Parapsychology Degrees – or a degree in Paranormal Studies — can open the door to many ghost hunting opportunities, and secure a formal career in this field.
However, there are no guarantees. 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.
In most cases, universities offer parapsychology courses, but edge away from controversy by labeling them something else. Catch phrases include “consciousness” and “alternative psychology.”
Some colleges study the beliefs, causes, and attitudes towards psychic phenomena — including ghosts, “luck,” remote viewing, etc. — but usually in their departments of psychology, biology, or social sciences.
Ivy League colleges such as Harvard sometimes conduct parapsychology research, but it is not advertised and they do not offer degrees in the field.
If you choose one of these colleges, your formal major might be in physics, biology, psychology or engineering, or some other field. You may study the same topics — and at the same level — as someone in a parapsychology program, but the diploma will look more mainstream. This can be useful in career terms, if you don’t find a full-time career in the paranormal field.
(And, the fact is: Even with a parapsychology degree from a respected academic institution, you’re unlikely to find full-time research work in this field. Most full-time ghost hunters are self-employed, and have spent considerable time marketing themselves. That’s very different from the luxury of doing serious, full-time research in a respected scientific setting.)
Some research groups offer workshops, symposia, and other educational opportunities. Some of them include academic credits or certification.
Some accredited colleges offer degrees that are designed for the individual, and include credit for life experience. But, even they are unlikely to award a formal degree in parapsychology.
As of mid-2006, no accredited American college or university offers a formal parapsychology degree. That’s not for lack of funding, but because they want to distance themselves from wild and extravagant claims made by a small (but vocal) fringe element within the New Age movement and paranormal fields.
Many “degree mills” have sprouted up since the late 1960s. Their letterhead may look impressive and they may now claim a 30+ year history in the field, but they’re still degree mills. They have no accreditation, and very little respect in the professional community. In our opinion, that’s a waste of your time and money.
Likewise, any ghost hunter certification programs — including ours — merely provide a basic background in paranormal research, and some credibility among people who believe in ghosts. The value of certification depends entirely upon the individual and his or her social context. We can’t recommend spending more than $100 for this, no matter how good the training.
Frankly, you can learn as much or more by reading books by ghost hunters, studying regional folklore, and going on as many ghost hunts as possible. And, all that takes is a library card and time spent in the field.
That said, we’re aware that the public often respect any kind of education in a chosen hobby, occupation, or field of study, especially if it sounds official. 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 also save you years of “reinventing the wheel” when they tell you honestly what ghosts and hauntings are really like: Ghosts don’t usually look like dead people, they don’t usually moan or rattle chains, and they don’t usually think that they’re irrevocably dead.
However, that’s very different from college courses that provide an overview from a psychological standpoint, or laboratory studies of psi-related phenomena.
A growing number of respected, accredited colleges offer courses and degree programs in studies related to parapsychology and the paranormal. Here are a few offering solid academic opportunities.
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), with a focus on the “Scientific Study of Consciousness-Related Physical Phenomena” including paranormal studies and remote perception.
- North Carolina – Duke University’s Rhine Research Center is “an Institute for the Study of Consciousness,” and offers many psi-related courses, workshops, and seminars.
- The International Society of Life Information Science (ISLIS) offers academic symposia and parapsychology research opportunities.
- 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) offers an Internet-based introduction to parapsychology. The University (on-campus) also offers 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) allows students to design their own degree programs.
My certified courses
People have asked about my certified courses.
In 2001, long before “Ghost Hunters” made ghost hunting popular, I offered a basic, certified Introduction to Ghost hunting Course for $15, which included the CD of the lessons. The completion certificate PDF was also on the CD, so students could print their certificates themselves, on the honor system. Since that was managed through Cafe Press, and I made almost no profit, I have no idea how many students participated, but the number was small.
I also 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.
Only one student (of three) sent investigation reports for me to evaluate — and, as I recall, he sent just one or two — so I phased this course out after a couple of years.
Those two courses, combined, were the core of my concept for a complete Certified Paranormal Investigator Course. Since no one actually completed the Psychic Disturbance Investigator Course, I stopped developing paid, online courses.
(This should NOT be confused with the IGHS Home Study Course, also on CD, which — in three or four parts — still sells for $400.)
I taught in-person courses in 2000 – early 2002 at Portsmouth, NH. About 30 students took my courses, and 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 it became clear that the American economy was in trouble.
Early students whose courses were delivered by Cafe Press… well, I have no idea who they were. Their Introduction to Ghost Hunting certificates were printable from the CD. If you took that course and you’ve lost your CD or certificate, you can just skip ahead in the current free course, and print the certificate there.
If you’re one of the three Psychic Disturbance Investigator Course students:
- Send me something to show that you signed up for the course. Usually, that will be the Cafe Press receipt. (If I don’t impose this requirement, I’ll hear from IGHS students who’ve confused the two websites. That happens less often than it did in the 1990s and early 2000s, when IGHS more closely resembled my website, but it’s still a problem.)
- When I’ve confirmed that you’re one of the original three students, send me your three investigation reports — per the guidelines in the course — and I’ll evaluate them. Please allow at least six to eight weeks for that.
- Then, I’ll need your final essay to evaluate and your postal mail address, before I send you the certificate. Allow at least another two or three weeks for that.
I personally emailed all other students about their course completions and their certificates. Most replied with mailing addresses. A couple did not. If you’re among them, please let me know which course you took, where you took it, and when.
Around that time, I was able to offer online courses, so I incurred no charges. It seemed only fair to make my courses free to all students, and offer certificates on the honor system. However, those courses weren’t current with the high-tech tools and techniques that developed after Ghost Hunters’ popularity radically changed this field.
As a result, much of the information in my original courses was updated, and reissued:
- The basic investigating portion of the course was expanded as the free Introduction to Ghost Hunting Course.
- Most (not all) of the “psychic disturbances” course was updated and became my free (in digital format) book, “Is Your House Haunted?”
- The four-week, in-person, haunted cemeteries course became the basis of my best-selling book, Ghost Hunting in Haunted Cemeteries: A How-To Guide.
Some of the other course materials, updated, will appear in future books and free, online courses.
I no longer teach classes. It was tremendous fun and I 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.
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