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This online degree launches in September 2024. Register your interest now and we’ll email you as soon as applications open.

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Prepare for a career in the space sector with online MSc Planetary Sciences.

This flexible online degree gives you a pathway into a space industry career, whatever your academic background.

Skills for deep space exploration

Join our outstanding team online and develop the key technical skills needed for deep space exploration, including remote sensing, spectroscopy, and instrument design.

You’ll study the Earth and other objects of the solar system, such as the Moon, Mars, and exoplanets, to understand the critical steps of formation of these objects.

You’ll examine the physics of atmospheres, magnetic fields, geomorphology of the surface, isotopic differentiation, and the formation of habitable environments.

Become part of the next wave of lunar and planetary explorers.

You’ll graduate career-ready, with an informed understanding of:

  • planetary atmospheres and landforms
  • space environment
  • remote sensing
  • data analysis
  • astrobiology, and
  • space systems engineering and instrumentation.

Study with an exceptional team

You’ll be joining a university that is actively involved in current and future missions to Mars. We have an instrument on the NASA Curiosity rover, which is exploring Mars’ surface right now – track the rover here.

The European Space Agency’s (ESA’s) ExoMars programme is a series of missions designed to understand if life ever existed on Mars. We’re co-investigators in the ESA’s Trace Gas Orbiter, the first mission in the series, and our HABIT instrument will be part of a future ExoMars mission.

Develop skills for a range of careers

In this degree, you’ll also develop highly transferable knowledge in areas including geology, microbiology, and environmental sciences, applicable to careers outside of planetary science research.

We’re funded by the UK Space Agency

We are one of seven universities in the UK that have been funded to work towards international space science and exploration projects.

We’re working on the integration of the HABIT instrument, developed by our team to measure key conditions on Mars, in the first Japanese mission to Mars.

Join us from any discipline

Space exploration offers opportunities for everyone, regardless of your field of study.

From technological expertise and innovation to understanding the commercial, political, and legal aspects of space agencies, the sector needs interdisciplinary skills.

That’s why online MSc Planetary Sciences is open to students from any academic background.

Our curriculum and projects are designed to maximise the varied academic backgrounds of our students, fostering an environment where diverse perspectives can flourish.

By the end of this degree, you’ll be able to...

  • Discuss the fundamentals of the emergence, evolution, and future of life; the implications for life on other planets; and the relationship between life and environment.
  • Understand the fundamental physical and chemical processes in planetary atmospheres, and develop integrated histories about the nature and evolution of the planets and their atmospheres.
  • Discuss the space exploration roadmap, international space treaties, and the most challenging issues of space exploration, including sustaining a habitable environment in space, and the impact of space weather on planetary exploration.
  • Use computer algorithms including the basics of remote sensing and geospatial analysis, radiation and spectroscopy, and space radiation and weather models.
  • Develop integrated geological histories linked to internal and surficial earth processes.
  • Plan and execute the focused investigation of geological outcrops and regions.
  • Perform geospatial integration and analysis of different spatial datasets and using ArcGIS Pro, Python scripts, Spyder IDE, and the ArcPy library.
  • Engage with NASA’s Planetary Data System, ESA’s Planetary Science Archive, and online visualisation tools for data analysis and comparison.
  • Apply transferable skills including data measurement and analysis, critical thinking and reasoning, visual presentation, and communication.

What you’ll study

You’ll study the following courses that make up the 180 credits of this Masters degree.

You can also choose to exit early, earning a:

  • Postgraduate Diploma (120 credits), or
  • Postgraduate Certificate (60 credits).

How you’ll study

Online learning

This distance-learning MSc Planetary Sciences is delivered flexibly, 100% online.

You can learn with us anywhere, no student visa required, and manage your study hours to suit you.

Your teaching

Teaching is delivered through MyAberdeen, our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It holds all the materials, tools and support you’ll need in your studies. Take a look around MyAberdeen.

You can access your learning materials on computer, smartphone and laptop, 24 hours a day. You’ll find a range of resources available, including:

  • video lectures to stream or download
  • online tutorials
  • videos
  • slide shows
  • reading materials
  • discussion boards with your colleagues and tutors
  • the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library.

Outstanding expertise

You’ll learn from teaching staff who are involved in the Planetary Protection Boards of NASA and ESA, and the Mars Sample Return Scientific Advisory Team.

Our team is currently collaborating with Oxford Nanopore Technologies on pioneering Space DNA Sequencing and is also deeply engaged in planetary sciences and astrobiology.

Your tutors

This online degree is delivered by our Department of Planetary Sciences, within the School of Geosciences.

The Department of Planetary Science is focused on the study of Earth and planetary sciences, and the development of instruments for Earth and planetary exploration.

