Graduate Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Programs
Applied Behavior Analysis programs, or ABA programs, explore the use of techniques and psychological concepts to create behavioral changes. Offered at the Masters, Doctorate, and Certificate levels, most ABA degree programs cover principles of behavioral psychology and their use in education, mental health, clinical, and other human-service settings.
Applied behavior analysis graduate programs often highlight a research-based study of how behavior science can be applied to mental ailments such as autism spectrum disorders, or intellectual disabilities. There may also be ABA programs where behavior is studied so that students can see how consumers act for market research purposes and other business applications.
What Is ABA Therapy?
ABA therapy uses techniques and principles to bring about positive change in behavior. These practices are based on theories of how people learn.
Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs explore the scientific study of learning and behavior to help students prepare to provide this support.i As applied behavioral analysis is an objective discipline, programs often focus on the data analysis of observed behaviors.
They also explore how environments influence behavior and how behavior can be modified, reinforced, or transformed.
What Is Applied Behavior Analysis Used For?
The goal of Applied Behavior Analysis is to help people who have mental illness, autism, developmental disabilities, or other behavior challenges make socially significant behavior changes.
A certified behavioral analyst might create an assessment and treatment plan to help clients learn social, communication, and adaptive life skills. Certified behavioral analysts typically hold a masters behavioral analysis degree, have completed a period of supervised practical experience and passed the BCBA exam.iii
How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst
Some Applied Behavior Analysis programs are also BCBA programs. BCBA programs are those that make use of the standards set forth by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
These are designed around required (approved) core Applied Behavior Analysis courses. Content requirement includes 270 classroom hours of graduate courses that are allotted in a specific way.
ABA degree programs may therefore be formatted to touch on the following areas.v
- Ethical and Professional Conduct
- Concepts and Principles of ABA
- Research Methods in Behavior Analysis (data analysis and experimental design
- Applied Behavior Analysis (e.g. behavior change systems and intervention)
- Discretionary (e.g. autism spectrum disorders)
When surveyed about their education level, 27% of Applied Behavior Science Specialists reported they had a masters degree, 25% a doctoral degree and 40% post-doctoral training.ii
Types of Behavior Analysis Degrees
Applied Behavior Analysis programs may be offered as concentrations within Education, Professional Counseling, or Applied Psychology programs. To figure out what type of ABA degree is great for you, you might reflect on several things.
- What is your current education level and background?
- Do you seek a Behavior Therapist degree or to work towards licensure as a Psychologist?
- Are you drawn to research or practice?
Masters in Behavioral Analysis Programs
A Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program may prepare students to seek professional licensure as a behavior analyst or counselor with their state board. Full-time MS ABA degrees typically are designed as two-year programs. Part-time programs may also be available and give students up to five years to complete their ABA masters degree.
While schools vary, some applied behavior analysis masters programs entail about 42 credits. In their courses, students may be exposed to theories of behavior, research, and data analysis. They may also study the methods used to evaluate and measure observed behavior.
In addition to coursework, most BCBA masters programs include a hands-on practicum of 1,500 supervised hours (may vary). This may help fulfill certain certification requirements and allow students to apply theories learned in the classroom.
Many programs also end with an advanced research project, though graduation requirements vary.
Applying to ABA Masters Programs
To apply to a masters in behavior analysis program, students typically need to have earned a bachelors degree in Psychology, social and behavioral sciences or a closely related field from an accredited university.
In addition to school-specific requisites such as GRE scores and a minimum GPA, applicants may also have to write a personal statement and furnish letters of reference. Contact individual ABA programs to learn about their specific requirements.
PhD Behavior Analysis Programs
Those wishing to contribute to research into human behavior may wish to consider PhD Applied Behavior Analysis programs. These typically involve coursework, dissertation research, and a comprehensive examination.
PhD students are likely to take advanced courses in topics such as analysis of verbal behavior, professional development, and experimental analysis of behavior (EAB). Students may then be expected to research, write, and defend a dissertation based on their own data and original thought.
In some universities, a full-time student may be able to complete their PhD Behavior Analysis degree in five years, while part-time students may take about 10 years. This may vary based on program requirements and time spent on a dissertation. Contact schools for details.
Applying to PhD ABA Programs
In some schools, the PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis program is a post masters program. Students may need to have a masters degree in Psychology, Education, Behavior Analysis, or a related degree that is BCBA-recognized.
In addition, they might have to show current BCBA certification, provide referral letters, essays, and a resume. Requirements vary.
Graduate Certificates in Applied Behavior Analysis
For educators or counselors seeking extra skills or to explore the latest best practices, a Post Masters certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis may be a great option. ABA certificates may also be a way to finish any requirements for BCBA certification.
