Palaeontology BSc (Hons)

palaeontology student works with fossils
Mode of Study
3 years full-time, 4 years sandwich with work placement
Start Date
September 2019


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. You’ll learn the theory and methodology of palaeontology and get a solid foundation in geology. By using our comprehensively equipped labs and journeying to the past on field trips, you’ll graduate with skills to apply your knowledge in a range of scientific roles in areas from oil exploration to museum curation.

Accredited by:

This degree course is accredited by The Geological Society, which means teaching is of the highest quality, and has been approved by an independent body of academics and industrialists. This gives you an edge over students who didn’t do an accredited course when you’re applying for jobs.

This accreditation also allows you to become a Chartered Geologist or Chartered Scientist more quickly once you've completed the course.

What you'll experience

On this course you'll:

  • Become a skilled palaeontologist (you don't need any previous experience in palaeontology or geology)
  • Expand your understanding of the evolution of life and geological processes
  • Do fieldwork in locations such as the Isle of Wight, Lulworth Cove, Lyme Regis (and other parts of the Jurassic Coast World Heritage Site), the Welsh Borders and Germany
  • Work alongside our active academic research team on the latest theories and models
  • Stay up to date with the latest theories in palaeontology, as our team of active researchers integrate new ideas and data into teaching
  • Use our newly refurbished facilities, with specialist petrology and palaeontology laboratories, stocked with rock, mineral and fossil specimens
  • Learn how to use our specialist kit, such as transmitted light, polarising and scanning electron microscopes

Careers and opportunities

When you finish the course, our Careers and Employability service can help you find a job that puts your skills to work in the industry. If you want to continue your studies we can also help you identify relevant courses or research opportunities.

Previous students on this course have gone on to work and study in areas such as:

  • oil exploration
  • museum curation
  • teaching
  • academic research

After you leave the University, you'll get help, advice and support for up to 5 years from our Careers and Employability service as you advance in your career.

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 fieldtrips.

Lucy Hicks,

​What you'll study

Each unit on this course is worth a certain number of credits.

In each year, you need to study units worth a total of 120 credits. For example, 4 units worth 20 credits and 1 unit worth 40 credits.

Units currently studied

Core units in this year include:

  • How the Earth Works
  • Mineralogy and Petrology
  • Sedimentology and Palaeontology
  • Quantitative Methods
  • Science for Earth Systems
  • Biodiversity and Vertebrate Anatomy

There are no optional units in this year.

Core units in this year include:

  • Early Vertebrate Evolution
  • Sedimentology and Facies Analysis
  • Palaeontological Techniques
  • Micropalaeontology, Palaeobotany and Project Preparation
  • Palaeontology
  • Professional Skills for Palaeontologists

There are no optional units in this year.

Core units in this year include:

  • Palaeontology Project and Study Tour

Optional units in this year currently include:

  • The Fossil Record
  • Dinosaurs and Mammals
  • Industrial Applications of Palaeontology
  • Applied Sedimentology and Petroleum Geology
  • Oceans, Climates and Environments

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 units may not run every year. If a unit doesn’t run, we’ll let you know as soon as possible and help you choose an alternative unit.

Placement year

After your second year, you can do an optional work placement year to get valuable longer-term work experience in the broad earth sciences sector.
Previous students from the School have enjoyed placements at organisations such as civil engineering, mining and quarrying companies and the Dinosaur Isle museum on the Isle of Wight.

We will support you to find and apply for placements in a variety of relevant industries and organisations. You’ll get mentoring and support throughout the year.

Work experience and career planning

To give you the best chance of securing a great job when you graduate, our Careers and Employability service can help you find relevant work experience during your course.

We can help you identify placements, internships and voluntary roles that will complement your studies and build your CV.

Learning support

As well as support by faculty teaching staff and your personal tutor, you can use the University’s Academic Skills Unit (ASK).

ASK provides one-to-one support in areas such as:

  • academic writing
  • note taking
  • time management
  • critical thinking
  • presentation skills
  • referencing
  • working in groups
  • revision, memory and exam techniques

If you have a mental or physical disability, the Additional Support and Disability Centre (ASDAC) can give you help, support and advice so you can reach your potential.


Teaching methods on this course include:

  • lectures
  • tutorials
  • laboratory work
  • fieldwork

How you'll spend your time

Each academic year is divided into 2 teaching blocks and an assessment period:

  • Autumn teaching block – September to December
  • Spring teaching block – January to Easter
  • Assessment period – Easter to June

Most 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.

There’s no teaching on Wednesday afternoons.

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 may depend on the units you select. As a guide, students on this course last year were typically assessed as follows:

  • 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

Entry requirements​

Entry Requirements

  • 104–120 points to include a minimum of 2 A levels, or equivalent, with 40 points from a single Science subject, or 64 points from 2 Science subjects.

    • Applied Science
    • Archaeology
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Environmental Science/Studies
    • Geography
    • Geology
    • Mathematics
    • Physics

    See the other qualifications we accept

​Course costs

Tuition fees (2019 start)

  • UK/EU/Channel Islands and Isle of Man students – £9,250 per year (may be subject to annual increase)
  • International students – £15,900 per year (subject to annual increase)

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.

Additional costs

Our accommodation section shows your accommodation options and highlights how much it costs to live in Portsmouth.

You’ll study up to 6 units a year. You may have to read several recommended books or textbooks for each unit.

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 £1200.

We supply field kit but you need to make sure you have suitable clothing for fieldwork such as appropriate footwear (walking boots) and a waterproof jacket and trousers.


How to apply

To start in 2019 you need to apply through UCAS. You’ll need:

  • the UCAS course code – F641
  • our institution code – P80

You can start your application now and submit it later if you want.

Not quite ready to apply?

Come to an Open Day to explore our course facilities, tour the campus and have a look around our halls of residence.

If you’re new to the application process, read our guide on applying for an undergraduate course.

How to apply from outside the UK

If you're from outside of the UK, you can apply for this course through UCAS (see the 'How to apply' section above for details). You can also apply directly to us or you can 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. 

Admissions terms and conditions

When you accept an offer to study at the University of Portsmouth, you also agree to our terms and conditions as well as the University’s policies, rules and regulations. You should read and consider these before you apply.