Ph.D. Program Description

The Ph.D. program is fully accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of the American Psychological Association.* The program is also approved by the National Association of School Psychologists. Please note that the Ph.D. ABA emphasis option provides coursework above and beyond the general Ph.D. curriculum, and that program goals and objectives described below are targeted regardless of option chosen. The ABA emphasis provides supplemental training primarily related to Goals 3 and 4.

According to the American Psychological Association’s (APA) Archival Description of School Psychology, school psychology is the science and practice of psychology with children, youth, and families, learners of all ages, and the schooling process. School psychologists are prepared to “provide a range of psychological diagnosis, assessment, intervention, prevention, health promotion, and program development and evaluation services with a special focus on the developmental processes of children and youth within the context of schools, families and other systems” (APA, 2005).

As such, the aim of the doctoral program is to develop professionals who are able to apply psychological and educational principles to improve the psychosocial environments of children (ages birth-21) and their families. Attention is directed toward the development of skills in the assessment of the intellectual, emotional, and social development of children; planning and implementing direct academic and social/emotional interventions with a focus on evidence-based and culturally sensitive practice; and providing individual and systems consultation within schools and the larger community. Foundational aspects of psychological practice, including human learning, development, relevant law, ethical principles and professional practice provide a basis upon which skills in assessment and intervention are built.

Applied Behavior Analysis Emphasis option: Students may choose to complete the general Ph.D. program or a Ph.D. with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis. The optional ABA emphasis integrates a Behavior Analyst Certification Board® (BACB) approved course sequence. Those who complete this emphasis will fulfill the coursework requirements to take the examination for certification as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA).®

The program’s training philosophy is based on the scientist-practitioner, or Boulder model. The program places equal emphasis on science and practice components, training students to be consumers and producers of psychological research, and to apply such research to the practice of psychology. The faculty believe strongly in the importance of science informing practice and vice versa. As such, we stress the importance of an evidence base for psychological practices, as well as measurement of outcomes in all aspects of practice.

The school psychology program guides students through a sequential and cumulative curriculum that pairs didactic content with experiential activities from the outset, with students gradually assuming more responsibility as their training progresses, culminating in a pre-doctoral internship and independent dissertation research. Throughout the program, the research-practice connection is stressed through a focus on evidence-based problem solving and the provision of exposure to and practice with a variety of empirical methods.

Because of the program's unique setting in the College of Education and Behavioral Studies, students have the opportunity to work closely with Counseling Psychology, Counselor Education and Supervision, Psychology, Educational Psychology and Special Education faculty. The University of Northern Colorado is the primary training institution for educators in Colorado, and thus houses numerous educational support facilities as well as faculty with a variety of skills.

*Questions related to the program’s accredited status should be directed to:
Commission on Accreditation
Office of Program Consultation and Accreditation
American Psychological Association
750 1st Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Phone: (202) 336-5979
E-mail:, Web: