What do I need to study to become a glaciologist?

Asked by Johnny

Hi Johnny,

Thanks for your question! Glaciology encompasses a number of disciplines, from maths, physics and chemistry, geology and geography. A science background is necessary but there is a huge range of specialities within glaciology, ranging from numerical modelling (needs maths and physics and computer science) to geomorphological mapping (needs Geography or Geology). A degree in a science subject, followed by a Masters and most likely a PhD is the route into becoming a professional glaciologist.


I am a Senior Lecturer at Newcastle Univeristy, specialising in glaciology and glacial geology. I wrote and developed the AntarcticGlaciers.org website as part of an ongoing commitment to outreach, education and research impact. Read more about me at www.antarcticglaciers.org/bethan-davies.

19 thoughts on “What do I need to study to become a glaciologist?”

  1. Hello,

    I’m a MSc student in physical geography. My research specifically focuses on glacial morphology and Quaternary glaciatons. I want to take my PHd in glaciology but I’m quiet weak in maths and physics. What do you suggest (like “physics for earth scientists etc.) for improve mysellf in these areas? Thanks in

    1. Bethan Davies


      Thank you for your interest in a PhD in glaciation! Physics and maths are useful skills but they are definitely learnable. And in fact if you focus on geomorphology and sedimentology the maths required is not so tough. Watching videos on YouTube about maths is helpful. For the moment though, just focus on trying to get work experience and do your best in your MSc dissertation to improve your chances of a PhD scholarship.

  2. i want to study physical geography at university and have always been interested in research of climate change and its effects. Glaciology is a very keen subject i would like to look into further. What would you recommend i do for uni?

    1. Bethan Davies

      Dear Natalie,
      a degree in Geography, Geology or environmental science/geoscience would be an excellent start.

  3. Hello, I have an interest in becoming a glaciologist and I’m currently looking at doing a joint degree in physical geography and mathematics. Would this be ideal or would something like earth science or geology be more appropriate? Thank You

    1. Bethan Davies

      Dear Freya,
      If you’re interested in becoming a glaciologist then a background in maths and physical geography would be ideal. Good luck!

  4. Hello,

    I will be doing an integrated masters degree in physics, could I use this degree to go down the glaciology route? Or do I need qualifications in geography/geology?
    Thank you.

  5. Hi! I will be graduating as a chemical engineer by the end of next year. I would love to go into environmental engineering. Would I be able to work with/as a glaciologist in the future with experience and small courses?

  6. I graduated with a degree in Geological Sciences in 2016 and I’ve been working as an Environmental Geologist for environmental remediation and construction projects for the last three years. I want to make the transition to graduate school, preferably a glaciology or permafrost program. I’ve looked up programs and professors, but I’m not sure what is the best path to finding success in a graduate program search. Do you have any advice?

  7. Im a student in year 7 Australia NSW it has been a dream of mine to become an glaciologest when im older and this has given me the key areas i need to focus on but what if our school doesn’t support one of these subjects

    1. Bethan Davies

      Hello! Most university Geography or Geology or Environmental Science courses will include some form of glaciology, even if you never studied it at school 🙂

  8. Hello Bethan !!, I am studying sustainable development engineering but I am interested in glaciology and I want to do my master’s degree in glaciology. What skills, courses or programming languages ​​could you recommend to prepare me for a master’s degree in glaciology?

  9. Hasitha Eranda

    I’m a phd student in astrophysics. Im really interested in the modeling side of glaciology and wandering about the chance of career change into glaciology after zi graduate. Do you anyone switched from theoretical physics either for a postdoc in glaciology or PhD ?
    Thank you

  10. Rittick Maity

    Hii Mam ,
    I am from India. I have both bachelor as well as master Degree of geography.
    Can you show me the right path to became a glaciologist.

    1. Hi Rittick! I’m Drishana from India, I was searching up a similar query and came across this question of yours! It resonated as I have just passed out of 12 from have been very confused whether to opt for geography or geology in order to work on glaciology later down the line. Kind of decided on geography but now been slightly second guessing 🙁 Was wondering which college did you do your geography BSc and MSc from?

  11. Miranda Elizarrarás

    Hello, Nice to meet you!
    I have been checking your site for a while but I wasn’t sure of writing yet. My name is Miranda, and I’m about finish my bacherlor in Oceanography, I am willing to keep my studies in the PhD Geoscience Program in the UCSD for keep learning about Glaciars and Polar studies. I am a bit lost, and I would love to hear your recomendation and (if you want to talk) I would love to hear about your learning and investigation path.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

This site uses cookies. Find out more about this site’s cookies.