Ph.D. in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science

 Program Overview

Established in 2015, the UMass Lowell Ph.D. program in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science is designed to train students and current practitioners who seek advanced education in the application of psychological theories and methods to address real-world problems, as well as to promote optimal quality of life outcomes. APPS emphasizes three core areas of study:

  1. Applied Cognitive Psychology
  2. Community and Applied Social Psychology
  3. Applied Developmental Psychology

An applied psychological approach that emphasizes the importance of preventing problems and promoting positive behavior in these areas builds on expertise of our faculty, enriches students’ understanding of the importance of prevention, expands involvement with communities, enhances research skills, and increases opportunities for students’ career success.

The Applied Cognitive Psychology core area is designed to teach our graduate students how to address real-world issues. Students will be trained to develop evidence-based reforms rooted in a rigorous study of cognitive processes. Such reforms can be applied to confront problems in the domains of education, law, health, and business. Ongoing research in the department explores how to improve the accuracy of both memory performance and meta-cognitive judgments to help students choose optimal study strategies and help legal actors assess eyewitness reliability. Other faculty study health campaign design, the relationship between language and cognition, memory for trauma, and/or issues that face individuals making decisions within the criminal justice system.

The Community and Applied Social Psychology core area is designed to train students to research and analyze the complex relationships between individual, family, and community well-being and the broader socioeconomic, physical, cultural, and geographic environment. This option will produce graduates with the analytic, creative, and practical skills needed to design and implement programs and services that will facilitate positive changes within and across communities. A number of members of our department specialize in issues facing immigrants, psychology and the law, peace and conflict issues both nationally and internationally, positive aging, intersectionality of race/ethnicity, diversity issues in the workplace, participatory action research, and gender-based violence.

The Applied Developmental Psychology core area will train our graduates to conduct research on typical and atypical challenges across the lifespan. Faculty areas of research include neuropsychology, psychophysiology, and autism spectrum disorders (ASD), child maltreatment, and the development of language, especially the ability to tell narratives of personal experiences. Other faculty address issues of family and parent-child relationships, child eyewitness testimony, and aging and social gerontology.

Program Objectives 

The doctoral degree in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science at UMass Lowell is a psychology-based, research-oriented degree. The program is designed to provide a theoretically grounded and methodologically sophisticated education, and will train students and working professionals in the application of psychological knowledge for improving overall health and wellness at multiple levels, including health promotion and disease prevention. The curriculum of the APPS PhD program is geared toward gaining new knowledge and skills through study, research, and experiential learning opportunities and to meeting the needs of public and private sectors that may serve as potential employers for the program’s graduates.

 Knowledge Competencies

  • An understanding of the key concepts, theories, and methodology in the field of Applied Psychology and Prevention Science;
  • Ability to assess the costs and benefits of intervention programs designed to prevent problematic behavior, promote health behaviors, and maximize individual and organizational potential and well-being.
  • An understanding of and ability to work well with and empower diverse, underrepresented groups in real-world settings;
  • A thorough grounding in the ethical conduct of research and practice in real-world settings

Skill Set 

  • Utilize quantitative and qualitative methods to conduct psychological research on major issues related to promoting healthy outcomes, preventing problematic behaviors, and/or intervening to diminish existing problems;
  • Assess the effectiveness of organizations and programs;
  • Analyze social problems and design appropriate interventions;
  • Develop the ability to carry out systemic interventions on multiple levels.

Admission Requirements

For more information about the Application Deadline, consult the Psychology Application Page:

1. Applicants should arrange to have (an) official transcript(s) indicating that they have earned a Bachelor’s degree, and, if relevant, an official transcript indicating that they have earned a Master’s degree (or will in the near future) mailed to the Office of Graduate Admissions by the degree-granting institution(s) at:

Office of Graduate Admissions
Cumnock Hall, Suite 110
One University Avenue
Lowell, MA 01854-5130

Transcripts are required from every college or university attended with the following exceptions:

    • Transcripts are not required from colleges or universities where a one-semester study abroad or domestic exchange was completed;
    • Transcripts are not required from colleges or universities for which the course names and grades were transferred to the applicant’s bachelor’s or Master’s degree-granting institution (and appear on those transcripts).

2. International students who are unable to provide official transcripts to the Office of Graduate Admissions must demonstrate that they have earned the equivalent of a Bachelor’s degree granted by an accredited United States institution before their application will be processed. Please note, the Office of Graduate Admissions reserves the right to have any application credential evaluated.

Degree verification may be obtained for a fee at:

Center for Educational Documentation, Inc.
P.O. Box 170116
Boston, MA 02117
Phone: 617-338-7171
Fax: 617-338-7101
Website: www.cedevaluations.com

3. An applicant’s preparation for doctoral study will be assessed using the following grade point average (GPA) criteria. For undergraduate work, adequate preparation is defined as an earned GPA of at least 3.25 (on a 4.0 grading scale). For graduate work, adequate preparation is defined as an earned GPA of at least 3.75 (on a 4.0 grading scale).

