Master's Program in Autism Studies

Master of Science in Autism Studies

 Admission Requirements

The Autism Studies graduate program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell is designed not only for recent college graduates, but also for students with experience in a variety of educational and work settings.

In addition to the requirements for graduate admission, requirements for the Autism Studies graduate program include these factors:

  1. A bachelor’s degree or its equivalent from an accredited college or university.
  2. A strong undergraduate academic record (a GPA of 3.0 or better is desirable).
  3. A minimum of 4 courses in psychology and one course in statistics in your undergraduate coursework. Students should have some background in the psychology of child development, and we are especially interested in students with coursework in some of the foundational areas of psychology (e.g., developmental, learning, behavior analysis, biological bases of behavior, research methods, cognitive psychology, etc.).
  4. Relevant experience and other activities outside of the classroom.
  5. At least three letters of recommendation. At least one, and preferably more than one, from recent or current instructors.
  6. A personal statement. This detailed statement should describe your background, explain your interests in our program, and tell us how you believe our program will help you meet your own career goals.
  7. International students should review additional application requirements.

These criteria may be applied or weighted differently for different students. For example, for students just receiving a bachelor's degree, greater attention will be paid to recent grades. For students out of school for some time, work background and experience will count relatively more. Please follow the procedures for application established by the Graduate Admissions Office.

 Transfer Credit

Matriculated students in Autism Studies who come to UMass Lowell with prior graduate work at other schools may request a transfer of a maximum of 12 credit hours. An assessment will be conducted to determine how courses proposed for transfer map onto our courses with respect to BACB requirements. 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. For students who have completed courses from the Behavioral Intervention in Autism Certificate Program (courses listed below) up to 18 credits of those courses may be transferred.

  • PSYC.5610
  • PSYC.5620
  • PSYC.5650
  • PSYC.5660
  • PSYC.5720
  • PSYC.5680 

 Part-time Study and Non-Degree Status

While most Autism Studies students attend UMass Lowell for full-time study, part-time students are encouraged to apply. Many courses are offered online, while on-campus courses are usually offered at late afternoon and evening hours to accommodate students who are employed. Students not pursuing an advanced degree or who wish to begin their graduate study without first applying for matriculated status are invited to register as non-degree students for specific graduate courses on a space-available basis. Such students only need to meet the first two of the admissions requirements listed above.

If a non-degree student later applies for acceptance into the master’s program, his/her application will be treated equally with those of other new applicants, though performance in graduate courses taken on campus will be used as an additional admissions criterion. Non-degree students accepted as matriculated students may apply to transfer a maximum of 6 graduate credits earned at the University of Massachusetts Lowell with a grade of "B" or better toward the master’s degree. Students who are enrolled in a UMass Lowell certificate program may be able to transfer more than 6 credits.

 Graduate Advisor

Each newly matriculated student in the program will be assigned a faculty advisor. The student will meet with his or her advisor on a regular basis to discuss course selection, planning for practicum, and the development of an optional thesis or project. Once a student selects a faculty supervisor for his or/her thesis or project, that faculty member takes over as graduate academic advisor.

 Degree Requirements

A total of 42 academic credits, is required for the completion of the degree. At least 30 of these credits must be taken at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. No more than two courses (6 credits) may have an earned grade of less than B (3.0). The 42 credits for the Master’s degree are divided as follows:

Required Courses - 27 credits
Required Supervised Practicum - 9 credits
Electives or Thesis - 6 credits

Students may select from any the approved elective courses in Psychology, almost all of which are offered once every two years. Students may also, when appropriate, request permission to take related courses from other graduate programs at UMass Lowell. In their choice of electives, students have the option of completing a Master's Thesis, which involves original empirical research.

Total must equal 42 credits.

Required Courses (27 credits total)

Foundations (9 credits)

  • PSYC.5710 Autism and Developmental Psychopathology
  • PSYC.6630 Experimental Analysis of Behavior
  • PSYC.5720 Legal and Ethical Issues in Professional Practice

Methods (6 credits)

  • PSYC.5120 Applied Research Methods
  • PSYC.5650 Measurement and Experimental Design in Behavioral Intervention

Behavioral Interventions (12 credits)

  • PSYC.5610 Introduction to Behavioral Intervention in Autism
  • PSYC.5620 Teaching and Positive Behavioral Support in Autism
  • PSYC.5660 Functional Analysis and Treatment of Challenging Behaviors
  • PSYC.5680 Behavioral Intervention Program Models in Autism

Required Supervised Practicum (9 credits total)

  • PSYC.6710 Supervised Practicum in BIA I
  • PSYC.6720 Supervised Practicum in BIA II
  • PSYC.6730 Supervised Practicum in BIA III

Electives or Thesis Option (6 credits total)

Elective Option (6 credits total; choose any two of the following):

