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Postgraduate Diploma in Mental Health Science

This postgraduate qualification is for those with an academic or professional interest in mental health science and the biological and psychological underpinnings of this discipline. It equips students with the necessary skills to critically evaluate the current literature, discuss contemporary issues and communicate a critical understanding of key topics in mental health science. Those who qualify from this programme, will have developed the skills and knowledge that are relevant for pursuing a research career, for employment, and informing professional practice.

Key features of the course

  • Develops knowledge and understanding of key topics in mental health science (stress, anxiety, depression, psychosis and dementia).
  • Explores current issues and research at the forefront of mental health science.
  • Develops skills that are essential for a critical understanding of mental health science and relevant to professional practice.


Course code


  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.
How long it takes

17 months–4 years

Read more about how long it takes

Study method
Distance learning
Course cost
See Fees and funding
Entry requirements

Find out more about entry requirements.

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Course details


To gain this qualification, you need 120 credits as follows:

60 credits from:

Compulsory modules Credits Next start
Introduction to mental health science (S826)

This online module introduces mental health science from biological, psychological and social science perspectives, focusing on stress, anxiety and depression and develops postgraduate study skills.

See full description

60 27 Jan 2024

60 credits from:

Compulsory modules Credits Next start
Core topics in mental health science: psychosis and dementia (SD816)

This module takes an interdisciplinary ‘biopsychosocial’ approach to understanding psychosis and dementia, focusing on diagnosis, causes and interventions.

See full description

60 07 Oct 2023
Or, the discontinued module SD815

You should note that the University’s unique study rule applies to this qualification. This means that you must include at least 40 credits from OU modules that have not been counted in any other OU qualification that has previously been awarded to you.

Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment

The learning outcomes of this qualification are described in four areas:

  • Knowledge and understanding
  • Cognitive skills
  • Practical and professional skills
  • Key skills
Read more detailed information about the learning outcomes.

Credit transfer

If you’ve successfully completed some relevant postgraduate study elsewhere, you might be able to count it towards Stage 1, reducing the number of modules you need to study. However, you won't be able to count it towards Stage 2. You should apply for credit transfer as soon as possible, before you register for your first module. For more details and an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.

On completion

On successfully completing this course, we’ll award you our Postgraduate Diploma in Mental Health Science. You’ll be entitled to use the letters PGDip MHS (Open) after your name.

You can progress from this Postgraduate Diploma in Mental Health Science to our MSc in Mental Health Science (F78).


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website. 

We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 14 March 2023.

Entry requirements

Please note that registration on this qualification is dependent on confirmation of successfully meeting entry requirements. Your place will only be confirmed once entry checking is complete. If you have any questions regarding your suitability for study, please contact the MSc Admissions Panel.

Entry to this qualification will typically require a minimum of an honours degree (or equivalent qualification) in science or a science-related subject (including psychological sciences, health science, mental health nursing or medicine).

If you have other study or experience that you believe equips you to take this qualification you can still apply, but must supply evidence of that study or experience. Your case will be referred to our MSc Admissions Panel. Depending on your previous qualification or experience, some background study may be necessary prior to registering for this qualification or its constituent modules. For further advice, please contact the MSc Admissions Panel.

Please note that this qualification is in two stages. Introduction to mental health science (S826) (Stage 1) should be studied before Core topics in mental health science: psychosis and dementia (SD816) (Stage 2).

All teaching is in English and your proficiency in the English language should be adequate for study at postgraduate level. If English is not your first language, we strongly recommend that you have achieved an International English Language Testing System (IELTS) score of at least 7. You can assess your English language skills in relation to your proposed studies by visiting the IELTS website.

How long it takes

You can complete this qualification within 18 months, and up to a maximum of four years of starting the first module.

Career relevance

This qualification is directly relevant to research and employment in the fields of medical and psychological sciences (neuroscience, psychology, health sciences). It will develop the critical skills and knowledge that are relevant to employment within the health sector, life sciences, medical and related fields, and to inform and strengthen professional practice.

The programme is designed for those seeking to expand their knowledge and understanding of mental health from an interdisciplinary ‘biopsychosocial’ (neuroscience, psychology and health science) perspective. It is suitable for those who wish to move on to doctoral training, as well as those who are working in clinical roles who wish to further inform and strengthen their professional practice.

This qualification is suitable:

  • for those with a personal or professional interest in mental health science, who wish to develop an interdisciplinary understanding of mental health conditions, and cultivate key practical and professional skills required for employment and to strengthen professional practice
  • for those who are working in or planning to work in this field (practitioners or policy makers)
  • for those seeking employment as graduate research workers
  • for those wishing to pursue research careers (and careers in academia) and progress to PhD study (e.g. doctoral research in neuroscience, psychology, health sciences and fields allied to medicine)
  • as a stepping stone to a career in clinical psychology, or pursuing a doctorate in clinical psychology
  • as professional development or for clinical roles in the NHS or other healthcare settings (including mental health nursing, behavioural therapy, psychological counselling etc.) that require specific expertise in this field (focusing on mood and affective disorders, schizophrenia and bipolar disorders, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and the dementias)
  • for graduates who are established in their field of work, and use the qualification as evidence of professional development (e.g. for promotion to more senior positions, or who may wish to take their career in a more specialist direction).
  • for clinicians (including GPs) who wish to specialise further in this area (Mental Health) as part of their continuing professional development
  • for others who may wish to take this course and move on to a leadership role or more senior positions in healthcare settings or policy-related roles in local or national organisations, or to move into the private sector (scientific publishing, education, teaching and advocacy, human resources, occupational health, management, consultancy or roles in pharmaceutical/life sciences industries).

Careers and Employability Services have more information on how OU study can improve your employability.