Graduate careers

Graduate careers

"Group project = job :)" this is how Aisling O'Neill, a 2013 Earth Science graduate now at EDPR Renewable Energy, described her experience. Her research project was a major contributing factor in getting a job.

No one is better placed than our graduates to provide information, advice, and guidance on career possibilities.  A number of our graduates have provided information about their career paths, their current work activities, and what they see as important developments in their field in the future.  The following blogs also contain some useful links to find out more about particular careers or current job offers.

Sites with available positions include:

Coastal and Rivers Engineer

Name: Stuart

  • Graduated: June 2003                          
  • Degree: Geography                         
  • Job Title: Coastal and Rivers Engineer
  • Present Location: Jacobs UK Ltd, Rivers and Marine Division, Glasgow, UK.

I completed my geography degree from Glasgow University in 2003 and since then have undertaken a MSc in Water Resources Engineering Management in the civil engineering department, graduating in October 2004. While I was undertaking my MSc I worked part-time as a student engineer with Jacobs UK Ltd between March-September 2004. After graduation Jacobs offered me a position as a graduate engineer starting in October 2004 and I have continued to work with the company over the last 4 years. I completed my graduate training in October 2007 and am currently working towards becoming a chartered engineer with the Chartered Institute of Water and Environmental Management.

I applied for a geography degree because I was keen to work in the environmental sector and I felt the structure and content of the course including lectures, tutorials, labs and field trips provided an opportunity to develop the necessary skills i.e. report writing and analytical techniques which could be transferable to a variety of professions.

I was advised to undertake a full-time MSc in water resources engineering prior to applying for environmental consultancy jobs so that I would be able to offer employers a broad range of skills and advanced knowledge in a number of important areas of water engineering. These skills would complement my understanding of coastal and fluvial processes already obtained during my undergraduate degree.

I have gained valuable experience whilst working for Jacobs. I have been involved in various river and coastal engineering projects which has involved carrying out flood risk assessments for both tidal and fluvial flood risk, hydrological assessments, environmental impact assessments for a number of highways projects and hydraulic modelling. I have also had experience in designing river and coastal defence structures and valuable site experience. Links to two high profile projects I have worked on are provided below these being the N6 Phase 2 and M80 Stepps to Haggs highways projects.

Jacobs offered me the chance to work abroad and I was seconded to work in India for two months on a joint venture project funded by the World Bank. I was involved in preparing a business model in order to assess the feasibility of transforming the existing intermittent water supply and sanitation system to a 24 hour supply system for the cities of Gandhinagar and Ahmedabad in the Indian state of Gujarat.

The main skills that you require and develop whilst working for an engineering consultancy as a graduate engineer are communication, working as part of a team and time management. Many of these skills are developed while completing the graduate training programme which the majority of companies provide. Joining the graduate scheme, which actively promotes and encourages training, has allowed me to attend courses and seminars to learn new skills which I have been able to put into practice in my everyday work within the company.

Whilst with Jacobs I have been responsible for the delivery of a number of small projects which has involved ensuring that the project is delivered on time and on budget as well as ensuring that the quality of work is to a high standard. A typical working day can include meetings with the client or external stakeholders, report writing, fieldwork or liaising with sub-consultants. It’s very varied!

I will be starting work with Royal Haskoning as a coastal engineer at the beginning of April 2008 in their Glasgow office. I gained a wide variety of skills while working for Jacobs but I now wish to gain greater experience in coastal engineering as my new company is a market leader in this field.

Engineering Geologist

I didn’t go to uni expecting to become a geologist, but enjoyed the course so much in first and second year, I stuck with it. I am now working as a Senior Engineering Geologist for one of the largest site investigation companies in Scotland.

When I got the job, my intention was to work with a contractor for a few years to gain experience then to move to a consulting engineering company. But 8 years on, I’m with the same company and have no intention of moving as I love my job. I have learned a lot whilst working, but my degree gave me a very good starting point. After working for 2 years, my company put me though an MSc in Geotechnical Engineering, on a part time basis.

This has helped me advance in my career. My job varies with different sites and different geological/engineering problems that we need to find solutions for, so your always learning something new. Due to the change in planning regulations there is a lot more emphasis on the environmental issues. These ever changing regulations have to be learned on the job, but an earth sciences background is very useful.

Engineering Geologist (Principal)

I graduated with a BSc (Hons) in Applied Geology at Glasgow University, which was followed by an MSc in Engineering Geology at the University of Durham. 

In addition to summer placements during my undergraduate years, I have 15 years of experience within Consultancy providing engineering geological/geotechnical engineering advice for a variety of civil engineering projects in the UK, Eire, Hong Kong and the Middle East. This includes earthworks design for rail and highway projects; rock and soil slope engineering; mineworking investigations, assessments and remediation; ground improvement and foundation engineering; tunnelling; desk studies and ground investigation; as well as financial and other project management responsibilities.  

