MSc Health Psychology (incorporating PG Cert/PG Dip)

Why choose this course?

  • In our 2013/14 cohort, all of our graduates successfully achieved a merit or distinction. 
  • This course will help you to develop the necessary knowledge and skills to critically evaluate the fundamental theoretical, empirical, and practical applications of health psychology. The course provides the first stage of practitioner training towards becoming a registered health psychologist and is a prerequisite for stage two training in health psychology.
  • Our MSc Health Psychology follows the core curriculum for the British Psychological Society (BPS) Stage One training in health psychology, which, with Stage Two postgraduate training, equips you for practice as a Registered Health Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). Completion of Stage two training or a PhD in Psychology also allows you to become a Chartered Psychologist with the BPS and a full member of the Division of Health Psychology. 
  • You'll learn about the theoretical underpinning of health psychology and the application of that theory in practice. 
  • You'll explore classic and contemporary developments in health psychology research. 
  • You'll be trained in advanced research methods applied to health psychology and  have the opportunity to undertake empirical research within the field of health psychology.
  • You will explore various theoretical practical and professional issues in health psychology.
  • Your professional development will be supported throughout the programme and students have the opportunity to attend the Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference as part of that professional development. We are delighted the University of Derby will host the next Midlands Health Psychology Network Conference in February 2015.
  • View further information on our Psychology department.


MSc Health Psychology

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Fact file

Start date: September (full time or part time) or January (part time only)

Course length: full time: one year (two days per week), part time: two years (one day per week). If you study this course on campus full time, you’ll come into the University on Wednesdays and Thursdays. If you choose to study part time you’ll come in on Wednesdays during your first year and Thursdays during your second year. 

Campus: Kedleston Road site, Derby Campus  

College: College of Life & Natural Sciences

About this course

The MSc Health Psychology programme has been designed to fulfill the knowledge base required of Stage One programmes in Health Psychology by the British Psychological Society (BPS) as part of the qualification towards gaining Full Membership of the Division of Health Psychology (DHP) and Chartered Psychologist status. It is also the first stage of training towards becoming a Registered Health Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HCPC). In particular, the programme has four key aims and objectives for appropriately qualified students these are:

  • to provide you with the skills to critically evaluate theories, findings and methods relevant to the field of health psychology.
  • to provide you with the professional skills to work within multi-professional health care contexts.
  • to provide you with the necessary skills in order to design, conduct and analyse empirical psychological research in a health context.
  • to provide you with a knowledge base that is necessary and sufficient for the academic component of the route to becoming a chartered psychologist or registered health psychologist.

Health Psychology has been defined as the 'aggregate of the specific educational, scientific and professional contribution of the discipline of psychology to the promotion and maintenance of health, the promotion and treatment of illness and related dysfunction.' (Matarazzo, 1980)

However, you won't just be looking at the theoretical side of health psychology on this course, you'll also be exploring and understanding the application of health psychology theory and research in applied context and the issues faced by today's health psychology professionals.

You'll take part in interactive lectures, group discussions, workshops as well as your own independent study.

You'll be taught by a dedicated team of chartered and registered health psychologists, researchers and practitioners who have expert knowledge of health psychology.

Full time students complete the course over one year (two days a week) and part time students over two years (one day a week). Teaching is delivered in ten week blocks during the autumn and spring semesters and supervision for the research project in health psychology is organised by negotiation during the summer period. 

British Psychological Society Accreditation

The course has been fully accredited by the BPS. In addition, the accreditation team noted the following aspects of good practice and wished to commend the course for:

  • The enthusiasm and commitment of the programme team
  • Clear and comprehensive induction programme
  • The support available for students with disability
  • Professional skills development and career advice
  • Student satisfaction with the programme and the staff.

What you will cover

You will study these modules:

Psychology of Health and Wellbeing (20 credits)

Underpinning much of the activity within health psychology is the understanding of the psychological processes that relate to the maintenance of health, prevention of disease and the promotion of psychological wellbeing. This module aims to provide students with a broad knowledge base in these areas in relation to the historical, social and political context of health psychology and health services policy.

Psychology of Illness (20 credits)

Within health psychology it is essential to understand the links between psychological factors, behaviour, physiological mechanisms and illness.  This module aims to provide students with a broad knowledge base in these areas and introduce them to a range of physiological and psychological assessment methods.

