Organizational Psychology (MSc and Postgraduate Diploma)
Study for a prestigious Masters degree in Organizational Psychology by distance learning
Organizational Psychology, re-launching in January 2014, is a distance learning programme offered by Birkbeck, University of London. This course focuses on the psychological aspects of organizational functioning. Many students on the course are already working in HR or management and wish to advance their career with an academic qualification. Others are looking to make a career change, or simply want to understand organizations better. This course gives you the opportunity to gain professional recognition and progress your career in the direction you choose.
The course draws on current and classic theory and research to enable you to understand organizations from the perspective on applied psychology, and to develop ways of improving them. Such improvements come in many forms: including selecting and training people effectively, motivating people, maintaining and enhancing their well-being, and managing organizational change.
|Programme||You study||Study period||Cost (2013-2014)|
|MSc Organizarional Psychology||
8 x 15 credit modules
1 x 60 credit Research Project module
|1 to 5 years||£11,970|
|Postgraduate Diploma||8 x 15 credit modules||1 to 5 years||£9,970|
|Individual modules||Single modules are an ideal option if you're keen to update your professional knowledge, enhance your career or sample the programme. If you meet all the necessary entrance requirements you may later apply to register for the MSc and gain credits for the modules you have already passed. The fee per module is £1,190 in 2014.|
Online learning and online lectures
For each module you will receive either nine recorded lectures (audio/visual, or audio only), or nine dedicated audio recordings. The lectures will be recorded ‘live’ at Birkbeck in London, and each one will be about 75 minutes long. The length of the dedicated audio recordings will vary according to the topic. All recordings will be accompanied by, and will refer to, a set of PowerPoint slides which you will receive also. As a consequence wherever you are in the world you will be able to access at home the same lectures as those given to students attending Birkbeck in London.
You will also have access to tutor-led online seminars. Because these seminars are not run in ‘real-time’, you can contribute to discussions, and read the contributions made by your tutor and other students, whenever you like.
When you begin your programme of study you have the option to attend a one-day Introductory Seminar for new students. This is held at Birkbeck. In addition you may attend a one-day Examination Revision Seminar which is run every year at Birkbeck.
You will have online access to a very extensive library allowing you to access, search for, and download, a huge number of academic articles published in the world’s leading journals. You can print these articles if you wish to, allowing access to a world class library in your own home.
There is also an online facility for submitting essays and mock exams answers for assessment and feedback.
The programme has been developed by academics within the Department of Organizational Psychology at Birkbeck, University of London. This is the oldest and largest department of its kind in the UK, and it is a major provider of academic and professional training in organizational psychology and human resource management.
Graduates of this course go on to become trainers, motivators, careers advisers, managers and consultants within large multinational companies, government departments, or in any organization where advanced knowledge of organizational psychology may be useful. Others stay in their existing careers, equipped with frameworks to understand organizations and the people in them, and with the highly valuable abilities to ask the right questions and to know how to evaluate evidence.
Your time commitment
Each module lasts for nine weeks. During this period you have considerable freedom to choose when you study. For example, you might decide to concentrate on your studies at weekends, first thing in the morning, or late in the evening. It is up to you. What’s more if you have to travel with your work there is no problem as long as you have access to a computer with a broadband connection. As an estimate of how much time you might have to devote to the programme, we believe that in order complete in two years you should be prepared to devote 12-16 hours per week during term time.
Summary of key dates
|Application deadline||30 November|
|Registration deadline||20 December|
|Course starts||6 January|
|Examinations take place||March and July|
Note: Application and/or registration close to the deadlines above may delay the start of your studies and you are advised to apply and register as early as possible.
The programme MSc and Postgraduate Diploma in Human Resource Management is also available.
MSc: The following 8 modules (8 X 15 credits) plus a Research project module (60 Credits).
Postgraduate Diploma: The following 8 modules (8 X 15 credits).
Eight compulsory modules
- Research methods [Birkbeck]
This course covers 4 issues in organizational research. The first issue addresses some basic topics on doing research in organizational settings such as understanding an empirical research model; formulating testing hypotheses; understanding research paradigms, and knowledge on writing a research proposal. The second issue concerns the quantitative methods. The third issue focus on the qualitative research methods. The last issue touches on two other types of research techniques: using experimental design and conduction cross-cultural studies. Overall this course introduces social sciences methods as applied broadly to the study of topics that arise as part of organisational life.
