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BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences (Earth Sciences)

Earth science is the study of how our planet evolved and the forces that have shaped, and continue to shape, the earth that we live on. In this specialist route available in our ​BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences (Q64), you’ll learn why volcanoes occur, what fossils indicate about past environments, how the oceans regulate climate and why sea-level changes. As well as gaining an understanding of earth sciences, you’ll develop analytical and problem-solving skills.

Key features of the course

  • Teaches you how to observe and gather information about earth processes and environments through the study of rocks, fossils, minerals and landforms
  • Develops your skills in data collection, analysis, critical thinking and problem solving
  • Gives you the opportunity to carry out independent projects and attend field courses
  • Offers the chance to debate issues and use professional online databases

Course Summary

+Shortlist Course

Degree

Degree

  • Also known as an undergraduate or bachelors degree.
  • Internationally respected, universally understood.
  • An essential requirement for many high-level jobs.
  • Gain a thorough understanding of your subject – and the tools to investigate, think critically, form reasoned arguments, solve problems and communicate effectively in new contexts.
  • Progress to higher level study, such as a postgraduate diploma or masters degree.
Course code
Q64
Credits

Credits

  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
360
How long it takes
Part time – 6 years
Full time – 3 years (However, we recommend that you study Stage 1 part time)
Time limit – 16 years
Study method
Distance learning

Course details

This degree has three stages, each comprising 120 credits.

  • You’ll start Stage 1 with two 60-credit introductory science modules.
  • At Stage 2 you’ll study a 60-credit earth sciences module and choose a further 60 credits from a range of science modules.
  • At Stage 3, you’ll study a 60-credit earth sciences module, choose a further 30-credit module and complete your degree with a 30-credit project module.

Optional Access module – visit Am I ready? to find out about starting this course with a preparatory Access module.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

Stage 1 includes an introductory broad science module in which you’ll investigate a series of questions that teach scientific thinking. You’ll also study another broad science module that focuses on further key ideas in science and includes distinct practical blocks.
ModulesCredits
You'll study both of the following:
Questions in science (S111)60
Science: concepts and practice (S112)60

Stage 2 (120 credits)

In Stage 2, you’ll learn about Earth's structure, why volcanoes and earthquakes occur, how plate tectonics have shaped Earth, and the structure and geological history of rocks and minerals. You’ll then choose from a broad range of modules in science or mathematical methods.
ModulesCredits
You'll study the following:
Earth science (S209)60
You'll choose 60 credits from:
Choose from this list of options60

Stage 3 (120 credits)

In Stage 3, you’ll explore societally relevant topics in earth science and key events in the history of Earth. Then you’ll take a wide-ranging module examining contemporary areas of science, finishing with a project investigating a topic in geosciences such as geohazards or past environmental change.
ModulesCredits
You'll study the following:
Earth processes (S309)60
You'll choose one from:
Evaluating contemporary science (S350)30
Terrestrial ecosystems (S397)30
You'll study the following:
Science project course: geosciences (SXG390)30

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 21 March 2018.


Accessibility

We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:

  • studying a mixture of printed and online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
  • using mathematical and scientific expressions, notations and associated techniques
  • undertaking practical work or using an online laboratory
  • working with specialist reading material such as scientific journals, and with audio and graphic information such as sonograms
  • using specialist software
  • working in a group with other students
  • using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
  • finding external/third party material online.

For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit our disability page to find more about what we offer. Contact us as soon as possible to discuss your individual requirements, so we can put arrangements in place before you start.


Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills

The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course materials; e-learning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.

It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.

You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. We will need to know what you studied, where and when and you will need to provide evidence of your previous study.

For more details of when you will need to apply by and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.


Classification of your degree

On successfully completing this course, you’ll be awarded the BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences degree. You’ll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony. If you choose to specialise – for example, in chemistry, your degree title will be BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences (Chemistry).

The class of degree (first, upper second, lower second or third class honours) depends on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.

Regulations

As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website. 


Compare this course

Entry requirements

There are no formal entry requirements for this qualification; however, to get the best from it you’ll need some knowledge of science concepts and mathematical skills, and the ability to read and write to a good standard of English.

Check you're ready for Questions in science (S111) with our self-assessed quiz.

If you’re thinking about choosing physics or astronomy and planetary science, check you’re ready for mathematical study at this level by visiting our MathsChoices website.

How much time do I need?

  • Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
  • This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.

Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner

Counting previous study

You could save time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study towards this qualification if you have:

  • already studied at university level (even if you didn't finish your studies)
  • other professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.

