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. 

Requirement overview

  • A minimum of 78 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 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.


I. Core courses (27 credit hours)

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

Area 1: Applied behavior analysis (six credit hours)

This area should include two of the following:

  • Psy 6090 - Advanced Seminar in Applied Behavior Analysis Research

And one of the following:

  • Psy 5170 - Psychology in the Schools
  • Psy 5400 - Psychology of Safety
  • Psy 6260 - Behavioral Assessment
  • Psy 6270 - Supervision in ABA
  • Psy 6440 - Personnel Training and Development
  • Psy 6450 - Psychology of Work
  • Psy 6510 - Behavioral Systems Analysis
  • Psy 6650 - Behavioral Interventions

Area 2: Experimental analysis of behavior (six credit hours)

  • Psy 6100 - Conditioning and Learning
  • Psy 6110 - Current Research in EAB

Area 3: Conceptual and theoretical issues (six credit hours)

  • Psy 6580 - Cognitive Processes
  • Psy 6710 - Complex Behavioral Processes and Their Applications
  • Psy 6740 - Verbal Behavior
  • Psy 6760 - Skinner's Behaviorism
  • Psy 6970 - Behaviorism and the Philosophy of Science

Area 4: Research methods and statistics (six credit hours)

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

Area 5: Professional issues (three credit hours)

  • Psy 6050 - Professional and Ethical Issues in Psychology

II. Elective courses (15 or more credit hours)

Area 6: Electives

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

III. Research and practical experience (27 or more credit hours)

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

  • Psy 6970 - ABA Project
  • Psy 7000 - Master's Thesis

Area 8: Professional experience (nine or more 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: Doctoral dissertation (12 credit hours)

  • Psy 7300 - Doctoral Dissertation

Area 10: Research tools

The student will show a working knowledge of two research tools (5 to 6 credit hours for each research tool). This knowledge will be demonstrated through satisfactory completion of course work and/or a clear demonstration of competence in tool use in the preparation, implementation and dissemination of research data. Research tools should be selected in conference with the student's dissertation committee.

Area 11: 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.