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 several options for pursuing a positive psychology degree.
Do you know of a degree program that is not listed below? If so, let us know in the comments section!
Before you read on, we thought you might like to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free. These science-based exercises explore fundamental aspects of positive psychology including strengths, values, and self-compassion, and will give you the tools to enhance the wellbeing of your clients, students, or employees.
This Article Contains:
- Master’s Degrees in Positive Psychology
- Certificates in Positive Psychology
- Positive Psychology MOOCs
- A Take-Home Message
Master’s Degrees in Positive Psychology
We kick off this article with seven Masters Degree options spread out over the globe.
1. University of Pennsylvania, United States
The University of Pennsylvania offered the first Master of Applied Positive Psychology. As the first institution to offer a master’s degree in the field, 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 psychology 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 the 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, United States
Claremont Graduate University was the first institution to offer a PhD program in positive psychology and they currently offer both masters and doctoral-level degrees in the subject.
Their PhD programs are based on positive organizational psychology and positive developmental psychology.
At the master’s level, this university offers an Master of Arts (MA) in positive organizational psychology, positive developmental psychology, positive health psychology, and positive human resource development, some with a co-concentration in evaluation.
All of the programs bring a strong focus to the importance of understanding positive developmental processes and prevention, promotion and optimization.
One of Claremont’s biggest draws is the presence of the Quality of Life Research Center, which was founded in 1999 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 Claremont’s School of Social Science, Policy, and Evaluation to learn more about the programs they offer.
3. Indiana Wesleyan University, United States (online)
Offered entirely online, Indiana Wesleyan University’s MA in psychology degree program includes specializations in either life coaching and positive psychology or industrial and organizational psychology.
The university’s MA in psychology is fully online and features courses in topics such as lifespan development, psychopathology, life coaching, leadership, and motivation.
This degree is expected to take approximately one year to complete, and students who complete the program will be prepared for professional opportunities in fields such as life coaching, government, nonprofits, and ministry.
It’s important to note that this degree is not intended to provide qualification to practice as a licensed professional counselor.
For more information, visit the program’s website.
Who can apply?
Prospective students must have at least a baccalaureate degree from any accredited college or university, but it need not be in psychology nor any particular field. Students should also have an undergraduate GPA of 2.5 or higher.
4. Life University, United States
Life University offers a Master of Science in positive psychology (MSPP) with two tracks: general positive psychology and coaching psychology. Both programs approach the curriculum from a strengths-based perspective, focusing on flourishing and positive functioning.
The university’s MSPP program is accredited by the International Coaching Federation and prepares graduates for careers in organizational development, human resources, education, and counseling, among others.
Students in this program are expected to attend regular video conference meetings and quarterly weekend residencies.
For more information, visit the program’s website.
Who can apply?
Admission requirements for Life University’s graduate programs include at least a bachelor’s degree (or Doctor of Chiropractic, relevant for other programs) from a regionally accredited institution.
5. University of East London, England
The University of East London (UEL) was also a pioneer in launching graduate positive psychology education and currently offers a Master of Science (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 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 bachelor’s 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.
6. Buckinghamshire New University, England
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.
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.
7. University of Lisbon, Portugal
The Institute of Social and Political Sciences of the University of Lisbon offers an Executive Masters of 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 this Portuguese FAQ section on the ISCSP’s website.
8. North-West University, South Africa
It’s a specialized degree in positive psychology, and will not grant the graduate registration with the Health Professionals Council of South Africa 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 theory, research and intellectual background. If students develop a passion for positive psychology, they can shift into a more advanced degree at NWU: a Doctor 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.
9. University of Melbourne, Australia
The University of Melbourne’s Graduate School of Education offers a Master of Applied Positive Psychology 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
- An undergraduate degree, at least 50 points of relevant postgraduate study, and at least two years of documented relevant professional experience
10. Central Queensland University, Australia (online)
Topics of study include the fundamentals of positive psychology, coaching psychology, positive education, asset-based community development, and more.
The program is offered entirely online, with an expected duration of two years if taken full time or four years if part time. Graduates of this program can expect to be prepared for careers in coaching, training, counseling, or others.
