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Masters in Earth Sciences

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam
2 years
Full time
Master's degree
On campus
September 2021

Program description

Masters in Earth Sciences

Knowledge of the past is key to the future

Understanding how planet Earth works is important for everyone now and in the future. That is what Earth Sciences is all about. VU Amsterdam offers you a wide range of specializations that will help you become a geoscientist who is aware of the complexity of the Earth’s inner and outer environment.

Why VU Amsterdam?

International in scope

The international diversity of faculty members and students involved in Earth Sciences at VU Amsterdam make it a truly international Master’s programme. It is a programme in which the past, present and future of our planet is the subject of our study.


VU Amsterdam is renowned for combining Earth Sciences specializations with other subject areas. Earth Sciences is part of the Faculty of Science, together with Mathematics and Informatics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Environmental Sciences. When studying Earth Sciences you can choose to become a broadly trained Earth scientist or focus on one of the streams offered within the three specializations.

Small-scale and high profile

The programme’s excellent reputation is partly due to the fact that

  • it is small enough to facilitate personal contact between all participants;
  • it is large enough to encompass the full range of specializations;
  • our teachers are professionals in education and research with highly international profiles based on successful fund raising and international awards.

You will receive&;personal coaching(mentorship) throughout your studies from one of our staff members. This will help you to shape your curriculum, to gain the optimum out of your study, and to prepare for your further career. In that sense, Amsterdam and the programme are much alike: impressive but small enough to make you feel right at home.

Admission requirements

Admission is based on a strict selection procedure. The Faculty’s Admission Board will decide upon your admission after having evaluated your complete online application. 

In order to gain admission to one of our Master’s programmes, you will need to have at least a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited research university including at least three full years of academic study amounting to a minimum of 180 ECTS or equivalent. We do not require a GRE or GMAT test score.

Specific admission requirements for the MSc Earth Sciences programme:

For VU Bachelor’s degree students
Students with a Bachelor's degree in Earth Sciences from VU will receive direct admission to the Master's programme in Earth Sciences, specializations Geology and Geochemistry and Earth Surface Processes and Records. Students with a Bachelor's degree in Earth Sciences and Economics (‘Aarde en economie’) from VU will receive direct admission to the Master's programme in Earth Sciences, specializations Earth Sciences and Economics (no further requirements) and Earth Surface Processes and Records (when certain subjects form the minor Earth Surface have been chosen).Students with a BSc-degree Earth Sciences will be admitted to the following Master’s *specializations according to the Variant which was followed in the Bachelor’s programme:

  • Geology and Geochemistry: BSc variant I;
  • Earth Surface Processes Climate and Records: BSc variant I & II;
  • Earth Sciences and Economics: BSc variant I & II, with extra required subjects in Spatial Economics (contact the master coordinator);

*After finishing the first year of one of the 6 Earth Sciences specializations, you can choose the differentiation Science Communication.
*After finishing the first year of one of the 6 Earth Sciences specializations and provided you have taken Sociale geografie I and, preferably, 12 ECTS of "Oriëntatie-CE"- courses, you can choose the differentiation Science Education.  

Students who do not receive direct admission to a certain Master's specialization, because their BSc variant is not entirely appropriate for this specialization, may still be admitted by a decision to that effect taken by the Admission Board. The Admission Board will, in such cases, place additional requirements on the student before granting admission to the Master's programme.

For all other applicants
Students who hold a certificate ofhigher vocational educationor an equivalent of a Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam BSc degree obtained at an institution inside or outside of the Netherlands may be admitted to the Master's programme in Earth Sciences on the basis of a decision to that effect taken by the Admission Board. The Examination Board will determine whether the qualification in question is sufficiently relevant to warrant admission. The Admission Board may place additional requirements on the student before granting admission to the programme.

In case you wish to contact the Master's coordinator for information or advice you need to know that no rights can be derived from the reply given by the coordinator regarding your admission. Only with the “admission email” you will be officially notified about your conditional or unconditional admission.

Language requirements
The proficiency requirement in English as the language of instruction can be met, if no longer than two years before the start of the programme the applicant has successfully completed one of the following examinations with the minimum scores indicated:

-  IELTS: 6.5
-  TOEFL paper based test: 580
-  TOEFL internet based test: 92
-  Cambridge Advanced English: A, B or C passed.