The aims of this module are to:
- Prepare students with knowledge, skills, and abilities to understand the research findings of empirical studies published in academic journals.
- Enable students to gain an understanding of the issues on designing and conducting applied research in an organizational or occupational setting.
- Develop students' ability to critically evaluate empirical studies in terms of methodological issues.
- Provide student with the research skills to conduct an empirical study for their own MSc.
At the end of this module students will:
- Formulate sound research questions.
- Develop testable research hypotheses.
- Be familiar with research process.
- Critically evaluate an empirical study.
- Understand pros and cons in using quantitative and qualitative methods.
- Be aware of ethical issues involved in their research projects.
- Be able to undertake their final research projects.
- Schwab, D. (2005). Research methods for organizational studies. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
- Denzin, N. K. & Lincoln, Y. S. (2011). The Sage Handbook of Qualitative Research. Sage: London.
- Dewberry, C. (2004). Statistical Methods for Organizational Research: Theory and Practice. London: Routledge.
- Journal articles are listed under each specific topic and also available on-line on Moodle.
- Life career development
This module reflects how significant careers have become as the world has become more complex and individualistic. A hotly debated issue in career studies is the extent to which people are experiencing more mobility generally in their careers, spending less time with one employer and making major career changes throughout their working life. Although anecdotal evidence suggests that this may be the case, large-scale research studies don't entirely bear this out. However, one change that does seem to be happening is an increased diversity in careers. Another focus is the importance of work in relation to the rest of life and the challenges of maintaining a healthy balance.
The challenge for both scholars and practitioners is to understand and explain this and to help individuals navigate their careers in this new context.
The module is based on a study guide. This begins by defining the term 'career' and discussing how social scientists in different disciplines have approached the study of careers. The effects of social, economic and organizational changes on individuals’ careers are outlined, and you are asked to think about your own career using concepts from the literature.
- Chapter 2 discusses theories of occupational choice and career decision making, and outlines some implications of these theories for career management practice.
- We then turn in Chapter 3 to examine models of adult development more generally.
- Chapter 4 covers career transitions and the outcomes of these, for example career success and satisfaction. Later in this chapter you are asked to consider career forms other than traditional careers in organisations.
- In Chapter 5 we discuss the impact of social networks and other interpersonal processes on careers, as well as the work-family interface.
- The provision and practice of career management interventions are covered in Chapter 6, and we pay particular attention to mentoring and career counselling.
- The module concludes with a short chapter on the relationship between theory and practice.
The aims of this module are to:
- Enable you to acquire an understanding of career development within the total life space of the individual and the organizational and social context.
- Introduce you to the theory and practice of career management interventions.
- Help you in your own personal career planning, by using some of the concepts and theories in reviewing your own experiences and setting goals for the future.
At the end of this module students will:
- Broadly outline the current employment context and labour market trends.
- Discuss some of the factors that affect occupational choice and career development.
- Identify some of the developmental tasks and processes in adult life.
- Describe how theory can be applied in career management interventions.
- Evaluate theories and models of career development.
- Discuss the provision of career management interventions.
- Use career planning techniques to facilitate your own career development and that of others.
Your resources for this module include:
- A subject guide.
- The textbook, the Handbook of Career Studies, edited by Hugh P Gunz and Maury Peiperl.
- Three readings, available from the Birkbeck electronic library.
- Understanding organizations and change
The module provides multiple perspectives for thinking critically about organizations and organizational change.
By the end of this module, students should be able to:
- Critically compare and contrast the usefulness of different perspectives and theories of organisational change.
- Appreciate the strengths and limitations of rational, planned and strategic perspectives on change.
- Explore concepts of power, resistance and the politics of change.
- Identify and evaluate the importance of ‘practice’ in understanding how change is managed.
- Understand the roles of ‘agency’, and especially change leaders and change agents, in processes of organisational change.
- Use academic research effectively in evaluating different perspectives on organizational change.
- Employee relations and motivation
This module will examine key aspects of the labour contract - power and motivation. The employment contract will be examined in terms of power, control and conflict. Then theory and research on employee motivation will be examined and related to the employment contract. Finally, the module will address employee diversity.
The aims of this module are to:
- To examine the nature of the employment contract from the perspective of employees and employees.
- To enable students to understand and analyse the concepts and approaches to the measurement of motivation in work settings.
- To critically evaluate the major theories of motivation and interventions designed to affect motivation at work.