I also spent 3 years in Hong Kong developing my rock engineering experience through supervision of large rock slope and basement excavations for housing, railway and road projects and geotechnical input to several tunnelling projects. 

I also have responsibility for assigning, organising and supervising work for junior members of staff, with particular responsibility for the development of engineering geologists, mentoring them towards obtaining their Chartered Geologist status. 

I am actively involved in the Geological Society of London, currently holding the Chair position of the Central Scotland Regional Group and fulfilling a scrutineering role for Charteredship applicants.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Glasgow University and within the Earth Sciences department in particular.  The lecturers ensure the course content is interesting and up to date and were always very open, friendly and approachable whenever needed.

Field studies tutor

I'm currently working as a tutor in a fieldwork centre run by the Field Studies Council. It primarily involves conducting geography and biology fieldwork with students aged 12 to 19, though we do have some university groups.

I also do some environmental education and outdoor activities, plus I'm hoping to go to Norway with work next year as a joint expedition with another field organisation doing some glacier work.

I was teaching in Scotland for a year or two before I ended up with this job (it's much nicer being able to do some classroom work then actually show them the processes in the field!) Currently I'm based at the Castle Head Centre in the South Lakes in Cumbria.

Geologist (Australia Geological Survey)

Name:  Graham

  • Graduated: June 1988                         
  • Degree: Earth Science
  • Job Title:  Project Leader
  • Present Location: Geoscience Australia, Canberra, ACT, AUSTRALIA.

At the present time (June 2007) I work in the Australian geological survey.  I lead a project on natural hydrocarbon seepage.  I do a variety of things in this role.  I set the direction of the research and manage staff and project goals.  I work on geochemical data looking at the chemistry of oil and gas and link this with the geology in our study areas.  This requires me to undertake marine sea-bed surveys on different boats and work in the office and lab.

The best thing about my job is the variety of work that I have been able to do.  I have travelled to many countries and seen places I would never have seen without this job.  I have worked on mineral deposits, petroleum geochemistry, early life, modern environmental studies in estuaries and marine geology.  I have been able to do all of this because I work in a government research organisation where there are lots of different projects.

Originally I went to University to do Geology or Chemistry.  I took both subjects for two years but decided I preferred geology and finished with a geology degree. As, I knew a geology degree would allow me to travel both for fieldwork and employment.  

I was still interested in Chemistry, so I decided to do a PhD at Bristol University in Organic Geochemistry.  This allowed me to combine my interests in sedimentology, palaeo-environments and organic chemistry.   During the PhD I worked in Europe and the USA and decided that I wanted to work abroad for a while.  When I graduated I got a research job working on the Precambrian-Cambrian boundary, a period when animal life started to flourish.  I was able to do a lot of travel and spent long periods in Australia.   After 3 years I moved to Australia and have worked in government research organisations for the last 12 years.

The need for oil and gas, plus mineral resources, means that there are a lot of jobs for geologists in Australia and around the world.  As these resources are used the need for skilled geologists is increasing, as it is becoming harder to find these resources.  Coupled with this, climate and environmental changes and human impact also need geologists to work on understanding the impact and assessing risks of these changes.  All of this means that geologists are needed by both government and industry in increasing numbers.


Geologist (British Geological Survey)

Name:  Jo

  • Graduated: June 2004                         
  • Degree: Earth Science
  • Job Title: Sedimentary Geologist
  • Present Location: Nottingham, UK

I’ve been working as a Sedimentary Geologist for the British Geological Survey since September 2005. My job involves all sorts of things but most of my time centres around my role as a mapping geologist. I spend about 3 months of the year doing fieldwork and much of the rest of the time either preparing for fieldwork or collating the information collected during previous fieldwork periods. Research beforehand involves reading information already available about an area; this information includes papers, old memoirs, maps, borehole records and aerial photographs. In the field, we use tablet PC’s with a built in GPS (a little arrow follows you around on the map on the screen!) to record the information we collect – they act as a digital ‘paper and pencil’ but also store data in databases ready to be used in the office. Here’s a link to the official blurb for more info:

I am involved in mapping projects covering the West Midlands and the Chalk Downlands, we are off to the Isle of Wight in the autumn where I hope to happen across some never seen before dinosaur!

On top of my mapping work I contribute to commercial projects that other companies have commissioned us to do (often this is the Environment Agency). These projects can involve a variety of work but many of the ones I work on involve 3D modelling. This generally involves a lot of data inputting – coding the information from borehole logs from the area to be modelled. These coded logs are then used to create a series of cross-sections which can then be combined into a 3D model. (lots of links to 3D related stuff) (this is the program I personally have used)

The other main thing I do at work is to respond to enquiries from the companies and the public. These enquiries mainly ask about a piece of land someone is wanting to develop; we tell them about the geology of the area and any hazards they might encounter.

