Health Psychology

2022/23 Full-time Postgraduate course


Master of Science


Faculty of Life and Health Sciences


School of Psychology


This course is taught online so you can study where you want, when you want.

Start date:

September 2022


Flexible, innovative learning: a global perspective on health psychology.


This course is accredited by the British Psychological Society (BPS) and provides stage one of the professional training in Health Psychology. The course is intended for graduate students who wish to pursue professional careers in Psychology, and who seek to enhance their knowledge, skills and awareness of its applications to health and illness.

Health Psychology is developing rapidly in the UK, across Europe and internationally in response to the increase in non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. There is recognised need for a psychological approach to managing lifestyle choices and healthcare delivery to address the impact on health.

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About this course


This programme was developed to provide flexible, innovative postgraduate training in health psychology. Our course was awarded five commendations from the BPS for supporting equality, diversity and enabling accessibility to education, the use of e-mentors as role models to support peer learning, the course team for knowledge and support given to students in the online environment, a VLE that is cutting edge that provides outstanding support to both students and staff and lastly the teaching and application of research methods to health psychology.

Studying by distance learning allows you to learn around family and work commitments at a time that suits you. The course is interactive and provides you with opportunities to engage with the learning materials and your fellow students in online discussions and chat sessions. This course will provide you with the knowledge base about how psychological theory is applied to our understanding of health and well-being, interventions used by health psychologists, research methods and professional practice. It provides the first stage of professional training to become a Registered Health Psychologist and has been running since 2010.

We were the first distance learning MSc in Health Psychology accredited by the BPS in the UK and we attract students from all over the world. You will be taught by a highly motivated group of registered health psychologists and chartered psychologists who are all research active and have links with a number of professional organisations including the Public Health Agency and Health Trusts. We are actively involved with the Division of Health Psychology at regional, national and international level.

The course is taught by a dedicated team of enthusiastic health and chartered psychologists, all of whom are research active. The majority are Fellows of the Higher Education Academy, some of whom have received recognition for their teaching.


You are expected to go into the online environment on a regular basis and engage with the learning material. It is a full time course and will require full time hours to complete it. Students are expected to contribute to online weekly activities within the modules and complete these within the weekly deadlines set. Attendance is monitored.

Start dates

  • September 2022

Teaching, Learning and Assessment

Teaching will involve a combination of online lectures, seminars/interactive sessions and practical exercises (e.g. designing a health promotion campaign, conducting a mini systematic review). Students will be expected to engage with the material presented and will be encouraged to consolidate their skills as independent learners. Regular and timely feedback will be given for all tasks to inform, improve and develop performance.


The content for each course is summarised on the relevant course page, along with an overview of the modules that make up the course.

Each course is approved by the University and meets the expectations of:

Attendance and Independent Study

As part of your course induction, you will be provided with details of the organisation and management of the course, including attendance and assessment requirements - usually in the form of a timetable. For full-time courses, the precise timetable for each semester is not confirmed until close to the start date and may be subject to some change in the early weeks as all courses settle into their planned patterns. For part-time courses which require attendance on particular days and times, an expectation of the days and periods of attendance will be included in the letter of offer. A course handbook is also made available.

Courses comprise modules for which the notional effort involved is indicated by its credit rating. Each credit point represents 10 hours of student effort. Undergraduate courses typically contain 10- or 20-credit modules (more usually 20) and postgraduate course typically 15- or 30-credit modules.

The normal study load expectation for an undergraduate full-time course of study in the standard academic year is 120 credit points. This amounts to around 36-42 hours of expected teaching and learning per week, inclusive of attendance requirements for lectures, seminars, tutorials, practical work, fieldwork or other scheduled classes, private study, and assessment. Part-time study load is the same as full-time pro-rata, with each credit point representing 10 hours of student effort.

Postgraduate Master’s courses typically comprise 180 credits, taken in three semesters when studied full-time. A Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) comprises 60 credits and can usually be completed on a part-time basis in one year. A 120-credit Postgraduate Diploma (PGDip) can usually be completed on a part-time basis in two years.

Class contact times vary by course and type of module. Typically, for a module predominantly delivered through lectures you can expect at least 3 contact hours per week (lectures/seminars/tutorials). Laboratory classes often require a greater intensity of attendance in blocks. Some modules may combine lecture and laboratory. The precise model will depend on the course you apply for and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. Prospective students will be consulted about any significant changes.


Assessment methods vary and are defined explicitly in each module. Assessment can be a combination of examination and coursework but may also be only one of these methods. Assessment is designed to assess your achievement of the module’s stated learning outcomes. You can expect to receive timely feedback on all coursework assessment. The precise assessment will depend on the module and may be subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.

