, Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland and INGEOMINAS in Columbia.

Research centres

The School of Earth Sciences is involved in a number of collaborative research groups on an international level. Inter-faculty research centres such as the Biogeochemistry Research Centre and the Cabot Institute involve collaboration across several departments and faculties.

Centre for Environmental and Geophysical Flows
This interdisciplinary research centre brings together expertise from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences, Mechanical Engineering and Mathematics. This creates diverse research activities and interests, from traffic flow to explosive volcanic flows, meteorology to oceanography.

Biogeochemistry Research Centre
The Biogeochemistry Research Centre involves staff from the Schools of Earth Sciences, Geographical Sciences and Chemistry. The research aims to develop our understanding of the biogeochemistry of modern-day and ancient environments and the way that it is affected by natural processes and the actions of mankind.

Bristol Isotope Group
The Bristol Isotope Group is a world-class research facility for isotope measurements directed at understanding natural processes, from the formation of the solar system, the origin of Earth - its deep structure and atmosphere, through to the evolution of that atmosphere and contemporary climate change.

Interface Analysis Centre
The Interface Analysis Centre specialises in the application of a wide range of analytical techniques and is used by the Schools of Chemistry, Earth Sciences and Physics.

The Cabot Institute
The Cabot Institute carries out fundamental and responsive research on risks and uncertainty in a changing environment. Interests include climate change, natural hazards, food and energy security, resilience and governance, and human impacts on the environment.

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This course focuses on the physical processes that generate natural hazards through an advanced understanding of geological and environmental processes. Read more

Why take this course?

This course focuses on the physical processes that generate natural hazards through an advanced understanding of geological and environmental processes.

You will be fully trained by internationally recognised experts in hazard identification, terrain evaluation techniques as well as hazard modelling and risk assessment techniques. Providing you with the essential skills to monitor, warn and help control the consequences of natural hazards.

What opportunities might it lead to?

This course is accredited by the Geological Society of London. It offers advanced professional and scientific training providing an accelerated route for you to attain Chartered Status, such as Chartered Geologist (CGeol) and Chartered Scientist (CSci) on graduation.

Here are some routes our graduates have pursued:

Aid organisations
Environmental organisations
Offshore work
Civil sector roles
Insurance companies

Module Details

You can opt to take this course in full-time or part-time mode.

The course is divided into two parts. The first part comprises the lecture, workshop, practical and field work elements of the course, followed by a five-month independent research project. The course is a mixture of taught units and research project covering topics including site investigation, hazard modelling and mapping, soil mechanics and rock mechanics, contaminated land, flooding and slope stability.

Here are the units you will study:

Natural Hazard Processes: The topic of this unit forms the backbone of the course and give you an advanced knowledge of a broad range of geological and environmental hazards, including floods, landslides, collapsible ground, volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, hydro-meteorological and anthropogenic hazards. External speakers are used to provide insights and expertise from an industry, regulatory and research perspective.

Numerical Hazard Modelling and Simulation: This forms an important part of the course, whereby you are trained in the application of computer models to the simulation of a range of geological and environmental hazards. You will develop skills in computer programming languages and use them to develop numerical models that are then used to simulate different natural hazard scenarios.

Catastrophe Modelling: On this unit you will cover the application of natural hazard modelling to better understand the insurance sector exposure to a range of geological and environmental hazards. It includes external speakers and sessions on the application of models for this type of catastrophe modelling.

Volcanology and Seismology: You will gain an in-depth knowledge of the nature of volcanism and associated hazards and seismology, associated seismo-tectonics and earthquake hazards. This unit is underpinned by a residential field course in the Mediterranean region that examines the field expression of volcanic, seismic and other natural hazards.

Flooding and Hydrological Hazards: These are a significant global problem that affect urban environments, one that is likely to increase with climate change. This unit will give you an in-depth background to these hazards and opportunities to simulate flooding in order to model the flood hazard and calculate the risk.

