Parapsychology Degrees — or a degree in Paranormal Studies — can open the door to many ghost hunting opportunities.
As Gertrude Schmeidler said in her 1972 report to the American Society for Psychical Research, “The Ph.D. is the union card.” It doesn’t assure you that people will take you seriously… but it can help.
However, most universities edge away from controversy by calling their programs something other than “paranormal studies.”
Catch phrases include “consciousness” and “alternative psychology.”
Some colleges study psychic phenomena, including ghosts, “luck,” remote viewing, etc. Those activities are usually sponsored by departments like psychology, biology, or social sciences.
Ivy League universities conduct similar research. That is not advertised and they do not offer degrees in the field.
In other words, your major might be in physics, biology, psychology or engineering, or some other field. You may study parapsychology, but your diploma will look more mainstream. This can be useful in career terms, if you don’t find a full-time career in paranormal studies.
Note: Even with a parapsychology degree, you’re unlikely to find full-time research work in this field.
Most full-time ghost hunters are self-employed, and find income from a variety of sources. That’s very different from the luxury of doing serious, full-time research in a respected scientific setting.
Some universities and research groups offer workshops and symposia related to paranormal studies. Some include academic credits or certification.
Some accredited colleges offer degrees that are designed for the individual, and include credit for life experience. But, they aren’t likely to award a formal degree in parapsychology, either.
As of mid-2006, when I first wrote this article, no accredited American college or university offered a formal parapsychology or paranormal studies degrees. The topic is too controversial.
Many “degree mills” have sprouted up since the late 1960s. Their letterhead may look impressive. They may claim a 30+ year history in the field. They’re still degree mills. They have no accreditation, and very little respect in the professional community. Don’t waste your time and money.
Likewise, any certified course — including mine — isn’t a degree. It provides a basic background in paranormal research. What you’ll learn gives you credibility among ghost hunters. My course is free. The last time I checked, it was the only free, comprehensive ghost hunting course, online.
Others charge money for similar courses. I can’t recommend spending more than $100, no matter how good the training.
Instead, invest that money in events, and any books you can’t find at your public library. Read books by ghost hunters. Study regional folklore. Go on as many ghost hunts as possible. That’s the education you really need.
I know that people like to see “official” credentials. If you’re helping frightened people deal with ghosts in their homes, they’re more likely to trust you if you’ve been trained and certified in the field of ghost hunting.
Ghost hunting courses can save you years of “reinventing the wheel” when they tell you honestly what ghosts and hauntings are really like. For example:
- Ghosts don’t usually look like dead people.
- They rarely moan or rattle chains.
- Many ghosts think they can turn back the clock and resume their lives, or make retroactive changes.
However, that’s practical information. It’s different from college courses that given you an overview from a psychological standpoint. It’s not a laboratory study of psi-related phenomena.
Here are a few universities that — in the past — have offered related courses and degrees.
Important: This list may not be current. Curricula change steadily.
Universities that may offer courses in paranormal studies and parapsychology degrees
- Edinburgh – The University of Edinburgh is among the most highly respected in the field of parapsychology, and has awarded parapsychology degrees. Their Koestler Parapsychology Unit hosts considerable psi-related research.
- Hertfordshire – Professor Richard Weisman researches luck and paranormal-related phenomena at the University of Hertfordshire.
- Arizona – The Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona offers many courses that focus on issues related to alternative and paranormal studies. These include web-based courses as well as on-campus resources.
- New Jersey – Princeton University takes a slightly different approach with Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR). It’s focused on the “Scientific Study of Consciousness-Related Physical Phenomena” including innovative paranormal studies and remote perception.
- North Carolina – Duke University’s Rhine Research Center has been “an Institute for the Study of Consciousness,” and has offered many psi-related courses, workshops, and seminars.
- At one time, the International Society of Life Information Science (ISLIS) offered academic symposia and parapsychology research opportunities. As of early 2016, ISLIS seems to be offline.
- Amsterdam – The Psychology department at the University of Amsterdam has — in the past — offered courses in paranormal studies. In July 2006, parapsychology courses were not featured at their website, which is in Dutch. With further research, you may find their courses, or they may feature them later. (Also see the nearby University of Utrecht courses, below.)
- Utrecht – Professor Dick J. Bierman at the University of Utrecht (UU) has offered an Internet-based introduction to parapsychology. The University (on-campus) may also offer courses in related fields.
More parapsychology study links
- Cognitive Sciences Laboratory – government-funded STAR GATE research, etc.
- In France, see the Institut Metapsychique International.
- The Institute of Noetic Sciences (No. California) was started by astronaut Edgar Mitchell and fellow scientists.
- Saybrook Graduate School (San Francisco) has offered parapsychology among its studies.
- Union Institute and University (Ohio) has allowed some students to design their own degree programs.
MY PAST COURSES
Because I’ve been online for nearly 20 years, some people have confused me — and my courses — with another “old timer” ghost hunting website. That’s a site I have never recommended. To be honest, I bristle when someone takes me to task because he or she felt cheated by that other website.
I do not and have never been associated with them.
The following are the only courses I’ve ever offered:
In 2001, long before “Ghost Hunters” made ghost hunting popular, I offered two paid courses online. Though the content was delivered on CDs, students were given a special email address for personal discussions and assistance.
One course was an early version of my (now free) Introduction to Ghost Hunting Course.
In 2001, the course cost $15 and included a CD of the lessons. The completion certificate was also on the CD, so students could print their certificates themselves. Everything was managed through Cafe Press. Though students could ask me questions and have one-on-one discussions with me, only two students contacted me. It wasn’t a success, so I phased it out.
At the same time, I offered a Psychic Disturbance Investigator Course, which was 150+ pages long, and cost $30. It included:
- The course CD, delivered through Cafe Press.
- Personal evaluation of three investigations.
- Personal review of a final essay.
- Certification after three successful investigations and an insightful essay.
Only one student (of three) sent reports for me to evaluate. As I recall, he sent just one. Maybe it was two. He did not send the required three.
So, I stopped offering the course. There wasn’t enough interest. I think I’d launched them too early. If I’d offered them in 2004 or so, they might have done really well. (One of these days, I may rewrite and update the PDIC course, and offer the materials for free. However, many of the concepts are now part of my free Is Your House Haunted? book and checksheet.)
Those two courses — the Introduction to Ghost Hunting Course, and the Psychic Disturbance Investigator Course — combined, were the core of a complete Certified Paranormal Investigator Course I’d envisioned. Since no one actually completed the Psychic Disturbance Investigator Course, I stopped developing paid, online courses.
(Do not confuse this with the IGHS Home Study Course, also on CD, which — in three or four parts — still sells for $400. I have never endorsed or had anything to do with that course or the people who offer it.)
I taught in-person courses between 2000 and 2002 in Portsmouth, NH. About 30 students took my courses. Most of them were in my Ghost Photography 101 course.
I taught one series of classes in 2008. Eight students attended.
All of my students received certificates of completion upon completing their respective courses. (I have never claimed to “license” ghost hunters, and I’ve always been frank about certification and what it means.)
All of my paid courses were discontinued late in 2008, when the economy faltered. Since then, my courses are free. As soon as I have a break between books and major research projects, I’ll develop new, free courses.
I no longer teach in-person classes. I had a great time and met wonderful people, but… well, I don’t want to say I’ve retired, but I am dedicating more time to research and writing, and less to public appearances.