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.


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

What our alumni say

Dolf van der Beek, MSc

“Quality of work is a complex domain with issues that are only resolved by applying know-how from various disciplines in psychology.

“What’s good about this master’s? The topic, of course, and its multidisciplinary nature. I have always been interested in the relationship between work and the safety, health and well-being of people at work. Quality of work is a complex domain with issues that are only resolved by applying know-how from various disciplines in psychology. And you learn that in Occupational health psychology.

A short time after my master’s degree, I started working for the ‘Health and Safety at Work Department’ of TNO Quality of Life in Hoofddorp. I do research and consultancy work here, investigating the causes of health and safety risks. When consulting, I work as an internal auditor, trainer or process supervisor in interventions aimed at creating a safe and healthy organisation.

Currently I’m working on a number of projects. I’m looking at how we can make unskilled workers more aware of hazards at work. I’m also conducting an observational study into team performance in the paediatric cardiac surgery department in a hospital and I’m leading a project looking at job demands in our own team.

Looking back, I know I made the right choice with the Occupational health psychology master’s! I’m a practical person, and at TNO you do applied research, so that fits well. This master’s has much the same practical approach, and to my mind that’s unique.”

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