At the end of this module students will be able to:
- Understand and critically evaluate theories of motivation at work.
- Understand motivation in the context of the employment relationship.
- Recognise the impact of changes in the employment relationship (such as pay, job design, employee involvement and opportunities) on motivation.
- Understand and critically evaluate issues related to diversity in the workplace.
There are no set texts for this module but useful text books for gaining an understanding of motivation are:
- Latham, GP (2007). Work motivation: History, theory, research, and practice. Sage.
- Pinder, C (2008). Work motivation in organizational behavior. Routledge.
- Kanfer, R (2008). Work motivation: Past, present, and future. Routledge.
- Steers, R, Porter, L and Bigley, G. (eds.) (2003). Motivation and Work Behaviour. London: McGraw-Hill.
- Learning and development
Contemporary issues covering ethics, practice versus theory, e-learning, the changing work profile, resource-based strategies, from training to learning, and the transfer of knowledge into practice are all discussed. Finally, the ways in which training can be evaluated are considered.
On this module, we aim to explore the meaning of training and development To do this, we will cover the main elements to the training cycle:
- Training needs analysis.
- Training design and transfer.
- Evaluation and the working context.
- Work and well-being
The psychology of work and health is primarily concerned with the role and respective interplay between psychological, social and organisational aspects of working, and seeks to understand how these various domains impact upon both individual and organisational health.
This field brings together and, moreover, draws on a number of key fields in the area of psychology and related fields including: social psychology, work and organisational psychology, health psychology, environmental psychology, human factors and ergonomics.
The current module adopts a biopsychosocial model to understanding workplace health, with the primary aim to facilitate a full and comprehensive understanding of workplace health and safety at both a micro and macro level.
The focus of this module is to understand how work can contribute to the impairment of worker’s health, safety, and well-being; and, in turn, how this knowledge can be used to prevent employee ill health and, moreover, promote optimal employee health, engagement, resiliency, and productivity.
The module will have a concentrated applied focus, which will demonstrate and discuss the translation and application of psychological theories and principles into development of healthy workplace policies, organisational systems, and management practices.
The aims of this module are to:
The main aims of the work and well-being module are to:
- Introduce some of the meanings of work.
- Introduce some of the meanings of well-being.
- Outline and discuss the major theories of well-being.
- Explore the possible relationships between work and well-being, and consider the nature of the evidence for these links.
- Critically examine the role of technology and work organisation and worker’s health and safety.
- Describe the main approaches to work and well-being interventions.
By the end of the module you should be able to:
- Outline some of the meanings of work and well-being.
- Explain and critically evaluate theories of well-being.
- Outline the history of the stress concept and its limitations.
- Identify the possible relationships between work and well-being.
- Evaluate the methodological weaknesses and strengths of research in the field.
- Outline the evidence for the mutual relationships between work and well-being.
- Identify work and well-being interventions and their efficacy.
- Describe how technology and work organisation can play a key role in worker’s health and safety.
Leka, S & Houdmont, J (2010). Occupational Health Psychology. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell
- Selection and assessment
The module is designed to provide an introduction to key techniques for selection and assessment at work, including issues relating to the reliability and validity of these methods. It also covers the nature of job performance, the relationships between cognitive ability and personality and job performance, psychological processes affecting selection decisions, and fairness.
The aims of this module are to:
- To describe the context in which personnel selection takes.
- To consider the nature of human performance in an organizational context, the ways it can be assessed, and issues relating to such assessment.
- To examine the variables which can be used to predict job performance.
- To describe and evaluate a variety of psychological processes which are likely to influence the personnel selection and assessment process.
- To describe various personnel selection processes and consider their merits and drawbacks.
- To consider various statistical and other issues relevant to the evaluation of the validity of selection methods.
- To examine ways of evaluating the fairness of selection methods and to discuss the issue of fairness in selection.
At the end of this module students will:
- Explain the context in which personnel selection takes place.
- Explain different accounts of the nature of job performance, discuss ways in which performance can be assessed in organizations, and ways in which job performance can be measured.
- Discuss psychological and other variables which may influence job performance.
- Discuss psychological and other variables which may influence the selection and assessment process.
- Describe and evaluate a range of common selection practices and techniques.
- Discuss statistical and other ways of evaluating the validity and reliability of selection methods, and describe evidence relating to the validity a common selection methods.
