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Master of Science (Earth Science)

Key facts

  • Available at Manawatū
  • Available via Distance Learning
  • Not all listed subject course options are on offer every year
  • Available for international students studying in NZ

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.

What is it like?

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.

A good fit if you:

  • Are curious about the world around you
  • Like the outdoors
  • Can apply lateral thinking to real-world problems
  • Have a basic understanding of maths, physics and chemistry
Emma Phillips
Master of Science (Earth Science)
Graduated in 2011
PhD student, Macquarie University (Australia)

“I think my experiences at Massey really shaped me into the person I am today. It was hard work but exciting and so rewarding…”

Leaving college I was an all-rounder in science, but also top in art so trying to decide what to study at university was hard. In the end my fascination with earth surface processes won and I enrolled at Massey in Earth science. There was no going back, I was hooked, and stayed on at Massey to complete a master’s. I haven’t looked back!

One of the best experiences from my master’s was having my study site at Crater Lake, Mount Ruapehu. I also got great satisfaction from being involved in a scientific advisory group for the central volcanic plateau.

I really enjoyed getting away from the textbooks and out in the field during third semester fieldwork courses. We crossed rivers, climbed up and down hills and over glaciers. Some of the best memories were made on those trips.

A growing interest in the impact natural disasters have on people and the environment led me to Risk Frontiers, a natural hazard research centre at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. I worked as a research assistant there for two years before starting a PhD with Risk Frontiers and Macquarie. My research is looking at the impact natural hazard events have on critical infrastructure and the implications of infrastructure failure for disaster response and recovery.

My undergraduate and postgraduate studies with Massey provided me with an essential skill base for academic and applied scientific research. Being exposed to industry, government and emergency service personnel (through fieldwork, conferences and meetings) really sparked my interest in emergency management and passion for interagency collaboration and gave me the skills I needed to take on my current doctorate research.


Sought after by employers

International trends are for employers to reward postgraduate study well, especially in larger enterprises. The skills you learn are increasingly recognised as setting you apart from other potential employees.

Internationally transferable skills

The unique combination of topics within the Massey Master of Science (Earth Science) will equip you with nationally and internationally transferable skills applicable to a wide range of challenges relevant to Earth science.

Jobs related to this degree include hydrocarbon and mineral exploration, environmental assessment and remediation, soil and land use assessment, volcanic hazards and applications utilising remote sensing and GIS skills.

Typical employers include:

  • The energy sector (oil and gas),
  • The mining industry
  • Environmental and engineering consultancies
  • Local authorities

Alternatively, the MSc in Earth science is an excellent preparation for proceeding to either a higher degree (PhD) or specialist degrees in related fields (e.g. geophysics and engineering geology).

Earn more

A 2017 Ministry of Education publication The post-study earnings and destinations of young domestic graduates, found that in New Zealand:

  • Young master’s graduates earn more than one and a half times more than the national median (five years after study)
  • Earnings and employment rates increase with the level of qualification completed
  • Five years after completion, the median earnings of young master’s graduates are 15% higher than for those with a bachelor’s degree.

World-leading lecturers and supervisors

Massey’s Earth science staff are internationally renowned for their research and teaching and learning methods. You will be working with recognised experts, for example:

Associate Professor Bob Stewart

Dr Stewart’s research activity ranges from the application of volcanic petrology and geochemistry to volcanic hazards and magma processes, emergency management and metal uptake by plants through to mine reclamation. He has had an active involvement with the mining industry in research and as a reclamation consultant since 1987 and holds a current CPAg (Certified Agricultural Practitioner) certification. He has published over 90 journal articles and book chapters, two in Nature. Teaching specialities are mineralogy and petrology, structural geology land use evaluation, emergency management and environmental management. He also manages a mineralogical analysis laboratory (FTIR, XRD and microprobe).

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