MSc Applied Professional Studies

Boost your career with our flexible Masters degree in Applied Professional Studies. Take an individual course of study or follow one of the specialist pathways.

Applied Professional Studies

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma
  • Start date September 2024, January 2025
  • Duration MSc part-time: 36 months (flexible)
  • Mode of study part time
  • Delivery blended


Scottish Social Services Council

The Scottish Social Services Council accreditation


Designed for those who are already qualified in social work or an allied profession, our Applied Professional Studies course enables you to undertake additional, part-time professional study.

The course gives you the opportunity to develop knowledge specific to your role and setting. At Stirling, we are at the forefront of contemporary practice and thinking. Where relevant, our modules are recognised by organisations such as the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).  The running of a specific pathway or standalone module in any given year will depend upon demand. 


You can work towards our core Masters degree, the MSc Applied Professional Studies, or opt to specialise in one of the following pathways of study:

  • Child Welfare and Protection
  • Management and Leadership in Social Services
  • Adult Services, Support and Protection
  • Social Work Practice Education

Whether you work towards the core Masters or follow a pathway, you’ll find yourself studying under the guidance of an established and trusted teaching team. So wherever you’re hoping your career will lead, we can help you get there.

Top reasons to study with us

Course objectives

This course is a post-qualifying award designed to support experienced professionals in developing advanced knowledge and skills to support their careers.


Our academic staff are leading experts in their fields with a wealth of experience and commitment to the highest standards in teaching and research. Many are qualified practitioners with extensive practice backgrounds.


We have strong partnerships with professional agencies, ensuring that the course always reflects up-to-date research, theory and responses to contemporary practice issues.


Follow different routes of study and work towards a Postgraduate Certificate, Postgraduate Diploma or Masters qualification.


Part-time options give you the opportunity to fit study around your personal and professional commitments. 

Choose from four course pathways

You’re free to choose whether you want to work towards a core Masters qualification or follow a specialist pathway. These pathways consist of a selected range of modules drawn from the core MSc course, and are designed to build your expertise in a specific aspect of social care. The pathways include:

Child Welfare and Protection

This pathway is most suitable if you’re already working in child welfare and protection, in areas such as social work, residential childcare, health, education or the police. Practitioners working in the third sector are also welcome to apply. The course builds professional knowledge and competence through:

  • consideration of key frameworks (such as attachment theory and resilience);
  • critical reflection on multi-professional judgement and decision-making; and
  • examination of the latest research and practice developments in care planning and intervention.

Award: MSc, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate

Management and Leadership in Social Services

This pathway is recognised by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) as an appropriate qualification for registered managers. Participants on the course may come from a health, social work, education, occupational therapy or housing background and may be working in residential, day services or fieldwork settings. 

Award: MSc, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate

Adult Services, Support and Protection

This pathway is designed to develop your theoretical, ethical and practical understanding of support and protection practice and wider service delivery. It is suitable for anyone who works within adult social care services or who works in public protection. It takes into account the challenges of changing laws, policies and service structures, and helps you to refresh your framework for thinking about supporting and protecting people as you engage with leading researchers and practice experts.

Award: MSc, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate

Social Work Practice Education

This pathway promotes analytical and reflective practice and aims to equip Practice Educators and, in turn, students for effective practice in complex contemporary social work environments. The course is positioned within the MSc Applied Professional Studies structure and applicants need to be registered social workers. You can choose to combine this award with other postgraduate level study in order to achieve the MSc Applied Professional Studies.

Award: MSc, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate

Professional accreditation

Our pathway for Management and Leadership in Social Services is recognised and accredited by the Scottish Social Services Council.

Flexible learning

You can undertake another full pathway in second year or create your own portfolio of studies by selecting faculty modules on substance use, criminal justice and dementia. Additionally, staff deliver a critical inquiry module that supports you to deepen your knowledge of an aspect of your work and consider how to improve practice and service delivery.

You can opt to take time out and return to complete your Postgraduate Diploma and Masters award as long as you return within five years. You can also initially undertake just one module and receive university credit as opposed to undertaking a full certificate.

If you’re interested in studying a module from this course, the Postgraduate Certificate or the Postgraduate Diploma then please email Graduate Admissions to discuss your course of study.

Research overview

When you study Applied Professional Studies at the University of Stirling, you’ll be introduced to pioneering empirical and theoretical research in a vibrant, multi-disciplinary environment.

Underpinning the expertise of our staff, the University of Stirling scored highly in the most recent Research Excellence Framework 2021 – a UK-wide assessment of universities’ research output. In the Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment, we ranked 3rd in Scotland and top 25 in the UK – with 100% of our research environment and 88% of our research deemed world leading or internationally excellent.

