Earning Your Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis Online (ABA)

Explore top accredited online programs that prepare you for BCBA certification and get answers to your most pressing questions.

Search hundreds of schools
for the degree you want ......

I want my
In

Written By
Edumed Staff

last updated

Last Updated: 09/21/2021
——

Best Online ABA Master’s Programs for BCBA Certification

Pursuing a master’s in applied behavior analysis online can be an exciting next step in your education and career. Before diving headfirst into a program, however, it’s important to do your research and feel confident in your decision about which school to attend. We’ve analyzed and vetted the top online applied behavior analysis (ABA) master’s programs in the U.S. to ensure you find a school that meets your needs. Each of the programs listed below has coursework that has been verified by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). This ensures the curriculum meets the strict standards needed for you to become eligible for the Board Certified Behavior Analysis (BCBA) exam. See which online ABA master’s programs stood above the rest in our 2021 rankings.

or
About the ranking

X

Methodology for EduMed’s 2021 Best Online Programs

1. Create List of Eligible Schools and Programs

To be eligible for this ranking, schools were required to meet the following criteria based on government data provided by The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • At least one program in subject area offered partially or fully online.

2. Assign Weightings

After creating the list of eligible schools, EduMed data scientists assigned weights and ranked schools based on a mix of affordability, support services, and online program availability metrics. Online program availability and overall affordability metrics received the heaviest weightings.

Online Program Availability

  • Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to the U.S. Department of Education.

Affordability

  • Cost – Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid – Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

Support Services

  • Academic Counseling – Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement – Existence of this service on campus or online.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS). Most recent data pull: July 2021

# School Name Type Cost Online Programs More Details School Information Online Students Academic Counseling Career Placement Students w/Institutional Aid Median Earnings 10yrs After Entry Accreditation
1 Arizona State University-OnlineTempe, AZ Public $$$ 1

While ASU’s Master of Arts in Special Education – Applied Behavior Analysis degree does provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to work with kids and others in special education, it also prepares them for ABA careers in both education and non-education practice settings. The 10-course curriculum combines online asynchronous coursework with occasional online student group discussions at specific times. Some courses also require access to a classroom, after-school program, or similar setting to apply concepts learned. The program concludes with an applied project, capstone project, or electronic portfolio. Coursework in this program is verified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to prepare graduates to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam. However, the program does not include the 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork required for BCBA certification that must be completed independently of the degree program.

Program Highlights:

Master of Arts in Special Education – Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: Varies depending on study pace
  • Cost: $5,648/semester (based on nine credits per semester)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
86%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
2 University of South Florida-Main CampusTampa, FL Public $$ 1

The University of South Florida’s Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis is designed for current ABA professionals seeking to advance their careers into leadership positions. The five-semester cohort curriculum, which is completely online, includes the coursework needed for BCBA exam eligibility. Unlike many online ABA master’s and graduate certificate programs, USF’s incorporates the 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork required for BCBA eligibility. Fieldwork can be completed with supervisors at practice sites throughout the United States, and students complete some fieldwork hours as part of the program’s Practicum Seminar attended once per week. Cohorts begin each fall and spring semester. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree with a 3.0 or higher cumulative GPA on all upper-division coursework and a background in the ABA field. GRE test scores are also required.

Program Highlights:

Master of Arts in Applied Behavioral Analysis

  • Credits: 41
  • Length: 1 ½ years (five semesters)
  • Cost: $600/credit
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: (SACSCOC) (school); ABAI (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
62%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
3 University of North TexasDenton, TX Public $$ 1

Study convenience and flexibility are notable features of the Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis degree offered by UNT Online. The 10-course program allows students to take as few as one and as many as four courses each semester, and all coursework is 100% online in an asynchronous format. The program fulfills the didactic coursework requirements for BCBA exam eligibility. However, students seeking BCBA certification must also obtain 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork, which students must acquire separately from the program. Admission requirements for UNT’s MA in Applied Behavior Analysis include a bachelor’s from an accredited college or university with a minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA or minimum 3.25 GPA in the last two years of their bachelors. GRE scores are not required. Admission into the program is competitive and meeting all application requirements does not guarantee acceptance.

Program Highlights:

Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: Varies depending on individual study pace
  • Cost: $13,900/program (including fees, in-state); $384 to $567/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school); ABAI (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
50%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
4 Florida Atlantic UniversityBoca Raton, FL Public $$ 1

Individuals interested in ABA leadership roles in education should consider Florida Atlantic University’s MEd in Exceptional School Education degree with Applied Behavior Analysis concentration. The program consists of 21 credits of core education/special education courses and 21 credits of ABA concentration courses and is offered in a hybrid format with a combination of online, traditional on-campus, distance, and fast-track delivery methods. The ABA concentration includes the coursework required for BCBA exam eligibility. It does not include the fieldwork hours needed for BCBA certification, which students must pursue outside the degree program. This degree also does not lead to initial teacher certification. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree in special education with minimum 3.0 cumulative GPA on the last 60 hours of coursework and acceptable scores on either the GRE or MAT test. Students with a bachelor's in another major can opt for the MEd degree with the Instructional Practices in ESE concentration and add the ABA certification courses to their programs.

