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Geologist surveying river valley

Diploma of Higher Education in Geology

Travel to the deep time of Earth’s past through fossil finds and mineral mysteries. You’ll observe, describe and interpret rocks and landforms, minerals and fossils, to develop your understanding of how our planet works. Try out your new skills by collecting and analysing data in your own geological investigation. Then explore related topics such as planetary, environmental or ecological science to extend your study of geology.

Key features of the course

  • Observe, describe and analyse rocks, fossils, minerals and landforms.
  • Explore our award-winning OpenSTEM Labs and online databases for current research data.
  • Gain key science skills in critical thinking, communication and problem-solving.
  • Opportunities to gain fieldwork experience, both outdoors and within virtual environments.

Course Summary

+Shortlist Course



  • Widely recognised qualification.
  • Equivalent to the first two thirds of an honours degree.
  • Enhance your professional and technical skills or extend your knowledge and understanding of a subject.
  • Study for interest or career development.
  • Top up to a full honours degree in just two years.
Course code


  • 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.
How long it takes
Part time – 4 years
Full time – 2 years
Time limit – 12 years
Study method
Distance learning

Course details

This diploma has two stages, each comprising 120 credits.

  • You’ll start Stage 1 with either a 60-credit introductory science module or a choice of two out of three 30-credit mathematics modules, followed by another 60-credit science module.
  • Next, in Stage 2, you’ll study a 60-credit Earth science module and choose a further 60 credits from a range of science and technology modules.

Prepare for OU study with an Access module

We offer two starting points depending on how confident you are or how long it’s been since you last studied. Choose to dive straight in at Stage 1, or if you’d prefer some extra preparation, you can get started with an optional Access module. See Entry requirements for more details.

Stage 1 (120 credits)

Stage 1 starts with either a 60-credit broad introductory science module or a choice of two out of three 30-credit mathematics modules. You’ll also study a second 60-credit broad science module.

Stage 2 (120 credits)

In Stage 2, you’ll study your first 60-credit Earth sciences module. You’ll also choose 60 credits from a range of science and technology modules.

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 14 March 2023.


We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. This qualification 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
  • working in a group with other students
  • conducting fieldwork or virtual practical investigations
  • undertaking practical work online through our OpenSTEM Labs
  • using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
  • using specialist software
  • 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 Disability support to find more about what we offer.

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 texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.

Read the detailed learning outcomes here

Credit transfer

If you’ve already completed some university-level study somewhere else, you may be able to count it towards this 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. For more details and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

On completion

On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our Diploma of Higher Education in Geology.

International recognition

If you intend to use your Open University qualifications to seek work or undertake further study outside the UK, we recommend checking whether your intended qualification will meet local requirements for your chosen career. Find out more about international recognition of Open University qualifications.


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.

At The Open University we believe education should be open to all, so we provide a high-quality university education to anyone who wishes to realise their ambitions and fulfil their potential.

Even though there are no entry requirements, there are some skills that you’ll need to succeed. If you’re not quite ready for OU study we can guide you to resources that prepare you, many of which are free.

Answer a few quick questions to check whether you’re ready for study success

  • Stage 1 includes an option module, Questions in science (S111) – check you’re ready to study this module.
  • Stage 1 also includes optional mathematics modules – check you’re ready to study these modules.
  • 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

    Preparing for study with an Access module

    Students who start their study with an Access module are more likely to be successful when they advance to Stage 1 of their qualification. They’re specially designed to give you a gentle introduction to OU study, boost confidence in your study skills, and help you gain a broad overview of your chosen subject area.

    You’ll also benefit from:

    • feedback from your tutor through regular one-to-one phone tutorials
    • support from a dedicated team throughout your study
    • detailed written feedback on your work.
    The Access module we’d recommend studying in preparation for this qualification is our:

    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. It’ll help develop your study skills in advance of your OU qualification, and you get to explore a number of STEM subjects including science, engineering and design, environment, mathematics, and computing and IT.

    View full details of Science, technology and maths Access module

    Fees and funding in England

    80% of our students pay nothing upfront by financing their studies with a student loan.

    In this section:
    Tuition fee
    What are my funding options?
    Other costs to think about
    Additional support

    Tuition fee

    Diploma of Higher Education in Geology

    Years of  study

    2 years 4 years

    Current fee per year in England

    £6,924* £3,462*

    How we worked out the cost

    This qualification is worth 240 credits. The fee per year is based on studying 60 credits per year for 4 years. This qualification is worth 240 credits. The fee per year is based on studying 120 credits per year for 2 years.

    Total fee for qualification at current prices


    You’ll fund your modules as you study them – you won’t have to pay for your whole qualification up front

    That’s 1/4 less than the cost of an equivalent qualification offered at most other universities in England.

    See comparison table

    *The fee and funding information provided here is valid for courses starting before 31 July 2024. Fees normally increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules.

    What are my funding options?

    There are several ways to fund your study, often without paying anything upfront.

    Student loan

    The most common way for our students to fund their study

    • A student loan is used by 80% of our students.
    • Open to everyone – it’s not means-tested and there’s no age limit.
    • You don’t pay anything upfront. Student Finance England pay your fees directly to the OU for you.
    • You won’t pay back a penny until you earn over £25,000.
    • The amount you repay is tied to how much you earn. For example, if you earn £27,000 you’ll pay just £15.00 per month.

    Other options

    Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA)

    Repay in monthly instalments while you study.

