MSc Applied Petroleum Geoscience

The course

Course type
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The Applied Petroleum Geoscience (APG) MSc at Heriot-Watt University is one of the top training programmes for geoscientists working in the oil and gas industry. With strong links to our Reservoir Evaluation and Management, Petroleum Engineering, Mature Field Management and Subsurface Energy Systems programmes, this programme is unique, offering a fully integrated understanding of the oil and gas industry, from exploration to production.

Programme content

The Applied Petroleum Geoscience programme has been redesigned in 2019, with a number of exciting new courses and field trips, including an integrated exploration and development field trip to the Spanish Pyrenees. The programme is focused on geoscience (including petrophysics, geophysics and geochemistry), but we also equip students with a working knowledge of other disciplines, including reservoir engineering and petroleum economics. Students will benefit from engagement with our industry partners and access to high-performance computers, as well as extensive in-house geoscience and engineering expertise, with many of our staff having worked previously in the oil and gas industry.

The programme is deliberately intensive, typically consisting of working a full five days a week of lectures and practical work, including labs or tutorial exercises designed to teach practical skills in addition to learning theory. We have a strong emphasis on group work, whether in the field, the classroom, or in our computer labs. This culminates in an extended (seven-week) group project, where we simulate a real exploration assessment of the Wessex Basin, incorporating field observations, seismic interpretation, well integration and non-technical issues, such as land rights and stakeholder engagement.

Our students

Our students come from a wide variety of backgrounds in terms of both experience and nationality. Some come directly from undergraduate degrees, and others have years, or even decades of experience of working in industry. We have had over 30 different nationalities on our programmes over the last few years.

Flexible study options

This course can be studied full-time or part-time on 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.

September 2022 entry

The application deadline for September 2022 is now closed.

Course content


The programme consists of a variety of geosciences and engineering courses addressing the concepts of petroleum exploration and development. There are eight taught courses, a team project and an individual project. The taught courses are worth 150 hours of work each, and the projects are each worth 300 hours.

Semester 1

In Semester 1, you will acquire the essential, foundational, knowledge and skills that are necessary for a career in the subsurface industries.  The taught courses include:

  • Formation evaluation (petrophysics)
  • Petroleum Basins
  • Petroleum Systems Analysis
  • Sedimentology

Semester 2

In Semester 2, you will develop further knowledge on essential tools and disciplines, followed by two integrated courses, where you will need to apply the knowledge acquired earlier.

  • Geophysics
  • Geomechanics and Flow Mechanics
  • Play and Prospect Evaluation
  • Operations, Appraisal and Development

Project work

In the third semester, you will apply the knowledge from the first two semesters in our unique seven-week long group project. You will work in competing teams, who are both assessing the prospectivity of the Wessex Basin, England. This simulates a data room and subsequent assessment that you would carry out as part of a ‘New Ventures' team in an oil company.

After that, and to complete the programme, you will spend seven weeks on an individual research project, addressing an aspect of geology and geophysics relevant to exploration or development. This can be undertaken in Heriot-Watt or at an outside company.

Field work

We run two main field trips, as well as a number of shorter trips around central Scotland.

Wessex Basin field trip

This week-long field trip to the Wessex Basin is part of the Petroleum Basins and Petroleum Systems Analysis courses in the first semester. The aim of the field trip is to introduce the students to the geology of the Jurassic Coast area, and to provide them with examples of source rocks, seal rocks, reservoir rocks, and structural features that may form traps within the Wessex Basin.

Various exercises in logging, description and calculation of hydrocarbon produced are carried out in the field; these are then used in the group project to identify likely locations for prospects and leads.

Pyrenees field trip

This 10-day field trip runs at the end of the second semester, as part of the Play and Prospect evaluation course.

This is not a conventional ‘look and see' field trip; students are tasked with carrying out a robust ‘Play Based Exploration' exercise in the Southern Pyrenean Foreland Basin, looking for evidence of a working petroleum system and critical play elements, and assessing possible traps in the field. These observations will then be used by our reservoir engineering students to simulate reservoir performance.


After you finish the degree, you'll be well placed for a job in the oil and gas industry or other subsurface industries. We have former students working across the energy industry, from national and international oil companies  to small exploration companies and service companies.

Companies who have employed our recent students include Shell and Petroceltic here in the UK, and a number of other companies worldwide including Total, Equinor, Tullow and GNPC. Other former students on the Applied Petroleum Geoscience MSc have gone into further research (PhD programmes in the UK and overseas).

The diverse geoscience and engineering skills and knowledge acquired are also directly relevant to other subsurface industries, particularly those necessary for energy transition. These include subsurface gas storage, energy or waste products, geothermal energy resources, geohazard assessment and environmental management. 

Industry links

Students on the Applied Petroleum Geoscience MSc will benefit from the excellent links with industry and research activities by the staff at the Institute of GeoEnergy Engineering. The Institute has an industry-based strategic advisory board that monitors activities in the wider context of the needs of the industry, and in addition some classes and also extra tutorial sessions are conducted by both active and retired staff from a variety of companies.

Entry requirements

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

  • Minimum of 2:1 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

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.

How to apply

You can apply for this course online. The course director will sometimes wish to contact students by telephone to check details of your application. Please provide a valid contact telephone number in your online application. 

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
UK £14120
Overseas £29960


  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.

Additional fees information

All course costs are covered by the tuition fee. This includes full electronic versions of the course notes, full access to additional material available via our virtual learning environment, field trips and any day trips arranged as part of the course.

Students should budget additional funds sufficient to cover living expenses such as accommodation, travel to and from the university, food, clothing and leisure pursuits.

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.

Additional scholarship information

Industrial sponsorship

Many of our past students have gained funding from industry sources, both those companies involved in oil exploration and production in their home countries or larger international companies that offer scholarship programs. For example:

  • Nigerian Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF)
  • Bolahak, Kazakhstan
  • Commonwealth Scholarships
  • Chevening scholarships
  • BP
  • Chevron
  • Shell
  • ExxonMobil

There are also a number of Industrial sponsorships available every year to UK and EU students. All eligible applicants (generally EU/UK students) automatically have their CVs or applications sent to participating petroleum companies, who offer a limited number of sponsorships each year to our students, across all three courses. The number of sponsorships offered will vary depending on the companies' needs and situations, and the quality of the student applicants and are given our after an interview event that takes place during the summer before the course starts.