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    The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
  Jan 26, 2021
2014-2015 Academic Catalog and Student Handbook with Addendum 
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2014-2015 Academic Catalog and Student Handbook with Addendum [Archived Catalog]

Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis

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Program Overview

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is the ethical design, implementation, and evaluation of environmental changes to produce socially significant improvements in behavior. At the M.S. level, the Applied Behavior Analysis program incorporates the content areas and practicum requirements to make graduates eligible for national board certification by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board® in addition to providing a solid foundation in the philosophy, science, and application of behavior analysis. At the PhD level, the program expands upon the knowledge and skills learned in the MS program by strengthening students’ research and clinical skills and their knowledge base, as well as training students to become university professors and high-level supervisors and consultants. The aim is to prepare students for a rewarding career in the rapidly growing field of Applied Behavior Analysis. Doctoral graduates are lead practitioners and researchers in educational, clinical, and business settings who can successfully respond to the diverse needs of consumers of behavioral interventions and therapies, and who can teach and mentor students of behavior analysis in university settings.

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program is oriented toward the full-time day/evening student, although there are many part-time students in Chicago as well. Many students work (some full-time) but we always advise students to consider carefully the balance between school, family, and work and make reasoned choices about time and resource allocation. Because of the ABA field placement requirements, students at the M.S. level (the first two years of the doctoral program) are generally on campus two to three days a week and at practicum or working on other days. The Chicago Campus also offers the ABA student other opportunities to expand and apply their skills. At this time one opportunity is with the application of ABA technologies to public schools, and another is with community partner agencies that work with underserved populations not traditionally served by ABA. Once doctoral students become certified as a BCBA®, they are encouraged to provide BCBA® supervision to M.S. students in unique training opportunities and are provided with quality high-level training to hone their supervision and management skills.

Program Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this program students will be able to:

  1. explain and behave in accordance with ethical and professional standards of the field of applied behavior analysis.
  2. describe and explain behavior in behavior-analytic language, using behavioral concepts and principles and in accordance with the philosophic assumptions of behavior analysis.
  3. define and measure various dimensions of behavior, display and interpret behavioral data, and evaluate measurement procedures.
  4. identify and use various experimental designs and evaluate research and interventions effectively and ethically.
  5. assess individual behavior and recommend function-based interventions.
  6. describe and use behavior-analytic procedures to  produce   short- and long-term benefits for clients.
  7. describe and use systems of self-management, teaching, and training to produce short- and long-term benefits for clients.
  8. identify and recommend effective interventions and state and plan for possible unwanted effects of those interventions.
  9. provide for ongoing documentation, implementation, evaluation, and termination of behavioral services, including staff training and environmental support.
  10. describe multicultural and diversity issues and the historical variables that contribute to them, and apply the analysis to solving individual and social problems.
  11. communicate effectively in a variety of formats, for varying reasons, and with various groups of people.

Admission Requirements


Application to The Chicago School of Professional Psychology’s Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis programs is open to any person who has earned a bachelor’s degree from a regionally accredited institution and who meets other entrance requirements. Applicants will be judged on their overall ability to do graduate work. Factors that are considered in admission are: GPA from undergraduate and any graduate schools, successful work history after completion of the baccalaureate degree, the admission essay, and letters of recommendation from academic professors or professional or volunteer experience supervisors. Generally, an undergraduate GPA of a 3.0 or higher on a 4.0 scale is required for admission. Students must submit official transcripts from all schools where a degree was earned. It is recommended that transcripts are submitted from all schools where credit was received to enhance their applications.

There are two entry points into the Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis Program: 1) post-baccalaureate 106 credit, and 2) post-Masters with BCBA 48 credit*. Additional coursework, including a Master’s thesis, may be required for Post-Masters entry students. Specifically, students may be required to take courses from the first two years of the 5-year Ph.D. (i.e., the Masters-level coursework) and will be required to do an empirical, behavior-analytic  thesis if they did not complete one in their previous Master’s program. When appropriate, the standard TCSPP course transfer and waiver guidelines apply (information available on the TCSPP website).

Standardized Testing The Graduate Record Examination (GRE) is required for ABA doctoral work but not for MS applicants. Scores should be sent directly to the school (GRE School Code: 1119) for consideration. Please see the application for detailed instructions and information regarding application requirements, application deadlines, and letters of recommendation.

*Only applicants with a Master’s degree and the required BCBA® coursework will be considered for post-Masters entry.

Application Fees

Degree applications must be submitted with a $50.00(USD) application fee to be considered.

TOEFL or IELTS, International Credentials, and International Students

TOEFL or IELTS: If English is not your primary language, you must submit official TOEFL or IELTS scores with your application (TOEFL School Code: 7161). International students who received a bachelor’s degree from an accredited United States institution are exempt from this requirement. The minimum scores are: TOEFL - 550 paper based, 213 computer based, 79 internet based; IELTS - 6.5.

ELS Educational Services, Inc.: The Chicago School is a cooperative member of ELS Educational Services, Inc. which provides intensive English language programs. Students who have successfully completed ELS course 112 may be considered for admission in lieu of the TOEFL or IELTS.