4. All applicants are required to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) and provide their scores as part of their application. Only the scores from the Verbal and Quantitative sections of the GRE are required to assess applicants’ preparation for doctoral study.

International applicants are also required to take either the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOFEL) or the International English Testing System Academic (IELTS Academic) examination and provide their “TOEFL Scores” or their “IELTS Scores” (for the Academic IELTS, not the General Training IELTS). This requirement is waived if the applicant has earned a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree from an accredited U.S. academic institution.

Official test scores (GRE, TOEFL/IELTS) must be mailed to the university directly by the testing agency—this requirement applies to all applicants including current UMass Lowell students or UMass Lowell alumni. Both the GRE and TOEFL are administered by ETS (Educational Testing Services); use the school code for UMass Lowell (3911) when requesting any scores from ETS. There is no school code for the IELTS; instead, test takers should provide the address for UMass Lowell Graduate Admissions to have their official scores sent (address listed above).

The GRE Psychology subject test is not required for admission. However, if an applicant has taken the GRE Psychology subject test and would like to report those scores, the applicant may include that information under “Other Test Scores” section of their application.

5. Three letters of recommendation are required as part of the application. All recommendations must be provided by sources familiar with applicant from an academic context. Please note that, to be considered for admission, all application materials (including letters of recommendation) must be received by the application deadline.

6. Applicants must submit a personal statement describing why they wish to pursue a doctoral degree in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science. This statement of purpose should be up to 3 double-spaced pages in length and describe the applicant’s plans for graduate study, research experience, current and future research interests, and career goals.

7. Applicants are required to submit a curriculum vitae highlighting academic and professional achievements.

8. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires that all full-time graduate students (9 or more credits) must be immunized against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, and diphtheria. Students will not be permitted to register for courses at the University until proof of immunization has been sent directly to the Director of Health Services, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Lowell, MA 01854 (978-934-4991). Link to forms

Transfer Credit 

The Graduate Admissions Committee may allow for up to 12 graduate credits previously earned with a grade of “B” or better from an accredited institution to be transferred toward the doctoral degree. Transfer credit will only be granted for courses that are substantially similar to those offered at UMass Lowell and that exceed the number required for the previously-granted Master’s degree. Applicants are required to submit a Course Description and a Course Syllabus for each course to be considered for transfer credit. Such transfer credit is subject to the approval of the Graduate Coordinator and the Registrar’s Office and must meet the University’s Graduate Transfer Credit requirements.

 Full-Time vs. Part-Time Study

The Program Director and advisors in the Ph.D. program will guide graduate students through a program of study that can be taken either on a full-time or part-time basis. Full-time study is equivalent to 9 credit hours per semester. Part-time study is equivalent to 6 credit hours per semester.

Graduate Advisor 

Each newly matriculated student in the program will be assigned to an academic advisor who is a full-time Psychology Department faculty member. The student will meet with his or her advisor on a regular basis throughout the years of study to discuss course selections, qualifying papers, and the development of the dissertation. When a student selects a faculty supervisor to serve as their dissertation committee chair, this faculty member takes over as graduate academic advisor.

Degree Requirements 

A total of 42 academic credits, at least 30 of which must be taken at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, are required for the completion of the degree. APPS doctoral degree requirements are as follows:

  • Required Courses – 21 credit hours
  • Approved Electives – 9 credit hours
  • Dissertation - 12 credit hours

Total must equal 42 credit hours.

Students may request permission to take related courses from other graduate programs at UMass Lowell.

Core Coursework 

Students are required to take 21 credits of core coursework. PSYC.6400 Theories of Change in Applied Psychology (3 credits), provides students with an integrative and meaningful experience that engages them with the theoretical, practical, and professional questions that applied psychologists address in their efforts to understand and promote change. PSYC.6500, Advanced Quantitative Methods (3 credits), is designed to cultivate and further develop students' understanding and skills in research methods and advanced data analyses as thy prepare to become practitioners of research addressing a range of APPS issues. PSYC.6410 Fundamentals of Prevention Science (3 credits), elaborates on areas introduced in Theories and emphasizes the principles on which prevention science is based. Students will also take two subject matter courses at the 5000 or 6000 level, each 3 credits, chosen from among three core areas of study. Community Social Applied Social Psychology, (CAS). Applied Cognitive Psychology(ACP), and/or Applied Developmental Psychology (ADP). PSYC.6500 is a pre-requisite for two more required advanced research methods or data analysis courses (6 credits). The selection of these advanced methods courses in the core is based on identified interests and needs of the student in consultation with the student’s advisor. Approved methods courses are available in Psychology and also from the Graduate School of Education, the School of Criminology and Justice Studies, and the Department of Work Environment. Students can request that another identified course meets this advanced methods requirement through consultation with their advisor and approval of the Program Director.