I also answer any relevant questions that come in through our Ask-About-Geology service on the BGS website. These can be from anyone but are sometimes from uni students wanting help with projects or essays!! We’re not daft enough to actually write the essays but will help with references etc.

I’ve also worked on various other bits and bobs such as Geodiversity and drilling projects. Many of the projects I work on use GIS as a means of collating and sharing information. Much of the data we hold is available to us in one GIS – you can take an area and look up the geology (solid, superficial, artificial and mass movement), borehole records, historic OS maps, aerial photos, digital terrain models and much more. In retrospect, the optional GIS course would have been a valuable course to take, although BGS provides training in this – I have seen many job adverts where experience of GIS has been stipulated.

The best thing about my job is the combination of working outside and in the office. You can wander about in the sunshine but hide away when it’s pouring with rain! Also, the level of training provided is excellent. I have completed courses including Sequence Stratigraphy, Feature Mapping, Quaternary Mapping, Arc GIS, 3D Modelling, even off-road driving! There are many opportunities to develop in areas that interest you and use these in your work. 

As for when I was at uni…..

I studied Geology at school and so always intended to do Earth Science but I enjoyed the variety of doing some Archaeology and Environmental Science in my first couple of years at Glasgow.

During my four years in Glasgow, I particularly enjoyed the Palaeontology aspects of the course – from the basics that you learn in 1st year through to using fossils to reconstruct palaeoenvironments and finally choosing to focus on this in my Lab Project in 4th year. I also really enjoyed Tim’s course in 4th year where we learnt about particular subjects by each presenting a paper and discussing the different arguments surrounding that subject.

Fieldtrips also stand out as one of the best bits of the course (except the rain of course!). I found that seeing things in context really increased my understanding and enthusiasm for the geology. They’re also a good excuse to ‘socialise’ with your fellow classmates! 

After graduation I chose to have a bit of a break, doing temporary admin work in various offices, before moving to my current job. Although it didn’t seem relevant at the time, this sort of work provided me with many transferable skills that employers value as well as academic record. I had opportunities to work for geotechnical companies or to start a Masters course but was glad when this job opportunity came up.

The BGS does a huge variety of work and they recruit as and when staff are needed, it is always worth keeping an eye on the Vacancies section of the website:

They also take undergraduate students on during the summer holidays to do geochemical sampling; details of this are sent to all universities.


Geologist (Canadian Geological Survey)

In 2003 I graduated with a BSc in Earth Science from University of Glasgow and began my PhD at the same institution. After this highly enjoyable period I was awarded my thesis in 2007. A further opportunity to stay at University of Glasgow became available as a fixed term lecturer position.

After an eye-opening year as a lecturer, I refocused my energies to find a job that engaged more with fieldwork. In 2009 I began the position of Mapping Geologist for the Alberta Geological Survey.

In my job I study world class geology requiring me to travel to remote areas of Alberta varying from boreal forest to semi-arid desert. The opportunity to travel and see fascinating geology keep me constantly motivated whilst continually challenged intellectually in what I regard to be my dream job.

Geologist (Mining - Anglo American)

A meteorite research project during my undergraduate at Glasgow Uni coupled with the flight of a fireball over my geology exploration camp in the Canadian arctic (2005) provided more than enough enthusiasm for me to undertake a PhD studying the development of the early Solar System through the analysis of meteorites at Imperial College London.

In January 2009 I went back to work for the mining company (Anglo American) for whom I was exploring in Canada 3.5 years and one PhD previously.

I’m currently based at their head office in London, fully immersed in their geoscience research and development. This involves communicating with geologists, geochemists, geophysicists, etc. all over the world, together with the occasional visit to their often exotic field sites.’

Geologist (Mudlogging)

Well where to begin! This is just a small note to give those who are interested an insight into life living and working offshore from someone (me) who has just started doing just that!

I suppose a good place to start is the training you receive, currently I am a mudlogger (or logging specialist/geologist if you want the flashy title) working in the North Sea. The first portion of training you receive is in how to do the job, its like sedimentary rock identification 101 although its amazing how much you can forget, providing you knew it in the first place which may be where I went wrong.... Anyway the specific task related training obviously alters dependant on what your role offshore will be so I won’t go into specifics about it. One portion of training which everyone has to do regardless of what they’re future job will be is the offshore survival training. This is a three day course which takes you through everything from first aid to escaping the rig via the age old method of jumping off! Some of the things you are taught can be quite daunting, well if not the actual technique the prospect of using them in reality! However all in all the training is not that bad. One much fabled piece of the training which I feel obliged to go into is the helicopter escape portion. During this you are trained to do exactly that escape an either submerging or submerged helicopter via the windows. The first thing I have to say is that its not that bad in our group we had non=swimmers who, although admittedly frightened coped just fine, this is more of a mental exercise than anything else just getting your head around that you’ll only be underwater for between seven and twelve seconds can be quite difficult.

