Through the Master's Programme in Physics, specialising in Geophysics, you explore how planet Earth works on the inside. Earth is a lively planet, where active processes shape Earth as we know it today. 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 Earth and to build models that help us understand this dynamic Earth.
The Department of Physics and Astronomy at Uppsala University is ranked among the top 50 physics institutions in the world according to the recent Shanghai ranking, which makes it the highest ranked physics department in all of Scandinavia.
Why this programme?
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.
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 and try to figure out more about the processes that shape our planet.
Geophysics is used to reduce risks of 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 in academia, industry, government authorities, and international agencies.
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 of earthquakes or find natural resources such as water, geothermal energy and minerals.
Tailor your programme according to your interest and career plan, 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 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 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. Furthermore, you have experience in using the foundation 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).
Why did you choose this programme, specialising in geophysics?
- I chose a programme specialising in geophysics because it covers a wide range of earth-science research topics. There are so many interesting geophysics research topics to study, from applied geophysics, and computational geophysics, to rock physics, and I have a desire to explore more of these.
What is most interesting about geophysics?
- There are still a lot of things about our planet that remain unclear, especially in the earth's subsurface. What makes geophysics both important and interesting is that scientists do not need to go inside the earth to study its subsurface. Geophysics allows us to study the earth as well as what’s inside by using geophysics tools. Geophysical methods, such as seismology, make exploring the unexplored part of the earth possible.
Tell us about the programme!
- The Master’s programme in Physics, specialising in Geophysics at Uppsala University offers an opportunity for students to have both laboratory and fieldwork experience. The syllabus covers a broad range of geophysics, from theoretical to practical. It also gives the students a chance to learn the inversion method, which is fundamental in computational geophysics. I am also learning coding in my studies, which is essential for modelling and analysing geophysical data. In my final semester, I get a chance to study the seismic properties of “shocked” minerals from the meteorite impact crater.
What do you like the most about the programme?
- I like that it combines theoretical and practical knowledge, which means that I do not only get the theory but also a chance to do a geophysicist’s real work, such as working in the field, and acquiring and analysing data in the lab. Another thing I like about studying here is that every teacher is an expert in their field of geophysics. All of them are humble and kind to share their knowledge with their students and they take time to answer the students’ curious questions.
What is the atmosphere in the programme?
- The atmosphere is pleasant and friendly. Also, several times I have had courses with students from different programmes which has allowed me to get to know new students and exchange knowledge about what we are currently studying. There are also student nations where students in Uppsala can get to know each other and socialise.
What is the job market after graduating?
- The job prospects for geophysics graduates are good. You can choose if you want to continue your studies and work in a research or academic institution or work in the industry. Several companies offer internships to graduate students in geophysics or a Graduate Trainee Programme within their companies. There are always opportunities for geophysics graduates to expand their knowledge and skills after they finish their studies.
Three quick questions How do you like Uppsala as a city? - For me, Uppsala is a quiet city that is very suitable for students to come here and study. Another thing I like is the people. Even though they do not know me and I do not know them, they do not hesitate to smile and greet me first, when we pass each other on the street.
Do you have any good tips for new students? - Be open-minded and ready to learn and adapt. When we study in a country outside our home country, it often gets difficult to adapt to a new environment.
What do you hope to do in 5 years? - In 5 years, I hope that I have finished my doctoral degree and started contributing to science by working as a geoscientist in a research institution and teaching geophysics to college students.
During the two-year programme you will apply your background in physics to study Earth. The suggested course outline guides you through how the different physical properties of Earth can be investigated with different types of methods. Some courses focus more on the physics of Earth itself, others are more on the geophysical methods used to probe Earth's interior. We also offer courses in numerical modelling, time series analysis and inversion of geophysical data.
Year 1 The first year gives you a solid theoretical geophysical background. The first semester is partly utilised to level out the differences in knowledge between students with different backgrounds and partly to provide non-introductory courses in classical physics.
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 Earth, but also on how the global-scale features of Earth are manifested in geophysical data. A course in Time Series Analysis of Geophysical Data is also given in this semester that is tailored to provide you 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 of Earth.
The second semester starts with a course in Seismology that describes the generation and propagation of seismic waves in 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 Earth's Potential Fields. The course Inversion of Geophysical Data teaches you how to obtain models of Earth based on available geophysical data, and how to estimate the robustness of these models.
Year 2 In the second year, the courses are closely connected to present-day research.
It starts with a course in Electromagnetic Geophysics. It addresses how 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 solve different geodynamic problems.
The in-depth course Earthquake Sources 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, that is one of the most important of all geophysical methods for providing detailed information of the subsurface.
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. It usually takes 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 career plan.
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 and career plan. Several Löfberg scholarships are awarded to students of this specialisation every year.
Our teachers are active researchers and the courses closely follow current developments in astrophysics.
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 and research 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.
With a Master's degree from the programme in Geophysics, you will be qualified for PhD studies in physics. Many of our physics Master's students continue as PhD students, at Uppsala University or elsewhere in the world. You will also have the opportunity to work with research and development (R&D) at various companies and public authorities.
Our previous graduates work at, for example, various exploration companies (e.g. Equinor, Saudi Aramco), geotechnical companies (Tyréns AB in Sweden), mining companies (LKAB in Sweden), and governmental institutions (Swedish Geological Survey).
Your mathematical competence and analytical problem-solving skills trained during your studies will make you an attractive recruit. Depending on the courses you take and the specialisation you choose, there are many other 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 time as a student, UU Careers offers support and guidance. You have the opportunity to take part in a variety of activities and events that will prepare you for your future career. Learn more about UU Careers.
Below you will find the details about eligibility requirements, selection criteria, and tuition fees. For information on how to apply and what documents you need to submit, check the application guide. For this programme, besides the general supporting documents, you also need to submit one programme-specific document: a statement of purpose. Please verify that you have enough physics courses to meet the formal requirements (see below).
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 Proficiency in English equivalent to the Swedish upper secondary course English 6. This requirement can be met either by achieving the required score on an internationally recognised test, or by previous upper secondary or university studies in some countries. Detailed instructions on how to provide evidence of your English proficiency are available at universityadmissions.se.
Students are selected based on:
an overall appraisal 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.