So You Want to Become a Parapsychologist
Webster's Dictionary defines parapsychology as a field of study concerned with investigating the evidence for paranormal psychological phenomena such as telepathy, clairvoyance, and psychokinesis. Dr. John Palmer, Ph.D., board member of the Rhine Research Center in Durham, North Carolina, defines parapsychology as applying scientific methods to the study of anomalous phenomena. He defines it further as a love of science.
Characteristics of a Parapsychologist
Many people attracted to this field developed an interest through their own psychic experiences, but that alone does not make a parapsychologist. Although the creative right-brained process is important in parapsychology, the right-brained person usually doesn’t care for dealing with many details like scores on tests. The ideal candidate for parapsychologists needs a little right-brain creativity and a lot of left-brained order. That’s not to say that “right-brainers” can’t make it as a parapsychologist. It just says that you might find the tedium of some of the required tasks boring. Ask yourself if any of the following characteristics are true for you:
- A curiosity about the world
- Love to solve puzzles
- A bit on the obsessive-compulsive side
- Love for science
- An open mind
- A thick skin
- A rebel
If you answered yes to most of those qualities, you are probably a good candidate for a career in parapsychology.
Parapsychology vs. Metaphysics
Metaphysicians deal with the nature of reality. They only accept a materialistic world. To them, the mind is nothing more than the brain. Matter is all that exists in the world. In contrast, parapsychologists are open to a separate mind or soul that can survive death. Although a few parapsychologists are materialists, parapsychology doesn’t view materialism as mandatory. As a result, scientists claim parapsychology isn’t a science.
Epistemology, the philosophy of knowledge, or how we come to know things about the world around us, is where metaphysics and parapsychology meet. The basic methods used by scientists in other fields must be used as a standard of evidence. In other words, before a claim of reality or proof can be made, such as a near-death-experience (NDE), all the basic methods of science must be met.
Education in Parapsychology
At present, there isn’t one accredited academic program in parapsychology offered in the United States. The best undergraduate majors for those wanting a career in the paranormal field are psychology, physics, anthropology, or other social or physical sciences. Choose a strong university that offers courses in parapsychology. The following universities offer degrees in psychology and anthropology and allow you to work on a concentration in parapsychology.
- Franklin Pierce College in Rindge, New Hampshire
- California of University Davis
- Saybrook Institute
- Institute for Transpersonal Psychology
- University of Virginia
- JFK University in Pleasant Hill California
- West Georgia College
- Antioch University
- California Institute of Integral Studies
Dr. John Palmer, Ph.D., suggests taking the following University courses to prepare yourself for the field. The last three courses on the list are for those majoring in psychology:
- experimental psychology
- measurements and statistics
- cognitive psychology
- abnormal psychology
- physiological psychology
At the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, you can get a doctorate in psychology with a parapsychology specialization. Other British universities offer the same, but Edinburgh remains the most prestigious among them.
If you are determined to seek a career in parapsychology, expect to receive criticism from professionals in the science field. Accept that you may have to take a mainstream job at first. There is the possibility that you’ll encounter rejection when hunting for a job based solely on your field of study.
Do your research on university programs and apply to the most prestigious school you can afford. When you can’t find employment as a parapsychologist, volunteer for a paranormal research center such as the Rhine Research Center. Most importantly, major in one of the science disciplines.