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. 

Program details

 Credit requirements to degree:

  • 30 credit hours of coursework
  • 12 dissertation credit hours

*These credit hours are in addition to the 36 credits counted towards the master's degree

Prerequisites overview

  • 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.

Goals and objectives

Program requirements

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.