The science supporting positive psychology has sparked a huge increase in degree programs.
It makes sense: when we understand the “why” of positive human functioning, we can apply that knowledge to our own lives and unlock our true potential.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
Today, there are more courses, degrees, conferences, and associations than ever before. Below is a list of all your many options (at least the ones we know of!) for pursuing a degree in positive psychology. To top it off, we have saved the best for last, with a new online course offered by Dr. Seligman.
Do you know of a degree program that is not listed below? If so, let us know in the comments section!
This article contains:
Masters Degree in Positive Psychology
1. University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania offered the first Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). It was the first institution to offer a master’s degree in the field, and it is known as one of the birthplaces of positive psychology.
Students in this program get the opportunity to study with one of the legendary founders of the field, Dr. Martin Seligman. Additionally, the impressive faculty roster includes positive powerhouses James Pawelski, Angela Duckworth and Karen Reivich, among others.
This program is a good option for those who are not in the UPenn neighborhood and are not able to relocate; there are 10 required on-site visits to the university, but the rest of the program does not require being on campus. During the on-site visits, students and faculty meet for intensive weekends of learning and networking.
Who Can Apply?
There are no positive psychology prerequisites for admission to this program, as it is designed for people from a wide variety of backgrounds.
To increase your chances for admission, it is recommended that applicants express their objectives for attending the program and offer a background that would enrich the course itself.
A new cohort is accepted into the program each year and instruction begins in the fall. Check UPenn’s MAPP website for more details.
2. Claremont Graduate University
Claremont Graduate University was the first institution to offer a Ph.D. program in positive psychology and they currently offer both Masters and Doctoral level degrees in the subject.
Their Ph.D. programs are based on Positive Organizational Psychology and Positive Developmental Psychology.
At the masters level, this university offers an M.A. in either Positive Organizational Psychology or Positive Developmental Psychology, with a co-concentration in Evaluation.
Both of the programs bring a strong focus to the importance of understanding positive developmental processes and prevention, promotion and optimization.
One of CGU’s biggest draws is the presence of the Quality of Life Research Center, which was founded in 1999 and is led by positive psychology’s other “founding father,” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, and his protege Jeanne Nakamura. To this day, the program researches themes related to creativity, engagement, intrinsic motivation, and responsibility.
Who can apply?
Applicants are required to have a Bachelor’s degree and at least some background in psychology. Check out CGU’s School of Social Science, Policy, and Evaluation to learn more about the programs they offer.
3. University of East London
The University of East London was also a pioneer in launching graduate positive psychology education, and currently offers a Masters of Science (MSc) MSc in applied positive psychology and coaching psychology.
This program is offered in three modes:
- Full-time on-campus (12-month program)
- Full-time distance learning (12-month program)
- Part-time distance learning (24-month program)
UEL’s flexibility makes this program ideal for applicants with jobs or other commitments. The program also offers cutting-edge theory and research on topics related to wellbeing and long-term change.
The research done at UEL is cutting-edge and world-leading; on their website, they note that their psychology research is ranked first in the country, even beating out Oxford and Cambridge.
If you are interested in opportunities around life-coaching, this may be the perfect fit.
Who can apply?
Anyone with a minimum 2.1 honors degree (roughly the equivalent of a Bachelors’ with at least a 3.2 GPA in the United States) can apply, preferably with a background in Social Sciences. A 2:2 degree (lower GPA equivalent) may be accepted with supplemental work experience.
Applicants will also need to attend an interview.
Check out UEL’s website to learn more about this program.
4. Bucks New University
Bucks New University also offers an MSc in Applied Positive Psychology.
This degree is offered in a part-time format with the option of supplementing the usual two-year timeline with a third year, making it an excellent choice for those who are currently employed.
The MSc degree requires students to undertake a dissertation project, but BNU also offers a Postgraduate Certificate or Diploma that does not require completion of a dissertation.
If you are interested in topics around human resources, organizational development, psychotherapy, counseling or teaching, this program has much to offer.
This program offers students the chance to design their own projects and choose the topics they are most interested in to learn more about.
Who can apply?
This course is open to people from different backgrounds and life experiences. A degree in psychology isn’t required, but a 2:1 degree is recommended.
BNU’s MSc program prioritizes critical reflection, the development of skill sets, and strength-based models of student assets and interests.
5. University of Lisbon
The Institute of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Lisbon offers an Executive Masters in Applied Positive Psychology(EMAPP); however, prospective students should be sure to note that this program results in a Post-Graduate Diploma rather than a graduate degree.
Students’ background experiences have been wide-ranging, including management, economy, law, history and many others.