Moving on to actual life offshore! Traveling offshore can take anything from half an hour to over two hours depending on distance and winds but most just catch up on some reading or sleep on the helicopter. Once you get offshore you are given an introduction to the facility, which includes if necessary a guided tour and instruction on any of the safety systems onboard. Then generally you go to bed as, with my job at any rate, you start on nightshift. As anyone who has ever done a series of nightshifts in the past will know the first night is the toughest but once its over with you quickly get into a rhythm which even though your never quite sure which day it is you get by just fine. You finally get back onto dayshift when your relief goes back onshore and as such the individual replacing them goes onto nights in your place. The actual work of a mudlogger is not incredibly difficult. You collect as many samples as are dictated by the well site geologist and identify them as you go, adding these newly identified rocks onto a seemingly never ending log which gets checked daily by the geologist. When drilling ceases onboard a rig the life of a mudlogger generally gets very easy as with no samples coming up there is literally nothing to do but sit back and amuse yourself. Boredom can feature quite heavily but by bringing books etc for the times when you have nothing to do can generally fight this off! Other than this it is the mudloggers responsibility to make up the end of well report. This is a basically a geological report of all rock types which are drilled through on the course of the well and usually you fill this in as you go so it’s never to large a task.

Life offshore is generally quite a comfortable one. Its not home by any stretch but all your meals are cooked for you, your washing is done for you and your bed is even made for you. Most rigs have adequate recreational facilities in the way television, the internet etc. Some are better equipped than others, with pool tables, snooker tables, darts and so on but this varies from rig to rig. There is also always a gym onboard for those who feel the need to get some exercise as life offshore can be quite a lazy one if you want! Working offshore occurs in 12-hour shifts either 0600-1800 or 0700-1900 or the reverse if you’re on night shift, although this seems like a long time you find it can pass quite quickly when you’re working so it’s really not that bad. In your twelve hours off you find time to eat, sleep and make use of the recreational facilities I mentioned earlier! It’s not a lot of down time granted but it works well since before you know it your time offshore has passed and its time for some well earned rest onshore!

Well I hope this has served as a small overview of how working and living offshore can be. As a final note I’d just like to add that although working offshore may not be for everyone it is definitely something to bear in mind when thinking about what you want to do with your degree!

Geologist (oil industry - Total, France)

I graduated with a BSc in Geology and Petroleum Geology and went to the University of Glasgow to do a PhD. I studied the uplift and erosional history of the Sierra Nevada mountains in southern Spain, and the record of this erosion in surrounding basins. I submitted my thesis in 2004 and took a post as a research geologist for Total in their Geoscience Research Centre.

My PhD was an essential qualification for this post, and for three years I enjoyed working with geologists, geophysicists and reservoir
engineers on applied research subjects related to geology and reservoir modelling. This job was a smooth transition between academia and industry and allowed me to maintain contact with universities through industry sponsored research projects and to continue presenting at international conferences such as the AAPG.

I also had the chance to work in the USA with the research centres of major service companies and, most importantly for geologists, participate in plenty of field trips! In 2008 I moved to Total's Scientific and Technical Centre in south-west France, and now work as a reservoir geologist on a world-class giant turbidite field located in water depths greater than 1300m. I have been here for six months and find the work and the opportunity to learn French very stimulating.

Link :- Geoscience Research Centre

Geologist - Coal (Australia)

One of our recent graduates (June 2010) describes has provided a blog describing settling down into a career as a geologist in Australia (specialising in the coal industry in Queensland).  A large number of Earth Science graduates has found very well paid and very rewarding jobs in Australia immediately after graduating - geo-scientists are in great demand for the natural resources industries in Australia.

Arrival in Australia:

Landed in Brisbane after a LONG 24hr flight. Next day met up with a classmate from University of Glasgow and an Australian mate. Spent a couple of days taking in the sights, buying essentials (camera, hat etc), setting up a bank account, and playing football in the park. Picked up a lot of the ‘do's’ and ‘dont's’ about Australia - its like a cross between UK and the States. The road signs, traffic lights etc, are similar to those in the US, but aspects familiar to those from the UK (like driving on the left) were nice to see.

 On the evidence so far, the people in Australia are very chilled out, and so is their driving. No one seems to be in a rush. They are a great laugh, and as long as you pay attention and do the work, you will get along great.

 Went to bed early for a 5am start the next day.


Temporary company cars.

 Introduction to the company:

At 5 am we caught a taxi to the company HQ ($50 - nothing is cheap!!). We got there at 8am, and started the preliminary training immediately. The company wanted us out in the field as soon as possible, so each day was full of activities and training.  We met up with the other six new recruits (4 guys and 2 girls) who were a great laugh. The first day was 8 hours of general safety information about the mine sites, the vehicles, first aid, fire extinguishers, mine practice, forms and other fundamentals. We finished the day exhausted and were driven back to company houses where we collapsed into bed. The next day (at 8am) we finished off the training and were on a plane at 2pm heading 1000km north of Brisbane to the main company base. When we got there, we were given a brief introduction to the company, then assigned houses. We were also given a temporary company car (a ridiculously expensive Toyota Hilux). To bed again early, after another exhausting day.

