Do volcanoes and earthquakes fascinate you? Have you ever looked at the landscape and wondered why it looks that way? When you were young did you collect pebbles or shells on the beach?

Ever wondered why the Himalayas are bigger than the mountains of Scotland? How will we know if the Yellowstone super-volcano is about to erupt? Why don’t we have big earthquakes in Britain? Geology is a scientific subject that builds on the science you know and applies it to contexts that range from an atomic scale up to the planetary scale. It offers an interdisciplinary approach to the study of our Earth and the processes that occur both on and in it. Geology equips you with an in depth understanding of the planet we live on.

As a subject, geology provides crucial information on the nature of Earth materials and processes, from the core to the surface. Earth Sciences are central to our understanding of the environment, to minimising the hazards posed by earthquakes and volcanoes, and to our attempts to provide many of the raw materials needed for survival. It also helps us to understand our origins through the study of fossils and evolution.

While the course for 2017 is yet to be published, we anticipate the following aspects will form part of it:
Year 12 students will develop essential knowledge and understanding of different areas of geology and how they relate to each other. This will include the Earth’s structure and the link with plate tectonics; the surface and internal processes that form volcanoes, fossils and rocks; the evolution of the Earth over time and Earth materials and resources.
Year 13 students will study two of the optional units, which use their knowledge from year 12 synoptically, these could include:
Geohazards – including earthquakes, dealing with contaminated land and groundwater.
Critical Resources – includes water resources and Rare Earth Elements (critical for consumer electronics and catalysts).
Basin Analysis – explores the economic potential of large areas as sources of oil/gas/coal.
Planetary Geology – study of the solar system and use of remote sensing.
Palaeontology – study and use of fossil material, at all scales, to date rocks and to reconstruct past environments.
Fieldwork – put theory into practice potentially in remote field locations or even urban areas.
Quaternary Geology – investigate frequent, rapid climate change and its influence on the evolution of early hominids (humans).

This is a science based course which is exciting, interesting and challenging! It helps if you are curious about the world you see around you: there is nothing better than being able to explain why the features we see in the landscape exist or how they formed. No prior knowledge of geology is expected.

Exam board

How should I prepare for A-level study?
The best thing to do is get even more excited and curious about geology and the Earth. Try reading some/all of the following books to get you started:

  • Tambora: the eruption that changed the world by Gillen D’Arcy Wood
  • The Real Global Warming Disaster by Christopher Booker
  • Supercontinent: 10 Billion Years in the Life of our Planet by Ted Nield
  • Snowball Earth by Gabrielle Walker
  • A Guide to the End of the World: Everything you never wanted to know by Bill McGuire

Future careers
The course provides an excellent foundation for higher education in any of the Earth or Environmental Sciences. UCAS and some universities accept geology as a full science subject and it can also aid admission onto other science, technology and engineering based degree courses.
Geology related careers include exploration for natural resources (oil/gas/metals), geophysics, unconventional energy, environmental geology, engineering geology, geochemistry, hydrogeology and water supply, geohazards, oceanography, volcanology and palaeontology. Many of these jobs have been listed on the UK Shortage Occupation List for a number of years. We wouldn’t have the metals, fuels and buildings we need (to name just a few) without the knowledge and skills of geologists.

"Geology is a fundamental science that brings all the other sciences into one. It is the most fantastic of sciences."
– Professor Iain Stewart