Complete your PhD in Behavior Analysis at Simmons University

The 48-credit PhD program in Behavior Analysis is designed to train and position qualified behavior analysts to make significant contributions to the science and practice of behavior analysis. Currently, our PhD in Behavior Analysis program is offered with live online classes providing program access to students across the country, and collaboration opportunities with faculty and peers.

Students sitting in class

What will you learn in the PhD in Behavior Analysis program?

Simmons University’s PhD in Behavior Analysis focuses on developing skills required to design, conduct, and interpret experimental research. To facilitate research skills, each student is accepted into the ongoing Lab meetings of departmental behavior analysis faculty. There, Behavior Analysis PhD students benefit from immersion into the faculty member’s research conducted in collaboration with the doctoral candidates.

Additionally, during enrollment in the Behavior Analysis PhD program each student has access to conduct and publish research in conjunction with our behavior analysis faculty. Areas of faculty research include

  • Stimulus equivalence
  • Conditioned reinforcement
  • The analysis of verbal behavior
  • Induced behaviors
  • Behavioral medicine
  • The analysis and management of negatively reinforced responding
  • Training of BCBAs and caregivers
  • Supervision

Students benefit from the decades-long professional collaboration between behavior analysis department faculty and discipline-specific clinical and research organizations in New England and beyond.

Due to Simmons University's longstanding reputation as a pioneer and enduring presence in the behavior analysis professional and academic community, prominent clinical and research groups in the field welcome the opportunity to collaborate in clinical research with our Behavior Analysis PhD students.

Students in our PhD in Behavior Analysis program have the opportunity to gain experience in the field of academia by working as Simmons University Department of Behavior Analysis teacher’s assistants, course instructors, and tutors for the Master of Science (MS) and Educational Specialist (EdS) degree programs in behavior analysis. The EdS and MS degree programs are for individuals pursuing Board Certification (i.e., BCBA), and are offered on campus in Boston (MS and EdS degrees) and online (MS degree).

Program Overview

This is a fully remote, online doctoral program. Most classes meet once per week on weekday evenings to accommodate the needs of working professionals. At times, the department will host on-campus and hybrid events that doctoral students are invited to attend.

This program requires completion of 48 semester hours. We offer a self-paced program of study, and most students work full-time while taking two classes per semester (generally a course and a lab enrollment) to graduate in 4-7 years. To be eligible to graduate, students must complete all 6 required courses plus 3 special topics courses, and 12 hours of Dissertation Lab, in addition to successfully completing and defending their dissertation.

Eligibility Requirements

Candidates* eligible for admission should have the motivation and capacity to conduct and disseminate basic and applied behavior analytic research (e.g., presentations at professional conferences and publications in peer reviewed behavior analytic journals).

Eligibility Requirements Include

  • A conferred master’s degree or higher in Behavior Analysis or a related field (i.e., Psychology, Health Science, and Special Education)
  • The candidate must meet one of the following criteria:
    • Must be licensed and/or certified (or eligible for licensure and/or certification, including experience hours and coursework requirements) in the country where they clinically practice 
    • 2 years of experience in the following practice areas:
      • Experimental Analysis of Behavior
      • Organizational Behavior Management
      • Animal training
      • Translational research
      • Behavioral Medicine
  • Research experience is preferred

*Please note that the PhD program at Simmons is an online degree-seeking program. We welcome both domestic and international applicants to apply as long as said applicant is eligible based on the criteria detailed above. The PhD program is not eligible for F-1 visa sponsorship, and does not yield in eligibility for the BCBA exam.

What can you do with a PhD in Behavior Analysis?

Post-graduation, most students apply for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst - Doctoral® (BCBA-D®) credential. With a PhD, our graduates accelerate their careers in behavior analysis, and have assumed impactful leadership roles in a variety of settings, including research, education, academia, advocacy, and clinical work, among others.

This program requires 48 credit hours, including six (6) cognate courses, three (3) special topics courses, and twelve (12) dissertation lab credits, in addition to writing and defending a dissertation. Students may enroll on either a full- or part-time basis beginning in the fall, spring, or summer semesters.