The next day was a 9 am start at the hospital for a Coal board medical. This involved a chest xray, hearing test, eye test etc. Just to be sure you're fit and healthy. After the medical, we went back to base and were given our vehicle induction – we would be using a mixture of Duel Cab Hilux's, Half cab Hilux's (both 3 litre turbo charged), and some monster Landcruiser Utes (Utilities) each with a 4.5 litre turbocharged V8 engine and a big tool box on the back for all the gear (picture below). We were told how to look after them, and how to maintain them with pre-start checks, and then weekly and monthly checks.

4X4 company vehicles during training.

 4X4 training:

The next 2 days consisted of advanced 4x4 training, defensive driving and getting to know the vehicle. Things like evasive manouvers in a 2.4 ton truck with no ABS is a bit of a challenge (especially when they are putting out 430Nm of torque!). On the second day, we went to a local beach to practice sand driving (picture above). This was so much fun! Going up 30 degree sand dunes, trying not to get bogged and learning how to tow people who got stuck. We also had a puncture on the way, so we had first hand experience of how to change one in sandy conditions. All in all, the most fun two days I've had in ages!

First aid:

The next two days were spent with the St John Ambulance Service learning basic first aid, and all about the hazardous local wildlife (they have spiders over here which EAT birds!!!). We learned about how to deal with lots of different injuries, how to use our first aid kits, and what to do if you end up totally on your own. After these two days we were shattered, so all of us had a very early night.


Sunset over the dunes.

Geophysicist (Maersk Oil UK)

I graduated in Geology in 1990 and within a few months was working in the offshore oil industry as a 'Mudlogger', a typical graduate's first job. 

In 1991 I returned to University studying for an MSc in Petroleum Geology at Aberdeen University before undertaking a PhD in 'Fluvial Sedimentology', sponsored by Shell UK, at Royal Holloway, University of London. 

Following my Phd in 1996 I joined Enterprise Oil, a large UK independent oil company, as a geophysicist working on both exploration and production projects from around the world. 

In 2002 Enterprise was taken over by Shell and I decided to move on to Kerr-McGee, an American independent, and specialised more in the production side, chasing oil in fields which were already producing. 

Following another take over in 2005 by Danish company, Maersk Oil, I now manage teams of Geologists, Geophysicists and Reservoir Engineers focused on maximising oil recovery from Maersk's Oil's Fields in the UK. 

The oil industry is an interesting, challenging and slightly volatile environment to work in and has certainly allowed me to put my geological education to good use. For anyone with a keen interest in the earth sciences it is a great industry to work in.

Geotechnical Engineer

Name: Rachel

  • Graduated: June 2006                          
  • Degree: Earth Science
  • Job Title: Geotechnical Engineer
  • Present Location: Scotland

At the present time (June 2007) I am working as a Geotechnical Engineer for a large Geotechnical contractor that carries out ground investigation and geotechnical work all over the UK Ireland and worldwide.  My typical work varies from day to day - some days I may be in the office writing reports and collating figures, and other days I may be out on site. Site works may involve a day of trial pitting; supervising drill rigs or attending site meetings.

Individual contracts are delegated to engineers who are responsible for looking after all aspects of the contract. This includes starting the drillers off on site, arranging any subcontract work that may be required, keeping track of weekly production figures and various other aspects. Also at the end of a contract it is necessary to compile a report for the client from all the information gathered both on site and through laboratory testing.

The ground investigation work we carry out varies in size and covers a wide range of developments from environmental investigations to infrastructure development and construction. This may include investigating sites with possible contamination, new housing developments, wind farm developments, new schools and work on roads for the Scottish Executive.

The best thing about my job is that I get to travel all over Scotland seeing new places and meeting new people. Every day is different which is great.

Originally I went to University to do Archaeology, but after taking Earth Science in my second year, I became more interested in this field, and found that I was good at the subject and enjoyed it so I changed courses.  My favourite part of the course was the Engineering Geology. I also greatly enjoyed the fieldtrips, in particular Ardnamurchan where we visited Ben Hiant and saw the development of the igneous ring complex (the socalising was also great!).

After In the future I hope to become a chartered engineer through the Institute of Materials, Minerals and Mining and then hopefully a chartered Geologist through the Geological Society of London.