Program Highlights:

  • MEd in Exceptional Student Education with ABA Concentration
  • Credits: 42
  • Length: Varies
  • Cost: $371.82/credit (in-state); $1,026.81/credit (out-of-state)
  • Mode: Partially online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
59%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
5 Texas A & M University-College StationCollege Station, TX Public $$ 1

The online Master of Education in Special Education degree from Texas A&M incorporates all the necessary didactic coursework for eligibility to sit for the BCBA examination. It does not, however, include the 1,500-hour fieldwork experience requirement for BCBA certification, which must be completed independent of the program. The MEd program consists of 36 credit hours designed to be completed with two years of full-time study. Students progress through the curriculum as a cohort and complete courses in a specific sequence of two courses per semester for six semesters. New cohorts begin annually with the summer semester. All coursework is presented in a synchronous format requiring students to log on and attend classes in the evenings, typically at 5:30 pm. Admission is competitive. Strong candidates are those with significant experience working with persons with disabilities and with linguistically and culturally diverse groups and experience or interest in the behavior analysis field.

Program Highlights:

MEd in Special Education

  • Credits: 36
  • Length: Two years
  • Cost: $18,362.04/program (including fees, in-state); $37,424.40/program (including fees, out-of-state)
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: SACSCOC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
48%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
6 University of ArizonaTucson, AZ Public $$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
83%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
7 Southeast Missouri State UniversityCape Girardeau, MO Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
78%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
8 Purdue University-Main CampusWest Lafayette, IN Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
43%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
9 George Mason UniversityFairfax, VA Public $$$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
28%
AccreditationSouthern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
10 Ball State UniversityMuncie, IN Public $$ 1 Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
51%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission

Grad School Profiles: Inside Look at Online Master’s ABA Programs

Looking for more quality online applied behavior analysis programs to add to your shortlist? Consider the following two universities, each of which have coursework that has been approved by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI).

Montana State University

Montana

Based in Billings, Montana State University (MSU) provides an online M.S. in Special Education Advanced Studies with an emphasis in Applied Behavior Analysis. MSU is only the 21st school to receive ABAI accreditation, and graduates enjoy impressive employment and promotion rates.

The curriculum was designed to prepare learners for the BCBA examination and covers topics such as learning and the experimental analysis of behavior, education and human services ethics, and assessment and program planning for special education. As they near graduation, degree seekers can choose to complete either an internship or a thesis, depending on professional and/or academic goals.

Applicants must supply official transcripts demonstrating an undergraduate GPA of 3.0 or above, GRE scores, fingerprints, a statement of purpose, letters of recommendation, and a completed application with a nonrefundable $40 fee. Graduates hold titles such as behavior consultant, forensic behavior analyst, and special education teacher.

University of Washington

Washington

The College of Education at the University of Washington (UW) offers a fully online master’s in applied behavior analysis, consisting of 35 credits. Unlike other distance learning programs, UW’s degree is taught on a synchronous basis, with classes starting at 5:00 p.m. PST each day to accommodate the schedules of working teachers. New students can start the program each fall.

Topics covered include measurement and assessment in applied behavior analysis, designing comprehensive behavioral interventions, and methods of applied behavior analysis research. While a supervised practicum is not required, a few limited opportunities exist.

Applicants should possess at least six months of direct experience in applied behavior analysis, but the department does not set specific requirements around undergraduate degrees. Other application components include a statement of purpose, official transcripts, GRE scores, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and TOEFL scores for international learners. For the 2019-2020 academic year, students can expect to pay $589 per credit.

Why Accreditation Matters for Online ABA Master’s Programs

Finding an accredited online ABA master’s program is of critical importance as it can dictate whether you’re able to transfer credits to a different school, apply for BCBA certification, and compete against other job candidates for roles. Within the world of applied behavior analysis accreditation, the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) is the name to know.

ABAI uses two methods to approve programs, including direct program accreditation and verified course sequences (VCS). Both methods provide paths to take the BCBA exam and receive certification, but key differences exist. The direct accreditation path is the most traditional option and provides a rigorous review of the program as a whole. The VCS option looks solely at the curriculum. If selecting a VCS school, it’s important to make sure it also maintains regional institutional accreditation.

