Palaeontology BSc (Hons)
BSc Hons Palaeontology
Are you interested in studying the processes of how life on Earth began, evolved and diversified? Do you enjoy getting your hands dirty as well as spending time in the lab?
Get ready to dig up the past on our BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree course, which is accredited by The Geological Society of London.
- Reveal the secrets of ancient life in our petrology and palaeontology laboratories, stocked with rock, mineral and fossil specimens
- Work alongside our active academic research team on the latest palaeontological theories and models, as they integrate new ideas and data into teaching
- Unearth your own discoveries on field trips in locations such as the Isle of Wight, Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site locations Lulworth Cove and Lyme Regis, and other famous fossil localities
We try and make our students as employable as possible by giving them access to some really excellent resources and expertise. Portsmouth's really well located for easy access to some famous fossil localities.
This course is accredited by The Geological Society of London.
BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree entry requirements
- A levels – ABB–BBC
- UCAS points – 112–128 points, with 32 points from a Science subject (Applied Science, Archaeology, Biology, Chemistry, Environmental Science/Studies, Geography, Geology, Mathematics or Physics) (calculate your UCAS points)
- BTECs (Extended Diplomas) – DDM–DMM
English language requirements
- English language proficiency at a minimum of IELTS band 6.0 with no component score below 5.5.
We also accept other standard English tests and qualifications, as long as they meet the minimum requirements of your course.
If you don't meet the English language requirements yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
Facilities and specialist equipment
Examine rock, mineral and fossil specimens using the specialist kit in these labs, such as transmitted light, polarising and scanning electron microscopes, and explore processes including acid digestion, air abrasion and microfossil extraction.
Study the ancient properties of the Earth’s surface materials in this lab, using techniques including palynology processing – the study of strewn particles – for acid dissolutions of rock matrices, sample sieving and heavy liquid separation.
Get a closer look at the cores of bulk rock formations, excavated by our diamond-tipped coring drill, and examine rock chips cut by our diamond-bladed saws, to discover what they can help us understand about past climates and environments.
Course leader Dr Anthony Butcher talks about the facilities on offer on the Palaeontology BSc (Hons) at the University of Portsmouth.
Dr Anthony Butcher: Palaeontology, the word itself means the study of ancient life. From the earliest algae right through to the biggest dinosaurs and even early human ancestors as well. It's satisfying seeing students come in with a real enthusiasm for dinosaurs and actually seeing their interests explode in some of these other areas.
We try and make our students as employable as possible by giving them access to some really excellent resources and expertise. Portsmouth's really well located for easy access to some famous fossil localities. We offer virtual alternatives to our field trips and those were approved by our accrediting body, the Geological Society of London. It's very rewarding to see our students go on to utilise those skills after graduation.
The lecturers are helpful and enthusiastic, and there is a lot of new lab equipment as well as extensive fossil collections. There are also fantastic opportunities for field trips.
Careers and opportunities
Palaeontology is the study of ancient life, from the earliest algae to the biggest dinosaurs and our first human ancestors. It seeks to uncover the ways in which life on Earth evolved through the ages, and in turn, how this can help us better understand the natural world today.
Studying fossilised lifeforms can reveal facts about biology, ecology and evolution vital to many modern environmental issues, including climate change.
Gain valuable skills for a range of scientific careers
On this BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree, you gain the knowledge and expertise to become a skilled palaeontologist, without any previous experience in palaeontology or geology.
When you graduate, you’ll have a strong set of transferable skills suitable for a range of scientific roles, in areas such as energy resources and exploration, environmental consultancy, teaching and museum curation.
You could also continue your studies with our research master's programme in Palaeontology, which would enable you to spend a year working on a dedicated project in an paleontological area that interests you. Many of our MRes students publish papers in scientific journals by the time they complete the programme.
New dinosaur discovered by PhD student
PhD student, Jeremy Lockwood, discovered the new dinosaur on the Isle of Wight, with help from university and Natural History Museum scientists.
What areas can you work in with a palaeontology degree?
Previous students have gone on to work and study in areas such as:
- energy resources and exploration
- environmental consultancy
- museum curation
- academic research
What jobs can you do with a palaeontology degree?
They've gone on to work in the following roles:
- researcher of vertebrate palaeontology
- geographic information systems (GIS) editor
- science teacher
Course leader Dr Anthony Butcher talks about the careers that Palaeontology BSc (Hons) students at the University of Portsmouth can go on to do.
Dr Anthony Butcher: After graduation, our students have a really strong set of transferable skills and general scientific skills as well.
