Many students and adults would like to study human consciousness, parapsychology, transpersonal psychology, or some combination of these fields. While these topics are of great interest, the number of courses and degrees available in these topics are - surprisingly - very few. People often believe that there are active undergraduate or graduate-level programs at universities known for having parapsychology labs. Unfortunately, this is not true. At present the only universities that teach graduate-level courses on parapsychology are outside of the United States, in Europe.

If your interest in consciousness research can be focused on a relatively accepted aspect of it (say, biofeedback research) you may be able to find a professor at some mainstream university doing research that you could work with. Check reference sources like Psychological Abstracts and MedLine to see who is doing work in these areas and what institutions they are at, then write them. If your primary interest is parapsychology, things get much tougher. You can forget most mainstream academic institutions if you want to get seriously involved in this topic at the professional level.

In terms of realistic career advice, note that parapsychology is considered "marginal" by mainstream psychology. If your goal is a tenured faculty position at a major university, with plenty of time for research, any degree with an emphasis in parapsychology will not be looked upon with favor. Parapsychologists usually make a living teaching or doing another conventional job.

Some students solve the problem of wanting the advantages offered by a mainstream academic position, but without giving up their greater interests in parapsychology, by going to a mainstream school (where they are wisely discrete about their deeper interests), learning how to conduct research in some well-accepted discipline, and then quietly joining the Parapsychological Association and/or reading the primary parapsychological journals.

Scientific parapsychology is a minuscule field, with only a few dozen people in the entire world working in it. At present, the chances of landing a decent job are very small indeed. If you are so dedicated that this doesn't stop you, wonderful! But please be realistic.

Pursuing parapsychology as a career also requires strong entrepreneurial skills, enormous persistence and creativity, resourcefulness, solid training in one of more of the conventional sciences or in a scholarly discipline, and the ability to withstand the tides of conventional wisdom. The payoff is that parapsychology, like other scientific frontiers, is an extremely challenging discipline with plenty of room for exploring creative ideas and making significant advancements to the state-of-the-art. If you expect fast solutions to easy problems, or absolute answers to clear questions, then parapsychology is definitely not for you. If you enjoy exploring the full range of human potential and challenging the status quo, then there is no better discipline than parapsychology.

Portions of the above discussion courtesy of Dr. Charles Tart.