You’ll learn from a team of internationally experienced academics, who are actively involved in multidisciplinary research in this area. Your tutors include:

Professor Javier Martin-Torres

Javier is Personal Chair of Planetary Sciences in our School of Geosciences. He is a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society, and the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Javier has worked for the European Space Agency, California Institute of Technology, and also worked for NASA for over ten years at the Langley Research Centre and Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

View Javier’s profile

Dr Miracle Israel Nazarious

Miracle is a Research Fellow in the School of Geosciences. An inspired and passionate space engineer, he holds a bachelors in Aeronautical Engineering, dual masters in Space Technology and Instrumentation, and PhD in Atmospheric Science.

View Miracle’s profile

Dr Shaktiman Singh

Shaktiman is an environmental scientist specialising in glacio-hydrological research. He uses GIS tools to solve the problems of land and water resource management. Shaktiman is skilled in large geospatial data analyses, spatial modelling, and automation in GIS.

View Shaktiman’s profile

This degree is assessed entirely online.

We use a range of assessment methods throughout your studies, including:

  • online presentations
  • essays, and
  • online quizzes.

Hours for taught courses

If you plan to study part-time, we recommend you take no more than 30 credits per term. Students typically take one or two 15-credit short courses per term.

15 credits

  • Around 150 hours of study and assessment time to complete.
  • You’ll study 8 – 10 hours per week per term, plus more at assessment times.

30 credits

  • Around 300 hours of study and assessment time to complete.
  • You’ll study 15 – 20 hours per week per term, plus more at assessment times.

This is an indicative guide to the time required for a typical student at this level to achieve the learning outcomes.

You can largely set your own study hours each week to cover the materials. MyAberdeen is available 24/7, so you can log in and study when it suits you.

Activities at fixed times

There will be some activities scheduled at a fixed time, such as online meetings with your tutor or assessments with deadlines. But otherwise, you can access and work through each course at your convenience.

Hours for 60-credit projects and dissertations

A 60-credit project or dissertation is around 600 hours of study time.

This is around one term of full-time study.

You can dedicate a full term to your project or dissertation and work on it full-time. Or you can complete it part-time, spreading the hours you dedicate to it over two terms.

When you study with us, you can expect a first-class support structure so that you’re never alone in your studies.

But learning online does mean you have to motivate yourself and manage your own time.

Your most important commitment will be time – the time to work through, reflect on and understand your teaching materials.

Before you start a course that involves a high degree of independent study, we recommend looking at the time you will be able to devote to your studies each week:

  • Be realistic
  • Create a weekly schedule as a guide

If you have any questions about studying online, get in touch with our friendly team. We’re here to help.

Our first-class support structure will ensure that you aren’t alone in your studies. You’ll have contact with your coordinator via email, MyAberdeen, Microsoft Teams and WhatsApp. You can use social media and discussion boards to chat with your fellow students too.

We provide a wide range of services to support you in your studies and beyond:

Wherever you are in the world, you’ll feel part of our very special Aberdeen learning community.

We’re a member of the Access scheme run by the Society of College, National and University Libraries (SCONUL).

Access study spaces, books and journals in your area

The SCONUL Access scheme allows you, as a University of Aberdeen student, to access books and resources at university libraries across the UK and Ireland, or visit them for a quiet place to study.

You’ll be able to use study spaces, books and journals at over 150 university libraries which belong to the scheme.

Find out about the SCONUL Access scheme for libraries.

Your support team

Our friendly team are here to answer any queries you have before, during and after your studies.

Professor Javier Martin-Torres

Javier is the degree coordinator. He’ll be on hand to answer any questions about degree content before you start and to help you throughout your studies.

Deniz Gulen

Deniz is part of the School’s support team. They’ll be there throughout your studies to answer any of your non-academic queries.

Get in touch

The online education team is here to answer any questions you have right now about this qualification, or about studying online.

Ask us a question

Where this will take you

Your MSc Planetary Sciences qualification

You’ll graduate with a respected MSc in Planetary Sciences from the University of Aberdeen, one of the UK’s six ancient universities.

You’ll receive exactly the same degree qualification online as you would on campus. Your degree title will not mention online or distance learning.

Your MSc qualification will be recognised by employers and educational institutions around the world, opening up international career opportunities.

Careers in the space sector

The UK space industry is booming.

Findings from the UK Space Agency reveal that as of 2022, year-on-year growth of the UK space sector outpaces the wider economy by 5%.

The ‘Size and Health of the UK Space Industry 2022’ report reveals a steady growth in sector employment, with positive year-on-year growth annually since the 2011/12 year.

This degree will prepare you for a career in the space industry, as well as careers outside of planetary science research.

Wider career opportunities

Graduates from this MSc have gone on to accept graduate scientist and environmental data coordinator roles.

Through this degree, you’ll build a range of transferable skills that will help you to advance in careers within:

  • energy
  • public policy
  • environmental consultancy
  • earth resources
  • teaching, and
  • data analysis.

