MSc International Marine Science

The course

Online learning
Course award
Entry date
September, January, May



This Online International Marine Science Programme offers students from a variety of backgrounds, including marine biology, geology, geography, Law and Policy and others, the opportunity to integrate their expertise in the wider marine science context.

The highly interdisciplinary field of Marine Science aims to understand the biology, chemistry, geology and physics of this dynamic system so central to all our lives. It also considers the overarching influence of climate change and how policy can be brought to bear on managing the resources of the ocean as part of the Blue Economy.

Flexible study options

The online learning programme provides flexible study options that fit around work or family. Features include:

  • Students have a maximum of two years to complete each course assessment from registration
  • Students can choose to sit exams in one of over 400 exam centres around the world
  • Students receive comprehensive materials for each course through an online Virtual Learning Environment

View our How online learning works pages to find out more. Students can also choose to study at our United Kingdom campuses in Orkney and Edinburgh on a full-time or part-time basis 

Programme duration

Students choosing to study their MSc online have up to eight years to complete their studies. PGDip students will have up to 6 years to complete their studies.

Industry links

Throughout the programme, students are provided with internal expert supervision as well as opportunities to work with external partners, both in the UK and internationally. Examples of partners we have worked with in the past are  Marine Conservation InternationalScottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and 5 Oceans  (5OES). The attached list shows examples of other industry partners.  

Course content

Programme lead: Dr Joanne Porter,

Heriot-Watt Online students on International Marine Science MSc undertake eight taught courses and a dissertation. There are five core taught courses with three further taught courses that can be chosen from a list of online options. Students must first take exams in two courses of the programme, Climate Change and  Environmental processes. Based on the results from these courses students continue on the programme at MSc or at PG Diploma level.

Students will also have access to an optional free short course, 'Introduction to Digital Study and Academic Skills', to help prepare for postgraduate study. 

The majority of courses have written examinations and some courses have compulsory coursework elements. 

International Marine Science (Online) course availability
Semester 1 Semester 2 Semester 3
Online entry courses1 Online entry courses1 Online entry courses1
D11CA Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation D11CA Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation D11CA Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation
A11EN Environmental processes A11EN Environmental processes A11EN Environmental processes
Mandatory courses: Mandatory courses: Mandatory courses:
A11AR Applied Research, Design and Analysis A11GI GIS for Marine and Environmental Scientists A11OC Physical Processes (Oceanography) 
A11OC Physical Processes (Oceanography)    
Optional course choices: Optional course choices: Optional course choices:
A11MP Introduction to Marine Planning A11MV Marine Environmental Monitoring A11MP Introduction to Marine Planning
A11MT Marine Renewable Energy Technology A11BT Marine Biotechnology A11MT Marine Renewable Energy Technology
A11TM Diversity of Marine Organisms A11VY Practical Skills in Marine Surveying3  
A11WA Marine Exotoxicology2 A11CR Tropical Coral Reefs: Monitoring and Management4  
  1. D11CA and A11EN are the Online entry courses for this Programme. Online students must successfully complete these two courses before continuing with the remaining six taught courses.
  2. Normally requires relocation to Edinburgh for a week of lab practicals. Can be completed online using pre-recorded video demos.
  3. Normally available onsite at Orkney Campus only as students will undertake field work.
  4. Normally takes place in April out in Malaysia in collaboration with Universiti Malaysia Terengannu.

Tropical Coral Reefs: Monitoring and Management

(2 week field course)

This is an optional course available to all students on any of our Postgraduate taught Marine courses. It involves a two week field trip to Malaysia where students are given the opportunity to explore the marine environment whilst learning different techniques for surveying and monitoring coral reefs.

Watch the video from the latest trip to Bidong Island in Malaysia.


Our Marine Environment and Climate Change programmes prepare our graduates for a career in Marine Environmental Consultancy, Basic Research and Marine Conservation. Employers include Industry, Government Agencies, Universities and NGOs. 

