Postgraduate study
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Psychology of Individual Differences MSc

Awards: MSc

Funding opportunities

This unique programme offers an opportunity for advanced training in the psychology of individual differences. Students will gain knowledge and skills in two of the key subdivisions in the field, namely personality and cognitive abilities (intelligence), and will learn how to conduct research that addresses how and why people differ from one another psychologically, and how these differences matter in their lives.

Key research areas

Building on training in research methods and statistics, you will take courses on the theoretical and methodological aspects of individual differences research, and the findings in these areas.

Your MSc culminates in a research dissertation: an original, publication-quality piece of research, undertaken in close collaboration with an academic working on the area, or an adjacent area, of your dissertation topic.

The University of Edinburgh is uniquely positioned to offer this programme because of its long history of world-class researchers on individual differences. Staff involved in teaching and supervision include internationally recognised researchers whose expertise covers topics, such as:

  • Measurement and psychometrics
  • Personality
  • Intelligence
  • Well-being
  • Life outcomes (health, education, employment)
  • Animal behaviour
  • Evolutionary Psychology
  • Psychopathology
  • Behavioural Genetics
  • Paranormal beliefs

Staff within the Individual Differences Research Group

As reported in the Times Higher Education Supplement, the most recent (2021) Research Exercise Framework rated Psychology at the University of Edinburgh 3rd in the UK for the quality and breadth of its research.

What will I learn?

In addition to being immersed in the history, theory, and findings in individual differences research, you will receive training in research methods within psychology, including research design and how to conduct advanced statistical modelling using the R statistical language. This knowledge and these skills are highly transferable, including to areas outside of psychology and academic research more generally.

Is this MSc for me?

If you are interested in learning how and why humans and other animals differ from one another psychologically and behaviourally, the consequences of these differences, and how to answer questions in the area using the scientific method, and presenting these results to different audiences, then this MSc is for you.

The MSc in the Psychology of Individual Differences programme provides an understanding of advanced topics and methods in the field of individual differences, and how to design, conduct, and report research that build on and/or challenge the existing knowledge base. In addition, the MSc allows you to choose an optional course in another area, and so there is some room to customise your learning. It provides excellent preparation for further research and knowledge of individual differences, whether you choose to pursue this in further research or a professional career.

Reputation, relevance and employability

There are few MSc programmes dedicated to individual differences in the UK, Europe, and the rest of the 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, which is possible because some of the top researchers in the field have made this department their academic home. In addition, you will benefit from the breadth and strength of the interdisciplinary academic community at Edinburgh, having the opportunity to select outside options and attend research seminars across different disciplines.

This programme has an excellent reputation amongst employers and further research opportunities. Our students’ research projects are often presented at national and international conferences and published in academic or professional journals, and many of our graduates have gone onto PhD training and academic careers, as well as careers in professions, such as organisational psychology/human resources.

We maintain close contact with professional organisations such as the 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 will take place until April and carried out between April and August.

Core courses

The core courses include topics specific to individual differences (primarily personality and intelligence), and 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
  • 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

Optional courses

The optional course can be selected 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
  • Or any other course available 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 empirical work and writing takes place between April and August and it is due in 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.)

How will I learn?

Most courses are taught by 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:

  • 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
  • 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 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
  • educational psychology

More broadly, the programme also teaches a broad range of transferable skills applicable to a wide range of modern jobs, such as

  • human resources
  • 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

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?
  • 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 to 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.


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:

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, 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

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:

  • Programme Director, Professor Timothy Bates
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 1945
  • Contact:
  • 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 30 November 2023 01 February 2024
2 04 March 2024 30 April 2024
3 1 May 2024 26 June 2024

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.

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

  • Programme Director, Professor Timothy Bates
  • Phone: +44 (0)131 651 1945
  • Contact:
  • PPLS Postgraduate Office
  • Dugald Stewart Building
  • 3 Charles Street
  • Edinburgh
  • EH8 9AD