faculty walking with students on campus

Doctor of Philosophy in Applied Behavior Analysis

The Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis is a research-based program of study designed to prepare students for teaching at the university level and/or for work as scientist-practitioners involving business and industry, developmental disabilities (including autism), education, and public policy.

Links and Contacts

"This Ph.D. program is innovative and very rigorous. I really enjoy being able to reach via video conference all the way from California. Student can interrupt me to ask questions, work in groups, participate in inter-teach, and I can even give in-class exams. The only drawback is not being able to enjoy the beautiful, ocean-front campus."

~ Caio Miguel, Ph.D., BCBA-D 


The mission of the Ph.D. program in Applied Behavior Analysis at Endicott College is to train researchers, scientist-practitioners, and university faculty in the discovery, translation, and application of newly acquired knowledge regarding the science of human behavior toward solving socially-significant problems of human behavior and to demonstrate that the interventions employed are responsible for the improvement in behavior (Baer, Wolf, & Risley, 1968; Sulzer-Azaroff & Mayer, 1991).

Applied Behavior Analysis is a profession devoted to the understanding and improvement of human behavior.  What sets Applied Behavior Analysis apart from many other professions is a focus on objectively defining and measuring the behavior under question, while demonstrating a reliable relationship between the procedures employed and the behavioral improvements gained, utilizing methods of science, including description, quantification, and analysis.   The “attitudes of science” upon which Applied Behavior Analysis is based include:

  • Determinism,
  • Empiricism,
  • Parsimony,
  • Scientific manipulation, and
  • Philosophical Doubt

The program requires a minimum of 60 semester hours and is designed to be completed in a minimum of three years.  Applicants must have completed a master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis or the equivalent. It is recommended that applicants be a Licensed Behavior Analyst or an active BCBA certificant of the Behavior Analysis Certification Board ©.  A minimum of 39 hours of coursework and a minimum of 21 hours of research and dissertation credit hours are required for graduation.

The Ph.D. program will be offered simultaneously in both classroom-based as well as a synchronous online format, affording students living outside of the Greater Boston area the opportunity to complete the program from their home countries without the need to relocate. 

Distinguished Faculty

Michael F. Dorsey, Ph.D., LABA, BCBA-D, Professor of Education and Director of The Institute for Behavioral Studies, Van Loan School at Endicott College

Michael F. Dorsey earned his Ph.D. in psychology, with a specialization in applied behavior analysis, from Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1979. Dr. Dorsey is a licensed Psychologist and Board Certified Behavior Analyst. He is a Professor of Education and the Director of the Institute for Behavioral Studies at the The Van Loan School at Endicott College. Dr. Dorsey is the Chair of the Practice Board of the Association for Behavior Analysis International. During his career, Dr. Dorsey has had the unique privilege to serve on the faculty of several prestigious universities and colleges including The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He is an author/co-author of many professional publications, including participating in the development of the Functional Analysis/Assessment methodology. Dr. Dorsey has been a Gubernatorial appointed member of the Developmental Disabilities Councils (MDDC) of both Florida and Massachusetts, and chaired the Massachusetts MDDC Governmental Affairs Committee for over six years.  Dr. Dorsey has authored several bills relative to the practice of Applied Behavior Analysis and testified on numerous occasions both at the federal and state level concerning proposed legislation, policies and budgets.  Currently Dr. Dorsey spends much of his professional time conducting Independent Educational Evaluations for parents and school districts. He has testified as an expert witness in numerous Bureau of Special Education Appeals (BSEA) cases, as well as an expert witness in various Probate, Superior, and Federal Court cases involving the education and treatment of individuals diagnosed with developmental disabilities.

Mary Jane WeissMary Jane Weiss, Ph.D., BCBA-D, Professor of Education and Director of Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis Program 

Mary Jane Weiss, Ph.D., BCBA-D has been working as a behavior analyst serving people with autism for over 25 years. She received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Rutgers University in 1990, and became a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in 2000. She is currently a Professor of Education at Endicott College, where she directs the graduate programs in ABA and Autism. She previously served as an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University, and as Director of Research and Training and as Clinical Director of the Douglass Developmental Disabilities Center at Rutgers University for 16 years. Her clinical and research interests center on defining best practice ABA techniques, on evaluating the impact of ABA in learners with autism spectrum disorders, and in maximizing family members’ expertise and adaptation. She is a regular presenter at regional and national conferences on topics relevant to ABA and autism.  She is a past president of the Autism Special Interest Group of the Association for Behavior Analysis, a former member of the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts Board of Directors, and she currently serves on the ethics review committee of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, on the Scientific Council of the Organization for Autism Research, on the Legislative Affairs Committee of the New Jersey Association for Behavior Analysis, and on the Board of Trustees of Autism NJ. 

