Occupational Health Psychology

This MSc specialisation draws upon and integrates knowledge of several disciplines in psychology, with a clear focus on workers and their work setting.

Are you interested in the new but rapidly developing area within psychology, Occupational Health Psychology (OHP)? “OHP concerns the application of psychology to improving the quality of work life and to protecting and promoting the safety, health and well-being of workers” (National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health – NIOSH). OHP is designed to address the contemporary societal concerns for occupational health and safety. The term ‘health’ in ‘occupational health psychology’ does not only include workers’ physical state, but also emotional, cognitive, motivational and behavioural aspects.

Interdisciplinary

The OHP master’s programme in Leiden includes courses from three disciplines in psychology: health psychology, social and organisational psychology and applied cognitive psychology. Besides the mandatory courses students can choose an internship position, a thesis subject and several electives of their own interest within these various disciplines in psychology. In this way students are able to choose specific topics depending on their own interest and ambitions. The integrative approach and the combination of theory with analysis of realistic case studies make the master’s specialisation in Occupational Health Psychology at Leiden University unique and useful for a wide range of careers.

Scientist-practitioner model

The master’s programme in psychology gives you insight into in-depth study of theory and on the acquisition of professional and research skills. The distinctive feature of the Leiden programme is that its reaching is not restricted to only the functioning of psychological processes of work and health. Within a scientist-practitioner model these insights are always connected to their behavioural consequences. In this way, not only do you develop your knowledge of psychology as a science, you also learn to apply this knowledge. You learn to analyse problems and to develop effective interventions for dealing with these problems.

Aim of the programme

The major aim of the Occupational Health Psychology programme is to equip you with advanced training in research methods and professional skills. This will prepare you both for a career involving psychological research as well as for the application of scientific knowledge and methods in various professional settings.

Professional skills

This specialisation provides you advanced training in practical skills for interventions in the field of work and health. This includes: the acquisition of principles and methods relevant to, for instance:

  • Health promotion and stress prevention in the workplace (worksite health promotion)
  • Management of social psychological issues in organisational behaviour (e.g. leadership, motivation, dealing with diversity)
  • Risk management of organisational accidents (engineering a safety culture)
  • Optimisation of performance and work productivity (e.g. cognitive enhancement)

Research skills

In line with the profile of Leiden University as a research-intensive institution, the teaching programme is based on state-of-the art scientific research. It maintains a strong emphasis on the acquisition of academic and research skills. Training is provided in all relevant skills, including:

  • Reviewing the relevant literature
  • Applying theoretical knowledge to analyse practical problems
  • Developing hypotheses and writing research proposals
  • Designing and carrying out empirical studies
  • Designing and evaluating the effectiveness of interventions
  • Conducting advanced statistical analyses
  • Presenting results and recommendations

Master details

  • This is a specialisation of: Psychology
  • Degree Master of Science in Psychology
  • Mode of study Full-time
  • Duration 1 year
  • Start date September and February
  • Language of instruction English
  • Location Leiden
  • Croho/isat code 66604

Wideke Vijverberg, MSc

“My job was a continuation of my internship. I found my internship by sending an unsolicited application.”

What was your motivation to choose this master specialisation?
I was looking for a master with diversity. The other masters were focusing on only one discipline of psychology. The OHP master combines multiple disciplines, namely social and organizational psychology, cognitive psychology and health psychology.

What are the most important things you have learned during your master?
The most important thing I learned was the level of thinking, and the way you should handle things. The workgroups were very interesting due to the practical approach. I also found it very interesting to look at an employee from different perspectives (health psychology, human error, group dynamic, organizational structures, etc.) Furthermore, during my master I developed an idea about what I wanted to do in the future. I found out I wanted to help organizations to improve the way they organize and handle issues.

How do you look back upon your master?
Satisfied. I am very glad I chose this master. The employee in his/her working environment was the central topic during this master, and the knowledge I gained regarding this topic is useful in every real-life working situation.

Where did you do your internship, and how did you like it?
I did my internship at an organizational consultancy agency in Utrecht, Andersson Elffers Felix (AEF). I assisted in the execution of advisory processes in different organizations. By doing this, I had the opportunity to take a look behind the scenes in different organizations, and I expanded my view of working life. What options are there? What is going on? What do I like? I have had a great time during this internship. I had nice colleagues and interesting assignments. I liked it so much that I started to work in this agency as a junior consultant.

Where have you worked since your graduation, and where are you currently working?
After I graduated (February 2008) I started to work at AEF, and I have worked there until June 2011. After this I moved to Sint Maarten with my boyfriend, and I still live there. In February 2012 I started to work for the government of Sint Maarten at the department of Interior and Kingdom Relations. This department is responsible for the program management of multiple cooperation programs that are funded by Dutch development funds. I started to work as a project manager and now I work as a program manager of the program “institutional strengthening of government capacity”, which consists of 15 projects.

How did you find this job / these jobs?
My job at AEF was a continuation of my internship. I found my internship by sending an unsolicited application. I found AEF on the ROA website (Raad voor Organisatie Adviseurs). I found my job in Sint Maarten with the help of people in my network and one of my colleagues at AEF. AEF had done an assignment in Sint Maarten, and therefore they knew some key people who led me to this job.

How do you like your current job?
I like it very much! It is a very diverse job with a lot of responsibility, which makes it interesting. A lot of good things are accomplished which makes the job rewarding. I have to work hard, and sometimes people don’t cooperate with you, but that makes it challenging.

What do you still hope to achieve regarding your career?
This is a difficult question. At a certain point in time I will return to the Netherlands, and then I will have to look for another job. This will probably be a job in the area of consultancy, with a focus on change processes, implementation and behavior. For me it is hard to indicate what I would like to achieve in the long term. I think coaching is a nice profession, but it is something I would like to get into later on in my career. To me it also seems a nice challenge to go to another country for a few years at a later point in time. Currently, everything is still open.

What advice would you like to give to future OHP students?
Make the most of it. I liked my master better than my Bachelor, because the master only addressed topics I found interesting. Also see whether there is a possibility to become a student assistant (studentassistentschap) – I learned a lot from it. And if there is a possibility to do your internship abroad, seize the opportunity. I did not do my internship abroad, but I have learned a lot from my experiences in Sint Maarten, and I would recommend anybody to go abroad.

Wideke Vijverberg (master’s student 2006/2007)

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