Who can apply?
To be eligible for enrollment in this program, prospective students must have a completed Australian Qualifications Framework equivalent bachelor’s degree (or higher equivalent). Students not born in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, Ireland, South Africa, or the United States also have to meet the university’s English Language Proficiency requirements.
For more information about this program, please visit the university’s website.
Certificates in Positive Psychology
If you don’t wish to pursue formal graduate 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.
1. Certificate in Applied Positive Psychology – The Flourishing Center, United States, Canada and online
This six month, 240-hour course (or nine 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.
The CAPP is also available online. 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 positive psychology.
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.
2. Certificate in Wholebeing Positive Psychology – Wholebeing Institute, United States and online
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.
3. Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing – Langley Group Institute, Australia, New Zealand, and online
The Langley Group Institute, founded by Sue Langley offers a nationally accredited Diploma of Positive Psychology and Wellbeing in Australia and New Zealand.
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 development. There are six core units, two of which are electives. Each unit is delivered in six full-day, in-person classes.
This diploma in positive psychology has been recognized by the Australian Skills Quality Authority and is offered in several different locations in Australia and New Zealand, as well as online.
Check the Langley Group calendar for more information on locations and dates.
4. Graduate Certificate in Positive Psychology – University of Missouri, United States and Online
If you’re looking for a quick one-semester certificate in positive psychology, the University of Missouri’s completely online program may be a good fit. It requires only 15 credit hours of learning (three 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 the Missouri Online’s website to learn more. Information on tuition and financial aid can be found on their financial page.
5. Certificate in Building Positive Workplace Cultures – Dalhousie University, Canada
The Faculty of Open Learning and Career Development at Dalhousie University in Canada offers a Certificate in Building Positive Workplace Cultures, focused on the foundations of positive psychology and how to apply them practically in the workplace.
This program is offered online, and participants will learn the theories and principles of positive psychology, techniques to improve and support optimal functioning across multiple life areas, and specific details about how to design programs and interventions to cultivate positive workplaces.
The certificate includes four courses, meant to be taken consecutively:
- Foundations of Positive Psychology
- Application of Positive Psychology Principles for Self-Care
- Application of Positive Psychology Principles to Influence Others
- Adaptation of Positive Psychology Principles in Policies and Procedures
Visit the program’s website to learn more.
6. Positive Psychology Practitioner Certificate – School of Positive Transformation, United States and Online
The program is suitable for coaches, teachers, therapists, human resources professionals, social workers, and anyone else working to help people.
The certificate consists of approximately 150 study hours and 39 sessions. No previous experience is required to apply, and the course material is suitable for all levels of experience and education.
For more information about the certificate, please visit the program’s website.
Positive Psychology MOOCs
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 lots of great options out there right now.
1. 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 join to discuss themes like empathy, mindfulness, and gratitude.
This course only requires four to five hours per week and can be undertaken at your own pace (you have 11 weeks to complete about eight 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.
2. Coursera – Positive Psychology by Dr. 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, loving-kindness meditation, mindscapes, outcomes of positivity and other positive psychology topics.
This free course takes about 11 hours to complete, and Fredrickson suggests dedicating two to four 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.
3. Coursera – Foundations of Positive Psychology Specialization by Dr. Martin Seligman
This course is an offering by 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 seven 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.
4. Coursera – The Science of Well-Being by Laurie Santos
Offered by Yale University and taught by Yale professor and “The Happiness Lab” podcast host Laurie Santos, this course asks students to engage in a series of hands-on personal exercises designed to increase their own happiness and build productive habits.
Course topics include misconceptions about happiness, how to overcome biases, finding what really makes us happy, and how to put these strategies into real-life practice, among others.
With flexible deadlines and an entirely online offering, this course can be a great option for those looking to learn more about positive psychology while juggling a career or other studies. The course is expected to take approximately 19 hours to complete.
To find out more, visit 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.
We hope you enjoyed this article. Don’t forget to download our 3 Positive Psychology Exercises for free.