Entry requirements

Academic requirements

A Bachelor or Honours degree is required.  Applicants without a first degree will be considered providing they can demonstrate an ability to study at degree level.  Relevant work experience is required for all pathways. The social work practice education pathway additionally requires a social work qualification.

If you’re an international student and applying with a Tier 4 student visa, we unfortunately can’t accept your application for this course as it falls into the category of being part-time, delivered online or a distance learning course.

International entry requirements

View the entry requirements for your country.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language you must have one of the following qualifications as evidence of your English language skills:

  • IELTS Academic or UKVI 6.5 with a minimum of 6.0 in each sub-skill.
  • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 61 overall with 56 in each sub-skill.
  • IBT TOEFL 80 overall with 18 in reading, 23 in writing, 19 in listening and 21 in speaking.

See our information on English language requirements for more details on the language tests we accept and options to waive these requirements.

Pre-sessional English language courses

If you need to improve your English language skills before you enter this course, our partner INTO University of Stirling offers a range of English language courses. These intensive and flexible courses are designed to improve your English ability for entry to this degree.

Find out more about our pre-sessional English language courses.

Course details

Enhance your expertise in the areas of health and social services that matter most to you with our flexible MSc Applied Professional Studies.


The module information below provides an example of the types of course module you may study. The details listed are for the academic year that starts in September 2024. Modules and start dates are regularly reviewed and may be subject to change in future years.

Course Details


We take a blended approach to learning and teaching. There will be contact teaching days, either online or on campus, and structured learning days when you work independently using online teaching materials. Teaching includes live and recorded lectures, interactive activities and small and large group discussions.  Module staff are accessible through email and offer individual tutorials as required.

Live and recorded sessions are led by University academics and researchers who are experts in their field, and by external practice subject experts. Their contribution enhances the contemporary relevance of the teaching and brings a critical perspective to the topics covered. This exchange of practice and knowledge expertise is replicated between teaching days through structured learning tasks, online discussion boards and peer assessment.

This course encourages a high level of reflection on your own practice, as well as application of learning to your professional role.

How you'll learn online

Self-directed study is supported through each module’s online learning platform that holds an extensive range of resources.


There are range of ways in which your learning is assessed and all of them require you to reflect on your practice. Forms of assessment include a written assignment that takes a case study or thematic approach to your work; oral presentation and peer assessment of an article review.

Classroom hours

Contact teaching days generally run from 10 am to 4pm.

Course director

Key staff

Joanne Nairn is the course support worker. You can email her at

Each pathway will have a lead member of staff who will make contact with you prior to commencement of your studies and you will have the opportunity to meet them at an induction session a few weeks before the teaching begins.

Fees and funding

Fees and costs

2023-24 fees
  UK and Republic of Ireland students International students
Full course fee £8,700 £17,775
20-credit module £967 £1,975
40-credit module £1,933 £3,950
60-credit module £2,900 £5,925


2024-25 fees
  UK and Republic of Ireland students International students
Full course fee £9,100 £18,700
20-credit module £1,100 £2,078
40-credit module £2,022 £4,156
60-credit module £3,033 £6,233

You will be liable to pay tuition fees for every module you enrol on.

Your fees will be held at the same level throughout your course. If you need to extend your period of study or repeat study, you will be liable for additional fees.

This fee is charged as a module fee. For more information on courses invoiced on a modular fee basis, please read our tuition fees policy.

Postgraduate tuition fee loans

This course is eligible for a postgraduate tuition fee loan from one of the UK’s governments. See the section, below, for more details.

Additional costs

There are some instances where additional fees may apply. Depending on your chosen course, you may need to pay additional costs, for example for field trips. Learn more about additional fees.

Scholarships and funding


Eligible international students could receive a scholarship worth between £4,000-£7,000. See our range of generous scholarships for international postgraduate students.

University of Stirling alumni will automatically be awarded a fee waiver for the first year of Masters studies through our Stirling Alumni Scholarship.

Applicants from the UK or Republic of Ireland who hold a first-class honours degree or equivalent will automatically be awarded a £2,000 scholarship through our Postgraduate Merit Scholarship.

If you have the talent, ability and drive to study with us, we want to make sure you make the most of the opportunity – regardless of your financial circumstances.

Learn more about available funding opportunities or use our scholarship finder to explore our range of scholarships.

Postgraduate tuition fee loans

Scottish students may be eligible to apply to the Students Award Agency for Scotland (SAAS) for loans of up to £11,500 to cover tuition fees and associated living costs.

English students can apply for a loan of up to £12,167 each year as part of the Postgraduate Masters Loan Scheme.