- Critically evaluate various statistical and other approaches to the evaluation of the fairness of selection methods.
- Gregory, R.J. (2010). Psychological testing: history, principles, and applications (6th ed.). Boston, Mass: Allyn and Bacon.
- Chamorro-Premuzic, T and Furnham, A. (2010). The Psychology of Personnel Selection. Cambridge University Press Cambridge.
- Ployhart, R.E., Schneider, B, & Schmitt, N. (2006). Staffing organizations: Contemporary practice and theory (3rd ed.). Mahwah, N.J.: Lawrence Erlbaum.
- Leadership and performance management
Some personal work experience of human resource management and organizational behaviour is extremely useful for this module.
Also, students who have not followed an HRM or organisational behaviour course at undergraduate level will find this module difficult and will have to work hard to familiarise themselves with the literature. This will involve considerable extra reading and study.
This module is concerned with different approaches to managing and leading people at work. The field of Human Resource Management focuses on theory and practice of the management of employment or people in organizations. The field of Leadership focuses largely on the management of soft factors at work from the perspective of leader and followers. In other words, HRM focuses on the more formal aspects of managing employment relationships in general and leadership deals more with the process and interactions between a group of individuals consisting of leaders and followers.
This module aims to:
- Give you an overview and critically reflect on theoretical, methodological and practical issues surrounding leadership and HRM.
- Enable you to assess evidence of the relationship between leadership, HRM and individual or organizational outcomes.
By the end of this module, you should be able to:
- Outline some of the main approaches to understanding HRM and leadership.
- Critically evaluate theory, concepts, approaches to HRM and leadership.
- Apply theories and concepts of HRM and leadership to various applied contexts and critically assess these explain some of the practical issues surrounding HRM and leadership.
PLUS (MSc only)
- Research project [MSc only]
- Assessment: Research Proposal (25%) and a 10,000 word scientific report (75%).
Throughout the whole of your MSc course you will be learning research methods and working towards your research project. We encourage students to identify research questions at work that interest them early in the course and many students work on projects within their own organizations. This is your opportunity to develop expertise in a specific area of interest and possibly even publish.
You will prepare a research proposal for your MSc project (submission 13 January). Research methods conferences support the development of your proposal.
On the basis of your proposal topic you will be assigned a Project Advisor to give feedback on your proposal and support your research. You will work with them to submit a research paper by 31 August in the year of submission.
The aims of the research methods teaching are to:
- Enable you to gain an understanding of research methods in occupational psychology and organisational behaviour.
- Develop your ability to critically appraise research studies and findings.
The aims of the project are to:
- Provide an opportunity to learn how to conduct research in an organizational or occupational setting.
- Allow you to develop a deeper level of knowledge on a topic of your choice than is possible on the taught courses in the MSc.
- Provide the opportunity to confront organizational policy and practice with research and theory.
- Provide more opportunity to learn and practise research methods.
- The Research project module (MSc only) is assessed with a Research proposal (25%) and a final Research project (75%). With the exception of the Research project, all modules can be taken as Individual Modules.
- You can register for up to three modules at any one time. The anticipated number of study hours per module is 150 hours.
How you study
When you register we will send you an individual study pack containing a range of specially written materials to help you plan your studies and prepare for examinations including:
- A module handbook (online only) - sample of module handbook [pdf 6pgs 142KB].
- Textbooks for certain modules.
- Details of how to access the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE).
You will also receive the following study materials online:
- Recorded lectures or dedicated audio recordings for each module studied with associated PowerPoint slides.
- Links to recommended journal articles in the online library.
Virtual Learning Environment (VLE)
The Virtual Learning Environment provides an opportunity, through the Internet, for students to interact through tutor-supported computer conferencing. Using the conferencing system you will discuss topics in tutored groups of normally 12 to 15 students. Computer conferencing for each module takes place at specific times of the year.
Computer conferencing for 2013/14
|Term 1 - 30 September to 13 December*||Term 2 - 6 January to 21 March||Term 3 - 28 April to 11 July|
|Research Methods||Employee relations and motivation||Leadership and performance management|
|Understanding organizations and change||Learning and development||Selection and assessment|
|Life career development||Work and well-being||The research project|
*Note: Term 1 will run for the first time from 30 September 2014.
The International Programme is self-taught using the study materials provided. These are fully comprehensive, with the exception of the Research Project, students are not required to purchase or obtain any other materials. All of the necessary reading material to obtain the MSc or Diploma is supplied.
