15 Applied Behavior Analysis Programs for BCBAs

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The field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is pivotal in developing therapeutic strategies for individuals with autism and other developmental conditions. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are at the forefront of this field, applying evidence-based methodologies to bring about positive behavioral changes. Prospective BCBAs must complete rigorous academic and practical training to earn their certification. This blog highlights 15 great ABA programs across the U.S. to help guide students in making informed decisions for their education and career in behavior analysis.

The Different Types of Degrees

Here’s a breakdown of the different graduate degrees in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and how they generally differ:

M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Focus: Typically emphasizes a liberal arts perspective with a strong foundation in theory and qualitative research.
  • Curriculum: Includes coursework in psychology, education, and human behavior, often with a thesis option.
  • Career Outcomes: Prepares for clinical positions, consultancy, or further academic research.

M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Focus: More scientifically oriented, often with a stronger emphasis on research methods, data analysis, and quantitative skills.
  • Curriculum: Heavier focus on technical and empirical aspects of behavior analysis, including advanced statistics, experimental design, and scientific writing.
  • Career Outcomes: Geared towards roles in research settings, clinical applications, or progressing to doctoral programs.

M.S.Ed. in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Focus: Blends education and science, focusing on applying ABA principles within educational settings.
  • Curriculum: Combines educational theory and scientific research methods, often includes a thesis or research project.
  • Career Outcomes: Suitable for positions in special education, school-based interventions, or educational consultancy.

M.Ed. in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Focus: Primarily practice-oriented, focusing on applying ABA techniques in educational and clinical settings.
  • Curriculum: Focuses more on application than research, with courses in intervention strategies, behavioral assessment, and program evaluation.
  • Career Outcomes: Prepares for leadership roles in schools, clinics, or private practice, often leading to certification as a behavior analyst.

Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Focus: Highly research-focused, aiming to contribute new knowledge to the field through extensive original research.
  • Curriculum: Involves rigorous coursework in advanced research methodologies, statistics, and extensive dissertation research.
  • Career Outcomes: Typically leads to careers in academia, high-level research positions, or advanced clinical directorships.

1. Utah State University

Utah State University offers a Master of Science (M.S) in Special Education with ABA coursework. The ABA courses within this program are recognized by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) as part of a Verified Course Sequence (VCS), ensuring they meet the coursework requirements for BCBA examination eligibility. The program is designed to provide students with comprehensive clinical and research experiences, making them well-rounded candidates in their field.

2. University of North Carolina Wilmington

The UNCW Behavior Analysis Master’s program (M.S) aims to advance the field’s science and practice by providing comprehensive training across all key behavior analysis domains. The program equips students with the ability to grasp and apply behavior analysis’s core principles, conduct meaningful research, and implement behavioral change ethically and effectively. Furthermore, it emphasizes understanding behavior analysis’s philosophical foundation, enabling graduates to analyze and interpret behavioral phenomena analytically.

3. University of Texas at Austin

The University of Texas at Austin offers a Master’s program in Special Education, focusing on Autism and Developmental Disabilities. Candidates have the option to pursue either a Master of Education (M.Ed), Master of Arts (M.A)., or Ph.D. The training programs emphasize a strong academic foundation, concentrating on the education and treatment of individuals with Autism and Developmental Disabilities (A&DD). They integrate scientist-practitioner methods and focus on developing research skills, enabling graduates to contribute new knowledge on assessment and treatment practices. The curriculum emphasizes competent, ethical, and multicultural practices, preparing students to work professionally with diverse populations.

4. Vanderbilt University

Vanderbilt University’s Department of Special Education, ranked #1 by the U.S. News & World Report, offers an Applied Behavior Analysis Master of Education (M.Ed.) program. This program is tailored for licensed special education teachers who aim to practice ABA in educational settings, with a focus on integrating the best practices of ABA and special education. In this program, you will have the opportunity to apply what you learn through fieldwork in schools, clinics, and homes, as well as collaborate on research projects with esteemed faculty in special education and ABA.

5. Auburn University – Alabama

Auburn University’s Department of Psychological Sciences offers a non-thesis Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Behavior Analysis. This program includes all necessary coursework and supervised experience for BCBA eligibility and features a diverse faculty engaged in various areas of research and practice. Practical training is provided through multiple community sites in Alabama, including an on-campus ABA clinic, home-based services, public schools, an inclusive preschool, foster care systems, and a juvenile corrections facility.

