A masters in applied behavior analysis is a specialized degree program for people who want to learn more about behavioral science or become board certified behavior analysts (BCBAs).
If you’re a special education teacher, a social services provider, or a mental health therapist, you could benefit from the additional training offered in a masters in applied behavior analysis online program.
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Read on to learn more about what these programs have to offer and how they can prepare you for behavior analyst certification.
Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis Programs Online
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a framework for helping people improve their lives by adjusting their behaviors. The techniques of ABA can help individuals achieve their goals and become more social, more successful, or more independent.
ABA is especially known for its effectiveness in supporting people with developmental or learning disabilities. Some ABA practitioners specialize in helping individuals with autism spectrum disorders. ABA practices can also be helpful for people with dyslexia, ADHD, and Down syndrome.
Practitioners have used behavior analysis to support people with substance abuse or mental health struggles as well. It can also make a difference for criminal offenders who are in the correctional system. People who need speech-language pathology may also benefit from ABA techniques.
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By becoming a behavior analyst, you can bring new skills and techniques into your current career. Whether your passion is education, counseling, leadership, or criminal justice, this degree program can make a difference in your work.
In an ABA program, you’ll likely study:
- Assessment techniques
- History of applied behavior analysis
- Intervention strategies
- Professional ethics
- Research methods
- Workplace supervision
ABA programs come in various forms. Some people choose standalone ABA programs. Others pursue an ABA focus for their psychology or education master’s degrees.
By selecting a concentration track, you can learn how to apply your knowledge in specific work settings. Specialization examples include autism education and organizational management. For many people studying behavior analysis, the goal is to become a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). To qualify for the certification exam, it’s essential to select a school with a curriculum that’s aligned with BCBA requirements.
To become a BCBA, it’s also necessary to complete over 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork. That experience may be built into the curriculum requirements. For an online program, you may be able to earn your hours at a site in your local area or through remote supervision.
Common Online Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis Concentrations
When you go to school for an ABA degree, you might want to specialize in a particular aspect of this field. If so, then you can look for schools that offer concentration tracks.
Here are some common applied behavior analysis concentrations:
- Abuse and Trauma. In this track, you’ll explore the effects of trauma and prepare to offer effective behavioral therapies for people who have experienced trauma.
- Autism Spectrum Disorders. This concentration can help prepare you for one of the most common applications of applied behavior analysis: education and therapies for people with autism.
- Organizational Leadership. If you want to put your ABA studies to work in business settings, then you’ll likely appreciate this concentration’s emphasis on training, supervising, and organizing workplace teams.
- Special Education. In this concentration, you’ll learn how ABA techniques can benefit people with learning and developmental disabilities.
- Speech and Language. Studying language development and alternative communication devices can prepare you to offer specialized behavioral therapy.
Not all schools offer the same concentration options, but a growing number now offer programs for becoming a behavioral therapist. You may need to check multiple programs to find the one that’s right for you.
Applied Behavior Analysis Careers & Salaries
Applied behavior analysis is relevant for many different lines of work. This degree could build on your current qualifications and professional experience.
For instance, teachers—especially special education teachers—can apply ABA principles in the classroom. Preschool and early intervention administrators can run programs for children who need behavioral support. School counselors and school psychologists may rely on ABA techniques as well.
Other counselors can use behavioral analysis principles too. That includes mental health, substance abuse, correctional, and behavior disorder counselors. Social workers and speech pathologists can also put ABA ideas into practice. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, here are some career paths related to applied behavior analysis.
|Careers||Annual Median Salaries|
|Social Scientists and Related Workers||$84,430|
|Social and Community Service Managers||$74,000|
|Special Education Teachers||$61,820|
|School and Career Counselors and Advisors||$60,510|
|Probation Officers and Correctional Treatment Specialists||$60,250|
|Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder, and Mental Health Counselors||$48,520|
|Preschool and Childcare Center Directors||$47,310|
Any of these careers could be enhanced with ABA studies, but additional training and licensure may be required as well. Having a master’s degree may also qualify you for leadership positions. Some professionals go on to direct a program or run a social service agency after achieving this level of education.
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Academic careers are another option. You may have the opportunity to work as a social scientist or a research assistant. In some settings, such as community colleges, you might qualify to teach classes on social science, psychology, education, or counseling.
Applied Behavior Analysis Master’s Curriculum & Courses
Many applied behavior analysis master programs require 30 to 35 credit hours of graduate study. Others are longer, requiring 45 or even 60 credit hours.
No matter your program length, you may complete classes similar to the ones listed below:
- Applied Behavior Analysis: This introductory class will lay the foundation for your ABA studies and help you prepare for the BCBA exam.
- Autism Spectrum Disorders: You will gain a better understanding of autism spectrum disorders, including symptoms and interventions.
