MSc International Marine Science

The course

Full-time, Part-time
Course type
Edinburgh, Orkney
Entry date
Podcast series: A Future Made

Nature-based solutions

In the first episode of ‘A Future Made’, Anna Ploszajski and Robbie Armstrong join Professor Bill Sanderson and Professor Lindsay Beevers, sampling oysters and pondering flooding solutions.


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This International Marine Science course offers students with a background in marine biology, geology or geography 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.

The course has three mandatory courses in Oceanography, Applied Research Design and Analysis, and GIS for Marine and Environmental Scientists, and offers a wide variety of options with maximum flexibility, allowing students to pursue their studies according to their academic interests.

This course also offers students incredible opportunities during their MSc to work extensively with academics in active research groups, often leading to co-authorship on peer-reviewed publications. There are also fieldwork opportunities to Malaysia through the optional Tropical and Coral Reefs: Monitoring and Management course which 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 our tropical coral reef monitoring video from a recent trip to Bidong Island in Malaysia.

September 2024 entry

The deadline for applications from UK students is 30 August 2024. For EU and overseas applicants, we guarantee to consider applications submitted by 2 August 2024.

Why study MSc International Marine Science at Heriot-Watt University?

  • Students benefit from internal expert supervision as well as opportunities to work with external partners, both in the UK and internationally
  • Opportunities to develop skills in practical hands-on data gathering from tropical and temperate environments
  • Opportunity to conduct research projects around the world
  • Opportunities to develop skills in scientific diving including surveying, imaging and media aspects

Flexible study options

This course can be studied full-time or part-time at our Edinburgh Campus or full-time at our Orkney Campus.

It can also be studied via Online Learning, ideal for those in employment or with other commitments, providing flexible study options that fit around work or family.

Programme duration

MSc: 1 year (full-time), 2 years (part-time), 3-7 years (independent distance learning)

Industry links

Throughout the course, students are provided with internal expert supervision as well as opportunities to work with external partners, both in the UK and internationally including Marine Conservation InternationalScottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and 5 Oceans  (5OES) as well as other industry partners. 

Course content

Programme lead: Dr Mark Hartl

Semester 1: 2 mandatory course and 2 optional courses
Semester 2: 1 mandatory course and 3 optional courses
Semester 3: Dissertation (MSc students only)

International Marine Science course breakdown
Semester 1 Semester 2

Mandatory courses:

  • Oceanography
  • Applied Research Design and Analysis

Mandatory course:

  • GIS for Marine and Environmental Scientists

Optional Courses:
(students can choose 2)

  • Environmental Processes
  • Transition Engineering - Achieving zero carbon InTIME
  • Introduction to Marine Planning
  • Marine Renewable Energy Technology
  • Marine Resources and Sustainability
  • Diversity of Marine Organisms
  • Marine Ecotoxicology
  • Climate Change, Sustainability and Adaptation

Optional courses:
(students can choose 3)

  • Marine Biotechnology
  • Tropical and Coral Reefs: Monitoring and Management
  • Marine Environment Monitoring
  • Energy Transition Lab
  • Practical Skills in Marine Biotechnology
  • Renewable Technology Commercialisation
  • Practical Skills in Marine Surveying

Semester 1 


Introduces the fundamentals of oceanography, providing an essential foundation at the beginning of the course for students who either do not have a background in the subject area, or whose background is largely limited to marine biology.

Applied Research Design and Analysis

Enables the student to effectively plan and design research and survey projects, devise a sound experimental design, and analyse and present data in a rigorous scientific manner. In particular, students will gain an understanding of the theoretical basis of scientific method and training in the general skills needed for planning a scientific research project. Students will learn about scientific method, experimental design, testing hypothesis, simple data analyses and data presentation, and the legal and ethical principles involved in scientific research. Students will also develop skills in simple quantitative statistical methods needed for research projects.

Semester 2

GIS for Marine and Environmental Scientists

Aims to provide students with a substantial introduction to geographical information systems so that you will be able to understand the theoretical background to GIS and be able to make practical use of a widely used GIS program.

Semester 3

Environment Dissertation

This research project allows you to focus on a specific area of interest, with opportunities to collaborate with businesses and other stakeholders. You choose your dissertation subject, in discussion with your supervisor.


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. 

Most recent graduate career moves:

  • Lucy Grindall (2019) is now an environmental Specialist with Genesis Oil & Gas.
  • Georgia Waldram (2019) Has commenced a PhD with Dr Tony Gutierrez at Heriot-Watt University

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.

Recent student publications

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

  • Kampouris, T . E., Porter, J. S., Sanderson, W. S. (2019) Callinectes sapidus Rathbun, 1896 (Brachyura: Portunidae): An assessment on its diet and foraging behaviour, Thermaikos Gulf, NW Aegean Sea, Greece: Evidence for ecological and economic impacts. Crustacean research 48:23-37.
  • 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.

Entry requirements

Masters (MSc) level entry applicants must have one of the following:

  • Minimum of 2:2 honours degree or equivalent academic qualification in a related subject area
  • For postgraduate conversion courses, non-related degrees will be considered
  • Corporate (or chartered) membership of relevant professional institutions will also be considered

PG Diploma level entry applicants must have an ordinary degree in a related subject area and relevant post qualification industry experience.

Candidates who do not meet the above entry requirements or have no formal academic qualifications will be considered individually based on their CV and possibly interview. Admission via this route will be at the discretion of the Director of Recruitment.

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 Admissions Team ( ahead of application. We can only consider requests for RPL at the time of application to a course of study.

English language requirements

If English is not the applicant’s first language a minimum of IELTS 6.5 or equivalent is required with all elements passed at 6.0 or above. Please refer to English language requirements for further details.

Some applicants may be asked for alternative evidence in line with UKVI recognised English speaking countries. Applicants who have previously successfully completed courses delivered in the medium of English language may be considered and will be required to provide documentary evidence of this. Examples would be secondary school education or undergraduate degree. A minimum of at least one year of full time study (or equivalent) in the medium of English language will be required.

All evidence of English language needs to be dated within two years of the commencement of study.

We also offer a range of English language courses to help you meet the English language requirement prior to starting your master’s programme:

  • 20 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.0 with no skill lower than 4.5)
  • 14 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.0 with minimum of 5.0 in writing and no skill lower than 4.5)
  • 10 weeks English (for IELTS of 5.5 with no skill lower than 5.0)
  • 6 weeks English (for IELTS 5.5 with no skill lower than 5.5)


Tuition fees for entry
Status Full-time Part-time
UK £10736 £5368
Overseas £26976 £13488


  1. Your residency 'status' is usually defined as the country where you have been ordinarily resident for the three years before the start of your course. Find out more about tuition fees.
  2. Overseas includes applications from European Union countries who do not hold Pre-Settled or Settled status in the UK. Read more about the application process for EU nationals.

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.