Hazard and Risk Assessment: This unit gives you the chance to study the techniques that are employed once a hazard has been identified and its likely impact needs to be measured. You will have advanced training in the application of qualitative and quantitative approaches to hazard and risk assessment and their use in the study of different natural hazards.

Field Reconnaissance and Geomorphological Mapping: These techniques are integral to the course and an essential skill for any graduate wishing to work in this area of natural hazard assessment. On this unit you will have fieldwork training in hazard recognition using techniques such as geomorphological mapping and walk-over surveys, combined with interpretation of remote sensing and aerial photography imagery.

Spatial Analysis and Remote Sensing: You will learn how to acquire and interpret aerial photography and satellite imagery, and the integration and analysis of spatial datasets using GIS – all key tools for hazard specialists.

Geo-mechanical Behaviour of Earth Materials: You will train in geotechnical testing and description of soils and rocks to the British and international standards used by industry.

Landslides and Slope Instability: This unit will give you an advanced understanding of landslide systems, types of slides in soils and rocks and methods for identification and numerical analysis.

Impacts and Remediation of Natural Hazards: You will cover a growing area of study, including the impact of hazardous events on society and the environment, and potential mitigation and remediation methods that can be employed.

Independent Research Project: This provides you with an opportunity to undertake an original piece of research to academic or industrial standards, typically in collaboration with research staff in the department or external industry partners. In addition to submission of a thesis report, you also present the results of your project at the annual postgraduate conference held at the end of September.

Programme Assessment

The course provides a balanced structure of lectures, seminars, tutorials and workshops. You will learn through hands-on practical sessions designed to give you the skills in laboratory, computer and field techniques. The course also includes extensive field work designed to provide field mapping and data collection skills.

Assessment is varied, aimed at developing skills relevant to a range of working environments. Here’s how we assess your work:

Poster and oral presentations
Project reports
Literature reviews
Lab reports

Student Destinations

This course provides vocational skills designed to enable you to enter this specialist environmental field. These skills include field mapping, report writing, meeting deadlines, team working, presentation skills, advanced data modelling and communication.

You will be fully equipped to gain employment in the insurance industry, government agencies and specialist geoscience companies, all of which are tasked with identifying and dealing with natural hazards. Previous destinations of our graduates have included major re-insurance companies, geological and geotechnical consultancies, local government and government agencies.

It also has strong research and analytical components, ideal if you wish to pursue further research to PhD level.

We aim to provide you with as much support as possible in finding employment through close industrial contacts, careers events, recruitment fairs and individual advice.

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Volcanoes threaten millions worldwide and improved hazard mitigation is a high priority. Our well-established MSc allows you to study alongside leading volcanologists in one of the largest groups of environmental scientists in the UK. Read more

Volcanoes threaten millions worldwide and improved hazard mitigation is a high priority. Our well-established MSc allows you to study alongside leading volcanologists in one of the largest groups of environmental scientists in the UK.

This MSc is ideal preparation for PhD research or work in the environment sector, and is suitable for students with a wide range of first degrees including Geography, Geology, Environmental Science and Physics.

As well as gaining a strong theoretical grounding, you will spend time in the laboratory and in the field, including field trips to study volcanic rocks in the nearby Lake District and a highly popular field module on Mount Etna.

You will study six taught modules which include core modules on volcanic and other geological hazards and optional modules which provide broader learning and practical skills in areas of particular benefit to aspiring volcanologists. Modules are taught by world experts from Lancaster Environment Centre and our partner institutions.

You will join our active volcanology group and conduct an independent dissertation research project under supervision from an internationally recognized researcher, taking advantage of our well-equipped experimental and geochemical laboratories. Within our group there are additional opportunities to participate in seminars, workshops and discussions.