The International Marine Science MSc takes this approach a step further and will equip our graduates with the skills to operate on an international stage, as marine environmental issues increasingly require attention on a global scale.

See MSc in Marine Resource Development and Protection

Why Heriot-Watt Online?


Study towards the same high-quality qualification as if you were studying in-person, with no difference in degree certificate or transcript, including an Edinburgh campus graduation ceremony.

Flexibility and affordability

Study at a time and pace that suits you, and even while you work. HW Online offers pay-as-you-study courses and fees inclusive of exams and study materials, meaning you can focus on success, not extra costs.

Online community and help

Studying with us means you join an online community of over X students, allowing you to chat and learn from your fellow students through our virtual learning environment.

Employability and careers

Heriot-Watt produces more CEOs than any other University in Scotland, and 95% of graduates are in employment or further study within 6 months of graduation.

Lifelong connections

Upon completing your studies you will automatically join the UK’s oldest alumni association The Watt Club, with 147k members worldwide.

Track record

We’ve been providing high quality online and distance learning across the world for over 25 years.


Be part of a Business & STEM renowned University with over 200 years of heritage. We’re proud to be ranked #1 by The Times/Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022 for a number of our Engineering subjects, including Chemical, Civil, Electrical and Electronic Engineering.

Recent student publications

These publications result from MSc research projects (student co-authors are highlighted):

  • Gore, M., Abels, L., Wasik, S., Saddler, L., Ormond, R., 2018. Are close-following and breaching behaviours by basking sharks at aggregation sites related to courtship? , 1-13.
  • Brash, J. M., Cook, R. L., Mackenzie, C. L. and Sanderson, W. G. (2017). The demographics and morphometries of biogenic reefs: important considerations in conservation management. 1-10.
  • Blumenröder, J., Sechet, P., Kokonnen, J. and Hartl, M. G. J. (2017). Microplastic contamination of intertidal sediments of Scapa Flow, Orkney: a first assessment. Mar Pollut Bull. 130, 293-302.

See our full list of student publications.  

Entry requirements

Applicants to the MSc programme will normally

  • have a good undergraduate degree (minimum 2:2 honours or equivalent) in engineering or a relevant science discipline, or
  • demonstrate equivalent academic ability based on industrial experience or membership of a professional institution

As part of the eight taught courses on the International Marine Science MSc, Heriot-Watt online students must first take exams in two courses of the programme, Climate Change and Environmental Processes. Based on the results from these courses students continue on the programme at MSc or at PG Diploma level. 

Additional information

English language requirements

Applicants will need a good English language ability to succeed in their programme. If English is not your first language, you should have

  • achieved a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent, or
  • successfully completed courses (of 1 year or more in duration) delivered in English.

Recognition of Prior Learning

We are committed to providing study opportunities to applicants who have a wide range of prior experiences through Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL). For more information on RPL, please contact the Online Admissions Team ( ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study. 


Tuition fees for 2021 entry
Status Per course Dissertation
UK / EU / Overseas £1150 £1580

Additional fees information

Independent Distance Learning only. The programme is made up of eight taught courses (and a dissertation on the MSc programme). The fee for optional courses Practical Skills in Marine Surveying and Marine Resource and Sustainability is £1460. The fee for optional course Tropical and Coral Reefs: Monitoring and Management is £1980. The fee for these courses is higher as they include field trips. The fee for all other courses is £1150. The dissertation fee is £1580.

Financial support

Tuition fee loans of £5,500 are available to Scottish distance learning students on taught postgraduate courses. Full-time distance learning postgraduate students can also access a £4,500 living cost loan. Find out more from the Students Awards Agency Scotland (SAAS)

Scholarships and bursaries

We aim to encourage well-qualified, ambitious students to study with us and we offer a wide variety of scholarships and bursaries to achieve this. Over £6 million worth of opportunities are available in fee and stipend scholarships, and more than 400 students benefit from this support.

View our full range of postgraduate scholarships.

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