Even when I was a kid, growing up in a small town in east Fife, I was fascinated with landscapes. I always felt as though there was some sort of underlying story that the land could have shown me, if I'd only known how to read it. At the same time there was nothing better than playing around in the mud. I guess I just liked being outdoors more than indoors. Through high school my favourite subject was always (and still is) geography. At Glasgow University a mix of serendipity and the infectious enthusiasm of Dave Evans led me to focusing strongly on quaternary science and polar studies. This culminated in a expedition club field program in Spitsbergen, 800 miles from the North Pole.

The weather was absolutely atrocious. It rained every day, just constantly. One set of disasters led to another (its amazing how bad a tent can smell when you spill an entire bottle of Baileys over in your sleep) and we didn't get many opportunities to get free time, in dry weather. But when we got a nice day it was nice, it was very very nice. A couple of the other students on the trip had experience on glaciers already and led us on a couple of epic hikes. My most enduring memory, however, was sitting on a huge drift wood log at the end of a work day listening to massive glaciers calving in to the bay. It was like thunder. It was just amazing. I had to keep doing this work!

On return to Glasgow I "googled" glaciology and found that the Byrd Polar Research Center in Columbus Ohio was looking for students, who would be paid and would "have to go to Antarctica." I emailed the professors involved and found to my suprise that one was Scotland (Gordon Hamilton) a few calls and emails later and I was set to come to Ohio. Ahhh.. the midwest of the USA, as far from mountains and coastline as its pretty much possible to get. Just as well for the first few years here I spent up to 3 months at a time in Antarctica.

My initial work was on direct measurement of point mass balance of the Antarctic ice sheet. We used the "coffee can" method, which my adviser, Ian Whillans, had developed. My first trip to "the ice" was a bit of a mess to be blunt. Some logistical confusion led to our team of two being dropped off at about 12,000 ft on top of Titan Dome, without acclimatization. -60F is not much fun. Altitude sickness is not much fun. Hypothermia is not much fun. Frostbite is not much fun.

After evacuation to the warmer South Pole and being "shipped" back to McMurdo, I was offered a stark choice. Go home, or work in the Transanarctic Mountains. This was not a hard decision.

I stuck with the glaciology doing a project installing a strain network on the west Antarctic ice streams, while also branching into a structural geology project installing high precision GPS systems around the mountains of southern Victoria Land. The results of the GPS were the basis of my Masters in Science which I received in 2000. I then worked for the US Geological Survey helping with mapping surveys in Antarctica and occasionally "moving" the South Pole (not something I recommend doing in your kilt at -45F). I returned to Ohio State for my PhD in 2001 and embarked on further GPS installations on bedrock around southern Victoria Land.

The TAMDEF (and successor Polenet) projects installed bedrock GPS in order to record the rate of vertical bedrock motion in response to ice mass changes. This is an absolutely critical correction for satellite measurements of ice mass change at both poles. This has kept me going for the last few years (as my sister points out, rocks don't move much - in fact they're well known for it). The GPS also makes it possible to see if the Ross Sea is rifting, the offshore bathymetry says it should be, the seismicity of the region says it isn't.  Thats a publication in preparation just now.

2007 was a busy year. Several months working in British Columbia, working on numerical models of my GPS results, a month on the east coast of Greenland (the most beautiful place I have ever been), a dissertation to finish and a new pan-Antarctic and pan-Greenlandic GPS network to plan and install. These jobs are ongoing and supporting me during my postdoctoral research, for now.

Government Environment Researcher

When I started my M.A. (Honours) Geography degree at the University of Glasgow, I wasn’t sure exactly what my plans were for when I had completed my course.  I just knew that I had really enjoyed the subject of Geography at school and I wanted to do something ‘environmental’.  And Glasgow was always the city that I’d wanted to study in.  Being a Geography undergraduate at Glasgow offered me many opportunities that wouldn’t have been experienced elsewhere.  For example, fieldwork classes throughout my degree included trips to York, Swansea, Galway and then, later, Mallorca- a great way to learn your subject and get to know your fellow students.
During my undergraduate degree, I developed a real interest in the relationship between outdoor recreation and environmental conservation. I wanted to know how the environment could cope with ever increasing visitor numbers, and was interested in the importance of National Parks.  This had been fostered by optional courses in Conservation and Mountain Environments which underpinned my dissertation on Recreational uses in National Parks. I decided that this was something I wanted to pursue at postgraduate level. 

