School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences

Petroleum Geoscience

Maui A oil rig platform. Photo courtesy of Maui field operator Shell Todd Oil Services

On this page:

Victoria University and GNS Science offer a unique programme in Petroleum Geoscience.

The School of Geography, Environment and Earth Sciences has an excellent record in teaching and research in a wide variety of geological, geophysical and geochemical areas. New Zealand’s unique petroleum systems are complex and provide a unique training ground for the petroleum geoscientist.

GNS staff provide extensive commercial services to the domestic and international petroleum industry as well conducting world class applied research programmes in petroleum geology. They have strengths in basin evolution, seismic technology and petroleum system analysis using leading-edge software.

Students can complete a Postgraduate Diploma in Science or Master of Science (MSc) in Petroleum Geoscience, which take one or two years respectively.

Graduates of the programme will have extensive knowledge of the latest techniques used in hydrocarbon exploration. They will also have first hand experience in working with the petroleum industry.

For more information, please contact James Crampton.

Back to top ^

Postgraduate Certificate in Science (PGCertSc) in Petroleum Geoscience

The PG Certificate in Science can be completed in one trimester or part time over up to two years.


Postgraduate Certificate students must have previously completed a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree or equivalent degree or work experience with an average grade of B or higher in appropriate 300-level papers.

Course Requirements

60 points of postgraduate study

Note: the combination of courses must be approved by the School.

More information about the Postgraduate Certificate in Science is on the Faculty of Science website.

Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSc) in Petroleum Geoscience


Postgraduate Diploma students must have previously completed a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree with an average grade of B or higher in relevant 300 level courses.

Course Requirements

120 points from:

Note: the programme does not include a research project, although a project may be included where appropriate, and must be approved by the School.

More information about the Postgraduate Diploma in Science is on the Faculty of Science website.

Back to top ^

Master of Science (MSc) in Petroleum Geoscience

The Masters programme comprises two parts and is normally completed in two calendar years. Part 1 (the first year) involves course work and a research preparation course. Part 2 (the second year) is a full-time research project, leading to a thesis. Since the Masters programme is tailored towards applied problems in petroleum exploration and production, collaboration with the petroleum industry is seen as a vital part of project selection and students are encouraged to work with multi-disciplinary teams on exploration challenges.

Prerequisites Part 1

Masters candidates must have previously completed a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree that includes at least 48 points at 300 level in physics, geology or mathematics, or a combination of those subjects. A suitable level of preparation in mathematics is also essential.

A B+ average in relevant 300 level courses, including 90 points from ESCI 301-399 (including ESCI 341 and 342), is required for acceptance into this programme. Students must also have the agreement of a supervisor for their proposed Part 2 thesis project.

Prospective students must also obtain a recommendation by a potential project supervisor before enrolment. All entries are subject to approval by the Convenor of the Geophysics/Earth Sciences Board of Studies.

Course requirements

120 points from the BSc(Hons) or other schedulesAll courses are worth 15 points.

  • ESCI 580   - Research Preparation
  • PGEO 401 - Basin Analysis
  • PGEO 511 - Technical Petroleum Geoscience
  • ESCI 403 - Stratigraphy and Sedimentology
  • ESCI 406 - Petroleum Geology
  • ESCI 407 - Global Tectonics
  • ESCI 411 - Exploration Geophysics
  • 15 additional points from a course approved by the Programme Director

PGEO 401 and 511 courses are specific to petroleum geoscience and are taught by staff from the hydrocarbons group at GNS Science.

Prerequisites Part 2

Students require an average B+ grade in their Masters Part 1 courses. Students with a lower grade must discuss options with the programme director, which include redirection into a suitable postgraduate diploma. full-time research project in conjunction with GNS Science or a petroleum company. This project is written up as a thesis.

Course requirements

Part 2

PGEO 591 - Thesis



Demand for petroleum geoscientists remains high. A Masters qualification is generally regarded as the minimum requirement for entry to a job in this area.

Since the course began in 2006, it has produced a number of well qualified students.


Student profiles

Troy Collier

 I chose the MSc in Petroleum Geoscience at Victoria University because I wanted to pursue a career that was competitive, engaging, and gave me the opportunity to explore the world.

Troy Collier

Troy contemplates a life immersed in geology, March 2014


The skills that I learned enable me to adapt quickly in the exploration industry, and I am constantly applying my knowledge to analyse and solve problems. Generous funding and a summer internship with OMV New Zealand have since lead to employment in the local industry, which began five months prior to thesis submission. My MSc research used a combination of field work, petrographic analysis, and seismic interpretation, to characterise the geology of Pegasus Basin offshore of eastern New Zealand, which is currently a focus of exploration by many international companies. I was fortunate to be supervised by staff at GNS Science and Victoria University and to interact with industry, learning from experts who are engaged in world-class applied research; the links formed on field trips and at conferences will be of immense benefit to me in coming years.


Roopa in a boat

Taken onboard M/V Reflect Scorpio, December 2011, with colleagues

Roopa Navalpakam

I chose a career in Petroleum Geoscience because I thought it sounded exciting and I wanted to be paid to travel the world! The MSc in Petroleum Geoscience from Victoria University has provided me with the tools that enable me to adapt quickly in the exploration industry. I graduated in 2012 and took a job with Reflect Geophysical Pvt Ltd., Singapore – I received this job offer two months before completing my degree. I now work for Seabird Exploraton LLC. My MSc research used geophysics to study the distribution of seafloor methane along the East Coast of New Zealand. I used GLOBE ClaritasTM software, developed by GNS Science, to analyse shock waves that were bounced off layers of gas-bearing rock beneath the seafloor, and I still use this software in my job. I was fortunate enough to do my thesis with supervision from staff at GNS Science and Victoria University, and developers at GNS continue to mentor me to this day.


Thomas Golding

Thomas Golding portrait

Thomas aboard the RV Sonne, 2011

My life aspiration was to pursue a career in the energy industry. I graduated with an MSc in Petroleum Geoscience from Victoria University in 2012 and moved to Perth, Western Australia, to work as an exploration geoscientist with Shell Development Australia. For my thesis, I used geophysical techniques to study natural seafloor seeps in Hawkes Bay where methane bubbles up out of the rock. Methane is the cleanest burning hydrocarbon, and seafloor deposits have the potential, along with associated CO¬2 capture, to become an important source of environmentally responsible energy. A highlight of my study was a spell on the German research ship the RV Sonne. I also benefitted immensely from internships at Shell Todd Energy Services Ltd. in New Plymouth, Woodside Energy in Perth, and GNS Science in Lower Hutt – these internships provided both valuable work experience and money!


Sarah Grain
Sarah Grain

Sarah working with a colleague in Western Australia

Petroleum geoscience continues to fascinate me because it involves the integration of many disciplines in earth science.  I completed my MSc in Petroleum Geoscience from Victoria University at the end of 2008 and already had a job offer six months prior to finishing.  My MSc research used geological and geophysical techniques to reconstruct the geography of the Taranaki region about 12-16 million years ago (‘paleogeography’), a time when New Zealand looked very different from today.  Knowledge about paleogeography is key to the search for oil and gas.  One highlight was going to Brazil to present my findings at an international conference.  I am currently working for Woodside Energy in Western Australia.  Ongoing training is an important aspect of my job, but I use the skills gained from my MSc on a daily basis.