Postgraduate Course

MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology

MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology


The details
Sport and Exercise Psychology
October 2024
1 year
Colchester Campus

How can psychology help to shape the perception of exercise? And can psychology help athletes deal with the psychological consequences of an injury, or build cohesion within a sporting team? Psychology has the ability to enhance adherence to exercise programmes, influence individuals to fulfil their sporting potential, and often plays a key role in ensuring sporting success.

Offering a unique educational experience by overlapping psychology within the broader discipline of sport and exercise science, our MSc Sport and Exercise Psychology is dedicated to one of the fastest developing areas of psychology. It will provide you with an insight into working across a range of contexts in sport and exercise, and you'll focus on practical and ethical considerations whilst developing essential knowledge and skills for research and applied practice in this specialised field. There will also be opportunities to gain practical experience using equipment for both research and in applied contexts, with an emphasis placed on the importance of testing in the field.

You study a variety of topics including:

  • Motor control and cognitive psychology
  • Psychological skills and strategies
  • Developmental issues in sport and exercise
  • Social psychology and individual differences
  • Professional practice in sport and exercise psychology

Our course sits within our School of Sport, Rehabilitation and Exercise Sciences. This provides an exciting opportunity to join a community specifically focused on sport and exercise, allowing us to bring together our research, share knowledge and enhance opportunities for you. You will be based in our state-of-the-art Sports Arena, benefiting from a range of facilities and dedicated laboratories for research.

Sport scholarships

Our Performance Sport Scholarship programme has been created for talented athletes playing at regional, national or international level, and offers a range of benefits. We want students competing in our focus sports (basketball, volleyball, tennis and football), as well as other team sports and individual athletes, to contribute to our performance sport programme. Our scholarships can include fee discounts of up to 100%, offered to athletes who demonstrate sporting excellence. Athletes who are awarded the scholarship may also receive a host of other benefits, including free kit, access to state-of-the-art facilities, performance coaching, the option to live in our Athlete Village (accommodation fees may vary) and a support package valued up to £1,500. These benefits are designed to help athletes focus on their training, and development, and to enable them to reach their full potential alongside their studies.

Why we're great.
  • You will develop both your theoretical knowledge and practical skills across sport and exercise psychology.
  • You will be part of a community specifically focused on sport and exercise, bringing together our internationally recognised research, sharing knowledge and enhancing opportunities.
  • We are 12th in the UK for Sports Science in The Guardian University Guide 2023.

Our expert staff

We offer a lively, friendly and supportive close-knit environment with research-led study and high quality teaching. As part of our vibrant sports science community you learn from and work alongside internationally recognised academic researchers, including:

Professor Ian Maynard is a Chartered Psychologist with the BPS, and a fellow of the BPS, British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences and Association for Applied Sport Psychology. He has provided sport psychology support at numerous Olympic Games, Commonwealth Games, and World Championships across eight sports, and has worked with Royal Yacht Association, British Swimming, England Golf, and the Amateur Boxing Association. His research interests focus on applied aspects of Sport and Exercise Psychology and he has over 120 peer-reviewed publications.

Dr Murray Griffin is a Chartered Psychologist with the BPS, and a founding member of the BPS Division of Sport and Exercise Psychology. He has provided sport psychology support to numerous Olympic and Paralympic athletes, professional athletes in various sports, and endurance sports competitors such as transatlantic rowers and ultra-distance runners. He has worked as a consultant on various health service and public health projects, including smoking cessation, obesity and mental health. His research interests focus on promoting physical activity and mental well-being, with particular expertise in the role of exer-gaming as a therapeutic intervention.

Specialist facilities

  • Based in our Sport Arena with dedicated research laboratories
  • Sports performance camera system including fixed and mobile cameras for indoor and outdoor use with live streaming and multi-camera capture capabilities, video analysis and coding software, and global positioning equipment capable of tracking player movement, collisions and intensity.
  • Work in an open and friendly department, with shared staff-student social spaces
  • Conduct your research alongside academic and PhD students in shared labs
  • Gain valuable experience working with elite athletes in our Human Performance Unit

Your future

The sports science, fitness, health and leisure sectors are booming and provide a variety of careers for sports and exercise psychology postgraduates. An MSc will give you the edge in an increasingly competitive job market.

Careers in sport and exercise psychology include counselling, psychologist for athletes and teams, exercise psychologist working with the public, developing exercise programmes and more. Students may also want to stay within the school to pursue BPS Stage 2 training, which will enable you to use the title ‘Sport and Exercise Psychologist', or to complete a PhD.

“This is an outstanding programme taught by enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff with expertise in the subject of their modules.”

Dr Sandy Wolfson, External Examiner Report 2019-20

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

A 2:2 degree in subjects relevant to the following areas:

  • Sports
  • Exercise
  • Psychology

Your degree must include one of the following modules:

  • Psychology
  • Sports Psychology

We will also consider applicants with a 2:2 degree in any discipline with substantive work experience in sport, exercise, or health.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language requirements

If English is not your first language, we require IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5 in all components.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.


Course structure

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field. The following modules are based on the current course structure and may change in response to new curriculum developments and innovation.

We understand that deciding where and what to study is a very important decision for you. We’ll make all reasonable efforts to provide you with the courses, services and facilities as described on our website. However, if we need to make material changes, for example due to significant disruption, or in response to COVID-19, we’ll let our applicants and students know as soon as possible.

Components and modules explained


Components are the blocks of study that make up your course. A component may have a set module which you must study, or a number of modules from which you can choose.

Each component has a status and carries a certain number of credits towards your qualification.

Status What this means
You must take the set module for this component and you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component but you must pass. No failure can be permitted.
You must take the set module for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
Compulsory with Options
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.
You can choose which module to study from the available options for this component. There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the qualification if you fail.