Cognate Courses


DABA634 Group Design and Statistical Analysis 4
DABA630 Experimental Analysis of Behavior 4
DABA633 Advanced Single Subject Design 4
DABA601 History of Behavior Analysis 4
DABA632 Diversity and Advanced Professional Practice Issues for Behavior Analysts 4
DABA640 Dissemination 4
DABA690 Dissertation 1
DABA699 Dissertation Extension 0

Special Topics Courses


DABA661 Complex Stimulus Control 4
DABA610 Verbal Behavior 4
DABA662 Behavioral Analysis in Higher Education 4
DABA660 Organizational Behavior Management and Consultation 4
DABA625 Advanced Functional Assessment & Analysis 4
DABA635 Behavioral Medicine 4
  • Dan Almeida, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA ('12PhD): Program Director, Applied Behavior Analysis, School of Education, Cambridge College
  • Jessica Alverson, PhD, BCBA ('18PhD): Organizational Clinical Director, Hopeful Journeys Educational Center, Inc.
  • Jescah Apamo-Gannon, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA ('22PhD): Assistant Professor, Graduate Program Chair of the Moderate and Severe Disabilities Program, School of Education, Fitchburg State University
  • Nicole Boivin, PhD, CCC-SLP, BCBA-D ('14PhD): Director of Interdisciplinary Systems, Margaret Mary Centers for Children, Melmark New England.
  • Terri Bright, PhD, BCBA-D, CAAB, ('07MS, '13PhD): Director of Behavior Services, MSPCA-Angell Memorial Hospital
  • Laurel Ciavarri, PhD, BCBA, LABA ('17PhD): Supervisor of Behavioral Support Services, Bridgewell, Inc.
  • Nicole M. Davis, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA ('09MS, '16PhD): Associate Clinical Professor, Director of Applied Behavior Analysis Programs Online, Department of Applied Psychology, Northeastern University
  • Laura Dudley, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA ('15PhD): Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Applied Psychology, Northeastern University
  • Gretchen Dittrich, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA ( '11PhD): Associate Professor of Practice, Program Director and Chair, Department of Behavior Analysis, Simmons University
  • Elisa Hegg, PhD, BCBA ('16PhD): President-elect, Association for Maine Behavior Analysts (AMeBA); Adjunct Professor and Course Lead, Behavior Analysis Online, Simmons University
  • Brandon Herscovitch, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA ('11PhD): Chief Executive Officer, Partners Behavioral Health
  • Amanda Kelly, PhD, BCBA-D, LBA, ('07MS, '13PhD): Founder, Behaviorbabe
  • Christina King, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, ('04MS, '16PhD): Executive Managing Director & Chief of Research and Application, RCS Learning Center; Associate Professor of Practice, Behavior Analysis Online, Simmons University
  • Amanda Laprime, PhD, BCBA-D, ('13PhD): Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Rochester Medical Center; Assistant to the Executive Director, Cambridge Center for Behavioral Studies
  • Erin McLoughlin, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, ('09EdS, '15PhD): Founder, Chief Executive Officer, South Shore Autism Center
  • Rebecca Markovits, PhD, BCBA-D ('13PhD): Associate Teaching Professor, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts Lowell
  • Sinead Petersen, PhD, BCBA-D, LABA, ('11PhD): Founder/Executive Director, The Southcoast Autism Center.

Students are actively engaged in professional research, teaming up with Simmons's nationally renowned faculty to implement, write, and publish research, and to present their work at national conferences and in peer-reviewed journals.