anderson Cynthia Anderson, Ph.D., BCBA-D; Senior Vice President of Applied Behavior Analysis, The May Institute; Director, National Autism  Center; Adjunct Doctoral Advisor, The Institute for Behavioral Studies, Endicott College

  Dr. Anderson provides consultation and support to clinical staff supporting individuals exhibiting challenging behavior such as self-injury, aggression, and     property destruction. In addition, she also promotes research in and dissemination of evidence-based practices through the National Autism Center.  Dr.     Anderson received her Ph.D. in Clinical-Child Psychology from West Virginia University. She is a licensed psychologist and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst at the doctoral level.  The author of numerous articles published in peer-reviewed journals such as the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Journal of Positive Behavior Interventions, and the Journal of Behavioral Education, Dr. Anderson has focused her research on the development and evaluation of interventions for children with or at risk for developmental disabilities. Her research is organized around functional behavior assessments and function-based support; multi-tiered interventions within school settings; and factors necessary for high fidelity and sustained implementation of evidence-based practice. She has a strong interest in bringing interventions determined to be effective in clinical settings to children in home and school settings.  Dr. Anderson’s research has been supported by federal funding, and she is currently a Principal Investigator for “Students with Autism Accessing General Education,” a 3-year, $1.5M grant funded by the Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences. This multi-site project is conducted in collaboration with researchers at University of South Florida and University of Rochester Medical Center. Previous funding came from the Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs.   Dr. Anderson currently serves as the Applied Representative on the Executive Council of the Association for Behavioral Analysis International, and is the Representative at Large for Division 25 of the American Psychological Association. She has provided editorial support to numerous journals including serving as Associate Editor for School Psychology Review and Journal of Behavioral Education, and on the editorial boards of Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, The Behavior Analyst, and other journals. 

Jill HarperJill Harper, Ph.D., BCBA-D; Director of Professional Development, Training and Research, Melmark New England; Adjunct Doctoral Advisor, The Institute for Behavioral Studies, Endicott College

Dr. Harper received her Ph.D (2012) in Psychology with a concentration in Behavior Analysis from the University of Florida, an M.S. (2006) in Behavior Analysis from Northeastern University, and a B.S. (2003) in Family Studies and Psychology from the University of New Hampshire. She is currently the Director of Professional Development, Clinical Training, and Research at Melmark New England. Dr. Harper also holds adjunct positions with the University of Massachusetts-Boston and Endicott College.  Dr. Harper is a Board Certified Behavior Analysts. She received the 2013 Jerry Shook Practitioner Award from the Berkshire Association for Behavior Analysis and Therapy (BABAT) for excellence in clinical practice. Her research interests include the assessment and treatment of severe behavior disorders, mechanisms responsible for behavior change, and maintenance and generalization of treatment effects. Dr. Harper has published work in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis and regularly presents at regional and national conferences.

JustinJustin Leaf, Ph.D., Director of Research for the Autism Partnership Foundation; Adjunct Doctoral Advisor, The Institute for Behavioral Studies, Endicott College

Dr. Leaf received his doctorate degree in Behavioral Psychology from the Department of Applied Behavioral Science at the University of Kansas.   Currently, Dr. Leaf leads the research team at Autism Partnership Foundation, which conducts research nationally and internationally. His research interests include examining methods to improve social behaviors for children and adolescents with autism and developing friendships, comparing different teaching methodologies, evaluating parameters of reinforcement, and evaluating long-term outcomes for individuals diagnosed with autism. Dr. Leaf has over 40 publications in either peer-reviewed journals or book chapters and has presented at both national and international professional conferences and invited events.  Dr. Leaf serves on the editorial board for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, Education and Training in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, and the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders.

