MSc Health Psychology

MSc Health Psychology


The main aim of this new programme is to provide a Stage 1 Professional Training for Chartered Health Psychologist status with the British Psychological Society.  This includes a theoretical basis for understanding the major psychological factors that are associated with the attainment and maintenance of health including a detailed focus on health behaviour.

On completion, students will be equipped with the necessary skills to embark on their Stage 2 training or facilitate research at M.Phil or Ph.D. level. The programme will provide a detailed knowledge of the health psychology literature and principal theoretical and methodological issues in this field. The programme will also provide students with the statistical and methodological skills necessary to undertake research in health psychology.

This course will be of interest to those who wish to obtain a professional training and a further academic qualification enabling career advancement in an important and developing applied field in health care.

Course details

HealthPsy_logoHealth Psychology (MSc)
Duration: 1 year full time

See commendations from the BPS below

Specific aims:

  • To provide students with a recent background knowledge of the major  theories of explaining health beliefs, emotions and behaviour within the context of a modern developed health provider system;
  • To provide students with an advanced understanding of critical appraisal, research methods and statistical techniques typically employed in the field of health psychology;
  • To develop the practical skills associated with the planning of research projects, the analysis of data, and the communication and dissemination of research findings.
2014-02-13-Prep-room (1)

Consultation room in the School of Medicine

Applications are still being accepted for September 2017 entry
Funding Opportunity
Why should you choose this course?
  • Are you looking to join a pathway to become a Chartered Psychologist?
  • Are you interested in applying your knowledge of psychological theory to health care problems?
  • Do you want to acquire knowledge of research design and methods?
  • Do you want to acquire skills in data analysis applicable to health psychology?
  • Do you want to learn about health psychology in an applied setting? Are you keen to prepare for PhD studies in the field of health psychology?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then the MSc in Health Psychology could be exactly what you are looking for.

Find out more

Commendations from the British Psychological Society

(Following reaccreditation visit 23rd February 2016)


  1. The programme benefits from outstanding teaching provision and integration of research into teaching.
  2. The programme offers a good variety of placements and has strong connections with local health care providers.
  3. The programme offers a diverse learning environment due to it being co-located within two separate schools.
  4. The approachability of and support provided by the programme team are commendable.
  5. The programme benefits from comprehensive statistical support mechanisms and uses varied and relevant forms of continuing assessments, which are seen as being commendable and of high value.


Course Specific Facilities

The students on the course will be physically based within the School of Medicine.  The course has a broad, well qualified and experienced team of academic and health psychologists from both Schools of Medicine and Psychology.  It therefore provides a superb centre for professional learning in research and the application of psychology. 

General IT Facilities

There are numerous Computer Rooms spread across the campus which are located in the School and University Libraries.  St Andrews is a compact town in which the campus is situated making the learning experience satisfying and efficient. 

PC workstations and printing facilities are widely available within these Rooms. Access is flexible although security is required to maintain optimal functioning of the equipment.

On registration students can connect their own PCs via the network or using the WiFi service.  Remote access is available.

Coding Room

2014-02-12-coding-and-simulation-room (3)The coding room is a safe and secure location for storing sensitive data and is also used for behavioural data coding/analysis. Access to the room is by key pad and swipe card security. For data coding/analysis purpose, the room is equipped with four desktop computers operating the Windows system. The Observer XT system (a piece of behavioural data coding software) with a VR-CoDES template (a key behavioural coding scheme to study doctor-patient interactions) has been loaded onto each hard disc. Movavi video suite 6, video data conversion software, is also uploaded onto all computers.

MSc Health Psychology students can operate behavioural coding schemes such as VR-CoDES or new schemes on the Observer XT system under supervision. A pair of SMI Eye Tracking Glasses is also stored safely in the coding room for those students wishing to collect eye tracking data in a variety of settings.

Related studies

  • Zhou, Y. & Humphris, G. M. (2013). Reassurance and distress behaviour in preschool children undergoing dental preventive care procedures in a community setting: a multilevel observational study. Annuals of Behavioral Medicine. DOI: 10.1007/s12160-013-9566-7.
  • Associated article from the Reuters Health:
  • Zhou, Y., Forbes G. & Humphris, G. M. (2013). The behaviour of preschool children receiving the fluoride varnish application in a community setting. British Dental Journal. DOI: 10.1038/sj.bdj.2013.990; Research summary with commentary at British Dental Journal 2013; 215:E11. (among the top ten most-viewed articles in Oct 2013)
  • Zhou, Y., Collinson, A., Laidlaw, A. & Humphris, G. M. (2013) How do medical students respond to emotional cues and concerns expressed by simulated patients during OSCE consultations? – A multilevel study. PLoS ONE 8(10): e79166. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0079166;


Other example projects from the MSc Health Psychology and research students

  1. Are General Practitioners discussing weight with their overweight patients and if so what communicative techniques do they use and are the patients satisfied with the communication style? (MSc HP student project, Heather Locke)
  2. Investigating primary care communication towards patient weight and weight management (Phd Student Calum, McHale)

Preparation and Consultation Rooms

2014-02-13-Prep-room (1)The Prep and Consultation labs have the infrastructure required to conduct behavioural health related research. The testing area allows for the assessment of human behavioural and physiological measures and is equipped with a clinical bed, weigh scales, stadiometers, equipment for measurement of body composition and computers with general and specialized equipment software for conducting behavioural and psychological assessment. The testing area is also equipped with specialised cameras for video capture. The adjacent supporting laboratory is designed for ingestive behaviour and nutrition related preparatory bench work and analyses required to conduct experimental research.

