Doctorate in Behavioral Psychology Degree Requirements

Coursework and Enrollment Information

You are required to be continuously enrolled from the time of admission to the time you earn your degree. The number of hours in which you enroll depends upon your progress in the program. ABS requires 9 hours of enrollment each Fall/Spring term.

Waiving requirements

If you were admitted for the doctoral degree having taken graduate courses at another university, you are still required to complete all of the ABS coursework and other requirements for the Ph.D. However, you may request that your prior graduate courses count as fulfilling a portion of the ABS coursework as long as you earned a grade of A or B (B- is not good enough).

For example, you are required to take a Research Methods II course in the ABS program, but may have already completed a comparable graduate course at another university. If this is the case, then you may petition to waive the Research Methods II course by submitting a written request to the Director(s) of Graduate Study. Each request should be accompanied by (a) the course syllabus of the previously completed course (b) the syllabus from the course you are petitioning to waive, (c) documentation of the grade earned in it (e.g., copy of your transcript, which the ABS Graduate Program Coordinator has on file), and (d) a letter of support from your advisor. Here are, again, some important rules and regulations you should consider before submitting your request:

•You may not request to waive a course with one you took 6 or more years earlier.

•At the PhD level: You may waive as many courses as your advisor recommends; however, if you are requesting to waive more than 3 courses (9 credit hours), the Director(s) of Graduate Study will form a subcommittee comprised of the DGS, your advisor, and a rotating third member to review the petition and vote on which courses (if any) will be approved for waiver.

•Although credits will transfer and fulfill some course requirements, students are still required to earn from KU the credit hours required for a graduate degree: Ph.D.: 24 hours of content courses plus 6 hrs of practicum.

•All waivers are approved at the discretion of the Graduate Studies Committee.

•You may not submit a petition if you are beyond your first year and you have not submitted an annual progress evaluation in the preceding academic year.

The Doctoral Degree

Students are free to begin working on Ph.D. level coursework and other requirements even before they have defended their Master’s thesis. However, students will not be allowed to continue working toward their Ph.D. if they have not passed their Comprehensive Exam within one year of the date they successfully defended their Master’s thesis (see below; two years if in the joint-MPH program), or by the end of their third year if entering the doctoral program with a completed Master’s obtained at another university. Obtaining the Ph.D. degree requires the successful completion of the following tasks (each of which is described in more detail below):


Conceptual Foundations II: ABSC 862, 901, 921, 931, 981 Research Methods II: ABSC 710, 805*, 940

ABA II: ABSC 788, 802, 865, 890, 961

EAB II: ABSC 936, PRVM 800, BIOS 704/714

Research and/or Intervention Practicum Dissertation Hours

Fulfill your Research Skills and Responsible Scholarship requirement

Complete program of study written document and pass an oral comprehensive examination

Propose a dissertation

Complete a pro-seminar requirement

Fulfill the department’s teaching requirement

Pass three editorial critiques

Dissertation defense

Comprehensive Examination

Comprehensive Examination

In order to take the comprehensive examination, you must meet the requirements for the ABS master’s degree. Students must complete the comprehensive examination by the end of the third year if entering the PhD program with a completed Master's degree obtained at another university, or within a year of successfully defending their Master's in the Applied Behavioral Science MA program at KU. You will generate a program of study document, developed in concert with your advisor. The program of study will be used by the comprehensive examination committee to generate relevant and individualized questions to ask during the oral examination. Questions will span all coursework and student-indicated research domains (those of personal interest to the student and relevant to their career trajectory). These questions will be posed during the oral examination. The oral examination will last two hours and is not open to the public.

Proseminar Requirement

The department holds weekly Proseminars that have expectations and requirements for students. The department’s Proseminar – or Prosem – comprises presentations by visiting researchers and scholars, faculty members across the university, faculty members in the department, and graduate students. It meets at 3:30 on Friday afternoons during the fall, spring, and summer semesters. One of Prosem’s expectation is that you attend and participate in them. The Proseminar presentation for the doctoral degree must be 45-50 minutes in length.

Teaching Requirement

Students must complete a teaching requirement consisting of formal training in instruction/pedagogy, evidence of teaching efficacy (through student evaluations), and a philosophy of teaching statement.

Three Editorial Critiques

When you have completed your Ph.D., you may be called upon to serve as a reviewer on manuscripts submitted for publication to professional journals or for grants submitted to funding agencies. To give you formal training in this skill, you will write three journal critiques as part of your doctoral training.


In addition to completing the foregoing requirements, you will propose, write, and defend an empirically based dissertation. A period of at least 1 month must pass between the defense of your oral comprehensive exam and the defense of the dissertation.

Dissertation proposal

In preparation for the dissertation proposal, you will provide your committee members with a copy of your written dissertation proposal at least two weeks before the scheduled date of the proposal. The introduction of the proposal should include a thorough literature review, but should be written as a peer-reviewed publication submission (i.e., the introduction should be between 7 and 10 pages). Your proposal document must also include Method and Data Analysis sections. The proposal meeting is 1 hour in duration and is open to the public. You will provide a 10-minute presentation of your methods—your committee will not ask any questions during this 10-minute presentation, and the 10-minute limit will be strictly enforced. Following the initial 10-minute presentation, the committee will engage you in 50 minutes of question asking and discussion. During this time, the committee may ask you to defend decisions related to your proposed research question, methods, and/or data analysis plans. Committee members must report a decision to either pass, pass with revisions, or fail.

Dissertation defense (final oral examination) 

Before defending your dissertation you must complete paperwork with the Graduate Academic Advisor and the College. This must be completed months in advance of your defense date so that the College may approve your application and committee members before you defend your dissertation. The defense is passed if a majority of committee members vote to pass it.