So even if they're not able to go into a palaeontological role, they can go into things such as environmental consultancy, public outreach and engagement, teaching and museum work.
At Portsmouth, we run an MRes, a research master's programme in Palaeontology. That can range everything from palaeobotany to vertebrate palaeontology, dinosaurs, pterosaurs. Students are able to work on a dedicated project for an entire year and a lot of our students, by the time they finish their MRes, have actually published papers in scientific journals.
Ongoing careers supportAfter you graduate, you can get help, advice and support for up to 5 years from our Careers and Employability Service as you advance in your career.
After your second year, you can do an optional work placement to get valuable longer-term work experience in the industry. Placements give you the opportunity to apply what you've learnt so far in a real workplace, boosting your employability and making you attractive to employers after graduation.
You can work for a company or organisation here in the UK or overseas, or you could go independent by setting up and running your own business with other students.
Previous students have enjoyed placements at civil engineering, mining and quarrying companies and the Dinosaur Isle museum on the Isle of Wight.
Whichever route you choose, you'll receive support and guidance. Our specialist team of Science and Health Careers advisors can help you with finding a work placement and improving your employability skills. They'll provide you with a database of placement vacancies, support with your job search – including help with applications and interviews – and support throughout your placement.
What you'll study on this BSc (Hons) Palaeontology degree
Each module on this course is worth a certain number of credits.
In each year, you need to study modules worth a total of 120 credits. For example, four modules worth 20 credits and one module worth 40 credits.
Core modules in this year include:
- Biodiversity & Vertebrate Anatomy – 20 credits
- How the Earth Works – 20 credits
- Mineralogy and Petrology – 20 credits
- Quantitative Methods – 20 credits
- Science for Earth Systems – 20 credits
- Sedimentology and Palaeontology – 20 credits
- Tutorial Programme – 0 credits
There are no optional modules in this year.
Core modules in this year include:
- Early Vertebrate Evolution – 20 credits
- Invertebrate and Analytical Palaeontology – 20 credits
- Micropalaeontology, Palaeobotany, and Palaeoenvironments – 20 credits
- Palaeontological Techniques – 20 credits
- Professional Skills for Palaeontologists – 20 credits
- Sedimentary Processes and Facies Analysis – 20 credits
- Tutorial Programme – 0 credits
There are no optional modules in this year.
On this course, you can do an optional work placement year between your 2nd and 3rd years to get valuable experience working in industry.
We’ll help you secure a work placement that fits your situation and ambitions. You’ll get mentoring and support throughout the year.
There are no core modules in this year.
Optional modules in this year include:
- Applications of Palaeontology – 20 credits
- Applied Sedimentology & Petroleum Geology – 20 credits
- Dinosaurs and Mammals – 20 credits
- Introduction to Teaching – 20 credits
- Oceans, Climates and Environments – 20 credits
- The Fossil Record – 20 credits
We use the best and most current research and professional practice alongside feedback from our students to make sure course content is relevant to your future career or further studies.
Therefore, some course content may change over time to reflect changes in the discipline or industry and some optional modules may not run every year. If a module doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative module.
How you're assessed
You’ll be assessed through:
- laboratory reports
- oral and poster presentations
- reports on field-based projects
- computer-based assessment
You’ll be able to test your skills and knowledge informally before you do assessments that count towards your final mark.
You can get feedback on all practice and formal assessments so you can improve in the future.
The way you’re assessed will depend on the modules you select throughout your course. Here's an example from a previous year of how students on this course were typically assessed:
- Year 1 students: 55% by written exams, 13% by practical exams and 32% by coursework
- Year 2 students: 29% by written exams, 8% by practical exams and 63% by coursework
- Year 3 students: 39% by written exams, 9% by practical exams and 52% by coursework
Teaching methods on this course include:
- laboratory work
A pterosaur like no other
Professor of Palaeobiology, Dave Martill, explains how our palaeontologists discovered a new species of small toothless pterosaur.
How you'll spend your time
One of the main differences between school or college and university is how much control you have over your learning.
We're planning for most of your learning to be supported by timetabled face-to-face teaching with some elements of online provision. Please be aware, the balance between face-to-face teaching and online provision may change depending on Government restrictions. You'll also do lots of independent study with support from staff and our virtual learning environment, Moodle. Find out more about how our teaching has transformed to best support your learning.