Having gained a first class honours degree, I was lucky enough to win a PhD studentship to study the social and ecological impacts of outdoor recreation, using the Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park as a case study.  As Geography is such a diverse subject, I was able to combine it with Ecology and Economics in order to gain a multi-disciplinary PhD, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).  Even better was that I could stay at the University of Glasgow for another three years, with an office located in the East Quadrangle and an amazing view from my window, looking right across the city of Glasgow!  During my PhD, I also got to travel to the United States, where I gave conference papers and studied at an American University for a few months.
Following completion of my PhD, I joined the Scottish Executive as a government researcher, where I now work in the branch of Environment Social Research.  Here I can still pursue my interest in National Parks but I also research topical issues such as climate change.  My job allows me to put into practice many of the analytical, communication and organisational skills that I’ve learned throughout my time as a Geography student at Glasgow; and to pursue a subject that I’m still passionate about.  Many of my fellow government researchers are also Geography Graduates.
All in all, Geography has opened up a fascinating world and, as I now live in Edinburgh, going back to the University of Glasgow to visit always puts a smile on my face!
Dr. Gillian F. Dalrymple
Environment Social Research
Rural and Environment Analytical Services
Rural and Environment Research and Analysis Directorate
Scottish Executive

Government Statistician

I graduated from Glasgow University with an MA in Geography in 2008 and went on to join the Scottish Government as an Assistant Statistician.  I am involved in preparations for the 2011 Census working as part of a team which will check that the responses to census questions make sense – for example, spotting errors such as a child recorded as married or in employment.  This quality assurance process will ensure that the final statistics fully reflect the population of Scotland. This matters because the government, local authorities and businesses use census results to plan and provide a wide range of public services, including health, housing, transport and education.

As well as identifying inconsistencies my job involves combining responses to questions in order to derive information that was not asked for directly, for example by analysing where people work and how they travel there we can calculate how many miles people travel for their work – that is important for understanding future building and transport requirements. This work saves asking people extra questions in the census.

I liaise closely with the other census offices in the United Kingdom to ensure that there is a harmonised approach to each country’s census quality control procedures.  Assistant Statisticians within the Scottish Government have the opportunity to move posts regularly, providing the opportunity to develop new skills and acquire more knowledge by working in different environments.

The connection between statistics and Geography may not seem obvious however the skills I acquired during my degree help me in my line of work.  The way that the course is structured allowed me to develop a wide variety of skills which are desirable across many professions.  I need to provide information to other departments which requires me to lead meetings and deliver presentations.  The course work in Geography has helped me to feel comfortable with these situations.  I work as part of a team, meaning that I need to be able to work closely with others, but I also need to take responsibility for tasks and work efficiently on my own.  Although the census is a long term project I have strict deadlines to meet – key parts of the programme must to be completed in short timescales before the next phase can begin. My degree course has helped with this because of its requirement to complete various different assignments within their own specific timescales, thereby developing my ability to prioritise.

Investment Manager

Charles Gray graduated 2005

After graduation I primarily worked in London for a firm of chartered accountants, studying towards my chartered accountant's qualification. After completing the first few exams, I realised this was not the career for me. I subsequently completed my Investment Management Certificate (IMC) which is administered by the Chartered Financial Analyst Society of the UK and applied for jobs in the investment management sector. I am currently working for a stock broking firm in Liverpool called Rensburg Sheppards and am in the midst of completing a master’s (degree) in wealth management, which is administered by the Securities and Investment Institute. My current job title is Investment Advisor. The markets are extremely chaotic at the moment, but as a result of this, it is a very interesting time to be learning one’s trade!


Laura, Graduate 2007 MA(Soc.Sci)

I am currently working on the MDS Graduate Scheme. Management Development Services is a non profit making organisation set up to get managers into the fresh produce industry by giving experience and training. I started on October 2007 and will complete it in October 2009. On this scheme I do 4 placements, each 6 months long with different companies within fresh produce.

Currently I have just begun a placement with Waitrose as a fruit buyer and will finish this placement in May with one more to go. Whilst on this scheme I am also working towards a PGC in Food and Fresh Produce Management with Harper Adams University. MDS are based in Peterborough; however, I live where the placement takes me!

For example, when I started the scheme, I lived in Dartford and over the summer I have been living in Norfolk, and now due to my Waitrose placement I am living in Surrey. I am thoroughly enjoying work since leaving University and am finding it extremely interesting - especially with the rising costs of fuel, the value of the pound and also getting people to buy fresh produce during a recession.

Manager (BAE Systems)


Geography MA (Soc Sci) graduate in 2008

I work for a company called BVT Surface Fleet, a joint venture between the shipbuilding arm of BAE Systems on the Clyde and VT Shipbuilding in Portsmouth. The Government asked the two companies to come together to stabilise the shipbuilding industry and subsequently be offered a large part of the Air Craft Carrier project or CVF as it known. The agreement put in place between the two companies is what is a called TOEBA agreement, which means that after a certain period of time one of the companies can leave the joint venture and the other buys their share. The VT group have announced that they will be leaving the joint venture this summer and subsequently BVT will become wholly owned by BAE Systems.

I work within the Supply Chain Department in the Scotstoun office (the site spans across the Govan and Scotstoun yards). We buy the parts for the ships and manage the logistics of doing so. I am on a one year direct entry scheme which means I am on a development programme for one year and then move into a permanent position when it finishes in September. To get the job I applied online to BAE Systems, submitted an application form and completed numerical and verbal reasoning tests. Once I had passed those, I was selected to go to an assessment centre in the Lake District which included a group exercise, presentation, interview and a written test. I was lucky enough to pass the assessment centre and was offered a place. I originally applied for the two year graduate scheme but due to my degree results I was unable to take up this place and was offered a direct entry position instead. I think it has probably worked out for the best!

