Doctor of Philosophy in Behavior Analysis


The doctor of philosophy program in behavior analysis in the Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University prepares students for roles as professors and researchers in college and university settings, researchers in government or business settings, or systems-oriented applied positions in the human services. 

Goals and objectives

  1. Provide comprehensive training in behavior analysis that will serve as a basis for specialized training during later years of graduate or post-doctoral study.
    1. Students will develop a strong knowledge base of conceptual, theoretical, and applied issues in behavior analysis.
    2. Students will develop knowledge of scientifically supported behavioral applications relevant to a variety of applied problems.
    3. Students will develop knowledge of research methods, which includes at the Ph.D. level, statistical analysis.
  2. Establish professionalism and ethicality.
    1. Students will understand and commit to the APA, ABAI, and relevant BACB ethical codes.
    2. Across professional contexts students’ appearance, language, and conduct will be marked by integrity, accountability, and ethicality.
  3. Instill in students a professional identity that fosters lifelong learning and engagement in the broader behavior-analytic and psychological community.
    1. Students will pursue professional development via participation in regional, national, or international organizations as members.
    2. Students will pursue professional development by attending and participating in conferences, workshops, colloquium, and professional trainings.
  4. Instill in students an awareness and openness toward individual differences and cultural diversity.
    1. Students will acquire knowledge of individual differences and cultural diversity.
    2. Students will demonstrate a respect for and ability to work with diverse individual.
    3. Students in applied areas will be aware of the impact of their clients.
  5. Establish in students the skill set to consume and conduct empirical research.
    1. Students will be nested in an active research community with an identified mentor.
    2. Students will demonstrate knowledge of and behave in accord with human subjects and animal subject protections.
    3. Students will seek individualized experiences in research methods and experimental design issues relevant to their research interests.
    4. Students will demonstrate an ability to comprehensively evaluate a substantive area of the research literature.
    5. Students will demonstrate an ability to review the strengths and weaknesses of the scientific literature in a targeted domain, link that review to an applicable research question, and develop a research design to provide information relevant to answering that question.
    6. Students will demonstrate an ability to analyze and integrate  the research findings into the broader scientific literature in a relevant domain.
  6. Students seeking certification by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will obtain the necessary preparations to apply for certification and successfully pass the BACB examination.
    1. Students seeking BACB certification will take courses in the VCS to acquire the applied and professional skills designated by the BACB task list.
    2. Students seeking BACB certification will learn the skills necessary to function effectively in a specialized service setting during external practicum.
  7. Students will have the ability to orally communicate their research and applied projects in professional settings.
    1. Applied students will be able to orally present case materials in a concise, organized, and comprehensive way.
    2. Students will be able to orally present research in a concise, organized, and comprehensive way.
    3. Interested students will be afforded the opportunity to serve as a course instructor demonstrating their capacity to serve as an educator in psychology.

Requirement overview

  • A minimum of 78 semester hours completed, with a minimum grade of B in each course.
  • New curriculum in effect Fall 2020: A minimum of 79 semester hours completed, with a minimum grade of B in each course.
  • All M.A. requirements completed, including the M.A. project or thesis, before additional academic credits can count towards the Ph.D.
  • Thirty hours of coursework and 12 dissertation credit hours are required following 36 credits counted towards the master's degree.

Program overview

  • Incorporates all of the requirements of the M.A. program plus additional advanced behavior-analytic coursework, research, and practical and field work training.
  • Prepares students for three roles: teaching/research in a college or university setting, systems-oriented applied positions in the human services and professional positions in industrial/organizational settings.
  • Students spend much of their time engaged in research with faculty members.
  • Although the doctoral program is not APA accredited, students may improve their chances of obtaining future state licensure as a doctoral psychologist by taking APA-recommended coursework as part of their program of study and completing an APA-approved predoctoral internship for course credit (PSY 6950).
    • Students wishing to pursue this option should consult with their major professor about coursework and internship options.
    • To apply for an internship, students must pass their comprehensive exam and successfully defend their dissertation prospectus by Nov. 1 of the application year.

Requirements - beginning fall 2020

I. Core courses

A course cannot satisfy more than one requirement in Areas 1 through 6.

Area 1: Principles of behavior analysis (three credit hours)

This area should include two of the following:

  • Psy 6100 – Conditioning and Learning

Area 2: Conceptual and theoretical issues in behavior analysis (six credit hours)

  • Psy 6760 – Skinner’s Behaviorism

And one of the following

  • Psy 6580 - Cognitive Processes
  • Psy 6710 - Complex Behavioral Processes and Their Applications
  • Psy 6740 - Verbal Behavior
  • Psy 6970 - Behaviorism and the Philosophy of Science

Area 3: Professional ethics (three credit hours)

  • Psy 6050 - Professional and Research Ethics

Area 4: Applied behavior analysis (10-13 credit hours; three classes)

  • Psy 6090 – Advanced Seminar in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Psy 6260 – Behavioral Assessment
  • Psy 6650 – Behavioral Approaches to Treatment (4 credits)

For students seeking BCBA Certification:

  • Psy 6270 – Supervision in ABA

Area 5: Research methods (six credit hours)

  • Psy 6080 - Research Methods in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Psy 6340 - Experimental Design and Analysis I

Area 6: EAB (six credits)

  • Psy 6110 – Experimental Analysis of Behavior

And one of the following:

  • Psy 6130 Behavioral Pharmacology
  • Psy 6150 – Special Topics in EAB

II. Research, professional experience, and electives

Area 7: Master's thesis or project (six credit hours)

  • Psy 7000 - Master's Thesis
  • Psy 7050 – Master’s Project

Area 8: Professional experience (six to twelve credit hours)

  • Psy 5470 - Practicum: Organizational Performance Improvement
  • Psy 5980 - Special Projects in Psychology
  • Psy 5990 - Practicum in Psychology 
  • Psy 6910 - College Teaching Practicum
  • Psy 6950 - Doctoral Internship in Behavior Analysis
  • Psy 7100 - Independent Research
  • Psy 7120 - Professional Field Experience
  • Psy 7350 - Graduate Research

Area 9: Electives (15 -21 credit hours)

  • Any other 5000 or greater graduate level course offered in the WMU Department of Psychology or other departments, after discussion with advisor.

Area 10: Doctoral dissertation (12 credit hours)

  • Psy 7300 - Doctoral Dissertation

Research tools

Students must complete two research tools. Both of the listed options in the row must be completed for one research tool. Grouped tools indicate possible combinations. Other research tools may be petitioned. No class may count in more than one research tool. See handbook for research tool options.

Professional and scholarly activity

The student will complete a six-hour examination prepared by his or her doctoral committee. The area of study is defined by the student in consultation with his or her advisor and dissertation committee. As an alternative, a student can publish a first-authored article or prepare and submit a grant proposal. These activities will be approved by appropriate faculty members.