Graduate Programs

Master of Science in Autism Studies

Program Overview

Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are behavioral-neurological disorders, typically diagnosed before the age of three, that profoundly affect the young child’s ability to communicate, develop language, form social relationships, and respond appropriately to environmental stimuli. Repetitive, stereotypical, and sometimes even self-injurious behaviors are a common part of the clinical picture. Recent estimates of prevalence report rates in the U.S. as high as 1 in every 88 children. There is a critical workforce shortage of professionals capable of meeting the challenges of those afflicted with this disorder.

The core of the program consists of:

  • advanced study of the autism spectrum disorders within the context of a fuller understanding of developmental disabilities and psychopathology;
  • an in-depth understanding of how autism spectrum disorders represent major challenges for families and communities, and what is required to practice as an ethical professional;
  • graduate-level training in research methodology, reflecting what has come to be known as the "scientist-practitioner" model within Psychology and the growing emphasis on evidence-based practice; and
  • intensive coverage, through course work and field experience, of behavioral methods of intervention based on applied behavior analysis (ABA).

Graduates of this master’s program will have met all the education and training requirements that will allow them to sit for the national certification exam to become Board Certified Behavior AnalystsTM. As BCBAs, they will be able to work with schools and other agencies to design and implement effective interventions for children on the ASD spectrum and to supervise other direct service providers. They will also be able to conduct research that could lead to new and effective interventions.

Through their course work and field training, students will gain mastery of skills in several critically important areas:

  • definitions and characteristics of autism and other developmental psychopathologies
  • principles, processes, and concepts of ABA
  • methods of behavioral assessment and selection of intervention strategies
  • measurement of behavior and techniques for displaying and interpreting data
  • experimental evaluation of interventions
  • legal and ethical aspects of intervention
  • coordination of programs and services with families, schools, and the community
  • training and supervision of direct service providers.

Application and Course Information

Applications for matriculation are accepted annually for the Fall Semester. Applicants should ensure that their applications, including external materials (e.g., GRE scores, letters of recommendation, etc.), are complete and ready for review by March 1, at which time review of applications by the program’s Admissions Committee will commence. Application review will continue until all available spots are filled.  For information on applying to graduate school at UMass Lowell, please visit the UMass Lowell Graduate Catalog and Application Requirements & Submission page.  For admission requirements, application process, curriculum requirements and electives, specific to the Autism Studies program, please visit the Master of Science in Autism Studies Catalog page.

Degree Overview

The Degree Overview for the Autism Studies program provides a list of courses that will be taken during the first and second years of the program. Please refer to the Master of Science in Autism Studies Program of Study (pdf) for an overview of the courses and program sequence.  

Course Descriptions

A complete list of graduate courses, including a description of each course, may be found at Course Descriptions.

Graduate Program Coordinator: Richard W. Serna, Ph.D.
e-mail:; Phone: 978-934-4385.