Aspiring change agent? A master’s in environmental and Earth sciences might be useful

A postgraduate degree in environmental and Earth sciences might just help you become a change agent.

By U2B Staff 

Read all stories

How do we better manage the Earth’s finite resources and improve our understanding of human civilisation’s impact on our natural resources, which are critical for survival? If these are questions that plague your mind, a career related to Earth sciences might just be up your alley.

Previously, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described climate change as the “defining issue of our time”. The UN projects that the world population will reach 9.8 billion in 2050, and this will likely affect the Earth’s resources and leave a trail of issues relating to environmental sustainability in its wake.  


The fight for sustainability is not a solo endeavour; environmental causes are high on the political agenda while growing awareness on climate change and the effects of our carbon footprint are prompting people to adopt sustainable practices. 

With environmental concerns skyrocketing, there’s never been a better time to study topics relating to the Earth at the postgraduate level. 

What can you expect to learn?

Many universities in New Zealand, Canada, and even the UK offer courses related to the field. Courses will typically require you to spend time doing fieldwork (like monitoring the quality of waters or species) to learn how to analyse complex data sets and communicate scientific results.

The University of Auckland in New Zealand, for instance, notes that their postgraduate study in Earth Sciences encompasses the study of the earth and earth processes that can also fall into the disciplines of geology, geophysics, and physical geography.

Students can choose from various areas of research interests, including climate and society, coasts and rivers, environmental change, hazards and disasters, natural resources, volcanology, petrology, and geochemistry.

The University of Waikato’s MSc Earth Sciences can be tailored to suit learner’s needs. You can select your papers from a range of subjects and the mix of research and taught papers are customised to suit your interests and goals.


Meanwhile, Carleton University’s MSc in Earth Sciences falls under an umbrella organisation called The Ottawa-Carleton Geoscience Centre. Its website notes that this joint initiative between Carleton University and the University of Ottawa offers students an opportunity to take courses at both universities while benefiting from the expertise of a larger pool of professors. 

The University of Bristol in the UK offers a one-year, full-time MSc by research in Earth Sciences that covers the full breadth of the Earth Sciences, including experimental and theoretical studies of physical, chemical, and biological processes of the Earth.

Career options with an environmental and Earth sciences master’s degree

Master’s in environmental and Earth sciences are typically multidisciplinary; a postgraduate degree in the field can lead to many fulfilling areas of work, some of which directly or indirectly impact communities.

Graduates often go on to carve themselves a diverse range of careers in research and environmental and resource management with governments, NGOs, or private organisations, to name a few. Graduates can go on to become environmental consultants, researchers, go into water management, or teach at universities. 

Ultimately, environmental and Earth sciences graduates are trained with the knowledge and skills that would enable them to be changemakers in a society whose knowledge and skills can benefit the environment and, in the long-run, humanity.