If you aren’t interested in becoming a BCBA, institutional accreditation may be sufficient. To check the programmatic accreditation of a school, be sure to review the ABAI website. If you’re looking for details on institutional accreditation, review the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Accreditation-for-ABA-Masters
Accreditation-for-ABA-Masters

FAQs About Getting Your Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis Online

When researching prospective online master’s in applied behavior analysis programs, it’s important to consider a few critical factors that can affect your overall experience. These variables can differ by student, but they typically include plan of study, cost of attendance, career prospects, and rates of graduation. Here are key questions you need to answer first.

What do you learn in an online master’s ABA program?

Online applied behavior analysis master’s degrees provide knowledge and skills that translate to multiple career paths. Plans of study emphasize the importance of open communication, empathy, perception, awareness, and interpersonal dynamics. Regardless of whether you want to support children with autism or conduct market research studies, these skills will come in handy.

When looking at prospective programs, pay close attention to the type of degree offered. While M.Ed. degrees focus on education-based roles, M.A. programs focus on the development of skills used in professional roles. The M.S., conversely, is routinely pursued by those who want to conduct ABA research and/or eventually teach the subject. Though these degree programs differ in their outcomes, a list of common courses are provided below.

Common Courses

Principles of Applied Behavior Analysis

Usually taken in the first semester, this overview course lays the groundwork for advanced studies. Online students will build their vocabulary while developing an understanding of how ABA principles can be applied to a variety of cases.

Foundations of Applied Behavioral Analysis

Students in this class learn about the foundations of the discipline, with specific emphasis on how viewpoints about behavior analysis have evolved and shifted over time. They also consider questions around the future of this field by reviewing emerging trends and research findings.

Behavioral Analytic Assessments

This diagnostic course helps you build your toolbox of assessment services to help determine whether an individual can benefit from behavioral analysis. Specific topics include identifying problematic behavior, conducting assessments, identifying environmental variables, and setting behavioral change goals.

Applied Behavioral Analysis Ethics

In line with BCBA guidelines for responsible conduct, this class takes a look at common ethical issues/dilemmas and how to handle them correctly. Students learn more about their professional roles and responsibilities as behavioral analysts and how to ensure optimum care for each client.

Research and Design Methods

Designed with the applied behavioral analysis academic in mind, this course teaches students how to design and oversee scientific studies within the discipline. Plan to learn about laboratory ethics and procedures, design methodologies, data collection, peer review, and project development.

How long does it take to get a master’s in ABA online?

The time spent working toward an online master’s in applied behavior analysis can vary based on several factors. Full-time learners usually need two years of study to graduate, while those enrolled on a part-time basis may need three or four years. If you’re hoping to complete your degree before the typical two years, some universities offer accelerated programs that make it possible to graduate in as few as 18 months. In addition, students may be able to transfer existing graduate-level credits that cut down their time in school. If time spent enrolled is a big factor for you, be sure to speak to a program administrator to learn more about your specific situation.

How much does an online ABA master’s degree cost?

The cost of an online master’s in applied behavior analysis depends wholly on several important factors. The type of school can have the biggest impact, as public universities receiving governmental funding typically cost less than private institutions—especially if you qualify for in-state tuition. Other influences include how long it takes you to complete the degree and how much funding you manage to secure. To give you a better idea of what to expect for tuition, we provided costs for three different programs below.

West-Florida

Master’s in Applied
Behavior Analysis

Total Credits: 30

$378/credit (in-state);
$1,037/credit (out-of-state)

Texas

M.Ed./M.S. in Special Education with a Concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis

Total Credits: 36

$974/credit (in-state);
$1,475/credit (out-of-state)

Drexel

M.S. in Applied
Behavior Analysis

Total Credits: 45

$977/credit

Where to Get Help Paying for Your Online ABA Master’s Degree

The price of higher education continues to rise each year, creating a need for cost-conscious students to find ways of lessening their financial burden. While it may require some legwork to find funding, taking advantage of scholarships, fellowships, and other awards can help you avoid substantial debt. A few options to consider include the following:

Scholarships

Scholarships are a popular funding option given they do not require repayment, so long as you meet the terms of the award. Colleges, professional associations, nonprofits, private foundations, and organizations typically offer this type of funding for students who qualify. You can learn more by visiting our scholarship page.

Financial Aid

Filling out the U.S. Department of Education’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) can help you qualify for federal grants, work-study opportunities, and loan forgiveness programs. You must apply each year of enrollment, however, to receive consideration. Want to learn more? Check out our financial aid page.

Fellowships

Some schools offer teaching and/or research fellowship to help offset educational costs. In exchange for providing part-time professional services to faculty members, learners can receive tuition remission and potentially a stipend. These tend to be competitive, so be sure to apply early.

