Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Developmental Science MSc, Diploma, Certificate

Awards: MSc, Diploma, Certificate

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

This unique programme seeks to enhance your understanding of key theoretical and practical issues about typical and atypical development in children and young people and provides an opportunity for intensive advanced training in Developmental Science.

You will learn how key topics in Developmental Science can be addressed using research techniques from several inter-related disciplines such as:

  • Developmental Psychology
  • Cognitive Psychology
  • Computational Science
  • Neuroscience
  • Linguistics

Key research areas

The programme aims to equip you with the skills required to conduct independent scientific research that addresses key issues in developmental science.

Your MSc culminates in a research dissertation in a core research area: an original, publication-quality piece of research, undertaken in close collaboration with researchers in the relevant group.

The core research areas of our department are social psychology, cognitive neuropsychology, individual differences, psychology of language and human development.

Psychology is rated 3rd in the UK by Times Higher Education for the quality and breadth of the research using the latest Research Excellence Framework (REF 2021).

What will I learn?

You will take courses on the theoretical and methodological aspects of developmental science and conduct an original research dissertation in one of these areas.

You will also receive thorough training in advanced academic skills and research methods within psychology, including a comprehensive coverage of statistical modelling and research design using the R statistical language.

Is this MSc for me?

This programme provides an understanding of advanced topics, methodologies and issues in the area of developmental science, as well as research design and management. You can flexibly choose optional courses to customise your learning in areas you are most passionate about.

It provides excellent preparation for further research and knowledge of developmental psychology, whether you choose to pursue this in a professional career or further academic research. As this programme is research focused, it would not be a good option if you are looking for a clinical programme. However, if you would like to get advanced research training before embarking on a clinical path, then it would be a good fit.

Reputation, relevance and employability

The University of Edinburgh has a long tradition of research expertise in developmental psychology. Our large Psychology department is home to academics leading research in the field.

You will benefit from the breadth and strength of the interdisciplinary academic community at Edinburgh, having the opportunity to select option courses and attend research seminars across different disciplines.

Our students’ research projects are often published in academic or professional journals.

Our programme has an excellent reputation amongst employers and further research opportunities. Many of our graduates have gone onto PhD training and academic careers and advanced professional training in psychology.

We maintain close contacts with professional organisations such as British Psychological Society (BPS).

Find out more about our community

The School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences is home to a large, supportive and active student community, hosting events and activities throughout the year which you can join. As a postgraduate student, you will have access to a range of research resources, state of the art facilities, research seminars and reading groups.

This programme contains two semesters of taught core courses and optional courses followed by a dissertation.

The taught courses and their assessments take place between September to December (Semester 1) and January to April (Semester 2). Planning for the dissertation generally takes place until April and is carried out between April and August, although an earlier start is often needed for projects involving child participants.

Core courses

In addition to topics specific to developmental science, the core courses cover advanced academic skills and research methodology, including research design and statistical modelling. The core courses are:

  • Psychological Research Skills - General advanced research methodology
  • Univariate Statistics and Methodology using R - Introduction to R and statistical models
  • Multivariate Statistics and Methodology using R - Advanced statistical modelling
  • Developmental Science 1
  • Developmental Science 2

Optional courses

You can select optional courses to tailor the programme to your interests. If you wish, you may choose the optional course from an associated area, such as individual differences, informatics, psycholinguistics, and developmental or social psychology. Examples of optional courses are:

  • Brain Imaging in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Neuroscience of Language
  • Applied Psychometrics
  • Qualitative Methodologies in Psychological Research
  • any other course open to MSc students subject to approval from the programme director


The dissertation involves conducting an empirical research project in close collaboration with an expert supervisor, sometimes also working with fellow MSc students.

You will produce a written report, similar to an academic journal article; indeed, some dissertations are published as journal articles. The dissertation can be based on data collected by you or existing datasets (e.g., from large cohort studies, biobanks or other projects).

The empirical work and writing take place between April and August and will be due in August, although the empirical work may need to start earlier when data collection involves infant/child participants.

For students with a strong interest in clinical populations, there may be opportunities to join ongoing clinical research projects, subject to certain constraints (e.g. Application for NHS Research Passport).