Coursework can take many forms, for example: essay, report, seminar paper, test, presentation, dissertation, design, artefacts, portfolio, journal, group work. The precise form and combination of assessment will depend on the course you apply for and the module. Details will be made available in advance through induction, the course handbook, the module specification and the assessment timetable. The details are subject to change from year to year for quality or enhancement reasons. You will be consulted about any significant changes.

Normally, a module will have 4 learning outcomes, and no more than 2 items of assessment. An item of assessment can comprise more than one task. The notional workload and the equivalence across types of assessment is standardised.

Calculation of the Final Award

The class of Honours awarded in Bachelor’s degrees is usually determined by calculation of an aggregate mark based on performance across the modules at Levels 5 and 6, (which correspond to the second and third year of full-time attendance).

Level 6 modules contribute 70% of the aggregate mark and Level 5 contributes 30% to the calculation of the class of the award. Classification of integrated Master’s degrees with Honours include a Level 7 component. The calculation in this case is: 50% Level 7, 30% Level 6, 20% Level 5. At least half the Level 5 modules must be studied at the University for Level 5 to be included in the calculation of the class.

All other qualifications have an overall grade determined by results in modules from the final level of study. In Master’s degrees of more than 200 credit points the final 120 points usually determine the overall grading.

Academic profile

The University employs over 1,000 suitably qualified and experienced academic staff - 59% have PhDs in their subject field and many have professional body recognition.

Courses are taught by staff who are Professors (25%), Readers, Senior Lecturers (18%) or Lecturers (57%).

We require most academic staff to be qualified to teach in higher education: 82% hold either Postgraduate Certificates in Higher Education Practice or higher. Most academic staff (81%) are accredited fellows of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) - the university sector professional body for teaching and learning. Many academic and technical staff hold other professional body designations related to their subject or scholarly practice.

The profiles of many academic staff can be found on the University’s departmental websites and give a detailed insight into the range of staffing and expertise. The precise staffing for a course will depend on the department(s) involved and the availability and management of staff. This is subject to change annually and is confirmed in the timetable issued at the start of the course.

Occasionally, teaching may be supplemented by suitably qualified part-time staff (usually qualified researchers) and specialist guest lecturers. In these cases, all staff are inducted, mostly through our staff development programme ‘First Steps to Teaching’. In some cases, usually for provision in one of our out-centres, Recognised University Teachers are involved, supported by the University in suitable professional development for teaching.

Figures correct for academic year 2019-2020.


Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

In this section

Year one

Social, Cultural and Family Perspectives in Health Psychology (SCFP)

Year: 1

This module examines Health Psychology at an individual, family and cultural level. The first section addresses the theory and research on the effects of individual differences on health. The module then adopts a lifespan approach to health with a focus on the family context. The topics include the psychology of health in childhood and adolescence. The health psychology of genetic testing, reproduction, parenthood and death, dying and bereavement. Finally the module examines the social context of health with an emphasis on the effects of culture, ethnicity and gender.

Context and Perspectives in Health Psychology (CPHP)

Year: 1

This module introduces the student to the history of health psychology and its relationship to other relevant disciplines, the biological, bio-behavioural and psychosocial mechanisms underlying aspects of health and ill health and the development and application of the biopsychosocial model of health to stress, pain diabetes and coronary heart disease.

Methods and Issues in Research and Practice (MIRP)

Year: 1

This module will provide students with opportunities to develop knowledge, understanding and skills in relation to the planning, designing, conducting, analysing and reporting of investigations in health psychology employing a range of quantitative and qualitative approaches, designs and methods, and with opportunities to develop knowledge, understanding and skills in relation to practical and professional issues relevant to practice and research in health psychology.

Models and Applications in Health Psychology (MAHP)

Year: 1

This module will explore theories of health beliefs and the models that have been developed to predict and explain behaviour. It will also explore individuals' perceptions of illness and the role played by health beliefs in the communication process between patients and health care professionals. In addition it will explore how psychological theory contributes to our understanding of health and illness, more specifically how behaviour can be modified to improve health, giving a general background to health education and promotion. Looking at how psychological theories presented in other modules are further applied to intervention strategies and techniques to prevent ill health and maintain well being.

Dissertation for Health Psychology

Year: 1

This module will provide students with the chance to develop a substantial piece of work of their own, enabling them to demonstrate their understanding and the application of advanced research methods to a practical research issue of relevance to health psychology and at a level of scholarship appropriate to Masters level.

Standard entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements.