A typical week
We recommend you spend at least 35 hours a week studying for your Palaeontology degree. In your first year, you’ll be in timetabled teaching activities such as tutorials, lectures, practical classes and workshops and external visits for about 11 hours a week. The rest of the time you’ll do independent study such as research, reading, coursework and project work, alone or in a group with others from your course. You'll probably do more independent study and have less scheduled teaching in years 2 and 3, but this depends on which modules you choose.
Most timetabled teaching takes place during the day, Monday to Friday. You may occasionally need to go to University and course events in the evenings and at weekends.
The academic year runs from September to June. There are breaks at Christmas and Easter.
Supporting your learning
The amount of timetabled teaching you'll get on your degree might be less than what you're used to at school or college, but you'll also get support via video, phone and face-to-face from teaching and support staff when you need it. These include the following people and services:
Types of support
Your personal tutor helps you make the transition to independent study and gives you academic and personal support throughout your time at university.
As well as regular scheduled meetings with your personal tutor, they're also available at set times during the week if you want to chat with them about anything that can't wait until your next meeting.
You'll have help from a team of faculty learning support tutors. They can help you improve and develop your academic skills and support you in any area of your study.
They can help with:
- improving your academic writing (for example, essays, reports, dissertations)
- understanding and using assignment feedback
- managing your time and workload
- revision and exam techniques
As well as support from faculty staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University’s Academic Skills Unit (ASK) for one-to-one support in areas such as:
- academic writing
- note taking
- time management
- critical thinking
- presentation skills
- working in groups
- revision, memory and exam techniques
If you require extra support because of a disability or additional learning need our specialist team can help you.
They'll help you to:
- discuss and agree on reasonable adjustments
- liaise with other University services and facilities, such as the library
- access specialist study skills and strategies tutors, and assistive technology tutors, on a 1-to-1 basis or in groups
- liaise with external services
Library staff are available in person or by email, phone or online chat to help you make the most of the University’s library resources. You can also request one-to-one appointments and get support from the faculty librarian for science.
The library is open 24 hours a day, every day, in term time.
Course costs and funding
Tuition fees (2022 start)
- UK/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students – £9,250 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
- EU students - £9,250 a year (including Transition Scholarship – may be subject to annual increase)
- International students – £18,300 per year (subject to annual increase)
Funding your studies
Applying from outside the UK? Find out about funding options for international students.
Additional course costs
These course-related costs aren’t included in the tuition fees. So you’ll need to budget for them when you plan your spending.
Our accommodation section shows your accommodation options and highlights how much it costs to live in Portsmouth.
You’ll study up to 6 modules a year. You may have to read several recommended books or textbooks for each module.
You can borrow most of these from the Library. If you buy these, they may cost up to £60 each.
We recommend that you budget £75 a year for photocopying, memory sticks, DVDs and CDs, printing charges, binding and specialist printing.
If your final year includes a major project, there could be cost for transport or accommodation related to your research activities. The amount will depend on the project you choose.
Your travel and accommodation costs for compulsory fieldwork are included in the course fee, with the exception of the Mapping Training Field Course, which takes place around the UK in the summer between the first and second year of study. Travel and accommodation for the Mapping Training Field Course costs around £100. You’ll also need to pay for meals and other living costs on compulsory fieldwork trips.
You’ll need to cover the cost of travel, accommodation, meals and other living costs for any optional fieldwork you do. These costs are normally around £1,200.
For compulsory project work, normally in the UK or Europe, costs for travel and accommodation will range from £0–£1,000.
You will be provided with essential health and safety equipment free of charge, and loaned equipment such as a compass clinometer, hammer, etc. where appropriate (though you may use your own equipment, if it is up to standard). You will, however, need to purchase your own clothing appropriate for fieldwork (e.g. waterproofs, rucksack, sturdy walking boots, etc.).
How to apply
To start this course in 2022, apply through UCAS. You'll need:
- the UCAS course code – F641
- our institution code – P80
If you'd prefer to apply directly, use our online application form.
You can also sign up to an Open Day to:
- Tour our campus, facilities and halls of residence
- Speak with lecturers and chat with our students
- Get information about where to live, how to fund your studies and which clubs and societies to join
If you're new to the application process, read our guide on applying for an undergraduate course.
How to apply from outside the UK
See the 'How to apply' section above for details of how to apply. You can also get an agent to help with your application. Check your country page for details of agents in your region.
To find out what to include in your application, head to the how to apply page of our international students section.
If you don't meet the English language requirements for this course yet, you can achieve the level you need by successfully completing a pre-sessional English programme before you start your course.
Admissions terms and conditions
When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to abide by our Student Contract (which includes the University's relevant policies, rules and regulations). You should read and consider these before you apply.