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Ph.D. in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science

Ph.D. in Applied Psychology & Prevention Science

POProgram 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 four core areas of study:

  1. Applied Cognitive Psychology
  2. Community and Applied Social Psychology
  3. Applied Developmental Psychology
  4. Applied Behavior Analysis

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 track 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.

The Applied Behavior Analysis core area is designed to provide interdisciplinary training within psychology and and behavior analysis. Students will be trained as both researchers and scientist-practitioners in the discovery and application of knowledge to solve problems of societal importance. Faculty research in this core area includes educational and occupational development of people on the autism spectrum and in particular members from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, applications of verbal behavior, applications of behavior analysis to instructional design in higher education, as well as staff and parent training.

Program ObjectivesPOB

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.

KnowKnowledge 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 SetSkill

  • 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.

AREQAdmission 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:

Graduate Admissions
Graduate & Professional Studies Center
839 Merrimack St., 2nd Floor
Lowell, MA 01854-5104

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

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 3.250 (on a 4.0 grading scale). For graduate work, adequate preparation is defined as an earned GPA of at least 3.750 (on a 4.0 grading scale).

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 (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. The TOEFL is 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. Statement of Purpose: The online Graduate Admissions Application claims that statements can also be mailed or emailed to “The Office of Graduate Admissions.” This statement does not apply for applicants to the APPS program; APPS applicants are expected to upload their Statement of Purpose as part of the online application. Further, the Graduate Admission page provides a general description for the Statement of Purpose that we ask APPS applicants to ignore. Instead, please refer to these instructions for your statement: This statement of purpose should be uploaded in .doc, .docx or .pdf format. Please do not upload your statement in the .txt format. Please submit a statement of purpose up to three double-spaced pages in length that describes your plans for graduate study, research experience, current and future research interests, and career goals. The statement should indicate which of the four tracks you are most interested in and why. The statement should indicate whether you intend to enroll full-time or part-time* (this information will also be provided separately on the application form). In your statement, please indicate at least one faculty member with whom you would be interested in doing research.

7. Resume: In the resume section, APPS applicants should submit a curriculum vitae rather than a resume to highlight academic and professional achievements. This section also states that resumes can be mailed or emailed to “The Office of Graduate Admissions.” This is again not an option for applicants to the APPS program; APPS applicants must upload their curriculum vitae as part of their online application. Please upload your curriculum vitae in .doc, .docx (not listed on the site, but can be done), or .pdf format. Although .txt is listed as an accepted format, APPS applicants should not use this format. Test Scores: Refer to Graduate Admissions for specific information about test requirements.

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

The online application will ask applicants to report, “What is your intended academic load?” Although part-time students may be admitted to the APPS program, we strongly encourage applicants to consider the demands of a doctoral program and the difficulty in meeting those demands with a part-time commitment before requesting admission as a part-time student.

Deadline for application is Jan. 15.

Additional Admission Requirements

Admission decisions will be made based on applicants’ potential to succeed in the program. All newly accepted students – regardless or degree prior to enrollment –  are required to have obtained a level of proficiency in psychological research prior to enrollment in APPS, as demonstrated by any one of the following: 

1. Completion of a senior honor’s thesis in psychology or related field; or

2. Completion of a master’s thesis in psychology or related field; or

3. Completion of two graduate-level research methodology courses, in psychology or related field, with a “B” or better 

Student who have not met the required research proficiency will be required to take the following courses at UMass Lowell during their first year: 

  1. PSYC.5120 Applied Research Methods 
  2. CRIM.5900 Descriptive and Inferential Statistics 

These courses may not be used to fulfill any doctoral program requirements.

Transfer CreditTrans

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.

FTPTFull-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 AdvisorGradAdvis

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 RequirementsDReq

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 CourseworkCore

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.

ReqCourRequired 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:

plus three advanced methods courses:

  • PSYC.6500 Advanced Quantitative Methods (required)

and any two of the following:

Psychology Department:

Work Environment:

Graduate School of Education:

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)AppElec

Program of Study

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

CQPComprehensive 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.


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 AssistantsGTAGRA

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.

Updated 9/12/23