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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

The Scottish Social Services Council accreditation

Key facts

  • Award Masters / MSc, Postgraduate Diploma, Postgraduate Certificate
  • Start date September or January
  • Duration MSc part-time: 36 months (flexible)
  • Mode of study Part-time, Campus based, Stand-alone modules, Mixture of online and classroom delivery
  • Accreditations Scottish Social Services Council

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. Relevant modules are recognised by organisations such as the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC).


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
  • Advanced Practice Skills
  • 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.


    Our academic staff are qualified social workers with a wealth of experience and commitment to the highest standards in teaching and research.


    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. Some modules are delivered at local teaching venues to increase accessibility.

    Choose from five 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 programme, 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, health, education or the police. 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
    • examination of the latest research and practice developments in care planning and intervention

    Each of the three modules on the course is delivered over seven days through a blend of direct teaching and structured learning activities.

    Award: MSc, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate

    Management and Leadership in Social Services

    A flexible study pathway 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. The modules involve direct teaching days which include:

    • group discussions and activities
    • structured learning sessions for independent study
    • action learning sets

    There are extensive online learning materials to complement the teaching sessions and to support collaborative learning.

    Award: MSc, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate

    Adult Services, Support and Protection

    Our Adult Services, Support and Protection pathway is designed to develop your theoretical, ethical and practical understanding of how adult support is delivered. It takes into account the challenges of changing laws, policies and service structures, and helps you to refresh your framework for thinking about adult services as you engage with leading researchers and practice experts.

    Award: MSc, Postgraduate Diploma or Postgraduate Certificate

    Advanced Practice Skills in Child Welfare and Protection

    Delivered by representatives of the University of Stirling, the NSPCC and a range of experts from across Scotland, this fully accredited programme has been introduced to help you develop advanced skills in child welfare and protection practice with children and families. Unlike most other postgraduate courses in the field, this course has an emphasis on gaining practical skills and experience, and you’ll gain knowledge, skills and experience for working within the most challenging settings.

    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. 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 accreditations

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

  • Flexible learning

    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

    When you study Applied Professional Studies at the University of Stirling, you’ll be introduced to leading-edge 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 Excellent Framework 2014 – a UK-wide assessment of universities’ research output. In the Social Work and Social Policy unit of assessment, highlights included:

    • 78% of our overall research activity was assessed to be internationally excellent or world-leading
    • 100% of research environment factors assessed as internationally excellent or world leading
    • 100% of our research impact was assessed as world leading or internationally excellent
    • we were judged to have the 2nd highest research power in Scotland and 13th highest in the UK
  • Academic requirements

    A minimum of a second class honours degree (2:1 preferred) or equivalent. Practical experience in a social care setting is essential. Registration with the Scottish Social Services Council (SSSC) is a requirement for commencing and remaining on the programme (further information on how to apply will be provided to successful applicants who accept a place on the course). Enrolled students must also be a member of the Protection of Vulnerable Groups Scheme.

    If you’re a student from overseas 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.

  • 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 6.5 with 6.0 minimum in each sub-skill
    • Cambridge C1 Advanced (CAE) 176 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
    • Cambridge C2 Proficiency (CPE) 180 overall with a minimum of 169 in each sub-skill
    • Pearson Test of English (Academic) 60 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
    • Trinity ISE II Pass overall and Merit in all sub-skills, ISE III Pass overall and in all sub-skills, ISE IV Pass overall and in all sub-skills

    Last updated: 5 December 2019

    For more information on ways that you can meet our English language requirements, including options to waive the requirement, please read our information on English language 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.

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


The modules listed below are those currently intended for delivery in the next academic intake of this course. These may be subject to change as the University regularly revises and refreshes the curriculum of our taught programmes.

Course Details

  • Teaching

    Modules are taught through a combination of contact teaching days, structured learning making use of the University’s online learning platform, and self-directed private study.

    The student groups are small and classroom sessions are delivered in a seminar style with a mixture of PowerPoint presentations, small group work activity and a high level of interaction between presenter and students.

    Classroom sessions are led by University academics and researchers who are actively involved in the social work 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.

    The online learning platform provides a wide range of learning resources that act as a starting point for self-directed study. This course encourages a high level of reflection on your own practice, as well as application of learning to your professional role.

  • Course director
  • Fees and costs
    2019/20 fees
     Home/EU students
    20-credit module £722
    40-credit module £1,444*
    60-credit module £2,166**

    This course is only open to students with a tuition fee status of Home/EU in the 2019/20 academic year. 

    * There is an additional fee of £144 for IDI (Leadership styles feedback) on the Leadership and Management module (APSPG07).

    ** There is a discount of £500 for University of Stirling students who have successfully completed the Postgraduate Diploma in Applied Professional Studies and continue to the MSc.

    2020/21 fees
     Home/EU studentsOverseas students
    20-credit module £778 £1,694
    40-credit module £1,556* £3,389*
    60-credit module £2,333 £5,084

    * There is an additional fee of £144 for IDI (Leadership styles feedback) on the Leadership and Management module (APSPG07).

    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, you may be liable for an additional fee.

    For more information on courses invoiced on a modular fee basis, please read our tuition fee policy.

  • Scholarships and funding

    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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

    EU and overseas 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

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 mark 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: Child Welfare and Protection, 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 programme 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 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 Diploma supports Certificate 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.

Students can also opt to progress onto Advanced Practice Skills which aims to develop enhanced knowledge and skills for direct work with children and families.

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.

Adult Services, Support and Protection

Post qualifying study is increasingly 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.

Social Work Practice Education

This programme 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’ve 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, strong agency representation on the course committee and collaborative mentoring and assessment opportunities. This ensures we can always anticipate learning needs in the workforce, and makes our courses – and graduates – highly effective in contributing to longer-term practice development.

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