Master's Programme in Physics – Geophysics

120 credits

In the Geophysics specialisation of the Master's Programme in Physics you explore how planet Earth works. Earth is a living planet, which is formed by active processes. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are 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.

Autumn 2023 Autumn 2023, Uppsala, 100%, On-campus, English

Autumn 2024 Autumn 2024, Uppsala, 100%, On-campus, English

How does planet Earth work and how can we explore the processes that form our planet? In geophysics, we use tools and methods from physics to explore the Earth. Our geophysics education 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 that works in close collaboration with researchers around the world.

During the programme, you can expect to:

  • Learn about the physical processes that shape our planet.
  • Study seismic waves, earthquakes and other active processes.
  • Apply geophysical methods to find natural resources such as water, minerals and reservoirs of geothermal energy.
  • Tailor your programme according to your interest and career plan, by studying other disciplines such as programming, geology, physics, and mathematics.

In geophysics, we investigate the structure and dynamics of Earth on scales from a few meters to thousands of kilometres. On smaller scales geophysics is used to detect groundwater resources and soil contaminations, to evaluate risks for landslides or to discover archaeological artefacts. On larger scales, geophysical methods are applied to understand the present-day structure of Earth, its previous and current evolution (plate tectonics), earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.

Through geophysical methods, we measure seismic waves, electromagnetic waves, electromagnetic waves, gravity and magnetic fields, using satellite, aircraft, boat, surface and borehole instruments. In the analysis of these data, we use advanced numerical modelling and interpret the resulting models geologically using rock physics.

The job market for a geophysicist is very broad and international, including positions in academia, industry, government authorities and international agencies.

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 analysing data and creating computer-based tools to solve problems.

A PhD education is a distinct possibility in your future. A Master's degree in geophysics from Uppsala University is exactly what takes you there because you come in close contact with current research and prominent researchers in the field.


The programme leads to the degree of Master of Science (120 credits) with Physics as the main field of study. After one year of study, it is possible to obtain a degree of Master of Science (60 credits).

During the two-year programme, you will apply your knowledge in physics to study the Earth. You will learn how the different physical properties of Earth can be investigated with different types of methods. Some courses focus more on the physics of the Earth's interior and its processes. Other courses treat geophysical methods to probe the Earth's interior and how these can be applied to solve questions of societal relevance, such as renewable energy resources, sustainable extraction of minerals and a safe supply of fresh water.

You learn to analyse geophysical data in courses that treat time-series analysis, numerical modelling and inversion theory. Here, we describe a standard setup of courses. However, you can exchange some courses in geophysics for courses in programming, geology, physics and mathematics.

Year 1

The first year gives you a solid background in theoretical and practical geophysics. 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 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 the course Global Geophysics which describes some of the physics of the dynamic processes that shape Earth, but also on how the global-scale features of Earth are manifested in geophysical data. The course Time Series Analysis of Geophysical Data provides you with some of the most important tools we use in geophysical methods. Continuum Mechanics in Geophysics focuses on the physics that describes mechanical processes in the Earth.

The second semester starts with the course Seismology which describes the generation and propagation of seismic waves in the Earth and how seismology may be used to describe the Earth's structure. You study the relationship between different physical properties of minerals and rocks in the Physical Properties of Rocks. In the course The Earth's Potential Fields, you learn to analyse measurements of the Earth's magnetic and gravitational 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 Electromagnetic Geophysics, where you learn to use different electromagnetic methods to detect, for instance, ore deposits and saltwater intrusions. The course Applications of Geodynamics teaches you how to obtain numerical solutions to solve different geodynamic problems.

In the advanced course Applied Earthquake Seismology, you learn how to locate earthquakes and analyse radiation patterns of the associated seismic waves based on seismograms. In Reflection Seismology, you study various processing schemes to provide detailed structural images of the Earth from reflection seismic data.

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.

Courses within the programme

See the programme outline for courses within the specialisation.

Instruction consists of lectures, teacher-supervised tuition, and guidance in conjunction with laboratory work.

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.

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 examinations during the course, such as group discussions and hand-in exercises.

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.

A geophysicist's job market is very broad and international, including jobs in industry, academia, public organs and international organisations at various levels.

With a Master's degree from the programme in Geophysics, you will be qualified for PhD studies in geophysics. 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.

Your mathematical competence and analytical problem-solving skills trained during your studies will make you an attractive recruit. Our previous graduates work at, for example, various exploration companies, geotechnical companies, mining companies and governmental institutions.

Depending on the courses you take and the specialisation you choose, there are many career opportunities in special areas, both within and outside the field of geophysics. 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.