Entry Requirements

Applicants would normally be expected to have at least an upper second class honours degree in psychology conferring eligibility for GBC membership of the British Psychological Society (or National/international Equivalent e.g. PSI). Students will not normally be required to attend an interview. Selection will be based upon academic qualifications, relevant experience, personal statement in application form, as well as the University’s policy on graduate recruitment.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Exemptions and transferability

One module may be APELed for this course providing it covers the learning outcomes. The dissertation module cannot be APELed.

APEL(Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning)

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Careers & opportunities

Career options

This course is intended for graduate students in psychology who wish to pursue professional careers in Psychology, and who seek to enhance their knowledge, skills and awareness of its applications to health and illness. It also enhances independent learning, verbal and written communication skills, time management and research skills.

It is assumed that the majority of our graduates will seek to pursue a career as a professional psychologist and many will go on to complete stage two of the training required to become a registered health psychologist. However, the degree will prepare students for a range of careers in health and related disciplines and some may further their studies by completing a PhD.

Work placement / study abroad

No placements are offered on this course as it is distance learning.

Professional recognition

British Psychological Society (BPS)

Accredited against the requirements for the Graduate Basis for Chartered Membership (GBC) of the British Psychological Society (BPS).


Start dates

  • September 2022

Fees and funding

Scholarships, awards and prizes

Each year the best dissertation is submitted to the Division of Health Psychology for an annual prize. Students from the programme have achieved recognition for the high standard of research undertaken.

Additional mandatory costs

Some additional costs might include attendance at conferences or career events, but these are not compulsory and at the students own discretion.

Tuition fees and costs associated with accommodation, travel (including car parking charges), and normal living are a part of university life.

Where a course has additional mandatory expenses we make every effort to highlight them. These may include residential visits, field trips, materials (e.g. art, design, engineering) inoculations, security checks, computer equipment, uniforms, professional memberships etc.

We aim to provide students with the learning materials needed to support their studies. Our libraries are a valuable resource with an extensive collection of books and journals as well as first-class facilities and IT equipment. Computer suites and free wifi is also available on each of the campuses.

There will be some additional costs to being a student which cannot be itemised and these will be different for each student. You may choose to purchase your own textbooks and course materials or prefer your own computer and software. Printing and binding may also be required. There are additional fees for graduation ceremonies, examination resits and library fines. Additional costs vary from course to course.

Students choosing a period of paid work placement or study abroad as part of their course should be aware that there may be additional travel and living costs as well as tuition fees.

Please contact the course team for more information.


Course Director: Dr Liz Simpson

T: +44 (0)28 7012 3207


Admissions enquiries

T: +44 (0)28 7012 3210


For more information visit


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I am currently registered for a PhD in the School of Psychology at Ulster University. In 2010 I obtained a BSc (Hons) Social Psychology from the University and went on to complete an MSc in Health Psychology at Ulster in 2011. During the MSc I became particularly interested in health behaviour change and I was keen to explore this area further. I decided to apply for a PhD in this area and I was lucky enough to receive a studentship. I am now developing, implementing and evaluating an intervention to promote physical activity among women as a PhD project. Completing my project has been challenging however overcoming these issues and working in an area I really enjoy has been very rewarding. Having completed the MSc and currently undertaking a PhD I decided to apply to enrol for the stage 2 training in health psychology offered by the BPS (independent route). I am also a member of the BPS Division of Health Psychology Northern Ireland Branch. Julie Doherty (2015 – PhD student in the School of Psychology – Full-time MSc graduate 2011).

Having just completed the MSc Health Psychology course online I found the whole experience to be a very positive one. The advantages of carrying out the course online meant that I could continue paid work while at the same time, learning from home and not being tied to specific timed classes. This of course meant that I had to be very self-motivated in order to come home from a days work and get stuck into uni work, but you soon get yourself into a routine. One of the most positive things from the course was the help that was provided from the lecturers, any question asked was answered as quickly as possible. Another positive aspect of the course was that with the weekly and group tasks you felt you weren’t alone even though you were sat at home staring at your computer screen, a few of us even exchanged phone numbers and were able to give each other advice when needed (Emma Hannah, Full time MSc, 2011 graduate).

I have studied the Msc Health Psychology as a part time, distance learning course at Ulster. The course has acted not only as a springboard in my working environment but also academically, as I am aiming for Stage 2 training. The distance learning aspect has been tremendous and has afforded me the luxury of studying in my own time, scheduling around work and family life. I have received great support from the course tutors and director and although I am studying from a distance I have never felt isolated. The course has provided a wealth of knowledge and my skillset has increased greatly during the first year. I hope to use this new found knowledge and skills within my working environment as health psychology can be implemented in many public health environments. (Janine Gaston, Part-time MSc 2012 graduate).