The modules that are available for you to choose for each component will depend on several factors, including which modules you have chosen for other components, which modules you have completed in previous years of your course, and which term the module is taught in.


Modules are the individual units of study for your course. Each module has its own set of learning outcomes and assessment criteria and also carries a certain number of credits.

In most cases you will study one module per component, but in some cases you may need to study more than one module. For example, a 30-credit component may comprise of either one 30-credit module, or two 15-credit modules, depending on the options available.

Modules may be taught at different times of the year and by a different department or school to the one your course is primarily based in. You can find this information from the module code. For example, the module code HR100-4-FY means:

HR 100  4  FY

The department or school the module will be taught by.

In this example, the module would be taught by the Department of History.

The module number. 

The UK academic level of the module.

A standard undergraduate course will comprise of level 4, 5 and 6 modules - increasing as you progress through the course.

A standard postgraduate taught course will comprise of level 7 modules.

A postgraduate research degree is a level 8 qualification.

The term the module will be taught in.

  • AU: Autumn term
  • SP: Spring term
  • SU: Summer term
  • FY: Full year 
  • AP: Autumn and Spring terms
  • PS: Spring and Summer terms
  • AS: Autumn and Summer terms


Research Project

The research project module is an opportunity for you to carry out an individual scientific investigation on a topic relating to your degree specialisation. It will help develop your skills in reviewing synthesising and critically appraising academic literature. You will also be expected to design, analyse and interpret data and present findings in a scientific paper format.

View Research Project on our Module Directory


Further Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Health

This module will focus on the fundamental assumptions underlying quantitative research, including; research design methods, sampling, and the validity and reliability of measurements in exercise science. Students will master the techniques needed to critically appraise published research and carry out a piece of original research.

View Further Research Methods in Sport, Exercise and Health on our Module Directory


Professional practice in sport and exercise psychology

This module explores key topics for practising sport and exercise psychologists, and develops skills to undertake consultancy at individual, group, community or population levels. It covers different frameworks adopted in applied work, communication and consultancy skills, working with different clients, and how to develop, monitor and evaluate interventions.

View Professional practice in sport and exercise psychology on our Module Directory


Applied techniques in sport and exercise psychology

Provide a comprehensive understanding of the appropriate application of psychological knowledge to the measurement and assessment of human performance and develop applied skills necessary to service the needs of the athlete or coach and professionals in exercise settings.

View Applied techniques in sport and exercise psychology on our Module Directory


Physical Activity and Wellbeing

This module explores contemporary topics in exercise and health psychology, focusing on translational research evidence. Physical activity and exercise are increasingly used to improve the health and wellbeing of the general population. You will gain an understanding of up-to-date research evidence on topics including motivation, self-concept, mental health, social support and the environment. You will explore how research is translated into applied interventions and how these interventions are evaluated.

View Physical Activity and Wellbeing on our Module Directory




Social psychology in sport and exercise

The module examines approaches to support learning both in and through sport. As part of the module, students develop their understanding of the learning needs of a range of participants and the pedagogical understanding coaches require in order to effectively meet their participant’s needs. Further, students will work in small groups to examine the influence of context, internal and external assets in sport and how each can be utilised in order to develop and transfer broader psychosocial skills beyond sport. The module also discusses approaches to the design, delivery and evaluation of such programmes, which is an essential skill for coaches and teachers more broadly. Students will also demonstrate self-directed and informal learning by delivering coaching workshops, discussing good practice, and creating coaching resources with peers beyond their immediate year group.

View Social psychology in sport and exercise on our Module Directory


Skill Acquisition and Expertise in Sport

Skill acquisition is commonly described as the voluntary control over movements in an attempt to solve motor skill problems and achieve a task goal. These may vary from catching a ball or riding a bike, to slalom skiing or rhythmic gymnastics. Regardless of the domain, the interaction between the practitioner (eg coach or PE teacher) and athlete when learning these skills is absolutely fundamental to successful performance. Specifically, how can the practitioner create optimal practice conditions to facilitate skill acquisition? This module will firstly enhance your understanding of contemporary theory and research in skill learning and motor expertise. From this, the module takes on a more applied focus, where evidence-based approaches are implemented to critically evaluate their effect on coaching practice.

View Skill Acquisition and Expertise in Sport on our Module Directory


Alongside traditional lectures, this course will utilise a range of teaching approaches including:

  • Student-led seminars focused on critical discussions of key and topical research paper
  • Flipped classroom approaches
  • Laboratory sessions
  • Practical sessions to equip students with the skills to undertake research and applied consultancy at individual, group, community or population levels


  • All students will complete a Research Project which will require a Psychology-focused research question and students will be supervised by a staff member with relevant expertise.
  • On taught modules, students will complete a range of assessments including conducting needs assessment sessions, writing reports for clients, developing psychological resources, oral presentations, essays, and written exams.

Fees and funding

Home/UK fee


International fee


What's next

Open Days

We hold Open Days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

2024 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Wednesday, March 20, 2024


You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we'll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply' information.

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Visit Colchester Campus

Set within 200 acres of award-winning parkland - Wivenhoe Park and located two miles from the historic city centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded development. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

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Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

At Essex we pride ourselves on being a welcoming and inclusive student community. We offer a wide range of support to individuals and groups of student members who may have specific requirements, interests or responsibilities.

Find out more

The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include, but are not limited to: strikes, other industrial action, staff illness, severe weather, fire, civil commotion, riot, invasion, terrorist attack or threat of terrorist attack (whether declared or not), natural disaster, restrictions imposed by government or public authorities, epidemic or pandemic disease, failure of public utilities or transport systems or the withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications. The University would inform and engage with you if your course was to be discontinued, and would provide you with options, where appropriate, in line with our Compensation and Refund Policy.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.

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