- Assessments: This course will introduce you to assessment techniques used by behavior analysts.
- Behavioral Science: You’ll learn foundational information about theories and research in behavioral science.
- Curriculum Design for Behavioral Changes: This class will teach you how to create instructional materials and programs that teach people to adjust their behavior.
- Ethics and Law: You’ll explore ethical issues that can arise during ABA practice as well as survey legal requirements for working with special education students or other clients.
- Interventions: The focus of this class is on evidence-based ABA practices and how you can implement them for your own clients.
- Language and Behavior: You’ll discover ways to help people improve their language skills so that they can share information or make requests.
- Organizational Management: Your time in this course will help get you ready to be a workplace leader who puts ABA techniques into practice.
- Research and Experimental Design: A research-focused class will teach you to design, run, and evaluate studies related to behavioral analysis.
In addition to classroom teaching, fieldwork may comprise a significant portion of your program. There could be a thesis requirement as well.
How to Know If an MS in ABA Degree Is Right for Me
Deciding to get a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis is a big decision. The following guide can help you determine whether this is the degree path for you.
- Commitment to evidence-based practices. ABA students study research and experimental design so that they can implement interventions that are based on solid evidence.
- Communication skills. ABA practitioners must have strong communication skills so that they can give instructions to clients or explain the reasoning behind interventions.
- Fieldwork availability. Many programs include the need for fieldwork, and it’s an absolute requirement if you want to pursue BCBA credentials. It’s helpful to determine whether you can commit the time—often more than 1,000 hours—to gaining the necessary experience.
- Passion for helping mentality. ABA professionals are people who care deeply about helping others improve their lives and become as successful as possible.
- Related education and experience. BCBA certification can enhance many careers, but those jobs often require additional training as well. For example, to be a special education teacher, it’s also necessary to hold a state teaching license. Before beginning the ABA program, you might consider whether your credentials match your goals.
University admissions counselors can provide additional guidance about whether a school’s program is a good fit for you.
ABA Masters Admissions Requirements
To be considered for ABA graduate programs, here’s what you may be asked to submit:
- Bachelor’s degree transcripts with a minimum GPA (often 3.0)
- Personal statement about your goals for the program
- Proof of valid teaching license (for some MEd or education specialist programs)
- Resume or curriculum vitae
- GRE or GMAT test scores (not required everywhere)
Some colleges also require you to submit information about your planned practicum site when you apply.
Online ABA Programs Accreditation
As you look for ABA master’s programs, it’s strategic to stick with schools that hold regional accreditation. This distinction is given to a college as a whole—not to specific programs.
It’s a sign that an institution’s academics and operations are reliable and effective. You can count on getting a good education at a regionally accredited school. In many states, a regionally accredited education is required for licensure. If you go to a non-accredited school, your state may not recognize your applied behavior analyst training.
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Accreditation also affects how other schools view your education. Transferring credits or getting into doctoral programs may require studies at a regionally accredited college.
ABA Licensure and Certifications
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board administers the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential. To qualify for the exam, it’s necessary to complete a bachelor’s degree and an ABA-focused graduate program. Earning at least 1,500 hours of supervised work experience is another requirement.
After that, you can take the BCBA certification exam. If you pass, you’ll be certified by this national organization. Some states also require ABA practitioners to be licensed. In those states, earning your BCBA credential is typically the primary requirement, but there may be additional prerequisites as well. Keeping your BCBA status current requires continuing education and a regular recertification process.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Certification
If you want to lead teams of behavior analysts, then it’s necessary to become a credentialed board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). This is a national standard that’s administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
Here are some common steps toward achieving BCBA certification:
- Master’s degree. You can first complete a bachelor’s degree and then earn a relevant graduate degree.
- Relevant courses. It’s strategic to ensure that you’ve taken courses to cover all required material for BCBA credentialing.
- Professional experience. You can gain professional experience by completing supervised fieldwork hours during and after your graduate program.
- BCBA exam. You can gain certification once you pass the BCBA examination.
- Continuing education. It’s necessary to maintain your BCBA status through regular recertification.
Being a BCBA isn’t the same as holding licensure in your state. While not all states require licensure to practice as a behavior analyst, many do. To become licensed in your state, you’ll probably be required to submit proof of your BCBA credential to the state licensing board. There may be additional requirements as well. You can consult your state board for details.
Financial Aid and Scholarships
When you’re preparing for a masters degree in applied behavior analysis, it’s helpful to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Based on the results, you may be eligible for various forms of financial assistance. For graduate students, loan programs are the primary source of federal and state funding. Government loans usually have lower interest rates than private ones. In select cases, grants may be available as well.
You can also look into scholarships directly from your prospective college to try and reduce your tuition costs. Some private organizations grant scholarships and fellowships to graduate students too. Your employer may also help pay for you to receive ABA training.
What Is Applied Behavior Analysis?
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a science-based field that focuses on people’s behavior. One goal of this field is to gain a better understanding of why people act the way they do. Another goal is to replace undesirable behaviors with more acceptable or beneficial ones.
ABA practices can help people in many different settings, including schools, rehabilitation facilities, and mental health clinics. Through ABA, participants may become healthier, more independent, or more successful at daily tasks.
What Can I Do with a Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis?
A master’s in ABA can enhance your work in many fields. Some graduates might become counselors who offer mental and behavioral health support.
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This degree program can also build on your experience and training in other areas. For example, it can be a useful field of study for special education teachers, school counselors, and education administrators. An ABA masters degree could also benefit current and prospective correctional counselors, social workers, psychologists, and community program managers.
What Does a Behavior Analyst Do?
A behavior analyst is a professional who specializes in behavioral science. The role involves observing a person’s behaviors, determining the cause or motivation for those behaviors, and developing plans for adjusting behaviors as needed. Through interventions, behavior analysts help people overcome undesirable habits and develop positive behaviors.
Behavior analysts often work as counselors or education professionals. They may work for schools, healthcare facilities, mental health services, or community organizations. Those with BCBA status may also supervise other behavior analysts.
How Much Does a Behavior Analyst Make?
Your salary as a behavior analyst will depend on your position, your previous training, and your experience, among other factors. Taking a look at salary averages for some related jobs may help you get a better idea of what you can expect to earn.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors often earn between $30,870 and $77,980 annually. Special education teachers tend to earn between $46,180 and $100,040. Social and community service managers make between $46,550 and $118,650.
How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis Degree?
Most ABA master’s programs take 1.5 to 2 years to complete with full-time study. There may be some exceptions that can be completed in just 1 year, though, such as the accelerated online psychology degree programs that some universities offer. To finish your program quickly, you can look for online schools with year-round classes, with 36 credit hours or less, and with no thesis requirement.
Gaining field experience can be a key part of many ABA programs. To take the BCBA exam, you typically need to accrue at least 1,000 hours of supervised experience. That’s a commitment that can take many months.
What’s the Difference Between a BCBA vs. BCaBA?
A BCBA is a board certified behavior analyst. A BCaBA is a board certified assistant behavior analyst.
Some people use the BCaBA as a stepping stone, but you do not have to earn BCaBA status before becoming a BCBA.
Is a Masters in ABA Worth It?
Yes, a masters in ABA is worth it for many professionals. A graduate degree in this field is a key component in becoming a nationally recognized board certified behavior analyst (BCBA).
As a BCBA, you could use evidence-based practices to make a difference for people with learning disabilities, behavioral disorders, or other needs. A master’s degree in behavioral health can also equip you with knowledge and abilities for growing job categories. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 15% growth in positions for social and community service managers over the next ten years.
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Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors are expected to see 23% job growth over the same period.
Universities Offering Online Masters in Behavior Analysis Degree Programs
Methodology: The following school list is in alphabetical order. To be included, a college or university must be regionally accredited and offer degree programs online or in a hybrid format.
The Master of Arts in Special Education program at Arizona State University offers a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. Graduates of this program often pursue careers as behavior specialists, early interventionists, clinical directors, researchers, or consultants. Classes are housed 100% online, and each one is typically 7.5 weeks long. The program requires the completion of 30 credit hours.
Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Ball State University offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis with an emphasis in Autism. Previous graduates have had high pass rates on the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam. The program requires the completion of 30 credits and can typically be finished in less than 2 years.
Ball State is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Bay Path University offers an MS in Applied Behavior Analysis. Courses are 100% online and include synchronous class meetings.
The basic program requires the completion of 48 credits. With a few additional courses, students can earn a concentration as well. The concentration options are Autism Spectrum Disorders, Applied Verbal Behavior, Trauma-Informed Practice, and Supervision, Training, and Organization Behavior Management.
Bay Path University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Drexel University offers an MS in Applied Behavior Analysis that can be earned online and on campus. Students in the program must complete core coursework and then coursework for their chosen concentration.
They may choose one of three concentration options: Advanced Topics in ABA, Autism Spectrum Disorders, or Social, Emotional, and Behavioral Wellness. Courses options include Behavioral Interventions, Measurement and Experimental Design, and Behavioral Assessment and Functional Analysis.
Drexel University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Eastern Kentucky University offers a Master of Science in Psychology – Applied Behavior Analysis that can be earned 100% online. The program consists of 33 credit hours of coursework taken in accelerated, 8 week terms. Courses include Behavioral Research and Measurement, Ethics and Professional Conduct in ABA, Addressing Problem Behaviors, and more.
Eastern Kentucky University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
National University accepts applications year-round for its Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Analysis program. The program consists of 8 week courses taken online and is designed to be highly flexible. The curriculum emphasizes evidence-based practice and cultural competence. Students in the program are given opportunities to complete both a research project and an internship.
National University is accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission.
Pepperdine University offers a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis. The program includes a combination of online courses and in-person field work. The pass rate for the BCBA exam for previous graduates is 84%. The program uses a cohort model, and there are four start dates each year for new students.
Pepperdine is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges—Senior College and University Commission.
Purdue University offers a Master of Science in Educational Studies with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. The program requires the completion of 30 credits and is designed to prepare students for the BCBA exam. Classes can be taken online or on campus. Online classes follow the same curriculum as those on campus but are flexible and asynchronous.
Purdue University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Regis College offers a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis that can be earned online or on campus. The program requires the completion of 39 credits and takes a minimum of 20 months to complete. ABA graduate students, including online students, are given opportunities to gain experience by working at the Regis Autism Center on campus.
Regis College is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Saint Joseph’s University offers a 30 credit MS in Applied Behavior Analysis. The program is 100% online and designed to be convenient for working professionals. Students can typically finish it in 2 years. Saint Joseph’s is home to the Kinney Center for Autism Education and Support, where ABA students can apply for internships.
Saint Joseph’s University is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Simmons University offers a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis. Graduates of the program have an 83% pass rate on the BCBA exam. The degree is available both online and on campus, and students receive the same academic rigor and attention from faculty either way. The program can typically be completed in 23 months.
Simmons University is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education.
Southeast Missouri State University offers an online program for an MA in Applied Behavior Analysis. The program can typically be completed in 2 years and is designed to prepare students for the BCBA exam.
Students in the program take classes with a cohort and can begin in the summer or the fall. Coursework includes Basic Principles in Applied Behavior Analysis, Principles in Psychopharmacology, Behavioral Consultation and Management, and more.
SEMO is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
St. Cloud State University offers an MS in Applied Behavior Analysis that can be earned on campus or online. Graduate assistantships are available on campus. To graduate, students must complete a thesis and a 750 hour, supervised clinical internship. Previous graduating classes have consistently had pass rates of over 90% on the BCBA exam.
St. Cloud State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
Texas Tech University offers a Master of Education in Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. The program requires the completion of 36 credit hours, and its online courses can be taken from anywhere with a reliable internet connection. Prospective students can apply to begin in fall or spring semesters.
Texas Tech University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology offers an online program for an MS in Applied Behavior Analysis. This part-time program can typically be completed in 28 months.
Coursework includes Science and Human Behavior, Measurement and Design in Behavior Analysis, and Behavior Assessment. To graduate, students may choose to complete either a research-oriented thesis or a project demonstrating their abilities to treat clients.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission.
The University of Arizona offers an online program for a Master of Arts in Special Education: Applied Behavior Analysis. The program requires the completion of 21 credits. It includes courses such as Foundations of Special Education and Rehabilitation, Ethical Issues in Behavior Analysis, and Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Exceptional Learners.
The University of Arizona is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Cincinnati’s Master of Education in Applied Behavior Analysis can be earned online. No campus visits are required, and classes are asynchronous. Most students continue to work while completing their degrees. New students may begin in the fall, spring, or summer and can typically finish the program within 5 semesters.
The University of Cincinnati is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission.
The University of Houston—Victoria offers a Master of Education in Special Education with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis. This online program is aimed at professionals who already work in special education or related fields. Students will need to come to campus for a comprehensive exam before graduating.
The University of Houston – Victoria is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of North Texas offers a Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis that can be earned online. The program requires the completion of ten courses, for a total of 30 credit hours. All courses are available every semester, and students may take 1 to 4 courses at a time. The curriculum focuses on cultural responsiveness and evidence-based practices.
University of North Texas is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The University of South Florida offers a Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis. Coursework for the program is entirely online, but students must also complete a 1500 hour practicum to graduate. This program is intended for students who already have professional experience related to applied behavior analysis. Courses include ABA in Complex Communities, Behavior Theory, Ethics in ABA, and more.
The University of South Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
Getting Your Masters in Behavior Analysis Online
A master’s degree in behavior analysis can enhance many career paths. That includes work in mental health counseling, education, substance abuse treatment, criminal justice, and even business.
An approved graduate program can prepare you to become a credentialed BCBA who makes a lasting difference in others’ lives. You can also earn your online applied behavior analysis degree through live or asynchronous classes. Whether it’s an online masters or an online PhD in applied behavior analysis, classes are accessible for many learners, including those with full-time jobs. You may even be able to complete your fieldwork remotely.
To learn more about your opportunities for gaining a thorough education in behavior analysis, you can take a look at online ABA graduate programs from accredited universities.