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.

Simmons University also offers a Master’s in Behavior Analysis program, which is offered both on campus and online. Many students in our PhD in Behavior Analysis program are employed by Simmons University as teaching assistants, course instructors, and mentors for the Master’s in Behavior Analysis program.

Program Overview

Candidates for admission should have the motivation and capacity to conduct and disseminate basic and applied research (e.g., presentations at professional conferences and publications in peer reviewed behavior analytic journals). Candidates must have a master’s degree or higher in a related field, including Behavior Analysis, Psychology, and Special Education, and have experience in the application of behavior analytic interventions. Research experience is especially desirable, as is certification as a BCBA.

Currently, all classes are online. Most classes meet once per week on weekday evenings to accommodate the needs of working professionals. At times, the department will host on-campus events that doctoral students are invited to.

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 four to seven years.  All 6 required courses must be taken, plus 3 special topics courses, and 12 hours of Dissertation Lab.

What can you do with a PhD in Behavior Analysis?

Upon graduation, our Behavior Analysis PhD students have assumed impactful behavior analytic positions in research, education, clinical intervention and leadership roles in a variety of settings.

Learn more about our PhD in Behavior Analysis!

Apply or request more information about our doctorate in Behavior Analysis today!

  • 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:

Admission options and prerequisites vary by program. Learn more about the requirements for the PhD in Behavior Analysis.

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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

Our Faculty

Ronald Allen photo

Ronald Allen

  • Associate Professor of Practice and Director of the Doctoral Program for Behavior Analysis
Gretchen Dittrich photo

Gretchen Dittrich

  • Associate Professor of Practice, Chair of the Behavior Analysis Department and Director of the Master's Program