Satellite Engineer

Name: Douglas McNeil
Nationality: Scottish
Name of Programme: MSc Geospatial and Mapping Science

I chose to study at the University of Glasgow because I had already undertaken an Undergraduate degree (MEng in Electronic and Electrical Engineering) at the University and from this I gained an offer of employment from a highly prestigious aerospace company; showing that a degree from the University of Glasgow is highly respected in industry. Also, as a Scottish student I have visited all the major Scottish cities and from personal experience I know Glasgow is the most fun! For me this combination of studying towards a highly interesting and useful degree in such a great city is a real draw.

On this course I received some of the finest hands-on teaching I have come across in my academic career, and I felt that the teaching staff had a real vested interest in my success. The course also provided me hands-on experience of many of the software packages used in industry, something which I know from previous roles is exceptionally useful when you start a new job.

I’ve gone a slightly different route to the others in my course (who tend to go into survey based roles) in that I was looking for something that combined both my Engineering background with my new Geospatial skill set. To this end I have recently secured a job with Clyde Space, a small start-up company producing highly innovative micro satellite platforms. My in-depth knowledge of topics such as Geodesy gained from the course were critical in me obtaining this position.

Another really good aspect about this course is the people that I have met during my time at Glasgow. We have a student run Facebook page that allows us to organise some fun activities; for example, recently undertaking a charity hill climb in the Highlands, and of course meeting occasionally for a drink or two! Glasgow’s biggest selling point is its people, and I can truly say I’ve made some great friends while studying here.



I completed my geography degree from Glasgow University in 2003 and since then have undertaken a postgraduate diploma in Surveying. I am currently employed by the Lanarkshire Valuation Joint Board, a branch of South Lanarkshire council which is responsible for the valuation of domestic and commercial property for local taxation. I am currently working towards my professional accreditation of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors.

I applied for a geography degree because of the breadth of subject areas covered and the choice available enabling me to tailor it to suit my own interests. In addition the structure of the teaching including lectures, tutorials, labs and field trips provided an opportunity to develop a breadth of analytical and project based skills transferable to a variety of professions.

Although I initially had no clear profession in mind the degree itself led me directly to my current career. For me surveying was a logical progression as property is a key link between humans and our impact on the physical environment. New entrants to the surveying profession increasingly have a non surveying degree background, with the professional knowledge being learnt on the job. Having the geography degree allowed entry into the surveying profession via a post graduate course and had opened it up as an option I would never have considered on leaving high school.

Surveyor (hydrographic)


Graduated in 2008 (after a BSc and then an MSc in Geography)

After I graduated in 2007, I completed the MSc in Geospatial and Mapping Science run by the Department in 2008. This resulted in direct employment with Fugro Survey Limited, Aberdeen, who held interviews at the University during the course.

My job as a hydrographic surveyor is so enjoyable because I get to utilise my passion for Geography and Geomatics everyday.

In my direct line of work, I use Physical Geography and Cartography techniques to map and survey ocean floor and seabed structures all over the world, mainly for the oil and gas industry. I love travelling, and my job provides a fantastic opportunity to experience cultures very different to my own.

I feel my experiences of studying Human Geography have helped enhance the experiences I have had, and helped provide me with a deeper understanding of the different Geographies I have experienced in the line of work.’



Graduated: 2005

Degree: Geography

Current profession: Teacher

Current location: Scotland

I think it would be fair to say that a career as a teacher was not always on the cards. I volunteered as a student tutor while at university to keep my options open. As I neared the end of my degree I started considering the idea more seriously, especially as the prospect of summer holidays being a regular two weeks affair sunk in.

It turns out though, after squeezing another year out of the student life style that I really enjoyed teaching, and not just for the holidays!

Reasons as follow:

  • No day is ever the same.
  • Every week has a mixture of challenging and rewarding days.
  • It’s great seeing pupils grow in confidence at there own abilities.
  • Getting involved in so many different aspects of school life adds to the variety of it all.
  • I am never bored, the day is finished before I realise.
  • I get to go on geography field trips and encourage others to enjoy being outdoors, whilst developing an interest in the natural environment.
  • Running a snowboarding trip to the French alps has to be one of the best perks (see picture below).

It sounds a bit corny to harp on about loving your job and having such job satisfaction but sometimes it’s true. I get to talk about a subject I have been interested in since I was at school as well as making it seem relevant to pupils today.

I spent 6 weeks travelling around Asia this summer, the highlights being Vietnam and Laos, and I don’t know many other professions where that is possible. Once I have more experience of the Scottish curriculum I intended to travel abroad and teach somewhere more exotic!