Students are also able to receive support through academic staff, who mark and give feedback on essay questions and mock examination questions. Although these essays are not compulsory and the marks obtained do not contribute to the overall assessment, students often find it helpful to receive academic feedback on their work to ensure that they are reaching the standard required for the Diploma or MSc. In addition, writing essays can be a useful aid in preparing for examinations.
The 2013-2014 fees below are effective from 1 August 2013. Fees are subject to annual review.
|Registration fee||£ 1,970|
|Fee per module||£ 1,000|
|Research project (MSc only)||£ 2,000|
|Total MSc||£ 11,970|
|Total Postgraduate Diploma||£ 9,970|
|Total per Individual Module (taken on a stand-alone basis for CPD)||£ 1,190|
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Fees may be paid in one of two ways:
- Either, pay the total fee on registration by making a single payment for all the module fees;
- Or, if you prefer to spread out your payments, pay the fee for each module you want to take in the first year, and then in subsequent years pay the fee for each new module you take.
How to pay
All University fees must be paid in pounds sterling (GBP). The University accepts:
- Western Union - Quick Pay.
- Credit/debit card (Visa, MasterCard, Maestro, Electron, JCB).
- Sterling banker's draft/cheque.
- International money/postal order.
Further details are given in payment methods.
In addition to the fees payable to the University, you should also budget for the fee charged by your local examination centre to cover its costs; this fee will vary. Full details will be made available to students in good time.
The University reserves the right to amend previously announced fees, if necessary. For a full list fees that may be applicable, please see the fee schedule.
All modules, with the exception of the Research project are examined by a two-hour unseen written paper. The Research project is assessed by a 10,000 word scientific report. The Research project is available to MSc students only.
You do not have to come to London to take your examinations. Examinations are held in local overseas centres around the world as well as in London. Examinations overseas are arranged mainly through Ministries of Education or the British Council. You will be charged a fee by your local examination centre (this fee will vary). For further information please see the Assessment and examinations section of our website.
If you fail an examination at the first sitting you will be allowed one further attempt. If you fail the examination a second time your registration will cease.
A good honours degree or equivalent, in any subject, from an institution acceptable to the University.
You will meet the English language requirement if you have passed, within the past three years:
- (IELTS) International English Language Testing System when an overall score of at least 6 is achieved with a minimum of 5.5 in each sub-test.
- (TOEFL) iBT Test of English as a Foreign Language overall score of 92 or above with at least 22 in both Reading and Writing Skills sub-tests and at least 20 in both Speaking and Listening sub-tests.
Students applying for Individual Modules should satisfy the entrance requirements for the Postgraduate Diploma or MSc. However, if you do not hold such qualifications, the University may still consider your application but will require evidence of your ability to undertake advanced study.
All students must have regular access to a computer and the internet. This may be for accessing the Student Portal, downloading course materials from the virtual learning environment or accessing resources from the Online Library. You will also need suitable hardware capacity on your computer for document storage as well as basic software such as a PDF reader.
Some programmes have courses or modules that use additional software. Where this is the case, information is given with the relevant course descriptions.
Academic leaders: Birkbeck
Birkbeck was founded in 1823 as the London Mechanics' Institute. Its mandate was to bring higher education to the working classes. From its inception Birkbeck has earned a reputation for excellence in teaching and research. It is unique in its special mission to enable mature students to gain higher education qualifications via part-time study. Consequently, staff are experienced in ensuring a flexible learning environment.
Birkbeck ranks among the top 200 universities in the world, according to data published in the 2010-11 Times Higher Education World University Rankings [external link]. Ann Mroz, editor of the Times Higher Education magazine, commented: "The top 200 universities in the world represent only a tiny fraction of world higher education and any institution that makes it into this table is truly world class."
Birkbeck's Department of Organizational Psychology is the oldest and largest department of its kind in the UK and makes a major contribution to research in the field of behaviour at work. It is one of the principal providers of academic and professional training in occupational psychology within the UK.
The Department, located in the new purpose-built Clore Management Centre in Bloomsbury in London, provides exclusively part-time courses for mature students who benefit from the opportunity of combining work experience with advanced study. As well as providing established and innovative teaching programmes, members of the Department are dedicated to conducting internationally recognised research in the field. The Department enjoys good relationships with industrial research partners and has been successful in attracting UK Research Council grants for innovative research.