Postgraduate study

Advanced Social Work Studies (Mental Health Officer Award) PgCert

Awards: PgCert

Study modes: Part-time

Funding opportunities

This programme is the postgraduate qualification for qualified social workers wishing to practice as mental health officers (MHOs). It has been designed and delivered in partnership with 13 local authorities in the East of Scotland and the University of Edinburgh.

The programme focuses upon the role of the MHO in relation to relevant Scottish legislation.

Under Section 32(2) of the Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003 (the 2003 Act), local authorities have a statutory duty to appoint MHOs to undertake mandatory responsibilities, enshrined in legislation, currently:

  • the 2003 Act
  • the Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000
  • the Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995

The programme also prepares MHOs to integrate knowledge of other relevant legislation, including:

  • the Adult Support and Protection (Scotland) Act 2007

Its primary aim is to provide the Advanced Social Work Studies (Mental Health Officer Award) in partnership with the East of Scotland MHO Award Partnership.

The programme comprises four courses and two practice placements which are taught over one academic year.

We start with two days induction in mid-October followed by the first course, which begins in late November/December.

It provides an introduction to some of the key issues and current thinking in the field of mental health and encourages students to take a critical look at subjects and concepts including mental illness, psychiatric diagnoses, recovery and contemporary developments in mental health law.

The subsequent three courses are structured around the main statutes that frame the MHO role, namely:

  • The Mental Health (Care and Treatment) (Scotland) Act 2003
  • The Criminal Procedures (Scotland) Act 1995
  • The Adults with Incapacity (Scotland) Act 2000

Teaching and learning activities enable students to gain a detailed understanding of this framework and how it interfaces with adult protection legislation.

The programme benefits from inputs from practising MHOs and allied professionals, including psychiatrists, psychologists and advocacy workers. A central focus is the pivotal role MHOs play in navigating the ethical and human rights challenges inherent in this work. This is supported by contributions from people with experience of mental distress and their carers.

The programme structure enables students to apply their academic learning to real-life situations during the practice placements, supported and supervised by experienced MHOs.

In line with the Scottish Social Services Council’s standards for MHO Awards and in order to successfully complete the programme, you are required to demonstrate relevant extensive critical knowledge and understanding across the four learning areas of:

  • mental well-being and mental disorder
  • powers and duties
  • collaborative working in relation to roles and organisations
  • assessment and management of need, care and risk

You are also required to demonstrate competence in:

  • The appropriate skills to be consolidated and developed
  • The integrated ethical and professional approach required of a registered social worker
  • The specialist professional practice which must be competently demonstrated and assessed

The programme is unique in that you are employed by your sponsoring local authority, however the Advanced Social Work Studies (Mental Health Officer Award) confirms the ability to practice as an MHO and thus widens career opportunities with current employers and across the Scottish local authority sector.

These entry requirements are for the 2023/24 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2024/25 academic year will be published on 2 October 2023.

A UK 2:1 honours degree or its international equivalent, or a recognised qualification in social work and at least two years' relevant experience in social work practice.

If you are a qualified social worker but you do not hold a degree-level qualification, you may ask for special consideration when applying.

You must be employed, supported, and seconded by one of the 12 employing local authorities within the East of Scotland MHO Partnership catchment area.

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 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 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 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 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 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:

Each successful applicant will be sponsored by their employing local authority who will pay all programme fees and relevant expenses.

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD

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.

Interested applicants should make initial enquiry to their own employing local authority, who, in turn, will undertake its own selection procedure and make nomination to the MHO Award admissions group. Applicants nominated to the programme by their employing local authority will meet the requirements of the SSSC Standards Framework for the MHO Award.

Once the local authority's nomination has been verified, the applicant will be advised to apply through the University's online application system.

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

Further information

  • Graduate School of Social & Political Science
  • Chrystal Macmillan Building
  • 15A George Square
  • Central Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9LD