Earth Science – Bachelor of Science

When you join the Bachelor of Science (Earth Science) you’ll join an area that’s solving geotechnical and environmental problems.

Where you can study

Distance and online
Manawatū campus (Palmerston North)

International students

International students are not New Zealand citizens or residents.

Definition of New Zealand citizens and residents

Open to international students on campus in New Zealand
Note: Some distance courses contain compulsory contact workshops.

Specialise in Earth Science for your Bachelor of Science at Massey

Massey’s Bachelor of Science (Earth Science) will take you on a journey of understanding the processes that moulded our planet. From our landscapes to our geological resources and soils, it’s a huge area to cover, leading to fascinating and varied careers.

Understand how the world works

You’ll develop an appreciation of the immensity of geological time. You’ll graduate with cutting-edge skills and the ability to predict future changes in the Earth’s surface such as natural disasters, climate change and water contamination.

Earth scientists are discovering hydrocarbon and mineral resources. They are establishing policy in resource management, environmental protection, public health, safety, and welfare.

World-leading in Earth, soil science and volcanology

We’ll take you beyond traditional geology. Massey University is one of the few places in the world with a research group that examines the combination of Earth and soil science. We are at the forefront in environmental geochemistry and the evolving discipline of hydrology.

Massey has a focus on finding innovative solutions to environmental issues. You’ll get an insight into the connections between geology, soil science and the environment. You’ll explore metals and plants, sustainable mining and remediation.

Massey is the number one place to study Earth Science if you’re interested in volcanoes. We have a large number of internationally renowned volcanology experts. You’ll get to explore this exciting and life-saving area through field trips to volcanoes in the Central North Island. We also have unique equipment that mimics volcanic ash flow.


Advanced Earth science topics include:

  • understanding geological structures
  • understanding New Zealand geology
  • stratigraphy, sedimentology and paleoenvironments
  • volcanology and mineralogy
  • plate tectonics
  • pedology and quaternary geology
  • geographic information systems
  • remote sensing
  • field work.

Further study

If you successfully complete this qualification you could progress to study a Master of Science.

A Bachelor of Science in Earth Science is a good fit if you:

  • are fascinated by our planet, its rocks and fossils and why they are there
  • want to make a contribution to science and a difference to people and our environment
  • enjoy the sciences at school.

Planning information

If you study full-time, in your first year, you’ll take eight 15-credit courses, making a total of 120 credits.

If you wish to study over two semesters, you should aim for 60 credits per semester. You may be able to take some courses at summer school. Make sure you include courses that are prerequisites for the next level of courses you wish to study.

All Bachelor of Science students will take a selection of compulsory courses throughout the degree. The first year structure is designed to provide students with a broad knowledge and skill set which will equip them to go on to more advanced courses in the second and third years.

You must pass at least 90 credits from the BSc Schedule A, including any compulsory courses, in your first 120 credits of study towards the Bachelor of Science.

Earth Science has similar first year core courses to several other majors available in the Bachelor of Science, allowing students to change their major before their second year. Changing your major may incur an increase in completion time.

100-level courses

Take these in any order:

200-level courses in the major
Take all four:
  • 233211 Earth Materials
  • 233212 Earth Surface Processes
  • 233213 Earth Science Fieldwork
  • 233214 GIS and Spatial Statistics.
300-level courses in the major

Take all four:

  • 233311 Earth Environments Through Time
  • 233312 Natural Hazards
  • 233313 Earth Systems
  • 233314 Remote Sensing and Earth Observation.


Completing a minor is optional. Minors increase the breadth of your degree. They give you extra knowledge, attributes and capabilities.

A minor must be in a different subject from your major.

A Bachelor of Science (Earth Science) with a minor

You may choose a minor from any university undergraduate degree that has recognised minors. If the minor is from another undergraduate degree, the regulations of that qualification will apply.

Some BSc minors that are particularly compatible with Earth Science include those shown below. Timetabling will prioritise these combinations to minimise clashes.

