Master's studies

Palaeobiology - Master Programme in Earth Science 2018/2019

Photo for Palaeobiology - Master Programme in Earth Science 2018/2019

Are you interested in how life on earth looked like millions or even billions of years ago? Do you want to understand how life has evolved and been influenced by the Earth's chemical and physical changes, and how the climate and environment has changed over time? In the Master Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology, we combine research in geosciences with the biological sciences. Studies of fossil life forms give us the opportunity to recreate and understand the evolutionary changes that have taken place throughout Earth's history.

The Department of Earth Sciences at Uppsala University is one of the most comprehensive academic departments of its kind in Europe. Research in Earth Science focuses on subjects that range from the Earth’s core to the atmosphere, on scales from sub-microscopic minerals and fossils to the formation of mountains and oceans, and in time from the formation of the Earth to the processes currently reshaping the planet.

Current research on palaeobiology is reflected in the Master Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology. We try to understand how life has evolved over millions of years and how it adapted to constant changes in the environment and climate. We do this by combining traditional fossil studies with modern biological methods. The research includes the evolution of animals in connection with major biological events, especially those of the so-called Cambrian explosion, and how different types of microorganisms have evolved and changed in relation to climate and climate change over a period extending from today until over a billion years ago.

Why this programme?

The Master Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology, is focused on the evolution of life with courses ranging from palaeobiological principles, through to evolution of organisms to complex vertebrate life forms. This is a mainly research-oriented specialisation, but has applications to careers in geology and the oil industry.

The courses in each specialisation prepare you for one or two degree projects, each corresponding to one semester or more (20 to 30 weeks).


The programme leads to a Master of Science (120 credits) with Earth Science as the main field of study.

All specialisations of this programme


The first semester of the Master Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology, starts with a choice between courses Dynamics of Earth Systems – Global Change and Applied Geoinformatics or Exploration and Environmental Geophysics. The course Dynamics of Earth Systems – Global Change provides a chance to explore the current research in Earth systems, interactions between Earth systems and how they change with time. The applied GIS course offers case studies relevant to the different areas within Earth Sciences. 

These are followed by a course in presentation and publication that provides training and experience in presentation skills alongside Analytical Methods where you are provided with theoretical background in a wide range of geochemical methods and practical ‘hands on’ experience of Raman spectroscopy and electron microprobe techniques.

The specialisation begins the second semester with Principles of Palaeobiology, which looks at basic theoretical concepts such as conservation, phylogeny and evolution with elements of laboratory work and field work. Evolution and development is an advanced course in which biology and palaeontology is combined in a course that includes a lot of laboratory work. Genomic, developmental, morphological and palaeontological data are used to highlight phylogeny and macro-evolutionary issues.

Term three starts with a course that deals with various key events in the early development of life. The course focuses on microfossil groups. An excursion provides training in field-based, practical palaeobiology. The term ends with a project-based course focusing on the large vertebrate animals. The origins of important morphological structures and their function are studied to understand macro-revolutionary processes. The programme concludes with a degree project in the form of an independent project.
Overall, the courses give you a good preparation for graduate, professional or postgraduate studies.

Courses within the programme

See outlines for courses within the specialisations:

European Palaeobiology Specialisation (Uppsala-Lille)
Physical geography
Sustainable and Innovative Natural Resource Management

Learning experience

The teachers in the Master Programme in Earth Science are experts in their respective fields, giving you up-to-date contact with front-line research in an open and creative educational atmosphere. The teaching consists of a balanced mix of theoretical and practical work providing experience in both research and industry oriented applications. Excursions, fieldwork and study visits are included in some courses.

Instruction in the Master’s programme builds on your experience and knowledge from your previous education. You are expected to actively participate and contribute to the learning environment and take responsibility for your own and others learning. The teachers are responsible for creating opportunities for active learning at the individual and group level. Purposeful and respectful dialogue between teachers and students contributes to constant improvement and development of courses.

Examination generally includes written exams, complemented by seminar presentations/discussions, project work, laboratory work and field reports.


The Master Programme in Earth Science, specialising in Palaeobiology, provides good opportunities for a postgraduate education with subsequent research careers, but provides sufficient overall knowledge to meet society's needs of qualified earth scientists.

The need for earth scientist is increasing in the labour market, primarily in the environmental and natural resources areas, which are growing strongly, both nationally and internationally.

Alumni from the Palaeobiology programme today work largely within the scientific academy worldwide.



120 credits

Autumn 2018 - 100 % - Campus

Location: Uppsala

Application Deadline: 2018-01-15

Enrolment Code: UU-M1273 Application

Language of Instruction: English

Academic requirements
A Bachelor's degree, equivalent to a Swedish Kandidatexamen, from an internationally recognised university.
Also required is:

  • 90 credits in earth science; or
  • 90 credits in biology.
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
  • Cambridge: CAE, CPE
More information about English language requirements

Selection: Students are selected based on:

  • a total appraisal of quantity and quality of previous university studies; and
  • a statement of purpose (1 page).


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.

Application Fee: SEK 900

Tuition fee, first semester: SEK 72500

Tuition fee, total: SEK 290000