Perhaps more than any other program on this list, the University of Lisbon’s EMAPP program aims to provide instruction in positive psychology to a wide range of people with diverse backgrounds and purposes rather than targeting researchers and educators alone.
An impressive international host of lecturers has included positive psychology experts such as Antonella Delle Fave, Chiara Ruini, Luigino Bruni, Carmelo Vazquez, Ruut Veenhoven, Carol Ryff, Ilona Boniwell, and Miriam Akhtar.
This program is offered semi-regularly. Check the Instituto Superior de Social and Political Sciences’ (ISCSP) website for more information.
Who can apply?
This program is open to anyone with a bachelor’s degree or higher. No background in psychology is required. You can learn more about the requirements for this program from the FAQ section on the ISCSP’s website.
6. North-West University, South Africa
The Potchefstroom Campus of South Africa’s North-West University offers a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP). It’s a specialized degree in Positive Psychology, and will not grant the graduate registration with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa (HPCSA) or give them the qualifications to provide clinical care.
This program consists of five separate five-day sessions on campus in the first year, followed by a year of research and a “mini-dissertation” project.
Students acquire a thorough knowledge and deep understanding of positive psychology in terms of the theory, research and intellectual background. If students develop a passion for positive psychology, they can shift into a more advanced degree at NWU: a Doctorate of Philosophy in Health Sciences with Positive Psychology. Check their website to learn more about these degrees.
Who can apply?
Students from different backgrounds are welcome and encouraged to apply, and the program is frequently filled with people who have been in the workforce for several years.
7. University of Melbourne, Australia
The University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education offers a Masters in Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) at their Parkville campus. Students can choose between two enrollment options: one year full-time or two years part-time. The instruction is given in three two-day “on-campus intensives” on Fridays and Saturdays, making it a good choice for people juggling work and other responsibilities.
Their education mission at their Center is clear: advance the wellbeing of young people through the application of Positive Psychology in key learning environments.
Streams of research include Wellbeing Measurement, Wellbeing Literacy, and Wellbeing Systems
At the end of the program, students will have a strong understanding of how to successfully apply the principles and insights of positive psychology. This program boasts a stellar faculty, including positive psychology powerhouses Lea Waters, Lindsay Oades, Dianne Vella-Broderick, and Peggy Kern. For more info on this program, visit the University of Melbourne‘s website.
Who can apply?
There are three pathways to admission:
- an undergraduate degree and at least five years of documented relevant professional experience;
- an undergraduate degree and at least 100 points of relevant postgraduate study; or
- an undergraduate degree, at least 50 points of relevant postgraduate study, and at least two years of documented relevant professional experience.
Certificate in Positive Psychology
If you don’t wish to pursue formal postgraduate studies in positive psychology, you might want to consider the following training programs that offer a certificate in positive psychology.
This is a great option for busy people who need to combine the flexibility of online learning paired with on-campus presence and resources.
8. The Flourishing Center (USA, Canada & online)
The New York-based Flourishing Center offers a Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology (CAPP).
This six month, 240-hour course (or 9 months online) is composed of six modules on positivity, engagement, relationships, meaning, achievement, and vitality.
For in-person instruction, this program is offered in Boston, MA; Chicago, IL; Philadelphia, PA; New York, NY; and Toronto, Canada.
CAPP is also available in an online format for students outside the US and Canada. This version is a nine-month program with one weekend on site for each module, along with online classes, webinars, and interviews with leading positive psychology experts.
Students are provided with slides, worksheets, audio materials, videos and lots of materials to repurpose in the application of PP.
This program is open to anyone who is interested in positive psychology, but they note that they have three main types of students:
- professionals who intend to apply what they learn to their organization,
- entrepreneurs and freelancers who want to apply it to their independent work, and
- those interested in personal development and growth.
You can find more information on this program and the other programs the Flourishing Center offers on their website.
9. Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology – Wholebeing Institute (USA and online)
Experience a whole-person approach to positive psychology and optimal wellbeing in this 9-month online and on-site course.
Students in this program apply the whole-person approach in areas of leadership, counseling, coaching, parenting, or teaching. This method helps to:
- Bring about lasting change in individuals and organizations;
- Create healthy personal and professional relationships;
- Build positive emotions as well as resilience to deal with painful emotions;
- Develop self-regard and optimism;
There are nine modules to this course, two of which are offered onsite.
Students are exposed to many voices and perspectives within a consistent and cohesive learning experience, with weekly video lectures with lead faculty and guest lecturers, as well as content from featured experts.