This does not hold for students who have a bachelor degree from a Dutch University or from a country where English is the native language.

Please refer to theLanguage Requirements webpagefor the general requirements regarding language proficiency.

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Program content

The Earth Sciences Master’s programme is divided in three main specializations: Geology and Geochemistry, Earth and Climate, and Global Environmental Change and Policy . All these specializations start with a series of compulsory courses that provide you with a solid basis. This basis is used to further specialize, but selecting one specialization does not mean that you are restricted to just that one subject. You have the option of exploring every aspect of one specific area in great detail if you want to, but you are also free to choose your own subjects for up to a quarter of the required credits.  

Compulsory courses for all specializations in the Earth Science master programme are two individual research projects and a field excursion. 

For more information contact:Dr. Gerald Ganssen(programme director)

Course descriptions

The Master’s programme in Earth Sciences takes two years and is worth 120 ECTS. 54 ECTS are project-related, involving a company traineeship, an orientation phase at a science journal, or participation in a research project complete with fieldwork, lab work and/or computer modelling.

Tuition fees

  • EU-EER students fee: € 2,168
  • NON-EU students fee: € 15,320

Scholarships & funding

With our own scholarship, the VU Fellowship Programme (VUFP), we offer highly motivated students with excellent study results the unique opportunity to pursue a Master’s degree with financial support provided by the university. The VUFP scholarship is a tuition fee waiver. The Holland Scholarship Programme (HSP) is meant for students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA) who want to follow a Master’s programme in the Netherlands. VU Amsterdam embraces diversity as an enrichment to our teaching, research and our contribution to society. This scholarship is specifically intended for excellent students who contribute to the diversity at our campus. As an international student planning to study at VU Amsterdam, you can apply for a variety of grants and bursaries.


MSc in Earth Sciences

Continuing studies

Postgraduate degree programmes

After the master's degree programme, there are opportunities to continue your educational career in a number of PhD programmes at the Vrije Universiteit, organised within a number of research schools:

  • Inter University Centre for Geo-ecological Research (ICG);
  • Netherlands Research School for the Socio-Economic and Natural Sciences of the Environment (SENSE);
  • Research School Sedimentary Geology (NSG);
  • Integrated Solid Earth Sciences (ISES). 

The PhD programme always consists of carrying out a research project, leading to a PhD thesis/dissertation, and of several compulsory or elective course modules.

Science teacher degree

Science education is the foundation of innovations that improve our world. Due to the shortage of certified science teachers and the fact that our economy is knowledge based, you will be highly valued both in and out of the classroom. With a science teaching degree you can become involved in improving science education both as a teacher or other positions in the educational industry. Practical and scientific knowledge of teaching methods and educational psychology can steer your career in many directions.

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About this institute

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Welcome to Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (‘VU Amsterdam’) is an internationally renowned research university founded in 1880. The university offers over 175 English-taught programmes at Bachelor’s, Master’s and PhD level to more than 26,000 students from all over the world. Students and staff...

Read more about this school

Why study at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam

With more than 24,000 students, of which 4,088 are international, VU Amsterdam conducts cutting-edge research into problems of societal and scientific importance.

They distinguish themselves in research and education through four interdisciplinary themes:

  • Human Health and Life Sciences
  • Science for Sustainability
  • Connected World
  • Governance for Society

As a student this will help you to look beyond the boundaries of scientific disciplines, and to seek for tangible solutions for a better world.

In addition, VU Amsterdam regards diversity, whether in culture, conviction, nationality or prior education, as source of innovation and progress, and hence as special strength.

The Dutch higher education system has been ranked in the top 10 by Universitas 21. In the first Times Higher Education University Impact Ranking, VU Amsterdam is ranked 16th worldwide. In this ranking, universities are assessed based on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in order to measure the impact of the universities on society. In the Academic Ranking of World Universities 2018 (Shanghai Ranking) VU Amsterdam holds the 104th position. The international QS World University ranking 2021 places the Vrije Universiteit at number 236 in the world, which means the Vrije Universiteit belongs to the top 20% of the world.

At VU Amsterdam, the teaching style can be described as student-centred: they encourage students to develop their own opinions through independent and creative thinking. This means that teaching is mainly conducted in small tutorials, where interactivity is the norm rather than the exception. At every opportunity, students are encouraged to engage in constructive dialogue with their professors.

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