Ciao MiguelCaio Miguel, M.A., Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology at California State University, Sacramento;  Adjunct Doctoral Advisor, The Institute for Behavioral Studies, Endicott College

Dr. Miguel obtained his bachelors degree in Psychology at the Pontificia Universidade Catolica de São Paulo in Brazil under the supervision of Dr. Maria Amalia Andery. He obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis at Western Michigan. Miguel has been a Board Certified Behavior Analyst since 2004 and is currently an associate professor of Psychology and an affiliated faculty in the Doctoral program in Education at California State University, Sacramento. He is also an adjunct professor at the department of experimental Psychology at the University of Sao Paulo - Brazil.  He is an associate editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (2015-2018), past-editor (2009-2011) and past Associate Editor (2011-2015) of the journal "The Analysis of Verbal Behavior."  Dr. Miguel serves (or served) as an editorial board member for numerous behavioral journals. Dr. Miguel's area of research focus on verbal and verbally-mediated behaviors. He has given over 100 professional presentations in North America, South America and Europe, and has had over 50 manuscripts published in peer-reviewed journals and edited books in English, Portuguese, and Spanish. Dr. Miguel is the recipient of the 2013-2014 award for outstanding scholarly work by the College of Social Sciences and Interdisciplinary Studies at Sacramento State, and the 2014 Outstanding Mentor Award by the Student Committee of the Association for Behavior Analysis International.  Prior to joining Sacramento State, Dr. Miguel served as a clinical consultant for the St. Amant Centre's ABA program in Winnipeg, MB (Canada), and worked as a program specialist at the New England Center for Children, where he also served as a Clinical Assistant Professor at Northeastern University.  Dr. Miguel consults for schools and families on issues pertaining to the education of children with disabilities, as well as serves as a research consultant for scientist-practitioners. 

B Putnam  Robert F. Putnam Ph.D., LABA, BABA-A, Executive Vice President of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, The May Institute;  Adjunct Doctoral Advisor, The Institute for Behavioral Studies, Endicott College

 Robert F. Putnam Ph.D., BCBA-D is Executive Vice President of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports & Consultation at the May Institute and was  on the faculty of the Harvard Medical School.  Dr. Putnam oversees one of eight national collaboration sites in conjunction with the University of Oregon  and Connecticut comprising the National Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports funded by the Office of Special  Education Programs, U.S. Department of Education.  He also serves as Senior Vice President of Research and Consultation at the National Autism Center (NAC) and was an Expert Panelist on the first National Standards Project of the NAC. His research interests are in the use of function based interventions to improve prosocial skills as well as behavioral support strategies with individuals with autism spectrum disorder. Additionally, he has a strong interest in school-wide behavior support interventions.  He has published extensively and presents regularly at national, regional and local conferences on these topics.  


Sung Woo Kahng

 Sung Woo Kahng Ph.D., BCBA-D, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Health Psychology at the University of  Missouri; Director of the Applied Behavioral Intervention Service of the MU Thompson Center for Autism and Neurodevelopmental  Disorders; Adjunct Doctoral Advisor, The Institute for Behavioral Studies, Endicott College


Dr. Kahng previously was a faculty member in the Department of Behavioral Psychology and a senior behavior analyst on the Neurobehavioral Unit at the  Kennedy Krieger Institute as well as an associate professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Dr. Kahng graduated from Kalamazoo College with a bachelor's of arts in psychology and received his Ph.D. in behavior analysis from the University of Florida. He is currently an Associate Editor for the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis where he also served on the Board of Editors. Additionally, he is on the Board of Editors for Behavioral Intervention and has served as an ad hoc reviewer for numerous other journals. He is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and a Licensed Behavior Analyst in the State of Missouri. Dr. Kahng is the recipient of the 2003 B.F. Skinner New Researcher Award given by Division 25 of the American Psychological Association. Dr. Kahng has co-authored over 70 peer reviewed articles and chapters. The focus of his research and clinical work has been on assessing and treating behaviors exhibited by individuals with developmental disabilities. He is also interested in a broader research agenda, which includes topics related to obesity and aging. Finally, he has mentored numerous undergraduate, master’s level, and predoctoral students as well as post-doctoral fellows.


Program Format

Courses are offered during three semesters (fall, spring and summer) each academic year.  Students are required to enroll in a minimum of two courses in fall, and summer semesters, and three courses in the spring semester.  During the fall, spring and summer terms, one course will be taught one evening per week for 11 weeks, and the second Friday evening and all day Saturday for four weekends.  Students will enroll in Dissertation Credit Courses during the Fall and Spring term of their third year.  Students who have not completed the program by the summer of their third year, must register for dissertation credit continuance during the summer of their third year and in up to three terms of their fifth year and all subsequent years until completion of all degree requirements.

Course of Study

The course of study will focus on educating students as researchers, applying the Scientist-Practitioner Model, also called the Boulder Model (Davison, 1998), in the discovery, translation, and application of newly acquired knowledge toward solving socially significant problems of human behavior.   The Scientist–Practitioner Model is a training model for graduate programs that aspires to prepare students within a foundation of research and scientific practice. 