Recent student* publications include:

  • Laprime*, A. B., & Dittrich, G. A. (2014). An evaluation of a treatment package consisting of discrimination training and differential reinforcement with response cost and a social story on vocal stereotypy for a preschooler with autism in a preschool classroom. Education and Treatment of Children, 37(3), 407-430.
  • Davis*, N.M. & Maguire, R.W. (2014). The Interrelationship between behavioral medicine and behavior analysis. In D.I. Mostofsky, The Handbook of Behavioral Medicine (pp. 447- 461). West Sussex, United Kingdom
  • Kelly*, A. N.., Axe, J. B., Allen, R. F., and Maguire, R. W. (2015). Effects of presession pairing on challenging behavior and academic responding for children with autism. Behavioral Interventions, 30, 135-156.
  • Jadro*, B. V. (2017). The use of an onboard diagnostic device to provide feedback on driving behaviors related to fuel economy. Behavior and Social Issues, 26, 190-193.
  • Almeida*, D., Allen, R., Mannion, C., Maguire, K., & Maguire, R. W. (2018) Identifying community-based reinforcers of adults with autism and related disabilities. Journal of Behavioral Education, 27, 375-394.
  • Yorlets*, C., Maguire, R.W., King, C.M. and Breault, M. (2018) Acquisition of complex conditional discriminations in a child with autism spectrum disorder. The Psychological Record, 68, 219-229.
  • Dudley*, L.L., Axe, J.B., Allen, R.F., Sweeney-Kerwin, E. (2019). Establishing praise as a conditioned reinforcer: Pairing with one versus multiple reinforcers. Behavioral Interventions, 34(4), 534-552.
  • Irwin*, C., & Axe, J. B. (2019). Overview of applied behavior analysis and early intervention for autism spectrum disorder. In S. G. Little & A. Akin-Little (Eds.), Behavioral interventions in schools: Evidence-based positive strategies., 2nd ed. (pp. 205-226). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.  
  • Bird*, Z. & Chase, P.N. (2020). Student pacing in a master's level course: Procrastination, preference, and performance. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 54(3),1220-1234.
  • Davis*, C. R., & Axe, J. B. (2021). Analyzing consequence variables within the high probability request sequence for a child diagnosed with CHARGE syndrome. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 14(2), 352-359.
  • Meleshkevich*, O., Axe, J. B., & Espinosa, F. D. (2021). Effects of time delay and requiring echoics on answering questions about visual stimuli. Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 54(2), 725-743.
  • Palmer*, S.K., Maguire, R.W., Lionello-DeNolf, K.M., & Braga-Kenyon, P. (2021). Expansion of Sidman's Theory: The inclusion of prompt stimuli in equivalence classes. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 115(1), 255-271.
  • Frampton*, S. E., Guinness, K. E., & Axe, J. B. (2021). Parallel treatments design: A systematic review. Behavioral Interventions. 36(4), 941-961.
  • Mias*, J. R., Dittrich, G. A., & Miltenberger, R. G. (2022). Effects of a behavioral coaching treatment package on physical activity and adherence. Behavior Analysis: Research and Practice, 22(1), 50–65.


In some sense, the dissertation process begins with admission to the doctoral program. Students are accepted into labs matching mutual research interests between faculty and students during the second semester. With the acceptance of the student into a faculty member’s lab, the requirements and landscape of the dissertation process become clear. Each student begins to discuss their research ideas with their lab faculty (chairperson of their doctoral committee) and literature reading is undertaken and experimental design conceptualized. In general, research is conducted at off-campus clinical, educational, or healthcare sites. Additional members of the student’s doctoral committee are sought and identified. In concert with lab participation, the doctoral proposal will be completed and submitted to the doctoral committee for approval. Following project approval by the Simmons Institutional Review Board (IRB), research proper can be initiated. The writing and defense of the dissertation proper represents the culmination of the student’s doctoral education, and is their gateway to a professional career as a doctor in behavior analysis.

Lab Meetings

To facilitate the shaping of research skills, each faculty member hosts a weekly lab meeting. During this meeting, students engaged in research with that faculty member discuss research progress and problems, and share insights. In addition, methodologies of behavior analytic research and important experimental results from behavior analytic literature are discussed. For each doctoral student, the meeting acts as a verbal community shaping their scientific repertoire.  

Lab Groups:

Behavior Analysis at Simmons University

Our Behavior Analysis program prepares students for leadership roles in the implementation, evaluation and administration of applied behavioral analytic principles and methods.

Graduate Program Videos