Health Promotion and Behaviour Change (20 credits)

Understanding the complex interplay between psychological, biological, environmental, social and political factors that influence health is a necessary skill for health psychologists. The aim of this module is to provide students with an understanding of a range of factors that may influence health behaviour and behaviour change. In order to appreciate the potential role for health psychology the module will introduce students to current models and values that inform health promotion practice and provide the necessary knowledge and skills to successfully design and evaluate a health-based intervention.

Living with Long Term conditions (20 credits)

The aim of this module is to provide students with a critical awareness of the role of psychology in the onset, diagnosis, progression and management of various long term conditions.  Furthermore this module will provide students with a comprehensive understanding of key issues related to the nature of patient interaction with health care providers.  Finally, the role of the family and wider social environment in health and illness will be explored.

Advanced Psychological Research Methods in Context (20 credits)

In order to conduct and evaluate research within the field of health psychology the student must be able to draw upon a variety of quantitative and qualitative research methods, assess the appropriateness of various different research designs, employ a range of quantitative and qualitative analytical techniques including advanced statistical techniques and be able to interpret thefindings in order to draw appropriate interpretation and conclusions in relation to specific hypotheses or research  questions. The aim of this module is to provide students with a critical understanding of a range of quantitative research methods and advanced statistical techniques used for each type of research design, how statistical tests are performed and analysed using SPSS and how they are interpreted. In addition, the module will examine a range of qualitative research issues and develop understanding of a variety of qualitative data generation and analysis methods used in the context of health psychology.

Professional Skills in Health Psychology (20 credits)  

This module is about health psychologists in professional practice; how they work, what they do, how they are trained, and the skills they use, as well as contextual and policy issues that influence health psychologists in practice. In a series of interactive workshops, we explore and evaluate some of the key issues for professional practice and professional development. The module is also intended to support students’ own professional development, and a series of reflective activities are designed to enable students to reflect on, and plan for, their own professional development as health psychologists.

Research Project in Health Psychology (60 credits)

It is intrinsic to the award of MSc that students present evidence of their capacity to conduct a substantial piece of independent empirical research that builds clearly upon their prior learning and which draws upon appropriate methodologies.  The aim of this module is to allow students to identify a research issue, review existing literature on the topic, formulate pertinent research questions and explore these questions through the application of contemporary psychological methodologies and appropriate data analysis and scientific write-up.

Entry requirements

Applicants should normally have or expect to obtain at least a 2:1 honours degree in psychology or a closely related subject containing a significant element of psychology.

We’ll consider your reference and personal statement carefully, and we’ll normally invite you to come for an interview.

If English is not your first language, you will need to hold IELTS 6.5.

How to apply

UK/EU students

International students

Information for international applicants

Applying for a postgraduate degree

Fees and finance

2014/15 fees

UK/EU students

  • £495 per module (you usually take 9 of these modules in total)

International students

  • Full time: £10,955

*These fees apply if you're starting this course between September 2014 and August 2015. We recommend you check fee details with us though, as they can change. Costs can increase each year.

How you will learn

How you'll learn

You will be encouraged to develop autonomy in your studies; however this does not mean you will be unsupported - far from it, rather you will be supported to become an independent learner who is able to direct their own learning and development.

As a BPS accredited programme we have a staff-student ratio of 1:10 so you will benefit from small class sizes and a more personalised approach from a dedicated team.

We also recognise the benefits of inter-professional education so you will have the opportunity to study alongside students in Public Health and other allied health professionals who share your interest in the application of psychology to understanding the experience of health and illness.

The majority of our classes are held in our new interactive psychology laboratories that have been designed specifically to support small group and technology enhanced delivery.  

We recognise that different students have different learning styles and we try to provide a range of learning opportunities to reflect those different values.  

In addition to traditional lecture and seminar type activities such as group discussions and role play you will have the opportunity to use some of our high-specification equipment used for psychophysiological assessment. We also have a range of specialist software including a facial morphing package to replicate weight gain, smoking and sun damage which can be used in health promotion.