International credentials: Applicants with international credentials must obtain and submit an official “course-by-course” evaluation through an evaluation agency such as World Education Services ( or Educational Credential Evaluators Inc ( In addition to the agency evaluation, all official graduate and undergraduate transcripts must be submitted.

International students: International students must submit a completed application by the general consideration deadline. This will allow sufficient time to obtain the additional documentation required to study in the United States. In addition, once accepted, international students must submit the International Student Information form, a copy of their passport, and financial documentation showing sufficient funding for at least one year of study and all living expenses. This documentation must be submitted at least two months prior to the start of the semester in order to allow sufficient time for the school to issue an I-20 for the student to obtain an F-1 visa, if needed.. An I-20 visa will not be issued without this documentation.

Applicant Notification

The Chicago School of Professional Psychology reviews applications on a rolling basis. Once review begins, complete applications will be considered by the Admission Committee and applicants will be notified regarding the admission decision. The Chicago School of Professional Psychology does not share information or provide any feedback regarding admission decisions.

If a student is offered admission, in order to secure a place in the incoming class, a non-refundable tuition deposit of $500 will be required by the deposit deadline indicated in the offer of admission. The non-refundable deposit will be applied in full toward the student’s tuition upon enrollment.


The following policies are located under Academic Policies and Procedures : Transfer of Credit, Waiver of Courses, Satisfactory Academic Progress, Grading Scale, Grade Change Requests, Degree Completion, Degree Conferral, Minimum and Maximum Timeframe requirements, and Credit Hours per semester for Financial Aid.  Information on the Academic Success Program is located under Student Life .

Earning a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis

An M.S. Applied Behavior Analysis is awarded following the successful completion of the program requirements. At the beginning of the semester in which a student expects to be eligible for the master’s degree, he or she is required to submit online an Intent to Graduate form to the Office of the Registrar. The form is a request to conduct an audit to determine eligibility for the degree. All students who file an Intent to Graduate form for Program Completion will be charged a fee. Students who meet the requirements are eligible to participate in the next scheduled commencement and must file an Intent to Participate form with the Registrar.

Click here to view the M.S. Applied Behavior Analysis catalog page. 

Academic Development Plans

 An Academic Development Plan (ADP) is initiated and created by the program in which the student is enrolled. When a student demonstrates deficiencies in competencies that interfere with academic performance, training competence, and/or professional behavior, the ADP is initiated. The completion of an ADP does not constitute disciplinary action, but failure to complete the plan may lead to disciplinary action.

Student Learning Assessment

 The Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) is committed to offering the highest quality undergraduate completion program and graduate programs in applied professional disciplines. To meet TCSPP’s standard for academic quality, program learning outcomes are aligned with course learning outcomes and guide assessment.   Data collected from the results of student assessment and the aggregation of these data will inform how students are progressing towards achieving program outcomes.  

All academic programs report annual assessments of student learning and other indicators of program effectiveness as part of the Academic Program Review process.

The Program

The Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program will develop professionals who can help individuals and organizations, select, implement, and manage effective systems to improve outcomes across a variety of settings. The program provides students with a solid understanding of the Science and Philosophy of Behavior Analysis as the foundation that informs the Applied Behavior Analysis, Experimental Analysis of Behavior, and Service Delivery domains to produce graduates who rely on the science of behavior to contribute to the betterment of society.

The objective of the Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program is to train individuals to contribute to applied practice settings in addition to the behavior-analytic scholarly and political communities. Doctoral-level ABA students gain a comprehensive understanding of Science and Philosophy, the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Applied Behavior Analysis, and Service Delivery. Graduates are equipped with the repertoire to function as leaders in their respective positions (i.e., clinical, academic, etc.) and are prepared to address a range of issues and problems, and to design, implement, and test practical effective solutions that work in the real world. Entry to the Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program is offered to post-baccalaureate students with and without their Master’s degree. The incoming profile of the student determines the semester credits, the course sequence, and the years required to complete the program.


The Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program is designed to prepare students in a wide variety of specialization areas within ABA. Although it is common for lay people to assume that ABA is relevant only to people with autism or other developmental disabilities, behavior analysis is applied to numerous populations and problems. Thus, in the program, students can focus not only on issues related to the assessment and treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorders, but also on the assessment and treatment of severe behavior problems, instructional design, organizational behavior management, and applications with non-traditional populations such as geriatrics, people with traumatic brain injury, and regular and special education. Thus, while ABA techniques apply to people with disabilities, they are just as useful to people in the general population.

The Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program provides training to students related to all four domains of Behavior Analysis (i.e., Philosophy, Experimental Analysis of Behavior, Applied Behavior Analysis, and Service Delivery). Further, the programs and curricula are designed to infuse the scientist-practitioner model across these domains and teach students to be consumers of new research findings, evaluators of their own interventions and programs using empirical methods, and researchers, producing new data from their own settings and reporting these data to the applied and scientific community.