Following the lead of the mission of Endicott College, the Ph.D. program in Applied Behavior Analysis adopts the college’s philosophy of a “concept of applied learning, which has been the hallmark of Endicott.  Linking classroom and off-campus work experience through required internships remains the most distinguishing feature of the College.”  The Institute has developed a rich resource of eight “partner programs” serving individuals diagnosed with Autism and Developmental Disabilities that are available to the doctoral students as research settings in which such problem-oriented investigations can be conducted.  The Institute, like that of Endicott, “has a vision for the total development of the individual within a community that fosters an appreciation of diversity, international awareness, community service, and moral and ethical values.” Also, like Endicott, the Institute programs value the need for “common threads to run through the fabric of the Endicott experience: increased self-confidence, stronger professional skills and technological competencies, and perhaps the most valued of all, lives open to change.”  The goal is for the Institute Doctoral students to serve as a resource to the individuals served in these settings by systematically identifying and solving the problems faced by their caregivers in an empirical/research based approach.

Program of Study

The curriculum is divided into three major sections – Core Courses, Electives and Research & Practical Experience.  During the first two years, students must complete all Core and Elective requirements.  As noted below, at the end of their first two years, or after the completion of 39 credit hours of Core and Elective course work, students are required to sit for three Qualifying Examinations.  Upon successful completion of these examinations, students will attain the status of Doctoral Candidate and will be allowed to proceed with the completion of the Research & Practical Experience Requirements of the program.  Students who fail to successfully complete the Qualifying examination requirement will not be able to continue in the program. 

I. CORE COURSES (30 crs.)

ABA          735      Advanced Seminar in ABA Research

ABA          740     Analysis & Intervention in Developmental Disabilities         

ABA          710      Conditioning and Learning

ABA          705      Behaviorism and the Philosophy of Science

ABA          715      Verbal Behavior

ABA          701      History of Behavior Analysis

ABA          730     Research Methods in ABA

ABA          745      Experimental Design & Analysis

ABA          720     Professional & Ethical Issues in Applied Behavior Analysis

ABA          750      Technology of Teaching Seminar

II. ELECTIVE COURSES (examples) (9 crs.)

ABA          842     Behavioral Approaches to Treatment    

ABA          800     Skinner's Behaviorism

ABA          805     Behavioral Approaches to Treatment

ABA          814      American Politics and Governmental Organizations

ABA          812      Analysis of Legislature Behavior

ABA          820     Personnel Training and Development

ABA          825     Effective Consultation and Collaboration

ABA          830     Understanding the Tenets of Positive Behavioral Support

ABA          835     ABA and PBS – Derived, Related or Independent

ABA          840     Behavior Analysis in Developmental Disabilities

ABA          810     Principles of Public Policy


ABA          860     College Teaching Practicum

ABA          885     Qualification Examination

ABA          865     Research Tool Demonstration

ABA          870     Research Project

ABA          890     Doctoral Dissertation and Review Paper

Research Presentation

Prior to submitting a Dissertation Proposal or enrolling for Dissertation credit, students are required to enroll in and complete an ABA Research Project under the supervision of their Doctoral Advisor.  Satisfactory completion of this requirement will include the acceptance of the manuscript for publication, or presentation of the project at a professional conference in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Research Tools

The student will demonstrate a working knowledge of two research tools. This knowledge will be demonstrated through satisfactory completion of course work and/or a clear demonstration of competence in the use of the tool in the preparation, implementation, and dissemination of research data. Research tools should be selected in conference with the student's dissertation committee.  Examples include: computer-based data management systems, computer programming, advanced classroom teaching technology programs, Graphing Data-Base systems, etc.

Qualifying Examinations

Prior to the end of the student’s second year (or the completion of 39 credits), the student will complete three two-hour qualifying examinations prepared by his or her doctoral committee.  One of the three examinations must focus on the topic of Research Methodology.  The student, in consultation with his or her advisor and dissertation committee, will define the other two areas of study. As an alternative for one exam, the student can publish, in a peer-reviewed journal, a first-authored research article.