Student Loans

Aside from the above-mentioned types of funding, the U.S. Department of Education also offers secured student loans to help bridge the gap between funding received and the cost of tuition. Loans available to graduate students include Direct Unsubsidized Loans and Direct PLUS Loans.

Internships

While not always guaranteed, many applied behavior analysis internships provide hourly pay that can help you cover both tuition and living costs while enrolled. If finding a paid internship is important, begin looking for suitable options early as these opportunities tend to get filled quickly.

Career Options and BCBA Certification After Your ABA Master’s

Before diving into any online master’s in applied behavior analysis, you need to fully understand whether the industry is slated to grow, decline, or stagnate. You also need to ensure it qualifies you to take on the types of roles that offer a livable salary for yourself and any dependents. We take a deeper dive into average wages and common careers in the following sections.

What can you do with a master’s in applied behavior analysis?

Completing an online ABA master’s qualifies you for numerous roles focused on helping others live their best lives. The most common path is to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst and work with individuals who have been diagnosed with autism or other behavioral/developmental disabilities. BCBAs spend their days assessing current behavioral needs, instilling new behaviors, and working with the overall goal of helping clients live healthier, more independent lives. Specific responsibilities include setting treatment objectives, using evidence-based therapies, creating progress reports, and updating objectives to reflect current client needs.

ABA-What
ABA-What

While many graduates choose to work with individuals diagnosed with autism or other behavioral disorders, skills learned in this degree also translate to other positions. One benefit of this career path is that ABA grads have the luxury of finding jobs that cater specifically to children, elderly, individuals, or group settings. Regardless of your interests, the most important thing is to take your time to find a job that speaks to your long-term interests. The chart below highlights a few roles to consider with this degree.

ABA-Analysis
ABA-Analysis

How much can you earn with a master’s in ABA?

As demonstrated in the following table, graduates of applied behavior analysis master’s degrees can earn substantial salaries. When looking at these numbers, however, remember that several variables can affect the bottom line. The most impactful of these include where you live, the industry in which you work, the level of education you possess, how much experience you’ve gained, and whether or not you maintain certification.

Career Median Salary Lowest 10% Highest 10%
Board Certified Behavior Analysts* $59,711 $43,000 $76,000
Behavioral Disorder Counselors ** $44,630 $28,410 $72,990
Special Education Teachers ** $59,780 $39,680 $97,070

* Payscale.com as of Nov 29, 2019; Based on 2,055 individuals reporting

** BLS.gov as of May 2018; behavioral disorder counselor data reflects earnings for substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors

How do I get my Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification?

The Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification is provided by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. When applying for this credential, you can choose from four different paths to qualify, including completion of coursework, faculty teaching/research, postdoctoral experience, or qualification via past certification. Eligibility requirements and pathway options are changing slightly for candidates who apply after January 1, 2022.

The process for receiving certification consists of these elements:

  • Meeting eligibility requirements, including graduating with an approved graduate degree and completing supervised experience for most candidates.
  • Completing an application.
  • Submitting supplementary documents.
  • Waiting for a determination email.
  • Passing the BCBA examination, which consists of 160 multiple-choice questions and takes four hours to complete.

Are there any other professional certifications I should consider?

While not required, some behavior analysts opt to pursue a Certified Autism Specialist qualification to help stand out during the job hunt. Offered via the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards, this certification requires a master’s degree, two years of experience, 14 continuing education hours, and passage of an exam.

Continuing Education & Related Degrees

After reviewing this page, you may decide you want to pursue education beyond a master’s in applied behavior analysis by enrolling in a doctoral program or that you want to add another graduate-level degree to your list of accomplishments. Check out the next two sections to gain additional details on both.

Continuing Education

Online PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis

Individuals who pursue a Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis typically want to work in an academic and/or research setting. These programs prepare you for such roles by building skills in research and writing alongside a deepened and nuanced understanding of the discipline. The ABAI offers credentials at this level in the form of the BCBA-D certification.

Online Doctorate in Occupational Therapy

While behavior analysts work to improve everyday behaviors of their clients, occupational therapists work to improve an individual’s ability to perform everyday activities. An online OT doctorate can build upon existing knowledge in behavioral analysis to create a well-rounded practitioner.

Related Degrees Programs

Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis

These programs typically appeal to students who already hold a master’s degree in a related subject but want to build specific knowledge and skills around applied behavior analysis. They usually require approximately 18 credits and take 9-12 months to complete.

Master’s in Occupational Therapy

A master’s in occupational therapy is a great fit if you want to help clients better carry out activities that became difficult due to illness or injury. This degree offers a wide-ranging curriculum and usually takes two to three years to complete.