In summary, the Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program’s mission is to provide students with the scientific, analytical, and conceptual tools they need to provide effective, ethical, and practical behavior-analytic interventions to the diverse populations that they serve. The vision of the program is to provide the most comprehensive and effective graduate training in ABA, and to that end, the faculty provide the students with the most up-to-date information and research, and encourage critical analysis of the research with an emphasis on using it to drive practice. The ABA program emphasizes not only knowledge of the research and assessment and intervention techniques, but sound understanding of the basic concepts and principles of behavior analysis, so that students will have the conceptual and scientific underpinnings necessary to understand why interventions work, how to measure their effects, and to make appropriate program modifications when they do not. Because ABA is based on a rapidly developing and evolving behavioral technology grounded in research, the knowledge base is constantly changing. It is our Mission in the Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology to remain at the forefront of the development of this field.

BCBA® Exam

The Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis program prepares and qualifies students to take the BCBA® Exam. The exam results are treated as a professional qualification for individual students, as well as data about the adequacy of the program in preparing students. Students should visit ( for details.

Ethics and Professional Behavior

Students are expected to learn and to follow the ethical guidelines of the American Psychological Association, the Association for Behavior Analysis International, and the Behavior Analyst Certification Board® during and after their work at The Chicago School. A class in ethics is required at the Masters level, and student adherence to ethical codes is evaluated both formally and informally.


The Applied Behavior Analysis BCBA® course sequence (seven 3-credit courses) is approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board® and meets the requirements necessary to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)® exam. The BCBA® course sequence is periodically reevaluated by the BACB® to maintain approval status. 

Professional Development Group

All Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis students are required to enroll in a Professional Development Group during their first semester in the post-Masters program.  Their instructor serves as their academic advisor until they select a dissertation chair. The Professional Development Group class is graded on a pass/fail basis.

Comprehensive Examination

Students are required to take and pass a written comprehensive examination and an oral defense before they are allowed to propose their dissertation research to the Institutional Review Board (IRB). Four 1-credit courses prepare students to take the exam and to defend their answers. Students have two chances to pass each component (a third attempt may be allowed under extenuating circumstances). When the written and oral components of the comprehensive exam are passed, the student becomes a Doctoral Candidate and can proceed to his/her dissertation research.


Students are also required to complete a dissertation. The dissertation must be a data-based empirical evaluation that marks an original contribution to the published literature. The Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis course sequence facilitates student completion of the dissertation with a carefully designed course sequence that has the necessary steps toward dissertation completion embedded into the required coursework. Students receive detailed information about the dissertation process and related requirements during their first year in the program.

More specific information is located in the Program Guidebook.

Full-Time vs. Reduced Load Status

Since the function of the program is to increase the student’s knowledge and abilities, and these goals require intensive efforts and substantial time, the student must consider carefully the balance between school, work, family, and other responsibilities. In general, faculty members plan for students to spend three hours studying for each hour in class. Students who work full time should take a lighter load (five to nine hours per semester) in order to be able to devote to the program the energy and time that will yield the maximum benefit to them.

Class Scheduling

Some classes will be scheduled to meet in non-traditional formats to minimize travel. These will be announced well in advance so that students can make appropriate arrangements. Classes generally meet in one of three schedule patterns:

  • Once a week for one, two, or three hours
  • The distance class involves few or no face-to-face meetings, but instead extensive work via the internet or a similar distance communication system.
  • Between three and eight times a semester (for longer periods at each class meeting) when the faculty member is traveling from outside the local area

Classes are offered in a mix of day, evening, and weekend times. Note that there are some classes offered only in one time slot, such as evenings or weekends. Students are expected to have arranged other obligations in such a way as to permit attendance to classes whenever they are scheduled.

The Curriculum

The Ph.D. Applied Behavior Analysis is a 106-credit program which consists of 93 core credits and 13 electives. As part of the core coursework, students are required to complete comprehensive examinations (described above) in order to ensure that they are competent scientist-practitioners in Applied Behavior Analysis. The comprehensive exams assess knowledge and skills across the four domains of Behavior Analysis: Basic, Applied, Service Delivery, and Theory and Philosophy. In addition to the comprehensive exams, doctoral students are also required to complete a doctoral dissertation. The dissertation must take the form of a data-based empirical evaluation, and must mark a contribution to current peer-reviewed publications in the field. In an effort to facilitate timely graduation, relevant components of the dissertation process have been built into the doctoral student course sequence. Students are required to enroll in Proposal Development seminar and Dissertation Development courses (see Course Descriptions), during which they propose, conduct, and defend their dissertation (13 total credits). Dissertation-related activities are also infused throughout the other Core courses. Students attend the research lab of the faculty member that has been identified as their dissertation chair and research lab serves as a forum for students to both present and receive feedback throughout the dissertation process. The dissertation proposal and defense is conducted in a committee style format, and details of the process are delineated for the students at the outset of the dissertation process.

Required  Coursework:  93 Credits (includes 48 M.S. credits)

Electives: 13 Credits

Comprehensive Exam Courses (4 credits)

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