    Credit/debit card or bank transfer

    Pay before each module starts. You can also combine card or bank transfer payments with other payment methods.

    Employer sponsorship

    More than 1 in 10 OU students are sponsored by their employer.

    Enhanced Learning Credits (ELCs)

    If you’re a serving member of the British Armed Forces (or you’ve recently left), you may be eligible to use ELCs to cover up to 100% of your course fees.

    Which funding options could I be eligible for?

    Other costs to think about

    Your course fees cover your tuition, assessment and study materials, but there are still a few additional costs that can come with studying. If your income is less than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you could get help with some of these costs after you start studying.

    • You’ll need a computer and the internet to access our learning resources and to participate in online tutorials.
    • This qualification also has modules that include optional learning events (like field schools or laboratory schools). For these schools, you have to pay an additional charge. You must also pay for your travel to and from the venue.

    Additional support

    You may be eligible for:

    If you have a disability

    • The Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA) is a government grant to cover study support costs if you have a disability. It’s not means-tested, and there’s no age limit. Visit our Supporting students with disabilities page to find out more.
    • If your disability is a result of being injured in, or due to, military service, you could be eligible for our Disabled Veterans’ Scholarship Fund.

    Need more information?

    Talk through your funding options with one of our advisors

    Contact us

    How will I study this course?

    With our unique approach to distance learning, you can study from home, work, or on the move.

    You’ll have some assessment deadlines to meet, but otherwise you’ll be free to study at the times that suit you, fitting your learning around work, family, and social life.

    For each of your modules, you’ll use either just online resources or a mix of online and printed materials.

    Each module you study will have a module website, with:

    • a week-by-week study planner, giving you a step-by-step guide through your studies
    • course materials such as reading, videos, recordings, and self-assessed activities
    • module forums for discussions and collaborative activities with other students
    • details of each assignment and their due dates
    • a tutorial booking system, online tutorial rooms, and your tutor’s contact details
    • online versions of some printed module materials and resources.

    If you have additional needs, we can also provide most module materials in alternative formats. Find out more about materials on our accessibility webpage.

    Tutor support

    You’ll have a tutor for each module, who will introduce themselves before the module begins.

    Throughout the module, they will:

    • mark your assignments and give feedback to help you improve
    • guide you to learning resources
    • support you, whether with general study skills or help with a specific topic.


    Tutorials usually take place online, and they’re always optional.

    Online tutorials are live presentations with module tutors in dedicated online tutorial rooms, and are sometimes recorded.


    Our assessments are all designed to reinforce your learning and help you show your understanding of the topics. The mix of assessment methods will vary between modules.

    Computer-Marked Assignments

    • Usually a series of online, multiple-choice questions.

    Tutor-Marked Assignments

    • You’ll have a number of these throughout each module, each with a submission deadline.
    • They can be made up of essays, questions, experiments or something else to test your understanding of what you have learned.
    • Your tutor will mark and return them to you with detailed feedback.

    End-of-Module Assessments

    • The final, marked piece of work on most modules.
    • Modules with an end of module assessment won’t usually have an exam.


    • Some modules end with an exam. You’ll be given time to revise and prepare.
    • You’ll be given your exam date at least 5 months in advance.
    • Most exams take place remotely, and you will complete them at home or at an alternative location.
    • If a module requires you to take a face-to-face exam, this will be made clear in the module description, and you will be required to take your exam in person at one of our exam centres.

    Progressing to a point where I felt more comfortable writing my assignments, and having my scores reflecting that, made me quite happy because it showed the hard work was being rewarded.

    Patrick ‘Ricky’ Skene, BSc (Hons) Sport, Fitness and Coaching

    Other support and resources

    Throughout your studies, you’ll have access to our subject-specific Student Support Teams.

    They’ll help you with any general questions about your study and updates to your OU account.

    To help with your studies, you’ll also have access to:

    • our online library, with high-quality online resources to support your study
    • other university libraries in the UK and Ireland
    • the online Help Centre, which has general information about OU study and support, along with study skills advice
    • free Microsoft Office 365 software
    • IT and computing support from our Computing Helpdesk.

    Find out more about student support and being a part of the OU community.

    Skills for career development

    You’ll develop skills valued in a range of careers within and beyond geoscience, such as numeracy, interpretation of partial datasets, spatial visualisation, working across different scales and project planning. You’ll also gain a broad understanding of scientific concepts and the scientific method. You’ll be an independent learner with tested capabilities, equipped to make decisions about your future.

    You’ll gain some important transferable skills that boost your employability, including:

    • digital literacy
    • communication
    • self-motivation
    • practical skills
    • problem solving
    • collaboration

    Career relevance

    The Government has identified a shortage of skilled geoscientists to fill professional geoscience roles. This diploma will help you move towards that goal.

    This diploma will also equip you with a broad skillset that you can turn to a variety of jobs in government, the private sector, consultancies and environmental charities. Examples include the following career areas:

    • science communication and public engagement
    • data analysis and processing
    • environmental monitoring and conservation
    • teaching
    • energy management
    • resources

    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):

    • Data analyst
    • Engineering geologist
    • Environmental consultant
    • Exploration geologist
    • Geochemist
    • Geological technician
    • Geoscientist
    • Geospatial consultant
    • Hydrogeologist
    • Industrial researcher
    • Minerals surveyor
    • Mud logger
    • Museum curator
    • Science writer
    • Teacher

    Register for this course

    Start dates
    Credit transfer: apply by 03/08/2023
    Credit transfer: apply by 07/12/2023

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