Postgraduate study

Outdoor Education MSc, PgDip (ICL), PgCert (ICL), PgDip

Awards: MSc, PgDip (ICL), PgCert (ICL), PgDip

Study modes: Part-time Intermittent Study, Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Placements/internships

Programme website: Outdoor Education

Edinburgh is such a progressive and forward-thinking city in everything to do with the outdoors. Scotland is also a really good place to study outdoor education given the landscapes it has to offer! The programme was the main draw though really and the idea of learning from some of the best lecturers in the field.

Catherine Dunn MSc Outdoor Education 2020
Catherine Dunn               MSc Outdoor Education 2020

For over 45 years, the Postgraduate Diploma in Outdoor Education, and for over 20 years, the MSc in Outdoor Education, have been the world's leading postgraduate programme in the field, providing a broad base for a professional career in outdoor education.

There are three possible exit levels: Certificate (60 credits), Diploma (120 credits), or Masters (180 credits). The Certificate programme provides a broad theoretical coverage of the field of outdoor education. The Diploma extends this with further academic study and a Professional Development Programme (involving field courses such as a canoe descent of the River Spey, winter hillwalking, and a teaching placement/practicum), which provides a broad base for a professional career in outdoor education. The Masters extends this further still with a dissertation.

The emphasis - whether Certificate, Diploma, or Masters - is on developing the knowledge, understanding, and judgement necessary to facilitate meaningful learning in, for, and through the outdoors.

You will develop your intellectual skills through critically assessing theoretical, professional, and academic issues surrounding outdoor education while honing transferable skills such as environmental literacy and oral communication. You will also expand your understanding and personal practice of outdoor education through a range of professional development activities.

Courses take place at our Edinburgh campus and multiple bases in the Highlands of Scotland from where you will journey by boat or on foot to live and learn in the outdoors.

Learning will take the form of lectures, seminars, group discussions, student presentations, field courses, self-study, and work experience/practicum.

For the Postgraduate Certificate you will complete the following courses:

  • Personal and Social Development and Outdoor Education
  • Outdoor Environmental Education: Concept-based Practice
  • Experiential Education
  • Sources of Knowledge: Understanding and analysing research literature

For the Postgraduate Diploma, in addition to the above courses, you will complete:

  • Ecology and Field Studies
  • Interpreting the Landscape
  • Social Theory and Outdoor Education

For the Masters, in addition to the above courses, you will complete:

  • Dissertation

The Masters and Diploma programmes can be taken on a full-time or part-time basis. The Certificate is by nature a part-time programme of study. If you register to study on a 'part-time intermittent study' basis (routes signified by 'ICL') you will pay the academic tuition fees on a course-by-course basis, rather than paying for the entire programme at the outset.

Professional Development Programme

For the Masters and Diploma, as part of your Professional Development Programme (PDP), you will complete several field courses, some of which are compulsory and others optional. Compulsory courses may include:

  • Canoeing on the River Spey
  • Cairngorm hill-walking
  • Winter mountaineering
  • West Coast sea kayaking
  • a four-week professional placement/practicum
  • a two-day specialist outdoor first aid course
  • an 'Outdoor Education in Practice' course

Optional courses may include rock-climbing, river kayaking, bushcraft, wilderness first aid. Additional costs are associated with the optional elements of the Professional Development Programme; please contact the Programme Director for more information on these. Students on the Postgraduate Certificate may also take some of the skills courses at additional cost.

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.*

Award     Duration     Study mode     Indicative programme structure
MSc     15 Months     Full-time     Programme Structure 2019
MSc     30 Months     Part-time     Programme Structure 2019
MSc     2-6 Years     Part-time ICL     Programme Structure 2019
PgDip     1 Year     Full-time     Programme Structure 2019
PgDip     2 Years     Part-time     Programme Structure 2019
PgDip     1-4 Years     Part-time ICL     Programme Structure 2019
PgCert     1-2 Years     Part-time ICL     Programme Structure 2019

(*Revised 22 October 2020 to include indicative programme structures.)

To facilitate and broaden direct experience of teaching outdoors, course members undertake a 4-week professional placement. The placement occurs at a stage in the programme when students are able to make a useful contribution to the agencies they choose to work with and are able to relate their experience to theoretical material covered in class. Placement agencies range from those focusing on environmental education, to inner-city projects, special needs organisations, management training, outdoor education centres, and many more.

Graduates are employed worldwide in all aspects of the Outdoor Education sector, such as in residential outdoor education centres, wilderness expeditions, and school, college, and university outdoor education programmes. Many of our graduates return to their previous profession, but move into a different aspect of that field as a result of their increased knowledge, experience and qualification.

Completion of the MSc degree will enable you to continue onto advanced research. You will also develop highly transferable skills, such as communication and project management, which can be applied in any field.

Examples of recent graduate roles include:

  • conservation work (public and charitable organisations, UK and international),
  • education/environmental policy development,
  • environmental education programmes,
  • management development,
  • National Outdoor Leadership School,
  • non-profit organisations (environmental and/or personal & social development focused),
  • organisations working with marginalised young people,
  • Outward Bound,
  • self-employed in guiding/interpretation/education,
  • summer camp organisations
  • therapeutic work with young people and adults.

While the programme does not offer a formal teaching qualification, recent graduates have been successful in gaining accreditation by the General Teaching Council of Scotland to teach Outdoor Education in schools.

Courses take place at our Edinburgh campus and multiple bases in the Highlands of Scotland from where you will journey by boat or on foot to live and learn in the outdoors.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, as well as outdoor education experience.

We may also consider your application if you have relevant employment or experience; please contact us to check before you apply.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

You must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies, regardless of your nationality or country of residence.

English language tests

For 2021 entry we will accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS: total 7.0 (at least 6.0 in each module and 6.5 in writing)
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Special Home Edition): total 100 (at least 20 in each section and 23 in writing). We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements
  • CAE and CPE: total 185 (at least 169 in each module and 176 in writing)
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with a pass in all four components

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, PTE Academic or Trinity ISE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries.

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Part-time study

If you register to study on a 'part-time intermittent' basis (routes signified by 'ICL') you will pay the academic tuition fees on a course-by-course basis, rather than paying for the entire programme at the outset. As fees change each year, the total cost will depend on the length of time you take to complete your programme. Part-time students are required to pay any additional fees associated with the Professional Development Programme in two payments: half in year 1 and the second half in year 2 of your studies (The Professional Development Programme is not part of the Postgraduate Certificate).

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScUp to 6 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees
MSc15 MonthsFull-timeTuition fees
MSc30 MonthsPart-timeTuition fees
PgDip (ICL)Up to 4 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees
PgCert (ICL)Up to 2 YearsPart-time Intermittent StudyTuition fees
PgDip1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
PgDip2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK's governments. The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on your programme, the duration of your studies, and your residency status. (Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.)

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Moray House School of Education and Sport
  • Old Moray House
  • Holyrood Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 8AQ

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Moray House School of Education and Sport
  • Old Moray House
  • Holyrood Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 8AQ