Postgraduate study

Psychology of Individual Differences MSc

Awards: MSc

Funding opportunities

This programme provides an opportunity for intensive advanced training in the psychology of individual differences, addressing the questions of how and why people differ from one another psychologically and how these differences matter in their lives. There are few MSc programmes dedicated to individual differences in Europe as well as in the whole world. The University of Edinburgh is uniquely positioned to offer this programme because of its long history of world-class individual differences research and teaching. Staff involved in teaching and supervision include internationally recognised researchers from our Individual Differences Research Group

Our staff expertise covers various topics, including the measurement, causes and consequences of personality traits and intelligence, positive psychology, primate behaviour, paranormal beliefs and psychopathology.

Individual differences research group

You will take courses on the theoretical and methodological aspects of individual differences research and conduct an original research dissertation. You will also receive thorough training in advanced academic skills and research methods within psychology, including comprehensive coverage of statistical modelling and research design using the R statistical language. All MSc students are encouraged to take part in weekly journal clubs that feature presentations from staff, postgraduate students and external speakers, and discussions of important new articles.

The programme comprises two semesters of taught core courses and an optional course, followed by a research dissertation, conducted in close collaboration with an expert supervisor over the spring and summer months. In addition to topics specific to individual differences (primarily personality and intelligence), the core courses cover advanced academic skills and research methodology, including research design and statistical modelling. The optional course can be selected to tailor the programme to suit 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.

Core courses

  • 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
  • Seminar in Personality - The first core course on individual differences consists of lectures covering the basics of the measurement, development, causes and consequences of personality traits, followed by a series of lecturer-assisted student presentations and group discussions on key topics of personality research *Seminar in Intelligence - The second core course on individual differences consists of lectures covering the basics of the measurement, development, causes and consequences of cognitive abilities, followed by a series of lecturer-assisted student presentations and group discussions on key topics of intelligence research

Option courses include:

  • Applied Psychological Testing (taught by individual differences research group, covering the psychometric theory and modelling as well as a range of real-world applications of psychological testing)
  • Brain Imaging in Cognitive Neuroscience
  • Clinical Neuropsychology
  • Neuroscience of Language
  • Atypical Development
  • Qualitative Research Methods
  • Or any other course open to MSc students


The dissertation involves conducting an empirical research project in close collaboration with an expert supervisor, sometimes also working with other graduate students. You will produce a written report, similar to an academic journal article; indeed, some dissertations are published as journal articles. The empirical work and writing take place between April and August. The dissertation can be based on data collected by the student or existing datasets (e.g., from large cohort studies, biobanks or other projects). The dissertation is due in August.

On successful completion of this programme, the student will have gained:

  • specialist knowledge of the field of individual differences (primarily personality traits and intelligence) and integrated areas of study (e.g., genetics, psychopathology, epidemiology), in addition to training in advanced psychological research methods
  • an understanding of key research methods in the field of individual differences
  • 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 professional practice and the principles of research ethics

The programme is designed for students who aspire to pursue a research-oriented career in psychology or related fields, such as health psychology, genetics, epidemiology, social psychology, developmental psychology, psychopathology or educational psychology. The programme can also prepare students for a career in organisational psychology / human resources. More broadly, 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, as well as the synthesis and communication of complex literature.

These entry requirements are for the 2022/23 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2023/24 academic year will be published on 3 October 2022.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in psychological, biological or social sciences, or any similar subject based on methodological and statistics studies.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

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

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

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.5 in each component.
  • 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.

(*Revised 17 November 2021 to add accepted PTE Academic qualifications.)

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:

Read our general information on tuition fees and studying costs:

Featured funding

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
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD

Applications are held for processing over three deadlines:

Round Application deadline Places awarded
1 1 December 31 January
2 1 February 31 March
3 1 April 31 May

We operate a gathered field approach to applications for MSc Psychology of Individual Differences. 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 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.


You will be asked 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:

Personal statement

In addition to the supporting documents requested on the application form, you should include a personal statement detailing the background of your interest and why you are attracted to the programme. We expect you to have a good understanding of the field you propose to study.

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

Further information

  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD