San Diego Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Graduate Programs

Applied Behavior Analysis programs, or ABA programs, address the concepts and methods of behavior analysis and its applications in a variety of fields. 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 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 are also ABA programs where behavior is studied so that students can see how consumers act for market research purposes and other business applications. 

What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs explore the scientific study of learning and behavior.ABA makes use of specific types of interventions. These practices are based on theories of how people learn. They also explore how environments influence behavior and how behavior can be modified, reinforced, or transformed in a positive way.

What Is ABA Used For?

As an objective discipline, ABA degree programs often focus on the data analysis of observed behaviors. 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. This might include 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

Why Consider ABA Programs?

What Are ABA Courses?

Some Applied Behavior Analysis programs are also BCBA programs. 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 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 Applied Behavior Analysis Degrees

    Applied Behavior Analysis degrees may be offered as concentration areas within Education, Professional Counseling, or Applied Psychology programs. To figure out what type of ABA program 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 Applied Behavior Analysis

    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 may be designed as two-year programs, while part-time programs may give students up to five years to complete their degree. While program length and credits vary, some MS-ABA degree programs entail about 42 credits.

    • Requirements: Students who enroll in this type of ABA program 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, applicants may have to write a personal statement and furnish letters of reference.
    • Course of Study: In their courses, students may be exposed to theories of behavior, research, and data analysis as well as methods used to evaluate and measure observed behavior.
    • Practicum: Within their coursework, students may be required to complete a hands-on practicum of 1,500 supervised hours (may vary), along with an advanced research project.

    Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis

    Are you an educator or a counselor who seeks extra skills? A Post Masters certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis may be an option. Some graduate certificate in ABA programs are designed to be completed by full-time students in about one year. As a result, they might provide a short-term program that introduces students to basic concepts and procedures. In general, ABA certificate programs may entail about 18 to 24 courses but this will depend on whether it is a BACB- approved course of study.

    • Requirements: Students may be required to have earned a Master of Arts in ABA, Psychology or Education with a minimum GPA. In addition, they may have to furnish a sample of their written work, letters of reference and undergo an interview.
    • Course of Study: Coursework is likely to cover ethics, interventions for autism, research methods, and learning. Certificate programs with BCBA course sequences follow guidelines to help students prepare for certification exams.
    • Practicum: Students who seek to fulfill the BCBA requisites must also meet fieldwork requisites.

    PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis

    Is your mission to make a meaningful contribution to research in human behavior? PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis programs include coursework, dissertation research, and a comprehensive examination. In some universities, a full-time student may be able to complete their degree in five years, while part-time students may take about 10 years.

    • Requirements: 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.
    • Course of Study: PhD students are likely to take advanced courses in topics such as analysis of verbal behavior, professional development, and experimental analysis of behavior (EAB).
    • Practicum: Students may be expected to research, write, and defend a dissertation based on data and original thought.

    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. BCBA programs are those that make use of the standards set forth by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. To be eligible for BCBA certification, an applicant must meet one of three options.i

    1. Requires a masters or doctoral degree in behavior analysis, education or psychology from an accredited university. Also, applicants need to have completed two main parts. One is approved graduate coursework in behavior analysis. The other is a defined period of supervised practical experience to apply for the BCBA exam.
    2. Applicants must have a masters or doctoral behavior analysis degree or a related degree in education or psychology. They also need a full-time faculty position in behavior analysis that includes research and teaching. And finally, they need to have met finished their supervised practical experience to apply for the BCBA exam.
    3. The applicant has an acceptable doctoral degree that was conferred at least 10 years ago and at least 10 years’ post-doctoral practical experience to 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

    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.

    • Filter by location: Use the menu to find ABA degree programs by city, state, or country.
    • Earn an ABA degree online: Busy adult learners might look for online ABA programs.

    Take the Next Step

    Whether you seek  a graduate certificate, masters, or doctorate ABA degree, use the on-page menus to refine your search. Look through paid programs to find a counseling or psychology oriented Applied Behavior Analysis program.

    Then, easily contact the schools on your list with one click. Begin your search for ABA programs today!

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