By Fiona Trembath

I often get asked, “What’s the difference between a Certificate in Positive Psychology (CiPP) and a Master’s of Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP)?” I’m fortunate enough to have been one of the first batch of graduates to complete the CiPP course in 2013. Post-CiPP, I had the desire to explore the science at a deeper level to further embed the knowledge, so I took the leap into academia and applied for MAPP at the University of Melbourne. Much to my surprise and delight, my application was successful, and I graduated in November 2014.

The question of “What’s the difference between the two?” is not an easy one to answer. One analogy that comes to mind is that CiPP was the entrée, and MAPP was the main course. My experience was that CiPP was a great introduction to MAPP, and I wouldn’t have taken on MAPP without taking on CiPP first. However, some people might be fulfilled doing CiPP only, and others might wish to go straight to MAPP.

I found CiPP to be engaging, informative, accessible, and a lot of fun. Tal Ben-Shahar and the entire Wholebeing Institute team do an excellent job of bridging the gap between the academic, research-based science of Positive Psychology and us, the mainstream. We were exposed to many scholarly works exploring evidence-based findings, all of which the team disseminated and presented in plain language, and then invited us to apply in everyday life as we gained insight and understanding.

MAPP was a very different experience. It’s a bit like comparing apples to watermelons, SUVs to bulldozers, cartwheels to contortions. In other words, it’s a big leap. In MAPP, the academic and intellectual engagement, the reading requirements, and the the science are scrutinized and analyzed in full detail. You delve deeply into statistics and engage with the research at both macro and micro levels. All your work—and there’s a lot of it—is assessed and graded.

(Here’s a tip for potential MAPP-sters: I remember being told as a soon-to-be-parent, “As tired as you can imagine you will be in the early days, you’ll wish you were only as tired as you first imagined.” It’s like moving house: If you think it’s going to take half a day, allow a full day. If you think MAPP is going to be a walk in the park, you better start training for a marathon!)

If you have a love of learning, as I do, your appetite will be whetted and most likely satiated with CiPP. If, however, you are an academic at heart and love the discipline and challenge of research, academic writing, and analysis, then jumping straight into MAPP might make more sense. And, of course, there’s an academic and tertiary credibility that comes with having a master’s degree. However, it’s a difficult course to gain entry into: You need a graduate degree and evidence of working in a field relevant to the course of study. I doubt I would have been considered a candidate for MAPP if it wasn’t for having done CiPP.

Everyone makes their own decision as to what they envisage will be the most beneficial and viable for them, and every person’s experience of the two courses will be different. What worked for me was doing CiPP first so I could get a broad-based appreciation of the science of Positive Psychology and then practice applying it in my own life, both professionally and personally. (In CiPP, you are your own case study.)

Remember, whatever path you choose, trust that it is the right and good one. In hindsight, I’m pleased I undertook both of these rich and beneficial experiences.

Click here to learn more about the Certificate in Positive Psychology.


As a strengths educator and facilitator, Fiona Trembath teaches and presents to schools, parent groups, and individuals, and has a comprehensive range of resources for teachers and children, designed to encourage strength spotting and strength development in the classroom. She is passionate about looking for what’s right first rather than what’s wrong, as a way toward optimum health and well-being. Author of the young adult novel Crackpot, Fiona is also an editor, teacher, presenter, and a regular guest on ABC (Australia) Radio Overnights program.