Whether you want to improve your home life, better your workplace, grow personally or professionally, or start a new career, the Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology offers you in-depth study, world-class faculty, and transformative experiences.
You can read more on the Wholebeing Institute’s website.
10. Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing – Langley Group Institute
The Langley Group Institute, founded by Sue Langley offers the first nationally accredited Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing in Australia, New Zealand, the UK, and Canada, with more locations coming soon.
This program provides training for coaches, psychologists, educators and other busy professionals eager to learn how to apply positive psychology in their own work and lives.
Candidates can gain expertise in positive coaching, leadership, human resources, education, parenting or community. There are six core units, two of which are electives. Each unit is delivered in six full-day, in-person classes.
It is the first government-accredited Diploma in positive psychology and is approved by the British Psychological Society (BPS) Learning Centre for Continuing Professional Development (CPD). This course is offered in several different locations. Check the Langley Group calendar for more information on locations and dates.
11. Graduate Certificate in Positive Psychology – University of Missouri
If you’re looking for a quick one-semester certificate in positive psychology, the University of Missouri offers a completely online program that requires only 15 credit hours of learning (3 required and 12 electives).
To enroll you must have a bachelor’s degree, at least a 3.0 in the last 60 credit hours of instruction, and a familiarity with the English language. Terms begin in fall, spring, and summer, so chances are there is one starting soon. Visit Mizzou Online’s website to learn more. Information on tuition and financial aid can be found on their financial page.
Positive Psychology MOOC’s
If a certificate is still a bit too much of a commitment for you, you might want to try a massive online open course (MOOC). There are two great options out there right now.
12. EdX – Science of Happiness
Edx offers The Science of Happiness, the first MOOC to teach positive psychology. It’s a free eight-week course, created by the University of California Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center (pros in positive psychology).
This course revolves around the idea that “happiness is inextricably linked to having strong social connections and contributing to something bigger than yourself—the greater good.”
Positive psychology experts Dacher Keltner and Emiliana Simon-Thomas lead students through practical strategies to nurture their own happiness, and also invite students to explore how happiness changes along the way. They promise that students will learn:
- What happiness really means and why it matters to you.
- How to increase your own happiness and foster happiness in others.
- Why social connections, kindness, and community are key to happiness.
- Which mental habits are most conducive to happiness and how mindfulness can help.
Guest experts like Barbara Fredrickson, Paul Ekman, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Jon Kabat-Zinn will join to discuss themes like empathy, mindfulness, and gratitude.
This course only requires 4 to 5 hours per week and can be undertaken at your own pace (you have 11 weeks to complete about 8 weeks’ worth of material). Although it is a free course, if you wish to be provided with a certificate proving your completion of the course, you can purchase it once done. Check out this MOOC offering on the Edx website.
13. Coursera – Positive Psychology by Barbara Fredrickson
Created by The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, this course is taught by leading positive psychology researcher and author Barbara Fredrickson.
This course teaches students about the most salient and valuable research findings in positive psychology and offers practical applications that students can apply in their own lives and the lives of others, through coaching, mentoring, parenting, teaching, or simply boosting their own personal relationships.
Students in this course will learn about positive emotions, gratitude, positivity resonance, and loving-kindness meditation, the mindscapes, and outcomes of positivity and other positive psychology topics.
This free course takes about 11 hours to complete, and Fredrickson suggests dedicating 2 to 4 hours per week to it. It’s available in English, Spanish, and in a simplified Chinese version. New courses start all the time; check out the Coursera page on this course to see when the next class is offered.
14. Coursera – Foundations of Positive Psychology Specialization by Martin Seligman
And last but certainly not least, this course is a new offering by legendary renowned positive psychologist Dr. Martin Seligman. This course gives positive psychology enthusiasts a chance to learn from not only the field’s founder, but also a few of the other most prolific researchers in positive psychology, including James Pawelski, Angela Duckworth, Claire Robertson-Kraft, and Karen Reivich.
Topics covered include the foundations of the field, applications and interventions based on positive psychology, research methods, and positive topics like grit, resilience, and character.
It is 100% online, offers flexibility to suit your needs, and is suitable for beginners and those who are new to positive psychology in general. The course runs over about four months and requires about 7 hours per week. At the end, the learner has an opportunity to complete a special project in positive psychology, giving the course a hands-on element that others may lack.
You can find more information about this course on its Coursera page.
A Take-Home Message
Every addition to true knowledge, is an addition to human power.
We hope this list provides you with the basics of your positive psychology education options, but we’d love to know what other positive psychology resources would be useful for you.
Have you pursued a degree in positive psychology? Are there additional programs you have been curious about or recommend?
Leave us a comment below.