  • Environmental Science (Include 196101)
An Earth Science minor (for students who are studying a different degree)

If you are not studying a Bachelor of Science (Earth Science) and wish to complete a minor in Earth Science see the BSc regulations for the requirements of this minor. 

Official regulations

To understand what you need to study and must complete to graduate read the official rules and regulations for this qualification.

You should read these together with all other relevant Statutes and Regulations of the University including the General Regulations for Undergraduate Degrees, Undergraduate Diplomas, Undergraduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas and Graduate Certificates.

Returning students

For returning students, there may be changes to the majors and minors available and the courses you need to take. Go to the section called ‘Transitional Provisions’ in the Regulations to find out more.

In some cases the qualification or specialisation you enrolled in may no longer be taking new enrolments, so may not appear on these web pages. To find information on the regulations for these qualifications go to the Massey University Calendar.

Please contact us through the Get advice button on this page if you have any questions.

Courses you can enrol in

Course planning key

Courses that need to be completed before moving onto a course at the next level. For example, a lot of 200-level courses have 100-level prerequisite courses.
Courses that must be completed at the same time as another course are known as corequisite courses.
Some courses are restricted against each other because their content is similar. This means you can only choose one of the offered courses to study and credit to your qualification.

Compulsory courses

Course code: 233211 Earth Materials 15 credits

This course explores the materials that make up planet Earth, and the processes integral to their genesis and distribution. The course covers the principles of stratigraphy and sedimentation, the processes and products of tectonics, and how mineralogy is key to understanding processes operating on Earth.

Prerequisites: 233105 or 189151

View full course details
Course code: 233212 Earth Surface Processes 15 credits

This course explores surface processes across Earth’s dynamic landscapes. Focusing on mountain, hillslope, river and coastal environments, the course investigates how and why these landscapes change over time. The course introduces methods for analysing and predicting landform change, and provides a foundation for managing geomorphic issues impacting society and the environment.

Prerequisites: 233105 or (233101 and 145121)

View full course details
Course code: 233213 Earth Science Fieldwork 15 credits

This course provides a hands-on experience of geoscientific fieldwork, from data collection through to analysis and interpretation of these data to explain geological and geomorphological processes. Analyses and interpretations will be applied to land, resource, and hazard management issues in New Zealand.

Prerequisites: 233211, 233212

View full course details
Course code: 233214 GIS and Spatial Statistics 15 credits

Introduction to handling and analysis of digital geospatial data. Operation of GIS software, including collection, processing and understanding of data, production of maps and geospatial projection systems. Integration of spatial statistical software with GIS. Introduction to appropriate spatial statistics techniques including kernel smoothing, kriging, point processes and spatially correlated areal data.

Prerequisites: 161111 or 161122 or 297101 Restrictions: 233251, 233301

View full course details
Course code: 233311 Earth Environments Through Time 15 credits

Principles and techniques for investigating and reconstructing past environments in a range of geological time frames and settings, with emphasis on the value of such reconstructions to understand our current environment and predict what may happen in the future.

Prerequisites: 233211 or 233212

View full course details
Course code: 233312 Natural Hazards 15 credits

An exploration and analysis of the nature, causes, impacts, and management of natural hazards, covering earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, landslides, weather, floods and coastal hazards. How climate change and human activity influence the hazards facing society.

View full course details
Course code: 233313 Earth Systems 15 credits

Quantification, forecasting, visualisation and communication of geoscience system dynamics to solve a range of environmental problems. Problems explored range from environmental pollution and instability of geoengineering structures to problems posed by gravity currents, landslides, tsunamis, floods and coastline changes. Students will learn to solve these geoscience problems quantitatively using modern computational, experimental, and analytical techniques.

Prerequisites: (160101 or 160102 or 160105) and (233211 or 233212)

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Course code: 233314 Remote Sensing and Earth Observation 15 credits

Principles and applications of Earth observation, remote sensing and spectroscopy in earth and environmental sciences. Spatial mapping and image classification of imagery from a variety of Earth observation and airborne sensors and other observations that contribute to monitoring terrestrial environments. Students will learn how to access, interpret and utilise such satellite and airborne imagery.