We also recognise the importance of research in professional education so not only do we draw on our own research in our teaching but we invite colleagues from the psychology department and other departments within the university as well as guest speakers from other universities with expertise in variety of areas important to the study of health psychology. In addition, students have the opportunity to attend the Midlands Health Psychology Network conference as part of the Professional Skills in Health Psychology module and we strongly encourage our graduates to present their own empirical research at the conference once they have completed the programme.

As a university we firmly believe that all students and staff have the right to pursue their studies and to discharge their professional duties respectively in an academic environment free from direct or indirect discrimination on the grounds of gender, ethnicity, class, age, sexual orientation or religious belief.

How you're assessed

The programme is assessed via 100% coursework.  Assessments are matched to the individual module learning outcomes, which are derived from the programme aims and programme learning outcomes. All module assessment require critical reasoning and evaluation in order for students to meet learning outcomes. 

Given the design of the programme there are no group assessments, however students are encouraged to discuss their learning and assessment preparation with their peers on the programme.

Students are assessed through a range of techniques including traditional essays and oral presentations as well as more innovative assessments such as case studies and intervention implementation reports.  Effective communication of ideas, critical evaluation and synthesis of knowledge is an important criterion in assessing all areas of work at this level.

Practical skills, including a range of methodological and analytical techniques, are assessed through the completion of practical exercises and portfolios of work to demonstrate competency across a range of areas.  

Careers and employability

This masters degree is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) as providing stage one training in health psychology. Once you've completed the course you'll be eligible to undertake stage two training in Health Psychology which on completion will allow you to become a Chartered Psychologist with the BPS and a Registered Health Psychologist with the Health and Care Professions Council (HPCP). 

In addition to core health psychology knowledge you'll develop your professional skills. Our focus on professional skills was one area in which we received a commendation from the BPS at our last campus accreditation visit. 

You'll be introduced to a range of health psychology competencies in areas such as teaching and training, research and consultancy as well as developing your professional skills such as understanding professional body and statutory regulatory requirements; continuing professional development (CPD) and reflective practice in order to prepare you to go to stage two training or to enter the world of work.

Previous graduates have gone on to qualify and work in a wide range of areas. Some have gone on to stage two training whilst others have secured funded PhDs in health psychology related areas. Others have used their MSc in Health Psychology to gain places on clinical psychology training programmes or access other related training eg. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and IAPT (Increasing Access to Psychologocal Treatment). A number of our graduates currently work in the NHS delivering services in areas of smoking cessation, health promotion, mental health and chronic illness management. Others have used their MSc to access to other graduate professions, such as education and management.

What our students say

In the 2013 Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey (PTES) our students rated our programme very positively with 100% agreement for a number of areas including that staff are good at explaining things and staff are enthusiastic about what they are teaching, the programme has developed research skills and that students are more confident about independent learning. 

Here’s an example of what they have said over the past two years that reflect these strengths:

"I found the course at Derby very interesting and stimulating, as it was a different style of studying to undergraduate. I particularly enjoyed having the opportunity to conduct three pieces of research throughout the course. I loved the fact  that some of the coursework involved applying health psychology theory and knowledge to real life situations, such as writing case studies and planning interventions. The staff are very friendly and knowledgeable, and are supportive of research ideas that are less conventional and more integrative of health psychology and other disciplines. I would highly recommend this course to anyone considering doing a masters in health psychology." Emma-Louise Randall (MSc Health Psychology 2013/14)

“Excellent and challenging” [2013]

“Small group size, more personalised experience [2012]

“Lecturers appear generally very enthusiastic about what they teach, and are willing to adequately answer any questions directed towards the topic in discussion.  Very friendly and approachable team, who share both academic and personal experience related to the course.  Also willing to offer support and guidance with regards to future prospects for students.” [2013]

“I am enjoying the course and the modules. The staff are enthusiastic and are willing to help with problems that you may face, and all of the staff are approachable” [2012]

“It is a very interesting area to research and the staff make it easier to understand the area through an enthusiastic nature of teaching. The module information and assignments have all been discussed as early as possible, giving us the best chance to write a quality piece of work” [2013]

Students also highlighted areas where we could improve the student experience, such as more practical work and applied skills development and we have included more of these opportunities since the development of our new laboratories.

Contact details

Gill Maxwell
01332 591166


Course enquiries

Contact name: Dr Vicki Staples

Where will I study?

Kedleston Road site, Derby Campus