6. Northern Illinois University

Northern Illinois University offers a Master of Science in Special Education (M.S.Ed.) with a specialization in Behavioral Analysis. This program is tailored for educators and professionals who wish to gain expertise in behavior analysis. It features a curriculum approved by the Association for Behavior Analysis International(ABAI), meeting all coursework requirements necessary to qualify for the BCBA examination.

7. Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University offers accredited Master of Arts (M.A.) and Ph.D. programs in behavior analysis recognized by the ABAI. These programs encompass a broad range of specialty areas, including Autism, developmental disabilities, and various behavioral research areas. Equipped with extensive research facilities, the programs provide practical experiences across clinical, educational, and organizational settings. Operating on a mentorship model, they ensure that students receive personalized guidance from faculty members throughout their graduate training.

8. Florida Institute of Technology

Florida Tech’s Master of Science (M.S) in Applied Behavior Analysis prepares students to improve the lives of individuals struggling with a range of behavioral issues, from everyday social challenges to more complex conditions like autism spectrum disorders and substance abuse. Through a blend of theoretical learning, case study discussions, and hands-on research, students develop a deep understanding of human behavior. The program offers numerous internship opportunities that provide practical experience. Students learn from faculty who themselves are making a difference in the world, be it through their meaningful research, professional services, or community activities.

9. Saint Josephs University

Saint Joseph’s University offers a fully online Master of Science (M.S) in Applied Behavior Analysis, ideal for professionals from educational or social science backgrounds aiming to become a BCBA. Approved by the ABAI, the program teaches students how to develop, implement, and evaluate quality techniques for positive behavioral change in individuals with exceptionalities. It covers foundational behavior analysis principles and their application across educational, health, and business settings.

10. University of Washington

The University of Washington’s online and on-campus Master of Education (M.Ed) in Applied Behavior Analysis is committed to developing skilled, ethical, and professional behavior analysts who specialize in serving individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. The program emphasizes a deep understanding of behavior analysis principles and equips students with current evidence-based practices. The program is anchored in five core ethical principles: beneficence, inclusion, professional excellence, self-determination, and social justice.

11. Queens College, CUNY

Queens College offers a highly regarded ABA Master of Arts (M.A) program that equips students for careers in Applied Behavior Analysis. The curriculum covers a range of topics including Statistical Methods in Psychology, Ethical Issues in Psychology, and Theory and Method in ABA, with options to specialize in autism treatment. All students must complete a fieldwork project in ABA, and they have the choice to undertake a thesis or pass a comprehensive exam as part of their graduation requirements.

12. Westfield State University

The applied behavior analysis degree at Westfield State is a BACB-approved Master of Arts (M.A.) program designed to prepare you for work as a BCBA. The curriculum spans applied, experimental, and philosophical behavior analysis, providing a solid professional foundation. Students engage in hands-on experiences in settings such as schools and homes, supervised by experts. You can also specialize in the area of behavioral gerontology, helping clients who struggle with conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, setting the stage for a fulfilling career in behavior analysis.

13.Cappella University

Capella University offers a Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Behavior Analysis. This program can be completed entirely online. The following three specializations are available: Autism Spectrum Disorder, Behavior Analysis in Education, and Organizational Behavior Management. The program prepares students for the BCBA exam with a robust curriculum and built-in exam preparation software. It focuses on developing essential skills for addressing significant behavioral and learning challenges, preparing graduates to make a meaningful impact in the field.

14. University of Cincinnati

The University of Cincinnati offers an online Master of Education (M.Ed) in Applied Behavior Analysis that prepares students to improve lives by focusing on the principles of human behavior and helping to build positive social skills while improving the lives of individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder, learning disabilities, and more. The program provides a foundation in applied behavior analysis, education, and psychology for use in education, agency, and other settings.

15. Pepperdine University

Pepperdine University offers an online Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Behavior Analysis for students who want to become BCBAs. The online program incorporates synchronous and asynchronous coursework. Students learn the skills necessary to work with individuals from diverse backgrounds in a variety of settings, including education, developmental disabilities, autism, residential support, and rehabilitation. They also learn how ABA can be used for organizational behavior management (OBM).

Choosing The Right Program

Choosing the right Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program is essential for those aiming to excel as behavior analysts. The programs highlighted here stand out due to their quality, comprehensive training, and excellent preparation for certification exams. With a blend of rigorous academics and practical experiences, they ensure graduates are well-prepared to apply their skills across various professional settings. These programs are ideal for anyone committed to making a meaningful impact in the field of behavior analysis.

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