Prerequisites: 233214 Restrictions: 233301

View full course details

Entry requirements

Admission to Massey

All students must meet university entrance requirements to be admitted to the University.

Specific requirements

There are no specific entry requirements for this qualification, outside of university admission regulations. However, there is some expected background knowledge.

Expected high school preparation

Knowledge gained in the following NCEA subjects (or the equivalent in Cambridge International Examinations, International Baccalaureate, or similar) will give you the expected background knowledge to take this major.

  • At least 16 credits in NCEA Level 2 Mathematics from the following list of standards: 91256, 91257, 91258, 91259, 91260, 91261, 91262, 91269.

If it’s some time since you studied mathematics at school you can find out if you have the required background by taking this maths quiz.

English language requirements

To study this qualification you must meet Massey University's English language standards.

English language skills

If you need help with your English language skills before you start university, see our English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses.

Can't meet the entry requirements?

Haven’t studied the right subjects at high school?

The following pathways will get you prepared to study this major. If you have not studied NCEA Level 2 Mathematics (or equivalent) take one of the following courses first:

  • 124103 Biophysical Principles or
  • 160104 Introductory Mathematics for Science.

These courses (or equivalents) are available in the summer semester and will count towards credits in your degree.

If you need to do a course before you start your qualification, there may be options for you in Summer School.

Fees and scholarships

Fees, student loans and free fees scheme

Your tuition fees may be different depending on the courses you choose. Your exact fees will show once you have chosen your courses.

There will also be some compulsory non-tuition fees and for some courses, there may also be charges for things such as study resources, software, trips and contact workshops.

Already know which courses you're going to choose?

You can view fees for the courses that make up your qualification on the course details pages.

Student loans (StudyLink) and Fees Free scheme

You may be eligible for a student loan to help towards paying your fees.

The New Zealand Government offers fees-free tertiary study for eligible domestic students. Find out more about the scheme and your eligibility on the Fees Free website. To use the site's eligibility checking tool, you will need your National Student Number.

Current and returning Massey students can find their National Student Number in the student portal.

Scholarship and award opportunities

Search our scholarships and awards

Fees disclaimer

This information is for estimation purposes only. Actual fees payable will be finalised on confirmation of enrolment. Unless otherwise stated, all fees shown are quoted in New Zealand dollars and include Goods and Services Tax, if any. Before relying on any information on these pages you should also read the University's Disclaimer Notice.

Careers and job opportunities

Massey University Earth Science graduates are employed in many varied positions around the world, including in:

  • various Crown Research Institutes
  • regional councils (land and water resources),
  • teaching
  • universities
  • consultancy
  • science in the petroleum and petrochemical industries
  • sustainable mining
  • resource management
  • hazards research
  • land rehabilitation
  • engineering geology.

If you are interested in a research career, Massey’s BSc will allow you to choose from a wide range of specialist postgraduate qualifications throughout New Zealand and overseas.

Research scientists have specialised in geochemistry, paleomagnetism (the Earth's past magnetic fluctuations), palynology (fossil pollen), volcanology, phytoremediation (using plants to remove pollutants from soils), pedology, soil pollution, and groundwater.

Earn more

A 2017 Ministry of Education publication, The post-study earnings and destinations of young domestic graduates showed that those who complete a qualification in a science, agriculture, technology, computer science, engineering or mathematics field of study have high relative earnings after they complete their study compared to the national median. Earnings can be substantially more than other graduates.

International students

New Zealand is a great place to study. Massey University’s reputation is supported by our international rankings, accreditations and associations. We are rated five star plus by the QS World University Rankings.

Massey University has small class sizes, and our lecturers and staff are friendly and approachable.

As an international student, there are entry requirements that will apply to you. We recommend that you apply at least three months before your anticipated start date so your application can be processed in time. There are additional steps you will need to take. These include obtaining a visa and travel bookings if your study is to be in New Zealand.

What our students say

“The lectures were well put together, and I found the topics really fascinating. Many of the courses are field work based and I loved being able to work in the outdoors.”
Ella Nisbet

Bachelor of Science (Earth Science)

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