Welsh students can apply for financial support of up to £18,770 as a combination of grant and loan from Student Finance Wales.

Northern Irish students can apply for a postgraduate tuition fee loan of up to £5,500 from Student Finance NI.

Cost of living

If you’re domiciled in the UK, you can typically apply to your relevant funding body for help with living costs. This usually takes the form of student loans, grants or bursaries, and the amount awarded depends upon your personal circumstances and household income.

International (including EU) students won’t normally be able to claim living support through SAAS or other UK public funding bodies. You should contact the relevant authority in your country to find out if you’re eligible to receive support.

Find out about the cost of living for students at Stirling

Payment options

We aim to be as flexible as possible, and offer a wide range of payment methods - including the option to pay fees by instalments. Learn more about how to pay

After you graduate

Our Applied Professional Studies course gives you an opportunity to build on your existing skills and experience, to reflect on the challenges of practice in contemporary social services and to develop enhanced capabilities as a reflective analytical practitioner. The course is widely recognised as a marker of rigour and depth in professional learning and practice development, and has helped to boost career progress for graduates in a range of social service areas, including: Management and Leadership, Adult Services, Support and Protection, and Social Work Practice Education.

  • Build on your existing skills and expertise and put your knowledge straight to work.
  • Pave the way to new career opportunities in contemporary social services.
  • Grow your network of professional contacts.

Each individual pathway offers benefits related to your professional field:

Child Welfare and Protection

The course is designed to enhance the careers and practice of experienced professionals working in a number of child protection related fields, including social workers, health workers, police officers and teachers. The Certificate in Child Welfare and Protection has been a benchmark qualification for over 25 years, and provides practitioners with the skills and knowledge required to work with confidence and competence. The Postgraduate Certificate is therefore an important qualification for practitioners to have on their CV when applying for posts in safeguarding and wellbeing. Employers are increasingly seeking individuals with a specialist knowledge and skills in child protection when appointing leaders in this key area. The Postgraduate Diploma supports students to take their studies further and develop areas of professional expertise, so the award is a recognition of advanced skills and knowledge in specialised areas of practice such as practice teaching, risk analysis, supervision and direct practice. For practitioners leading in practice and knowledge development, the Masters dissertation signifies to employers that you have research capacity and professional-level thinking built on secure foundations of theory and research. These awards provide a clear pathway for your investment in study to build over time and enhance employability in frontline and senior positions.

Management and Leadership in Social Services

The University of Stirling has offered post qualifying courses in social services management for over 20 years, and has an established reputation for supporting both new and experienced managers to develop their skills and confidence as effective leaders. The opportunity to study alongside peers from diverse sectors and specialisms enables course participants to deepen their understanding of integrated services and the boundary-spanning roles which are essential to contemporary practice.

Successful attainment of a social services management qualification has been seen to enhance participants’ future career opportunities. Our courses are recognised by the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) as approved awards for registered managers. During their study and on completion, candidates have experienced the benefits of undertaking a post qualifying award by securing promotion or moving into strategic planning or senior management posts.

Course participants span supervisors and managers from Children’s Services, Criminal Justice Social Work and Adult Health and Social Care. They include staff with varying professional backgrounds e.g. social work, nursing and occupational therapy and they work across fieldwork, residential and day service settings. Representation from third sector organisations and the independent sector alongside managers from public sector agencies enhances the learning for all involved.

Adult Services, Support and Protection

This well established course has run for over ten years. It is increasingly attracting staff from NHS (National Health Service) trusts as adult safeguarding and public protection services develop within health and social care partnerships. Post qualifying study is now important to developing a career in health and social services, whether that be in the public, private or third sector. Successful completion of this course demonstrates, to current or future employers, a commitment to updating knowledge, developing analytical skills and seeking out research that is relevant to improving practice and service delivery. It offers opportunities to undertake your own critical inquiry and contribute directly to knowledge through your own dissertation.

Social Work Practice Education

This course is designed to equip experienced practitioners with the knowledge and skills to support the learning and professional development of others. Candidates will gain skills in supervision, promoting reflective and analytical thinking and writing, encouraging integration of knowledge, skills and values in practice as well as assessing competence. The Postgraduate Certificate in Social Work Practice Education is, therefore, a valuable qualification to enable practitioners to further their careers in practice education, staff supervision, learning and development and as practitioners with enhanced analytical and reflective practice skills.

Companies we work with

We have developed close and enduring links with agency representatives and employers who sponsor staff to undertake our post-qualifying awards. These links are strengthened through agency liaison events and collaborative mentoring and assessment opportunities. This ensures we can anticipate learning needs across the workforce, and makes our courses – and graduates – highly effective in contributing to longer-term practice development.

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MSc Applied Professional Studies

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