Have you ever thought about what it takes to become a professional paranormal investigator? Honestly, I’m sure most people don’t spend their days contemplating the path to acquiring such a title since it often results in very minimal, if any, income. Occasionally, I do wonder about this very question. Is it education? Do I need a PhD? Are you a professional if you work in a funded research lab and publish papers? What if your lab is actually your garage, are you still doing research? Do you become a professional after completing a number of investigations and who determines how many investigations and what type of investigation counts toward your total? Do you receive this title when you begin to speak at conferences or when you lead workshops? Do you need to join an Association, Society, or general group? Or do you just need to be on a TV show that gives you the title of Professional Paranormal Investigator?
I’ve been a freelance paranormal investigator since late 2010 when I took a leap and joined a paranormal group. What qualifications did I have to have to join this group? Well, there was an interview and questions about psychiatric medications. That’s about it. I was deemed “not crazy” and allowed to join the group on an investigation to an abandoned hospital about 2 hours away from my home. On the day of the event, I was picked up by some people I had never met and then locked into this hospital overnight. Personally, I think they got the “not crazy” part of my interview incorrect. Since then, I have investigated a multitude of locations, worked ghost hunting events, guided paranormal tours, taught a class on investigation techniques, and done a talk focused on the history of paranormal research. So, does all of this make me a professional in the field of paranormal investigation? I really don’t think it does. I still feel like a freelance paranormal investigator.
That then begs the question, if I’m not a professional paranormal investigator, what do I need to do to become one? Since I work at a university, my first thought was to see what is available to further my education in paranormal studies. I did a Google search of “Paranormal Classes” and got a lot of hits that really didn’t seem legit. Then I looked to the Parapsychological Association for their educational recommendations and found this outdated list.
There are very few options for gaining an education in Parapsychology (the official branch of science dedicated to psi research). Most of the programs listed above are located outside of the United States and therefore not accessible to your traditional American paranormal investigator. Since I do work at a university, I discussed the idea with a faculty member in the Psychology department and the look of terror on her face when I suggested a study in Parapsychology pretty much told the story of why I will not be getting a Ph.D. in psi studies any time soon.
So the question remains, how do you become a “professional”? I honestly think that if you want to be adept at this field you must devote yourself to learning everything you can about the field. Read everything you can to learn about phenomena, investigation techniques, history, science, and psychology. Practice a multitude of research methods, design experiments, and test theories. Be open to doing things differently and learning from your mistakes. Investigate as much as you can (while still being able to pay your bills and manage your physical and mental health). Ask a lot of questions, even the ones that challenge your own beliefs (these are the most important questions to ask).
After all of this, you still won’t be a Parapsychologist or a professional but you will be a well-informed seasoned investigator with experience worth sharing. I think many investigators forget the part where they are supposed to be learning in addition to collecting evidence. At the end of the day, it isn’t about how many cool EVP’s you have but how much closer you are to understanding what actually causes phenomena and the core components of these strange events. If you are an investigator, your job is not to create a cool 30-minute video of your experience for Youtube but to learn and share this knowledge with people who can be helped by it.
So, I guess my answer is don’t worry about what people call you. Do the work. Do it honestly and work hard to be the best investigator you can be. Titles are meaningless if you can’t back it up with experience.
Until next time, Happy Hunting!