 Required Courses (21 credits total)

  • PSYC.6400 Theories of Change in Applied Psychology
  • PSYC.6410 Fundamentals of Prevention Science

plus any two of the following content courses:

  • PSYC.5000 Introduction to Community Social Psychology
  • PSYC.5010 Applied Developmental Psychology
  • PSYC.5030 Applied Social Psychology
  • PSYC.5880 Advanced Cognition
  • PSYC.6650 Advanced Community Social Psychology
  • PSYC.6670 Advanced Applied Cognitive Psychology
  • PSYC.6690 Advanced Applied Developmental Psychology

plus three advanced methods courses:

  • PSYC.6500 Advanced Quantitative Methods (required)

and any two of the following:

Psychology Department:

  • PSYC.7010 Narrative Methods
  • PSYC.7020 Participatory Action Research

Work Environment:

  • PUBH.5770 Introduction to Biostatistics
  • PUBH.6890 Advanced Regression Modeling

Graduate School of Education:

  • EDUC.7040 Qualitative Research Methods
  • EDUC.7050 Survey Research

Criminology and Justice Studies:

  • CRIM.5900 Descriptive and Inferential Statistics
  • CRIM.7920 Survival Analysis & Longitudinal Data

Approved Electives (choose any three from among any of the above courses not taken, or from among the following for 9 credit hours) 

  • PSYC.5220 Psychology of Diversity
  • PSYC.5270 Immigrant Psychology & Communities
  • PSYC.5460 Grant Writing
  • PSYC.5710 Autism and Developmental Psychopathology
  • PSYC.5740 Community & Social Interventions in Autism
  • PSYC.6110 Program Evaluation
  • PSYC.6640 Child Maltreatment
  • PSYC.6680 Primary Care Behavioral Health
  • PSYC.6750 Seminar in Health Psychology
  • PSYC.6760 Seminar in Language Acquisition
  • PSYC.6770 Applying Cognitive Psychology to Education
  • PSYC.6780 Seminar in Metacognition
  • PSYC.6790 Psychology and Law
  • PSYC.6800 Aging and Community
  • PSYC.6810 Health Campaigns: Effects & Processes
  • PSYC.6930 Directed Study in APPS
  • PSYC.7030 Selected Topics in Applied Psychology and Prevention Science

Program of Study

Year Fall Semester Spring Semester
1 PSYC.6400 Theories of Change in Applied Psychology PSYC.6500 Advanced Quantitative Methods CAS. ACP. or ADP 5000/6000 course PSYC.6410 Fundamentals of Prevention Science Advanced Methods CourseCAS. ACP. or ADP 5000/6000 course
2 Elective
Elective
Advanced Methods Course
Comprehensive Paper 1
Elective
Optional Elective(s)*
Comprehensive Qualifying Paper 2
3 PSYC.7630 Dissertation 3/6/9/credits)**
Optional Elective(s)*
PSYC.7630 Dissertation (3/6/9 credits)**
Optional Electives(s)
Oral defense of dissertation proposal
4 PSYC.7630 Dissertation (3/6/9 credits)** PSYC.7630 Dissertation (3/6/9 credits)** Oral dissertation defense

* Optional electives supplement required courses beyond the minimum of 30 credits of course work
** 12 dissertation credits are required

 Comprehensive Qualifying Papers

In the second year of doctoral study, students will complete 2 comprehensive doctoral papers: one paper will be a literature review paper focused on a topic within one of the three core area of study (Community and Applied Social Psychology, Applied Cognitive Psychology, or Applied Developmental Psychology) and one paper will include a quantitative analysis of data.

Upon successfully passing the Comprehensive Qualifying Papers, (see below), a student can begin their dissertation research.

 Dissertation

Completion of the dissertation requires:

  1. submission of a written dissertation proposal to the student’s dissertation committee,
  2. successful oral defense of the written dissertation proposal,
  3. completion and submission of three manuscripts for publication to peer-reviewed journals, and
  4. successful oral defense of the three manuscripts.

The minimum number of dissertation credits is 12. Dissertation credits in excess of the required 12 may not be used to substitute for any of the 30 credits of required coursework.

Graduate Teaching Assistants and Graduate Research Assistants 

The APPS program has a limited number of Graduate Teaching Assistant (GTA) and Graduate Research Assistant (GRA) positions to support graduate students in the pursuit of their degrees. These positions are awarded to students based on close collaboration between the Program Director, the Dean of FAHSS, and Department Chairs. Graduate assistants work 18 hours per week and are assigned to faculty members within a department of FAHSS to assist in research, instruction, and other professional duties. GTAs and GRAs are assigned as instructors or researchers within departments that match their competencies and research interests.