Examples of studies:
  • Characterising resistance and susceptibility to weight change in first year University Students [Appetite. 2012 Jun;58(3):1091-8. Susceptibility to weight gain. Eating behaviour traits and physical activity as predictors of weight gain during the first year of university. Finlayson G, Cecil J, Higgs S, Hill A, Hetherington M.]
  • The influence of the presence of the TaqI A1 allele on the hedonic response to food and overconsumption (Food Motivation Study) (manuscript in prep)
  • It’s never too late to learn – applying learning theory to improve liking and intake of vegetables in pre-school age children [Appetite. 2011 Dec;57(3):791-5. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2011.07.005. Epub 2011 Jul 18.Feeding infants and young children. From guidelines to practice. Hetherington MM, Cecil JE, Jackson DM, Schwartz C. /  (abstract in press, Appetite), MS in prep]

Simulation Room

2014-02-12-coding-and-simulation-room (6)The Simulation Lab at the School of Medicine is used for running experimental studies and conducting face-to-face or telephone interviews. The room can also be used to video record interactions unobtrusively.

Examples of projects that have made use of this facility:

  • Appearance based and educational interventions to increase fruit and vegetable consumption. (MSC Health Psychology Caecilia Wighton)
  • Undergraduate medical projects on health behaviour interventions involving interviews with members of public 
  • Eye-tracking studies to examine the attentional focus of trainee doctors during emotionally-laden interactions in structured scenarios with experienced simulated patients

Career Opportunities

The MSc in Health Psychology will enable you to take the first step to acquiring Chartered Health Psychologist status.  This is reliant on you being eligible to hold the Graduate Basis for Registration (GBR) of the British Psychological Society (BPS).  On completion of the Stage One qualification you will then need to complete the Stage Two postgraduate Training programme in health psychology to meet the BPS requirements for the Chartered Health Psychologist status.

The course will provide you with many opportunities to develop your practical skills vital to your future career development.  We have close links with our partners in NHS Fife, notably in Psychological Services and the Department of Public Health.  Currently we have one trainee sponsored in a pilot scheme by the National Health Service Education Scotland (NES) and NHS Fife for a 2 year Stage Two training programme.  The trainee receives academic supervision from Health Psychology, School of Medicine, University of  St Andrews.

We have a committed Careers Center at the University.  In its latest report detailing the employment destinations of students (2005/6) it found that 3.7 per cent of students from taught Masters courses at the University of St Andrews remain unemployed which compares favourably with the UK Universities average of 5.7 per cent.

Some Past Students:

Silja-Riin Voolma

PhD Candidate, University of Cambridge

past_student_voolma“I graduated from the MSc Health Psychology course in 2010, after which I spent two years working in both the public and private sectors in Estonia, my home country. I gained research experience as an Assistant Researcher at the Tallinn University of Technology, after which I decided to pursue a PhD in public health, in order to enter a career in academia. 

I started my PhD in Public Health and Primary Care degree in the Behavioural Science Group at the University of Cambridge in 2012, on the topic of ‘The development and feasibility evaluation of a combined mobile phone and internet website intervention for changing harmful alcohol use and smoking behaviours among adolescents and young adults in Estonia’. My primary research interests include digital health behaviour change interventions and adolescent and young adult substance use behaviours.”

Kristel King

Research Fellow, University of York

past_student_king“I am really glad that I came to St Andrews for the Health Psychology MSc course.  The staff are very friendly and helpful, the facilities are excellent and the course structure and content is broad, varied and interesting.  I am currently working as a research fellow at the University of York, and am involved in several systematic reviews relating to public health.  The course gave me a strong foundation of knowledge, skills, and experience which have proven essential in this research role.”

Julie McLellan

National Health Service Education Scotland (NES)

Health Psychologist in Training (stage 2)

past_student_mclellan“The MSc in Health Psychology has provided me with a variety of unique experiences, such as direct patient contact through research fieldwork, observation of clinicians in various healthcare settings and meta-analysis training. These opportunities have proved to be invaluable in securing my further career development on to stage 2 of the Health Psychology training pathway (NHS Borders Public Health Department, Health Psychologist in Training, January 2014-January 2016).”

Past Student Projects

2014-2015 Dissertation Titles

  • Emotion and reassurance in prostate cancer patients
  • NHS Learning difficulties – adults
  • Leaflet design and testing
  • Interview study: GP/Nurses re weight management
  • Psycho-social cancer support services
  • Speech prosody of HN cancer patients
  • Intervention Fidelity – FoR
  • Bikeability scheme Fife council
  • Emotional content of HN cancer patients
  • Interview study: medical students and burnout
  • Fantasy and violent behaviour
  • Patient-centred communication behaviour

2013-2014 Dissertation Titles

  • The effects of compassion training on medical students stress levels when breaking bad news
  • Predicting bicycle safety equipment use among adult cyclists: an application of the theory of planned behaviour
  • Fear of Cancer Reccurance among Chinese Cancer Survivors
  • Giving Gymnastics a Go: Exploring the experience of children with motor coordination difficulties participating in a gymnastics programme
  • A Single Session Intervention (The Mini AFTER) For Fear of Cancer Recurrence: A Feasibility Study
  • An Evaluation of the Raising Children with Confidence Parenting Programme
  • Can eye tracking methodology be used to enhance our understanding of doctor-patient communication? – An exploratory study
  • A qualitative study investigating healthcare professionals’ knowledge attitudes and practices surrounding patient weight management in primary care
  • Burnout in Scottish medical students
  • Urban-rural differences in Scottish adolescent physical activity