How will I learn?

We teach most courses through a combination of live and pre-recorded lectures, seminars/tutorials and practical sessions. The number of contact hours and the teaching format will depend to some extent on the option courses chosen.

After classes finish in April, you will spend all your time working independently on coursework, exam revision and on your dissertation. When you carry out your supervised dissertation research, you will receive guidance from your supervisor through one-to-one meetings, comments on written work and email communication.

This programme provides you with a range of knowledge and skills to prepare you for a variety of career paths. On successful completion of this programme, you will have gained:

  • an understanding of advanced topics, methodologies and issues in the areas of developmental science that are of most interest to you
  • an understanding of the basic and advanced principles of research design and application
  • competency in applying a range of methods and research tools, including statistical models and programming
  • skills in research management, including managing data and conducting and disseminating research in ways consistent with both professional practice and the normal principles of research ethics
  • transferable skills in written and verbal communication, group and teamwork, computing, programming and numeracy, time and project management
  • the ability to work as an independent researcher and as part of a team.

The programme is primarily designed for students who aspire to pursue a research-oriented career in developmental science. However, the course also teaches a broad range of transferable skills applicable to a wide range of modern jobs, such as:

  • research design
  • data management and processing
  • statistical modelling and interpretation
  • synthesis and communication of complex literature

Careers Service

Our award-winning Careers Service plays an essential part in your wider student experience at the University, providing:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internships and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

Your application and personal statement allow us to make sure that you and your chosen MSc are good matches for each other, and that you will have a productive and successful year at Edinburgh.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. You should avoid applying to more than one degree. Applicants who can demonstrate their understanding and commitment to a specific programme are preferred. If you plan to apply to more than one programme, you should discuss your choices with us before you submit your application.

Personal statements

When applying you should include a personal statement detailing your academic abilities and your reasons for applying for the programme, focusing in particular on how the programme would help you reach your long-term goals.

The personal statement helps us decide whether you are right for the MSc programme you have selected, but just as importantly, it helps us decide whether the MSc programme is right for you.

Your personal statement should include:

  • What makes this particular MSc programme interesting for you?
  • What are the most important things you want to gain from the MSc programme?
  • How would the programme help you reach your long-term goals?
  • What are the key (psychology) courses you have taken and that are relevant for this specific programme?
  • What is your experience with collecting empirical data (e.g., preparing and carrying out experiments, surveys or interviews)?
  • What is your experience with statistical analysis and programming or qualitative research methods?
  • What is your experience with writing empirical research reports (including any that have been published)?
  • any other information which you feel will help us ensure that you are a good match for your intended MSc programme

A good personal statement can make a big difference to the admissions process as it may be the only opportunity to explain why you are an ideal candidate for the programme.


We will ask you to add contact details for your referees. We will email them with information on how to upload their reference directly to your online application. Alternatively, they can email their comments to:

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

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, either in psychology or in a cognitive-science related discipline.

You should also be able to demonstrate evidence of your ability to learn advanced statistical/computational analysis techniques as well as evidence of your experience/interest in conducting research with children as participants.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

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

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 23 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 176 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 62 in each component.

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, Trinity ISE or PTE, 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 (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fees

There are a number of highly competitive scholarships and funding options available to MSc students.

Deadlines for funding applications vary for each funding source - please make sure to check the specific deadlines for the funding opportunities you wish to apply for and make sure that you submit your application in good time.

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:

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD

Applications are held for processing over three deadlines:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 30 November 2023 01 February 2024
2 04 March 2024 30 April 2024
3 01 May 2024 26 June 2024

We operate a gathered field approach to applications for MSc Developmental Science. This means that all complete applications that satisfy our minimum entry requirements will be held until the nearest deadline and the admissions panel will meet to consider all applications received together after that date. To be considered as having met the deadline, your application must include transcripts and an academic reference.

Applications will not be accepted after the final deadline.

Applications must be complete with all supporting documentation to be passed on for consideration, this includes references. Please ensure that you inform referees of any deadline you wish to meet.

Please read through the ‘Important application information’ section on this page before applying.

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

Further information

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD