Health Psychology

Study Health Psychology and graduate with a university degree

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Health Psychology
  • Type
  • Start date September

Nicola Hunt Course Secretary
University of Stirling
+44 (0) 1786 466258

Although people live longer and are currently ‘healthier’ in many ways than before, this has not led to a sense of improved health or wellbeing for all members of society. Health Psychology improves wellbeing by applying psychological theories, methods and research to the promotion of health, prevention and treatment of illness and disability, analysis and improvement of the health care system and health policy formation. A small number of NHS-funded bursaries are available to cover tuition fees and other expenses.


The British Psychological Society logo.British Psychological Society

From the September 2013 intake, successful completion of this course fulfils stage one of the requirements towards Chartered Membership of the Society and full membership of the Division of Health Psychology.

Course objectives

Students on this course will understand and critically evaluate the theoretical basis of health psychology and apply this knowledge to understanding health, health behaviours and health care issues.

The course has a strong experiential focus – it includes contributions from health care practitioners and allows you to carry out a brief placement in a health care setting normally arranged by the student with help/support from the course team. You are encouraged to carry out research in health care settings where possible.

This MSc is designed to meet the British Psychological Society’s requirements for Stage One training towards Chartered Health Psychology status. Via formal teaching and practical experience, you will acquire relevant skills and core competencies as a basis for professional training in health psychology (Stage Two), or other applications of psychology to health issues.

Entrance requirements

A minimum of a 2.1 Honours degree in Psychology or related subject (qualification must be recognised by British Psychological Society ( giving Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership). 

Non-psychologists or those without graduate basis for chartership with the British Psychological Society please see Psychology Applied to Health.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, you must provide evidence of your proficiency such as a minimum IELTS score of 6.5 (6.0 in all bands).

If you don’t meet the required score you may be able to register for one of our pre-sessional English courses. To register you must hold a conditional offer for your course and have an IELTS score 0.5 or 1.0 below the required standard.

Our range of pre-sessional courses.

Modes of study


  • MSc: one year
  • Postgraduate Diploma: two semesters


  • MSc: two years
  • Postgraduate Diploma: four semesters


  • MSc: five years maximum

Course start date


Structure and content

The course comprises the following modules in Semester 1:

  • Perspectives in Health Psychology: Introduces and provides a context for different theoretical approaches within health psychology. It promotes critical understanding of the relationship between biological, psychological and social approaches to health and illness, health behaviours and health care in relation to specific topics such as stress, cardiovascular disease and pain.
  • Applications of Health Psychology: Communication, Systems and Context: Helps you develop critical understanding of the way health care is delivered in the National Health Service (NHS) and other settings. You will evaluate psychological interventions and examine the relationship between health care providers and clients. The module will develop understanding of the professional role of the health psychologist, multidisciplinary working and sensitivity towards ethical/professional issues. It includes a brief experiential placement in a health care setting normally arranged by the student with help/support from the course team.
  • Quantitative Analysis: Develops understanding of quantitative analysis. It includes principles of literature review, experimental design and data collection and offers both study and practical experience of statistical analysis to enable you to carry out a piece of empirical research to a publishable standard.

The following modules are taken in the Semester 2:

  • Qualitative Analysis: Develops understanding of qualitative analysis, such as thematic analysis and phenomenological analysis.
  • Individual, Social and Cultural Differences: Develops awareness and critical appraisal of the influence of individual psychological, social, cultural and biological differences on health, illness, health care provision and usage. Topics include personality, lifespan, gender and cultural factors which influence health and health behaviours (such as alcohol use and sexual behaviour).
  • Approaches to Illness, Disability and Coping: Applies health psychology theories and models to understanding specific illnesses such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease. It also includes an evaluation of factors which promote wellbeing in people with acute or chronic illness or disability and the role of interventions to improve wellbeing.
  • Research Project (MSc only): In this module, you will carry out your own supervised empirical research project in an area of health or health care which interests you, allowing you to integrate theoretical approaches with practical research methods and techniques learned. The investigation is conducted and reported to publishable standard.

Delivery and assessment

The modules are taught in two- to three-hour seminars which include lectures, workshops, and practical or experiential sessions. You need to complete and pass the seven modules above to be awarded the MSc Health Psychology. Assessment is by formal exams and coursework (including oral presentations, essays, group work and critical reviews of research).

