Behavior Analysis

The Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University offers master of arts and doctoral degree programs in Behavior Analysis.

Two students working in lab


The Behavior Analysis (BA) graduate programs provide intense training in the conceptual, basic, and applied foundations of behavior analysis.  In addition to giving students substantial training in a core specialty area (e.g., autism and developmental disabilities, health or safety, behavioral pharmacology, experimental analysis of behavior, or behavioral neuroscience), the program exposes students to a broad range of applied and experimental areas through coursework, research, and applied experiences.

Fast facts

Formats: In-person

Credits required: Bachelor's degree with 18 semester hours in psychology

Minimum GPA: 3.0

GRE: Recommended, but not required for MA & PhD programs

Application deadlines:

  • MA  - Jan. 1
  • Ph.D. - Dec. 1

Program overview

  • The B.A. curriculum consists of a Verified Course Sequence (VCS) approved by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and thereby provides students with the necessary coursework and practicum experiences to seek certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Data on pass rates for the program is published regularly.
  • The M.A. and Ph.D. programs in behavior analysis are accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International BoardAnnual reports are submitted yearly to provide statistical data and other information about the institution, program, faculty and students.
  • Primary specialty areas include: Autism, developmental disabilities, basic operant research with humans and non-humans, behavioral pharmacology, behavioral neuroscience, behavioral gerontology, safety, and behavioral medicine.
  • Research facilities: non-human behavior labs (including behavioral pharmacology), child and adult studies labs, physiological research facilities, simulation labs, and organizational behavior management labs.
  • Students have practical opportunities in Autism, behavioral medicine, performance management and out-patient and in-patient clinical and educational sites.
  • Both programs operate according to a mentorship model whereby students work closely with faculty members throughout their graduate training. Students should identify several faculty members they would like to work with before applying. Admitted students will be matched with mentors based on mutual interests and availability.
  • More details regarding the program area and requirements can be found in the handbook.


Financial support

Opportunities are available for graduate assistantships and fellowships both within the department and the University. Students are encouraged to discuss these opportunities with their faculty advisor and apply for fellowships with the Graduate College (Thurgood Marshall Award or King/Chavez/Parks Fellowship for underrepresented groups). While financial support is available, funding is not guaranteed. To learn more on the cost of attending graduate school, see Financial Information.

Application information

  • How to apply

    The Department of Psychology at Western Michigan University uses the graduate online application process. If you have questions about the application process, contact Amber Hutson, the graduate training administrative assistant.

  • Specific program requirements

    In preparation for applying, the following material will need to be gathered:

    • All official transcripts from any college or university attended.
    • The GRE is recommended, but not required for both the masters and doctoral program.
      • Minimum scores corresponding to the 50th percentile on the verbal and quantitative sections of the GRE.
    • Personal Statement (submitted through online application)
    • Curriculum Vitae (submitted through online application)
    • Three letters of recommendation (submitted through online application)
    • Written sample (required only for the clinical program)
    • Supplemental Questions (submitted through online application)
    • For international students, TOEL or IETLS scores.

    Tips for international students.

    International applicant information

  • Preferred qualifications
    • A bachelor's degree with at least 18 semester hours in psychology
    • A minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
  • Additional criteria taken into consideration
    • Previous coursework in behavioral psychology.
    • Research experience.
    • Professional experience.
    • Letters of recommendation.
    • Social and professional skills.
    • A personal statement.
    • The extent to which the applicant's interests are judged to match the professional interests of the faculty.

    Meeting or exceeding these criteria does not guarantee admission to the department or any of its programs.

  • Application deadlines

    Applications for the Behavior Analysis program are considered for admissions for summer II or fall only.

    MA Program

    • The deadline is Jan. 1. Interviews will be scheduled in late January to early February.
      *Any MA applicant interested in pursuing BCBA-related fieldwork, should expect to begin summer II.  
      **Admissions to the M.A. program will be made until the cohort is at capacity. Priority review will be given to those who met the initial application deadline.

    Ph.D. Program

    • Applications for the Ph.D. program are due Dec. 1 with interviews schedule for late January.

Frequently asked questions

What undergraduate qualifications are required to enter the BA MA program?

  • Preferred qualifications include 18 semester hours in psychology or a related area.
  • If students do not have 18 semester hours in psychology or a related area, the program recommends the completion of  PSY 1000 (Introduction to Psychology), PSY 1400, (Introduction to Behavior Analysis), PSY 2517 (Autism and Developmental Disabilities), PSY 3300 (Research Methods), PSY 3600 (Advanced Concepts and Principles of Behavior Analysis), and PSY 4600 (Survey of Behavior Analysis Research) at WMU.

Does the behavior analysis program provide BACB supervision/practicum opportunities to individuals other than students in the program?

  • While the program does offer practicum coursework to individuals who are enrolled as current students, there are currently no parameters in place to accept individuals from other course sequences or programs into these fieldwork experiences. We strive to make sure our practicum experience is tied closely to our coursework and we are able to ensure ongoing success in both courses and practicum for our students on an ongoing basis with our current structure.
  • We would suggest  students reaching out to their current graduate program for information about practicum opportunities. Another helpful resource to find supervisors willing and able to provide supervision to aspiring BCBAs can be found on the BACB’s registry.

I completed my master’s degree through a different university and am interested in obtaining my Ph.D. at WMU. Will my credits transfer towards the doctorate degree?

  • Any classes that students wish to transfer into the Ph.D. program from their MA degree program, would be considered for acceptance after being admitted to the program.  The course syllabus from each course is reviewed by the academic mentor, the instructor of the course, and then the program director for behavior analysis.  This is generally a pretty easy process for students but does require some careful planning and discussions with the academic mentor in order to plan accordingly.  Some of the discussion could take place prior to the point of admission with the academic mentor the student is seeking to work with, but the formal process for this is not initiated until after the student is offered admission, accepts the offer, and starts their Ph.D. program.