Examples of previous dissertation topics are:

  • Lava delta formation at Thorolfsfell basaltic tuya, South Iceland
  • Analogue modelling of volcanic edifice deformation
  • Lava flow modelling at Nyiragongo, Democratic Republic of the Congo
  • Regimes of explosive volcanism in the solar system
  • Textural evolution of tuffisite veins
  • Sill-sediment interactions at Honister, Cumbria and generation of peperitic textures

Course Structure

You will study a range of modules as part of your course, some examples of which are listed below.



Information contained on the website with respect to modules is correct at the time of publication, but changes may be necessary, for example as a result of student feedback, Professional Statutory and Regulatory Bodies' (PSRB) requirements, staff changes, and new research.


Coursework, presentations, examinations and dissertation

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Apply your knowledge to real-world issues. You will gain skills in dealing with often-complex Earth systems, evaluate current research and and apply your knowledge to real-world issues, as well as get to work in some really amazing places around the world!. Read more

Apply your knowledge to real-world issues

You will gain skills in dealing with often-complex Earth systems, evaluate current research and and apply your knowledge to real-world issues, as well as get to work in some really amazing places around the world!

Find out more about the Master of Science parent structure.

The Master of Science (Earth Science) at Massey University will develop your skills in a field and laboratory environment that is focussed on solutions to Earth science-based issues facing society.

Explore the world around you

Field work could find you on a volcano top in Vanuatu, exploring ancient volcanoes on Chatham Island or assessing real-time hazards from an erupting volcano. You might find yourself exploring the back country of the Wanganui Basin or its marine terraces, sampling rivers and aquifers to determine groundwater recharge/discharge, or investigating erosion and land use employing both field and remote sensing techniques. 

You will also gain transferable skills that will be useful in many different careers. These include observation skills, advanced ability in data collection, analysis and interpretation, problem-solving and lateral thinking skills, self-motivation and resilience, teamwork as well as developing high-level written and verbal communication skills.

Let our expertise become yours

Massey University Earth science staff are actively researching and are members of internationally-relevant related groups. Many also have extensive industry experience, through either employment or consultancy. They bring this expertise to your teaching.

Examine the environmental impact

Massey’s expertise in environmental geochemistry includes remediation of contaminated sites, phytomining, mine site and land reclamation.

You can learn from – and build on – our expertise in the societal impacts of Earth events, such as volcanic activity. These include social, economic, infrastructure and the impact on local communities including iwi.

Specialised equipment

We have a range of specialised equipment which is available to you for your research and study. This includes:

  • A microprobe for spatial geochemical analysis of geological materials. Able to focus down to two microns, it allows measurement of changes in composition across crystals (which record pre-eruption processes in magmas)
  • Laser particle size analyser for measuring grain-size distributions of materials such as tephra
  • FTIR (Fourier Transform Infra-red) microscope. This measures water and CO2 contents in volcanic materials (related to eruption dynamics), but has also been used for analysing compositional differences in horse bones and carbon nanoparticles
  • Pyroclastic Flow simulator
  • Hyperspectral analyser for remote sensing soil,rock and plant materials (an example of use includes detecting mineralised ground by remote sensing)
  • FLYSPEC analyser for measuring SO2 in volcanic eruption plumes
  • XRD analyser for determining mineralogical compositions of a wide range of materials, especially clay minerals
  • TGA/DSC (Thermogravimetric Analyser/Differential Scanning Calorimeter) for uses such as thermal behaviour in volcanic glasses to characterise biochar
  • OEM (Optical Emission Analyser) for geochemical analysis with particular application to environmental geochemistry

In-depth research

This master’s includes an in-depth research project, where you will be able to explore an aspect of Earth science that interests you.

Why postgraduate study?

Postgraduate study is hard work but very rewarding and empowering. The Master of Science (Earth Science) will push you to produce your best creative, strategic and theoretical ideas. The workload replicates the high-pressure environment of senior workplace roles. Our experts are there to guide but you will find that postgraduate study demands more in-depth and independent study.

Not just more of the same

Postgraduate study is not just ‘more of the same’ undergraduate study. It takes you to a new level in knowledge and expertise especially in planning and undertaking research.

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