Learn to evaluate safety critical skills (SCS) in your 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.

Cross-industry insights

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.

Unique expertise

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.

Who can join this online SCS course?

This distance learning course is open to professionals in any industry who are interested in:

  • developing in-depth knowledge of SCS and non-technical skills, and
  • learning to improve safety in their workplace.

Build credits towards a Masters degree

This online course is part of:

You can use the credits you earn on this short course towards 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

SCS skills in practice

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.

SCS failure impact

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.

Using behavioural markers

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 distance learning SCS course is delivered flexibly, 100% online.

You can study with us anywhere in the world, no student visa required, and manage your study hours to suit you.

Your teaching

This course is taught at Masters level..

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 available, 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 your tutors and peers
  • the online resources of our award-winning Sir Duncan Rice Library.

Your tutors

This course is delivered by our School of Psychology.

You’ll learn from academics 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 online.

You’ll be assessed throughout the course via:

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

This course totals around 150 hours of study and assessment time. That’s around 10-15 hours each week.

This is a rough guide, as you can largely set your own study hours each week to cover the materials. MyAberdeen is available 24/7, so you can log in and study when it suits you.

There will be some activities that you need to engage in within a defined period – for example, online discussion boards occur every two weeks and you have to engage with the board within a defined period of five working days. But otherwise, you can access and work through the course at your convenience.

Our first-class support structure will ensure that you aren’t alone in your studies.

Dr Amy Irwin will be available to answer queries regarding the course, and any difficulties experienced, via email throughout the 12 weeks.

You can use social media and discussion boards to chat with your fellow students too.

We provide a wide range of services to support you in your studies and beyond:

Wherever you are in the world, you’ll feel part of our very special Aberdeen learning community.

Your course coordinator

Dr Amy Irwin

Dr Irwin has conducted research in the area of safety critical skills, also known as non-technical skills, for a decade. She is a lecturer within the School of Psychology and leads the Applied Psychology and Human Factors group.

View Amy’s profile

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:

PgCert Human Factors and Organisational Psychology

Earn human factors certification online. Study flexibly with expert psychologists and and learn to make workplaces safer.

View PgCert Human Factors and Organisational Psychology

PgCert Psychology in the Workplace

Explore occupational psychology online with UK university psychologists. Choose from a range of online workplace psychology courses and build a graduate qualification tailored to you.

View PgCert Psychology in the Workplace

Masters in Psychological Studies

A full-time, on-campus MSc programme designed to introduce graduates from other disciplines to the study of psychology, as a first step to pursuing a career in this area.

View MSc Psychological Studies

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.

Continuing professional development (CPD)

Your employer or professional institute may recognise this course for CPD hours. 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

Entry requirements

We welcome students from all over the world.

This course has no formal entry requirements. You do not need to provide proof of your qualifications.

But you do need to check the entry guidance above to understand the level of teaching delivered, to decide if this course is right for you.

If you do not have qualifications from the UK, check the equivalent teaching level for your country.

Visa requirements

You do not need a student visa to study online with us.

English language requirements

Teaching is delivered in English.

You do not have to provide proof of your English language skills to join this course. But we want to make sure that you can use English well enough to study successfully.

Recommended level of English

For this course, we recommend the following level of English language proficiency.

These are our Postgraduate Standard requirements, and these are minimum scores.

IELTS Academic, IELTS UKVI Academic, and IELTS Online (not IELTS Indicator or IELTS General Training)

  • 6.5 overall
  • 5.5 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 6.0 for writing

TOEFL iBT and TOEFL iBT Home Edition

  • 90 overall
  • 17 for listening
  • 18 for reading
  • 20 for speaking
  • 21 for writing
  • TOEFL DI code is 0818

Cambridge English: B2 First, C1 Advanced, or C2 Proficiency

  • 176 overall
  • 162 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 169 for writing

LanguageCert Academic/LanguageCert Academic SELT

  • 70 overall
  • 60 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 65 for writing

LanguageCert International ESOL B2 Communicator (Written and Spoken) – Online / In-centre

  • Overall High Pass
  • 33 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 38 for writing

Oxford ELLT Digital – English Language Level Test Online

  • 7.0 overall
  • 5.0 for listening, reading and speaking
  • 6.0 for writing

PTE Academic (online test not accepted)

  • 62 overall
  • 59 for listening, reading, speaking and writing

For full information about language requirements, see our English Language Requirements page.

You will need access to:

A computer (PC, laptop or Mac) operating on either:

  • Windows 10 or later
  • macOS 10.15 (Catalina) or later.

Most teaching materials are smartphone- and tablet-friendly. But we recommend a proper laptop or desktop for completing assignments comfortably.

Reliable internet access

We recommend:

  • a wired connection
  • a minimum download speed of 2 Mbps so you can take part fully in live sessions.

Speakers or headphones

  • We recommend a headset with built-in microphone and earphones if you’re likely to study in an environment with background noise.
  • A webcam is optional, but you may like to use one for some interactive sessions.


We’ll give you access to Office365 applications. This means you can use online versions of Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint and install these programs on up to five personal devices.

If your course requires specialist software, we’ll provide you with access to this and a licence that lasts throughout your studies.

See our detailed IT requirements for more information.

When you study with us, you can expect a first-class support structure so that you’re never alone in your studies.

But learning online does mean you have to motivate yourself and manage your own time.

Your most important commitment will be time – the time to work through, reflect on and understand your teaching materials.

Before you start a course that involves a high degree of independent study, we recommend looking at the time you will be able to devote to your studies each week:

  • Be realistic
  • Create a weekly schedule as a guide

If you have any questions about studying online, get in touch with our friendly team. We’re here to help.

Fee payment

Your course fee needs to be paid in full before you start your course.

We accept payment via Visa Debit, Visa Credit and Mastercard.

Ways to save

You may be able to get help funding this course via:

  • discounts – if any discounts are available for this course, they’ll appear in the section below
  • employer sponsorship – we accept full and partial fee payments from sponsors.

Find out more about funding options.

Student card

All our students are entitled to a University of Aberdeen student card. This gives you access to a range of student discounts around the city and online.

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 UK undergraduate degree (or equivalent), or
  • relevant experience that supports this level of study.

Apply for this course

Start date
27 January 2025
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