Geophysics - Master's Programme in Physics 2020/2021

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In Master's Programme in Physics, specialising in Geophysics, you explore 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. The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Uppsala University is ranked among the top 100 physics institutions in the world according to the recent Shanghai ranking, which makes it the highest ranked physics department in all of Sweden.

Why this programme?

This specialisation in Geophysics, within the Master's Programme in Physics, 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. We explore how the earth works try to figure out more about the processes that shape our planet.

Geophysics is used to reduce risks from earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and landslides. It is used to find natural resources such as water, minerals, geothermal energy and fossil fuels, and to monitor 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.

During the programme you can expect to:

  • explore how the Earth works and find out more about the processes that shape our planet
  • help reduce risks from earthquakes or find natural resources such as water, geothermal energy and minerals
  • create your own profile by substituting courses from other disciplines such as programming, geology, physics, and mathematics.
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.

Student profile
You are naturally curious about how the world works and realise that formulating a question can be just as important as finding the answer. You have a good theoretical foundation in both physics and mathematics and experience in using it to analyse data or create computer-based tools to solve problems.

A PhD education is a distinct possibility in your future so you would value coming in close contact with current research and prominent researchers in the field. So, if you are searching for the answer, a Master's degree in physics from Uppsala University might be exactly what takes you there.


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).

All specialisations of this programme


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 semester is partly utilised to level out differences in knowledge between students with different backgrounds and partly to provide non-introductory courses in classical physics. The last year courses are closely connected to present-day research. The obligatory independent project work (degree project) is performed either during the last semester or during the whole last year in parallel with other courses.

Year 1
The first year gives you a solid theoretical geophysical background. The first course 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.

Year 2
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 course Earthquake Sources, which contains the physical description of how an earthquake occurs and how we can model that. You also study 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.

Courses within the programme

See the outline for courses within the specialisation.

Learning experience

During the two-year programme you will apply your background in physics to the cosmos. No prior knowledge in astronomy is required and you choose from a wide range of courses according to your interests. Several "Löfberg scholarships" are awarded to for students of this specialisation every year.

During a typical week you will have about 8-10 hours of scheduled classroom time. The majority of time is thus spent studying on your own or in a study group outside the classroom. You can also choose to conduct research projects. They are a lot like thesis work, only shorter in duration, and are an excellent way into a new research field/group.

Classes are typically small, ranging from a few students up to about 20. This gives you close contact with the teachers as well as your fellow students. Our teaching is in English as the student group is international.

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 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 astrophysics.

The language of instruction is English


With a Master's degree in geophysics, 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.

Our graduates work at, for example various exploration companies (Equinor, Saudi Aramco), geotechnical companies (Tyréns AB), mining companies (LKAB) and governmental institutions (Swedish Geological Survey).

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.

Career support
During your whole time as a student UU Careers offers you support and guidance. You have the opportunity to partake in a variety of career activities and events, as well as receive individual career counselling. This service is free of charge for all students at Uppsala University. Read more about UU Careers.


With a Bachelor's degree that is not in physics (e.g. engineering, mathematics), you may or may not qualify for our Master's 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.


120 credits

Autumn 2020 - 100 % - Campus

Location: Uppsala

Application Deadline: 2020-01-15

Enrolment Code: UU-M1173 Application

Language of Instruction: English

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
  • 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

Contact and further resources

Is this programme right for you?


For programme-specific information, please contact: Study counsellor:

+46 18 471 59 91

For admissions-related or general information, please contact our applicant support team:

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Ångströmlaboratoriet, Lägerhyddsvägen 1

Box 516, 751 20 UPPSALA

018-471 5952

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