Find out more about credit transfer

Preparing for study with an Access module

If your study skills are a bit rusty or you want to try out Open University study before committing yourself, don’t worry! The OU offers Access modules designed to introduce the subject area, build your confidence and prepare you for further study, and you may be eligible to study an Access module for free! You'll get:

  • a personal tutor providing regular feedback with one to one telephone tutorials
  • support from a dedicated team throughout your study
  • detailed written feedback.
For this qualification we recommend:

Science, technology and maths Access module

What you will study

This multidisciplinary module is an ideal starting point if you have little or no previous knowledge of the sciences, technology and mathematics, and would like to develop both your subject knowledge and your study skills. The subjects included are science, engineering and design, environment, mathematics, and computing and IT.

View full details of Science, technology and maths Access module

Your next step

Call us on +44 (0)1908 659253 or book a call back. Our friendly team of advisers will discuss your study options with you, and help you decide on the best starting point for you.

In this section:
How much will it cost?
Ways to pay for your qualification and other support

How much will it cost in England?

We believe cost shouldn’t be a barrier to achieving your potential. That’s why we work hard to keep the cost of study as low as possible and have a wide range of flexible ways to pay to help spread, or even reduce, the cost.

  • Fees are paid on a module-by-module basis – you won't have to pay for the whole of your qualification up front.
  • A qualification comprises a series of modules, each with an individual fee. Added together, they give you the total cost.
  • If, like most OU students, you study part time at a rate of 60 credits a year, you'll take six years to complete an honours degree.
  • Our current fee for 60 credits is £2,928*.
  • Our current fee for 120 credits – which is equivalent to a year's full-time study – is £5,856*.
  • At current prices, the total cost of your qualification would be £17,568*.
  • .

*The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2019. Fees normally increase annually in line with inflation and the University's strategic approach to fees.

Additional costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as a laptop, travel to tutorials, set books and internet access.

If you're on a low income you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after you start studying.

Residential schools

This qualification includes science modules that include an optional residential school. For each residential school you choose to attend, you must pay an additional charge to cover costs such as tuition, accommodation and meals (see individual module descriptions for more information). You’ll also have to pay for your own travel to and from the venues.


Skills for career development

By the time you achieve your qualification, you’ll be an adaptable graduate with a range of transferable skills that are highly valued in the labour market – such as analytical, numerical and communication skills, teamworking, problem solving and proficiency in using computers. You’ll also have a good understanding of where your strengths and interests lie, and be well prepared for your next step – whether it’s further study or employment.

Employers also look for evidence of experience of the workplace to support the skills gained through the degree. To succeed, graduates will need to be flexible and multi-skilled, with the ability to work in a multidisciplinary environment.

Career relevance

Science graduates are well placed to enter both scientific and non-scientific jobs. The logical, reasoned approach needed for science study is relevant to a wide range of financial, business and public sector employment, so science graduates – particularly those who have good communication and interpersonal skills – are in demand.

Employers include central and local government, the NHS, the water industry, food and drink companies, media and communications, the horticultural industry, multinational oil companies, the pharmaceutical industry, conservation bodies and universities – in roles such as:

  • research and investigation
  • product design and development
  • analysis and diagnostics
  • science information management
  • science communication
  • scientific sales
  • exploration and extraction of natural resources
  • health and healthcare related professions
  • waste management, recycling and sustainability
  • environmental management, protection and conservation
  • teaching (science is a shortage subject at secondary school level, so there may be incentives to train as a physics, chemistry or maths teacher).

Growth areas are predicted to be: environment, energy and sustainability; biotechnology and biomedical engineering; healthcare; telecommunications; pharmaceuticals; bioinformatics; and technology transfer (transfer of scientific expertise to commercial products).

Accreditation

For students following the Physics route to the BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences, this degree has been accredited by the Institute of Physics provided that your choice of modules meets their requirements, as detailed in their Membership and Open University degrees document.

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Exploring your options

Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice – including online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.

In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point (note that some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience beyond your degree):

  • science teacher
  • countryside manager
  • science administrator or manager
  • technical writer
  • toxicologist
  • marine biologist
  • meteorologist
  • botanist
  • science communicator
  • technical consultant
  • industrial researcher.

Want to see more jobs? Use the career explorer for job ideas from the National Careers Service, PlanIT Plus in Scotland and Prospects across all nations. You can also visit GradIreland for the Republic of Ireland.


Register for this course

This is the Earth Sciences route through our BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences. You'll register on the BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences and enrol on the relevant modules for this route.

Start dates
Credit transfer: apply by 16/08/2018
Credit transfer: apply by 06/12/2018

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