  • PSYC.5000 Introductory to Community Social Psychology
  • PSYC.5010 Applied Developmental Psychology
  • PSYC.5040 The Family System
  • PSYC.5220 Psychology of Diversity 
  • PSYC.5450 Community and Organizational Change
  • PSYC.6110 Program Evaluation
  • PSYC.5740 Social and Community Interventions in Autism

 Thesis Option (6 credits)

  • PSYC.7440 Master’s Thesis

Thesis Requirements

To earn the 42 credits needed for the master's degree, all matriculated students in Autism Studies have the option of completing a thesis. The thesis will always be a piece of quantitative and/or qualitative research, involving a review of literature, a clear statement of a research question, the design of an appropriate method for collecting data, and the analysis of results as the basis for drawing conclusions. The thesis must:

  • be completed over the course of two semesters (usually consecutive), counting for 6 credits toward the degree,
  • involve a Thesis Committee of three faculty,
  • be written in accordance with University guidelines, and
  • be defended by the student in front of the Thesis Committee at a public meeting.

 Bachelor's to Master's Program

Undergraduate psychology majors at the University of Massachusetts Lowell who have a GPA of 3.0 or better are invited to apply to the Bachelor's-Master's program. This program allows students to begin graduate level coursework in our Autism Studies Master’s program while still pursuing their bachelor's degree. Up to 6 credits of graduate (500 level or higher) courses completed with a B grade (3.0) or better may be used by the student to count toward both the Bachelor’s and Master's degrees.

Application to the Bachelor's to Master's Program

Application is typically summit during the student's second semester of their junior year to allow adequate time for the student to take maximum advantage of the opportunity to take graduate courses and double-count these graduate credits, while still staying within the maximum of 45 psychology credits allowable for the undergraduate degree in psychology. Although it is highly recommended that students submit their application during their junior year, application materials can be submitted at any time prior to graduation. However, applications for the Bachelor's to Master's program will be reviewed along with all other applications only during the spring review cycle.Application forms and details on applying to graduate school can be accessed from the Graduate Admissions website.

As additional advantages, students applying under the Bachelor's-Master's option do not have to pay the standard application fee and do not have to take any of the standardized tests usually required of applicants. The decision to accept a Bachelor's-Master's applicant is based on three factors:

  1. A solid undergraduate record, with an overall GPA of 3.0 or better.
  2. Strong letters of recommendation: three are required, and at least two should be from psychology faculty at UMass Lowell.
  3. A statement of purpose that clearly describes the student's interest in the Autism Studies program and how it fits with the students educational and professional goals.

Additional Information from Graduate Admissions for BA/MA Students:

  1. Students admitted to the Bachelor's-Master's program are accepted on a conditional basis with the requirement that they receive their bachelor’s degree at the end of the next academic year following their acceptance and graduate with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. If students do not meet this requirement, their master’s degree candidacy will be voided and they will be required to re-apply via the traditional application process.
  2. Bachelor's-Master's students must complete their bachelor’s degree before graduate admissions can change their status to that of a fully matriculated graduate student.


Laboratory for Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Laboratory for Autism Spectrum Disorders focuses on two main avenues of research involving adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum. The first avenue seeks to further our understanding of the processing of emotional stimuli among those with ASD by examining physiological responses and memory for emotion provoking stimuli. The lab's second main research avenue focuses on evaluating various intervention programs for those with ASD. 

A number of interdisciplinary programs specifically for high functioning adolescents and young adults on the autism spectrum are run through the lab in collaboration with other faculty at UMass Lowell. These include a social skills program, a music program, a fitness program and a movie club. These programs provide a critically needed service to members of our community and their families impacted by ASD.

The Laboratory for Behavior Analysis Research

The Laboratory for Behavior Analysis Research focuses on both basic and applied research issues relevant to children with an Autism Spectrum Disorder and other developmental disabilities. The first area concerns the limited and impaired auditory learning skills often seen in children with an ASD. Research in this area investigates auditory discrimination in the autism population from both behavioral and psychophysiological (EEG) perspectives. The second area concerns how children with intellectual disabilities can acquire an understanding of symbols and their referents (stimulus equivalence). The third area concerns training for parents and paraprofessionals on the sound implementation of treatment methods for children with autism and other developmental disabilities. Research involves evaluating online distance-learning education programs that may offer a potential solution to the problem.

Laboratory for Children and Families

The Laboratory for Children and Families is located in the Department of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. The Laboratory provides a site for research on the development of infants and children in the context of their families and communities.

The Center for Research and Community Engagement

The goal of The Center for Research and Community Engagement is to promote the mental health and well being of individuals, families, and communities through education, training, and consultation. Its aim is to provide opportunities for University of Massachusetts faculty, community members, and practicing professionals to work together to integrate theory, research, and practice. The Center sponsors community-based training, professional development workshops, consultation, and research.

Center for Women and Work

The Center for Women and Work is an interdisciplinary center at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Since the Center is designed to support a wide range of projects, there are exciting opportunities for student involvement in both research and community-based action projects relevant to the theme of women and work.