Towards a PhD and further learning

MSc Planetary Sciences also enables you to pursue further education in this subject area.

Graduates from this degree have continued on to PhD-level study.

Graduate voices

Find out what recent MSc Planetary Science graduates have to say about studying with us, and what they’re doing now.

Rachel Brown, graduated 2022

Rachel now works as a Group Environmental Data-Coordinator at Subsea7. It’s a role that’s allowed her to enhance her data handling and analytical skills while being involved in the sustainable energy transition.

Read about Rachel’s experience

Adam Corbett, graduated 2023

Since graduating, Adam has secured a position as a Research Assistant at Okayama University in Japan and is currently working on his PhD.

Read about Adam’s experience

Louis Steele, graduated 2022

Louis has been accepted into a Graduate Scientist position with the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. Working within their Space Group, he’ll be finding ways to enhance Earth-Space communication.

Read about Louis’ experience

Lifelong career support

Our career support doesn’t stop when you graduate.

You have access to our free careers service while you study, and beyond.

  • 1:1 appointments
  • CV checks
  • Interview prep
  • Job opportunities

Fees and funding

The fee quoted above is based on you starting your studies with us in the 2024/25 academic year.

We have confirmed that our fees will rise by 5% for the 2025/26 academic year. Our indicative cost includes a 5% fee rise each year.

Pay as you go

This is a pay-as-you-go degree.

You do not have to pay the full tuition fee upfront.

You can spread the cost and pay as you go, term by term.

How it works

  • You decide how many credits to study for each term.
  • At the start of term, you pay only for the credits you’re taking that term.
  • This gives you control over your costs and workload for each term of your degree.

Learning resources

Access to all the books and resources you need are included in your tuition fee. They’ll be made available to you online and you do not have to buy your own copies.


You may wish to set aside a small budget for printing, depending on how you like to work.

There are several ways you may be able to get help funding your studies:

Find out more about funding options.

Student card

All our students are entitled to a University of Aberdeen student card. This gives you access to a range of student discounts around the city and online.

20% Alumni discount

You’re entitled to 20% off our postgraduate taught degrees and short courses if you have a degree from the University of Aberdeen. View Alumni discount details.

How discounts work

Discounts are applied during your application process. You can only use one discount per application.

Entry requirements


The minimum entry requirements for this MSc are:

  • a 2:1 UK honours degree, or equivalent, in any discipline.

Entry requirements

We welcome students from all over the world.

See the minimum entry requirements above. If you do not have qualifications from the UK, check equivalent qualifications from your country.

Visa requirements

You do not need a student visa to study online with us.

English language requirements

Teaching is delivered in English.

If English is not your first language, use our English requirements checklist to see if you need to provide evidence of your English language skills when you apply.

English language tests and scores

If you do need to provide English language test scores, these are the tests and minimum scores we accept for this course or degree.

These are our Postgraduate Standard requirements.

IELTS Academic, IELTS UKVI Academic, and IELTS Online (not IELTS Indicator or IELTS General Training)

  • 6.5 overall
  • 5.5 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 6.0 for writing

TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition

  • 90 overall
  • 17 for listening
  • 18 for reading
  • 20 for speaking
  • 21 for writing
  • TOEFL DI code is 0818

Cambridge English: B2 First, C1 Advanced, or C2 Proficiency

  • 176 overall
  • 162 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 169 for writing

LanguageCert Academic/LanguageCert Academic SELT

  • 70 overall
  • 60 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 65 for writing

LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator (Written and Spoken) – Online / In-centre

  • Overall High Pass
  • 33 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 38 for writing

Oxford ELLT Digital – English Language Level Test Online

  • 7.0 overall
  • 5.0 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 6.0 for writing

PTE Academic (online test not accepted)

  • 62 overall
  • 59 for listening, reading, speaking and writing

For full information about language requirements, see our English Language Requirements page.

You will need access to:

A computer (PC, laptop or Mac) operating on either:

  • Windows 10 or later
  • macOS 10.15 (Catalina) or later.

Most teaching materials are smartphone- and tablet-friendly. But we recommend a proper laptop or desktop for completing assignments comfortably.

Reliable internet access

We recommend:

  • a wired connection
  • a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps so you can take part fully in live sessions.

Speakers or headphones

  • We recommend a headset with built-in microphone and earphones if you’re likely to study in an environment with background noise.
  • A webcam is optional, but you may like to use one for some interactive sessions.


We’ll give you access to Office365 applications. This means you can use online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and install these programs on up to five personal devices.

If your course requires specialist software, we’ll provide you with access to this and a licence that lasts throughout your studies.

See our detailed IT requirements for more information.

Master of Science

180 credits


This indicative cost is based on 180 credits of study over two years, starting in September 2024.

Apply for this programme

Start month
September or January

This indicative cost is based on 180 credits of study over two years, starting in September 2024.

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