Independent Work, Internship, or Clinical Placement Arrangements

The Institute for Behavioral Studies currently offers programs in both a traditional Face-to-Face (F2F) didactic lecture format, as well as through online distance learning and blended courses that combine both approaches.  In addition to providing F2F courses on the Endicott College campus in Beverly, MA and through our International Study Abroad campus in Madrid, Spain, the IBS has long-standing relationship with several additional local Partner Sites around the greater Boston area and beyond, including:

  1. Melmark New England, Andover, MA
  2.  Nashoba Learning Group, Bedford, MA
  3.  Futures Behavior Therapy, Beverly, MA
  4.  Amego Inc., Attleboro, MA
  5.  Crossroads School, Natick, MA
  6. Road to Responsibility, Hingham, MA
  7. Cape Abilities, Hyannis, MA
  8. Center for Children With Special Needs, Glastonbury, CT
  9. The May Institute, Randolph, MA

Each of these programs has expressed interest in making themselves available to the students enrolled in our Ph.D. program as sites for research, teaching, and clinical practice experiences.   

Doctoral students are encouraged to apply for fellowships through the National Institutes of Health National Research Service Award program and through the National Science Foundation's Graduate Research Fellowship Program. Other funding opportunities exist within specific areas of study and doctoral students should explore these possibilities with their faculty advisor/mentor.

Admissions Process

Applications to the Institute for Behavioral Studies Ph.D. program in Applied Behavior Analysis will be considered on a rolling-basis.  Those completed applications received prior to December 15th of each year for the following September cohort will be reviewed and notified of admission decisions by February 15th.   Applications received after December 15th will be considered on a space-available basis and notified as soon as possible.  To determine of any positions are still available after February 15th, please contact the Doctoral Advisor under whom you wish to study.  

Admission to the program is based upon a two-step process.  Students must first apply to and be accepted as qualified applicants by the Van Loan School at Endicott College and the Institute for Behavioral Studies.  The second step requires applicants to indicate their first, second and third choices for their Doctoral Advisor, based in part, on the teaching and research interests of the individual faculty.  For those students accepted as qualified applicants to the Doctoral program, faculty will review their dossier in order of the applicants stated preferences.  The three current full-time doctoral level faculty may choose to admit up to three new doctoral students per year, to a maximum of nine new students per year.  Additional students will only be admitted once current students either graduates withdraw from the program, or their tenure has expired.  Information regarding the number of expected openings in the program for the upcoming year, the area of academic focus of the individual faculty, etc., will be posted annually on the Institute for Behavioral Studies website.

Individuals wishing to be considered for admission to the Doctoral Program in Behavior Analysis offered through the Institute for Behavioral Studies at Endicott College should begin the process by completing the on-line application.

Once this process has been completed, the prospective student should submit the following:

  1. Complete, official transcripts from all previous, accredited post-secondary education.
  2. Three letters of recommendation. An academic respondent holding an earned Ph.D. in Behavior Analysis or related field, who can attest to the applicant’s ability to complete doctoral study successfully must author at least one letter of recommendation.
  3. An original 6-10 page Personal Statement, that responds to these questions:
    1. What relevant knowledge, skills, experiences bring you to this point of considering doctoral study? 
    2. In what ways will doctoral study support your academic, professional and/or personal goals? 
    3. What would be your ideal apprenticeship and why?
  4. Official copy of scores from the Graduate Record Exam (GRE).
  5. Official copy of scores from the Miller Analogies Test (MAT). 
  6. All students for whom English is not a first language must submit scores from the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL).
  7. A copy of the applicant’s curriculum vitae with evidence of at least three years of related, post-Master’s/BCBA professional experience.
  8. A Writing Sample. In addition to the Personal Statement, doctoral applicants are asked to submit a short paper (limit 10 pages), double-spaced, in APA format responding to a particular question: What are the most critical challenges facing Behavior Analysts today? The writing sample will be evaluated for evidence of:  thoughtful analysis, ability to develop main points and support claims, focus and organization, academic style, use of sentence variety and vocabulary to convey meaning clearly, control of sentence structure, language, grammar and punctuation.

    Finally, an admission interview is required of all candidates.  Applicants will be contacted by the Director of the Institute Doctoral Program in Behavior Analysis to schedule the interview.

Learning Outcomes

  • Organizes the knowledge, principles, and skills of Applied Behavior Analysis in the conduct of problem-oriented research.
  • Formulate research questions that are in keeping with a problem-oriented model.
  • Design problem-oriented research projects to provide evidence-based solutions to socially significant problems.
  • Demonstrate skill in planning curriculum and instruction, delivering effective instruction, managing classroom climate, promoting equality and meeting professional standards.
  • Analyze and compare previous research solutions to topics within the scope of Applied Behavior Analysis.
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