Course Director

Dr Vivien Swanson


In REF2014 Stirling was placed 6th in Scotland and 45th in the UK with almost three quarters of research activity rated either world-leading or internationally excellent.

More information


  • Strong experiential focus – placement and dissertation.
  • Grounded in research evidence.
  • Research active and enthusiastic team based in Centre for Health Behaviour Change.
  • NHS funded bursaries.

Psychology at Stirling is one of the leading psychology departments in the UK. It ranked in the top 20 in the recent research assessment (REF 2014) and is one of only seven non-Russell group universities to do so (Birkbeck, Royal Holloway, Sussex, Essex, St Andrews and Bangor; source Times Higher Education magazine). Its quality of research publications ranked third in Scotland after Aberdeen and Glasgow. Furthermore, the relevance of its research activity to society received the highest possible rating which only four other psychology departments in the UK achieved (REF 2014 results).

Psychology at Stirling University is small enough to fully involve MSc students in our lively and collegial community of research excellence.

Your three month full-time dissertation is supervised by leading UK academics.

Our students

Joint winner of the British Psychological Society Division of Health Psychology Award for Outstanding MSc Thesis.   Siew Tim has been invited to present her MSc research at the Division of Health Psychology Annual Conference in London, 16-18 September 2015.

Siew Tim Lai, 2013/14

The MSc in Health Psychology at Stirling has given me a great grounding for a future career in academia or as a health psychologist. The balance of theory and research was just right to develop my knowledge and skills. Having a placement within the MSc was a fantastic opportunity to apply knowledge into practice and really understand the need for health psychology. This experience helped me realise the areas I want to work in. Another strong component of the course was its link to up-and-coming research areas, emphasising its applicability to current issues. I really enjoyed this course and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in health psychology.

Sinead Currie, 2010/11

Doing the Health Psychology Master's at Stirling gave me the chance to see theory applied to practice, broaden my knowledge of psychology, develop skills and confidence and, vitally, put me in an excellent position to go straight into an applied psychology/relevant job after graduating. The teaching was excellent and I always felt supported and heard. I would unreservedly recommend this Masters at Stirling. It certainly taught me a lot and helped me move forward in my career.

Ishbel Begg, 2009/10

Teaching on the MSc in Health Psychology was delivered by individuals with a range of backgrounds and expertise which provided me with a rich understanding of the issues of current relevance to Health Psychology. This was complemented by the assignments set, which developed my research and critical thinking skills, and the placement, which offered a fantastic opportunity to apply these skills and knowledge in the health care setting. The combination of skills I developed during the MSc provided me with a solid basis for moving on to the Stage 2 Qualification in Health Psychology.

Claire Eades, 2008/09

I would recommend the course to anyone who is interested in Health Psychology and considering it as a career. The course is well organised, the staff are knowledgeable and approachable, and the lectures are interesting. The placement offers you an invaluable opportunity to see how health psychology is relevant in an applied setting. I was lucky enough to win a funded PhD studentship after completing the course and I have no doubt that the skills and experience I got from the MSc allowed me to achieve this.

Kirsty Morton, 2010/11


Career opportunities

Health Psychology is one of the fastest growing areas of applied psychology and this Master’s course provides the first stage of professional training towards becoming a chartered health psychologist. Students intending to go on to become qualified health psychologists can achieve this via working in health care or in academic posts. Scotland is unique in offering a two-year NHS-funded training course for Stage Two health psychology trainees. There are opportunities in many areas, for example, health education or health promotion, or in community-based health improvement projects. Skills gained might also be used in working with patients with specific conditions, such as cancer or chronic pain. The course might also be used for professional or personal development for individuals with a psychology background working in health.


Our students learn great trasnferable skills through carrying out observational placements in health care settings and dissertations that often involve delivery of an intervention. They also carry out presentations, learn communication and interviewing skills, and behaviour change techniques.

Industry connections

Our students carry out placements in health care contexts – this can include the NHS, third sector (charities) or industry settings.


2016/17 Overseas £13,950
2016/17 Home/EU £6,100
2015/16 Overseas £13,500
2015/16 Home/EU £6,000


You should expect to pay fees for every year you are in attendance and be aware fees are subject to revision and may increase annually. Students on programmes of study of more than one year should take this into account when applying.


A small number of NHS-funded bursaries are normally available to cover tuition fees and other expenses.

information on possible sources of funding