The Master Programme in Physics, specialising in Geophysics, provides an understanding of how planet Earth works on the inside. Earth is a lively planet, where processes active today shape the Earth as we know it. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are both examples of how these dynamic processes affect both the Earth’s surface as well as everything living on it. In geophysics we use physics in various ways to image the inside of the Earth and to build models that help us understand the dynamic Earth.
Physics at Uppsala University covers the entire length scale from subatomic strings to the whole universe, with forefront research across all sub-branches of physics — from research on elementary particles and materials, the structure of the earth and its atmosphere, to space and the properties of the universe.
At the Ångström laboratory at Uppsala University, physicists collaborate on questions regarding energy, elementary particles, materials, space physics and astronomy. At the Geocentrum in Uppsala, researchers use physical principles to study and understand the earth, its weather and climate. Geocentrum is also the home for the Swedish National Seismic Network which monitors earthquakes in Sweden and worldwide. These and other existing collaborations generate a creative environment for both teaching and research.
Why this programme?
How does the Earth work and how do we figure out more about the processes that shape our planet? The Master Programme in Physics, specialising in Geophysics, allows you to combine your physics knowledge with field data and laboratory experiments to get a deeper understanding of the solid Earth. Our students and faculty form a diverse, international group in close collaboration with researchers around the world.
Geophysics is the study of the Earth using tools and methodologies from physics. The term “Geophysics” is often used in a broad sense to include subjects like meteorology and physical oceanography. Here, we use it in slightly more limited sense to mean the solid earth beneath our feet. In Geophysics we study tools that are used to investigate the structure and dynamics of the Earth on scales from thousands of kilometres to a few meters. These tools are a variety of methods that analyse seismic waves, electromagnetic waves, gravity and magnetic fields, the physics of rocks and which include advanced numerical modelling. Data is collected using satellites, aircraft, boats, surface and borehole measurements. Geophysical methods are applied to understand the present-day structure of the Earth, its previous and current evolution (plate tectonics), earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, and geological evolution in general.
Practically, geophysics is used for reducing risks from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides, finding natural resources such as water, minerals, geothermal energy and fossil fuels, and monitoring environmental problems, such as groundwater pollution. The job-market for a geophysicist is thus very broad and international, including academia, industry and government or international authorities.
The Geophysics specialisation of the Master Programme in Physics comprises of 2.5 or 3 semesters of course work, culminating in a thesis project of 1.5 or 1 semester. We offer a complete curriculum of geophysics courses, and you also have the freedom to substitute courses from other disciplines such as programming, geology, physics, and mathematics. The location of the geophysics programme within the Geocentrum in Uppsala means that we are embedded within a world-class Earth science institute with a vibrant teaching and research climate that provides numerous opportunities for interdisciplinary studies.
The programme leads to a Master of Science (120 credits) with Physics as the main field of study. After one year of study it may also be possible to obtain a Master of Science (60 credits).
During the two-year programme you will apply your background in physics to the Earth. The suggested course outline guides you through how the different physical properties of the Earth can be investigated with different types of methods. Some courses focus more on the physics of the Earth itself, others more on the geophysical methods used to probe the Earth’s interior. We also offer courses in numerical modelling, time series analysis and inversion of geophysical data.
The first year of courses gives you a solid theoretical geophysical background. The first course, Applied and Environmental Geophysics, covers the main geophysical methods that we use to describe the near-surface in terms of its physical properties. We also make geophysical measurements in the field. Some of these methods may also be used to address much larger scale structures, such as crustal-scale features like mountain chains. This is followed by a course in Global Geophysics that describes some of the physics of the dynamic process that is shaping the Earth, but also on how the global-scale features of the Earth are manifested in geophysical data. A course in Time Series Analysis of Geophysical Data is also given this semester that is tailored to provide some of the most important tools we use in geophysical methods. Continuum Mechanics in Geophysics focuses on the physics that is used to describe the mechanical processes in the Earth. The second semester starts with a course in Seismology that describes the generation and propagation of seismic waves in the Earth, as well as how seismology may be used to describe Earth’s structure. During this semester you also study the Physical Properties of Rocks, as well as The Earth’s Potential Fields. The course Inversion of Geophysical Data teaches you how to obtain models of the Earth based on available geophysical data, and how to estimate the robustness of these models.
The second year starts with a course in Electromagnetic Geophysics, i.e. how the Earth’s electric and magnetic properties may be utilised to reveal structures with electric and electromagnetic methods. The course Applications of Geodynamics teaches you how to obtain numerical solutions to different geodynamic problems. The year also has the in-depth courses Earthquake Sources, which contains the physical description of how an earthquake occurs and how we can model that, and Reflection Seismology, which provides the theoretical foundation for some of the most powerful processing steps in the reflection seismic method, one of the most important of all geophysical methods for providing detailed information of the subsurface. During this year you also work on your degree project (usually 5 months full-time). This can be done in one of our research groups, focusing on different aspects of geophysics. Another possibility is to seek degree projects outside the university, e.g. at a company or governmental agency. It all depends on your interest and future career plans.
During a typical week you will only have about 8-10 hours of scheduled class-room time. This requires you to study on your own or in a group outside the classroom. The student group is typically small ranging from a few students up to about 10. This gives you close contact with the teachers as well as your fellow students. The teaching is given in English as about half of our students have an international background.
Instruction consists of lectures, teacher-supervised tuition, and guidance in conjunction with laboratory work. The forms of examination vary depending on the course content and design. Final exams are more common for theoretical courses, although many tutors have gone over to continuous examination during the course, such as group discussions and hand-in exercises. The programme takes place in Uppsala.
The teachers are active researchers and the courses closely follow current developments in physics.
With a Master’s degree in physics, you will be qualified for PhD studies in physics. Many physics Master’s students continue as PhD students, at Uppsala University or elsewhere. You will also have the opportunity to work with research and development (R&D) at various companies and public authorities.
Your mathematical competence and analytical problem-solving skills will make you an attractive recruit. Depending on the courses you take and the specialisation you choose, there are many other individual career opportunities in special areas, both within and outside the field of physics.
For example, you may find employment as a company consultant, project manager in R&D, or as a specialist in banking, insurance or research organisations.
With a Bachelor’s degree that is not in physics (e.g. engineering, mathematics), you may or may not qualify for our Master programme. You must have passed physics courses worth at least 75 credits (out of 180 credits), i.e. 1.25 years of full-time physics courses (out of three years). Before applying, verify that you meet this requirement.
Requirements: Academic requirements A Bachelor's degree, equivalent to a Swedish Kandidatexamen, from an internationally recognised university. Also required is 75 credits in physics.
Language requirements All applicants need to verify English language proficiency that corresponds to English studies at upper secondary (high school) level in Sweden ("English 6"). This can be done in a number of ways, including through an internationally recognised test such as TOEFL or IELTS, or through previous upper secondary (high school) or university studies. The minimum test scores are:
IELTS: an overall mark of 6.5 and no section below 5.5
TOEFL: Paper-based: Score of 4.5 (scale 1–6) in written test and a total score of 575. Internet-based: Score of 20 (scale 0–30) in written test and a total score of 90
a total appraisal of quantity and quality of previous university studies; and
a statement of purpose (1 page).
Tuition fee-paying students and non-paying students are admitted on the same grounds but in different selection groups.
If you are not a citizen of a European Union (EU) or European Economic Area (EEA) country, or Switzerland, you are required to pay application and tuition fees. Fees cover application and tuition only and do not cover accommodation, academic literature or the general cost of living. Read more about fees.