NOTE: This article needs a little bit of updating, specifically with respect to the recommended links and resources at the end. Watch for the updated version coming very soon.
There are a couple of questions my colleagues and I are often asked about Parapsychology. First of all, where can one take courses in parapsychology, and secondly, where can one earn a degree in parapsychology so as to enter the field? Both questions are a bit limited in the way they can be answered, since the resources and support of this field are severely limited.
My suggestion if you want to take a course locally is to check with the local university or college, both the registrar’s office and any office of continuing education. In addition, you should check all the adult education programs in your immediate vicinity. The only problem with extension and adult education classes may lie with who is teaching the class.
I know of many psychics and others teaching what they call parapsychology courses, which often include either very personal perspectives on psychic phenomena, or incorporate topics such as UFOs, Tarot, etc. which are not parapsychology. In addition, some of those psychics (whom I often have doubts about as both teachers and psychics) are mainly teaching some form of psychic development or practice, and not parapsychology per se. There are also those classes offered by debunkers.
So, be discriminating when signing up for a course, unless you’re mainly interested in a bit of “entertainment,” in which case it may not matter who is teaching the course. If the course is offered for credit or has been screened carefully by a faculty department in the university or college through which it is being offered, there is a better chance that the course may be a bit more related to parapsychology as it really is — though, here again, I have seen outlines of credit course, some of which are aimed atdebunking only, which made my blood turn a bit green.
One excellent course you can take is the summer study program at the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina. This eight-week, intensive study program goes over methods of research and investigation in parapsychology, with a heavier emphasis on laboratory study. In addition, there are a number of places that offer correspondence courses, but the same caveats regarding the who and what of the course hold here. The Office of Paranormal Investigations currently has a 6 hour seminar on video dealing with the process of investigating apparition, poltergeist and hauntings cases from both the scientific and psychic perspectives. The video seminar is available with some written materials and a test that “students” can take and have graded to see their level of understanding of the material. Contact the Office of Paranormal Investigations for more information (firstname.lastname@example.org).
I personally offer occasional non-credit seminars in the San Francisco Bay Area, and am now working with HCH Institute in Lafayette, CA in presenting a Certificate Program in Parapsychological Studies (certification is from the State of California). Information on the program can be found at HCH’s website (www.hypnotherapytraining.com), and the program is now being offered via a distance learning option. In addition, the American Institute of Parapsychology in Florida (www.parapsychologylab.com) is planning on offering a certificate program.
In terms of actual study for a degree in parapsychology, JFK University in Pleasant Hill, CA (www.jfku.edu), which does offer coursework relating to dreams, used to offer a graduate degree in the field (1978-1986). Rosebridge Graduate School of Integrative Psychology, now merged into another school, also used to offer advanced degrees in parapsychology (both schools in Northern California). Unfortunately, there are no such accredited degrees being offered as of right now.
In actuality, nearly all of the parapsychologists in the world do not have a degree in parapsychology and may have backgrounds in almost any science you can think of (though a large number have degrees in psychology and physics). A number of schools offer degrees in psychology, anthropology, or other fields allowing you to do your work with a parapsychological concentration, often under the guidance of a parapsychologist affiliated/on the faculty of the university. Such schools include the University of Virginia, West Georgia College, Antioch University, Saybrook Institute, California Institute of Integral Studies, and the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology.
For undergraduate work, Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire, offers focus on parapsychology within their undergraduate psychology programs.
The University of Edinburgh in Scotland has a great focus on parapsychology for grad students. A number of other universities in the United Kingdom now have graduates of Edinburgh on faculty, so there are signs that there may be an increase in courses there.
In the United States, Saybrook Institute (www.saybrook.edu) and the Institute for Transpersonal Psychology (www.itp.edu ), both in California, are your best bets for graduate school (and offer distance learning options), and again, Franklin Pierce College (www.fpc.edu) for undergrad.
If you want to get into the field of parapsychology, my best advice is to go to a good, strong undergraduate university, whether there is a course on parapsychology or not. Get a background in psychology, anthropology, physics or some other social or physical science, but also make sure you take at least introductory level courses in other fields (especially psychology, physics and cultural anthropology) so you are familiar with concepts that might have a direct bearing on parapsychological research and investigation. Learn the ways of science (maybe a philosophy or history of science course), since we have noticed that people get disappointed when entering a course in parapsychology that is as scientifically oriented as they should be (and not just looking at auras or learning to develop one’s own psi). A course or two in statistics and psychological research methods couldn’t hurt, either.
Then, when looking for a graduate school, you might attempt to work up a master’s program that will allow you to do research or investigation in parapsychological topics. If you have no one at your university to guide you (no parapsychologist, or faculty member familiar with the current literature), contact one of the research organizations for suggestions. Also, you never know when things might change for the better, and a new accredited degree program gets underway. The aforementioned organizations will have knowledge of such an event.
As far as the job market in the field goes, realize that such positions are quite limited. There are few research laboratories around, and fewer places that offer funding for field investigations (meaning, next to none). So, you may have to use that background of your in whatever field you’ve gotten it in to get a post in a university which might be open to your offering courses in parapsychology, and to doing research in this area. Or, you might try writing as a source of income, or lecturing, or running workshops and seminars. I personally do a bit of all of that, with a focus on lecturing to specific audiences such as the college market.
In any event, speak with people at the various organizations, get to know parapsychologists and their work, and be creative.
For more information on Education in Parapsychology, visit the Lyceum site of the Parapsychology Foundation (www.pflyceum.org).