Some ABA graduate certificate programs are designed to be completed by full-time students in about one year. In general, they entail about 18 to 24 courses but this will depend on whether it is a BACB approved course of study.
ABA certificate programs with BCBA course sequences may follow guidelines to help students prepare for certification exams. Coursework is likely to cover ethics, interventions for autism, research methods, and learning.
Students who seek to fulfill the BCBA requisites must also meet fieldwork requisites. Contact individual behavior analysis certificate program to see if this is a part of the curriculum.
Applying to ABA Certificate Programs
Students in Certificate in Applied Behavioral Analysis programs may be required to have earned a Master of Arts in ABA, Psychology or Education with a minimum GPA. In addition, applicants may have to furnish a sample of their written work, letters of reference and undergo an interview. Speak with preferred ABA programs for specific requirements.
What Is BCBA Certification?
The Board-Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis.iii Professionals with this type of ABA certification may practice independently.
There are three ways to be eligible for BCBA certification.i
- Earn a masters or doctoral degree in behavior analysis, education or psychology from an accredited university. Applicants must also complete approved graduate coursework in behavior analysis and gain a defined period of supervised practical experience to apply for the BCBA exam.
- Earn a masters or doctoral behavior analysis degree or a related degree in education or psychology. Then hold a full-time faculty position in behavior analysis that includes research and teaching. Finally, finish supervised practical experience requirements and apply for the BCBA exam.
- Hold an acceptable doctoral degree that was conferred at least 10 years ago and have 10+ years of post-doctoral practical experience. Then apply for the BCBA exam.
What Might I Do With an ABA Degree?
Graduates with ABA degrees might pursue a variety of possible career paths, although this depends on many factors. Some of these include the type of behavioral analysis degree you have earned, your interests, and your background. Sample careers you might consider after completing your ABA program include those listed below.
- Behavior disorder counselorsv
- Licensed psychologistsi
- Special education teachersii
- Applied behavior science specialistii
Entry level education and other requirements vary.
Find Accredited ABA Programs
Applied Behavior Analysis graduate programs may be available from regionally accredited universities. This level of approval speaks to quality standards vis a vis curricula, faculty, student services, and more.
To begin your search, scan the list on this page. Or if you know you want a graduate certificate, masters, or doctorate ABA degree, use the on-page menus to refine your search.
You can also search by location or format. Don't forget some schools offer Applied Behavior Analysis programs online, which may provide added flexibility and convenience.
When you find an ABA program you like, simply follow the link to learn more and contact the school directly. Start applying today!
[i] bacb.com/about-behavior-analysis/ |[ii] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-3031.03 |[iii] bacb.com/bcba/ |[iv] bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/BACB_CourseContentAllocation.pdf |[v] bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/substance-abuse-and-behavioral-disorder-counselors.htm |[vi] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/psychologists.htm |[vii] bls.gov/ooh/education-training-and-library/special-education-teachers.htm
George Mason University
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- Weston, MAWeston, MA
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Johns Hopkins University
The Post-Baccalaureate Certificate in Applied Research for Communication provides a cutting-edge curriculum taught by expert instructors.
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Nova Southeastern University
Counseling, M.S. - Applied Behavior Analysis
The master’s degree in Counseling with an Applied Behavior Analysis concentration (51 required credit hours) is an innovative academic program designed for the working professional actively involved in or entering the field of Applied Behavior Analysis...
- Newton, MANewton, MA
William James College
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- New York City, NYNew York City, NY
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- Boston, MABoston, MA
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- Boston, MA
- Athens, GAAthens, GA
University of Georgia
The Applied Psychology Program is one of six doctoral programs within the Department of Psychology at the University of Georgia.
- Claremont, CAClaremont, CA
Claremont Graduate University
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- New York City, NYNew York City, NY
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- Manhattan, KSManhattan, KS
Kansas State University
The Human Factors/Applied Experimental Psychology Graduate Program at Kansas StateUniversity is designed to prepare students for careers as experiment...
- Erie, MIErie, MI
Prepares students to create comprehensive solutions to socially important issues that primarily result from human behavior.
- Yokohama, JapanYokohama, Japan
This department is equipped with some of the finest visual and tactile laboratory facilities in the country.
Sage Graduate School
Are you interested in working with people with autism, and making a difference in their lives with effective strategies?...
- Flushing, NYFlushing, NY
Queens College - City University Of New York
The goal of the Advanced Certificate program is to prepare people to design, deliver, and evaluate individualized behavioral interventions.
- Augusta, GAAugusta, GA
Augusta State University
The Applied Experimental Program offers an intensive education in experimental psychology geared toward students who want to work after the degree.
- Youngstown, OHYoungstown, OH
Youngstown State University