Learn to evaluate safety critical skills (SCS) in your own workplace, whatever your industry.

SCS are the social, cognitive and personal management skills that enable safe and effective work performance:

  • Communication
  • Situation awareness
  • Decision-making
  • Managing stress and fatigue

These skills are vital in all industries, but especially in high-risk industries like aviation, healthcare, shipping, agriculture and offshore drilling.

Join the first SCS course of its kind to share knowledge on SCS across industries, backed by years of relevant research, industry knowledge and contacts.

Access the latest research and examine real-life case studies to discover the best techniques to assess and improve these skills yourself. You’ll learn online from academics who have been conducting industry-shaping SCS research for almost a decade.

Build credits towards a Masters degree

This online course is part of:

You can use the credits you earn on this short course towards either of these postgraduate qualifications.

Dr. Amy Irwin

This course is the first of its kind to share knowledge on SCS across industries. Now you can learn more about this vital skill set whatever your industry or occupation.

Dr Amy Irwin, Applied Psychologist and course coordinator

What you’ll study

You’ll cover the history of safety critical skills, from crew resource management in aviation to more recent developments in farming and healthcare.

You’ll learn about the full range of safety critical skills required for safe work practice:

  • Social skills: teamwork, leadership, communication
  • Cognitive skills: situation awareness, decision-making, task management, cognitive readiness
  • Personal management: stress and fatigue management

You’ll discuss how these skills work together and separately, looking at examples from a range of industries. Evaluating the latest research, you’ll come to understand how these skills develop, can be maintained and improved.

You’ll also investigate the potential impact of SCS failures. A host of factors can adversely impact these skills (cultural variation, wellbeing, illness, design features and more). You’ll cover them all and learn to assess stress and fatigue management at work. You’ll also discover how these adverse factors can be reduced.

A vital part of assessing SCS are behavioural markers. You’ll learn how these are developed and used as part of SCS training programmes.

By the end of this course, you’ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of the key social, cognitive and personal management safety critical skills.
  • Evaluate the impact of safety critical skill failures across a range of industries.
  • Assess safety critical skills using behavioural marker systems.
  • Evaluate the impact of a range of factors on safety critical skill development and performance.
Car dashboard at night as seen from the driver's seat.

Could situation awareness save your life?

Around 80% of aviation accidents are linked to human error. Piloting a plane, driving a car, handling machinery – when situation awareness slips, the risk of accident rises.

Read Dr Amy Irwin’s blog post to find out more.

How you’ll study

Online learning

This SCS course is delivered part-time, 100% online. You can study with us anywhere in the world and manage your study hours to suit you.

Part of our accredited MSc in Psychological Studies, this course is taught at Masters level.

Your teaching

Your teaching is delivered through MyAberdeen, our online Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). It holds all the materials, tools and support you’ll need in your studies. Take a look around MyAberdeen.

You can access your learning materials on computer, smartphone and laptop, 24 hours a day. You’ll find a range of resources at your fingertips, including:

  • pre-recorded online lectures to stream or download
  • journal articles illustrating the latest research relevant to SCS
  • animated videos to highlight learning points
  • slide shows
  • discussion boards to share opinions and ideas with colleagues and tutors
  • the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library.

Your tutors

You’ll learn from academics from our School of Psychology, including Dr Amy Irwin. Amy has conducted pioneering SCS research for almost a decade across engineering, offshore drilling, agriculture, aviation and healthcare.


This course is assessed entirely online via:

  • online discussion boards (worth 10% of your final mark)
  • two online multiple-choice assessments (each worth 25%)
  • an assessed piece of coursework (worth 40%).

Your course coordinator

Where this will take you

Towards a Masters

You’ll earn 15 credits at Masters level (SCQF Level 11) with this course. You can use these credits towards our:

Build your learning

This course is part of our series of online workplace psychology courses.

Use these short courses to build your skills and earn more credits towards postgraduate qualifications:

All these online courses are part-time and fit around full-time work.


Whatever your industry, you’ll gain career-enhancing skills and expertise on this course.

It could help you:

  • develop your Human Factors role in your current workplace
  • move towards a career in Human Factors consultation.

Your employer or professional institute may recognise this course for Continuing Professional Development (CPD). Talk to your employer or institute to find out more.

Free career support

Access our free careers service while you study.

  • 1:1 appointments
  • CV checks
  • Interview prep
  • Job opportunities

See how our careers service can help you.

Entry requirements

This course has no formal entry requirements. You decide if it’s suitable for you.

The course is delivered at Masters level. At this level, you’d usually have at least:

  • a 2:2 (second-class) degree
  • or relevant experience in industry that supports this level of study.

Apply for this course

Start date
23 January 2023
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