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.

Last Updated: 08/25/2020
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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 2020 rankings.

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About the ranking

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Methodology for EduMed’s 2020 Rankings

To be considered for this ranking, each school must have the following:

  • Institutional accreditation from an organization recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Program(s) offered at least partially online.

School Metrics Explained

EduMed.org data scientists analyzed government higher education data and created a proprietary algorithm to rank each U.S. postsecondary institution and its online programs using 5 primary factors:

  • Cost: Relative cost of attendance compared to peer schools on the list. Based on tuition and fees per academic year.
  • Online Program Availability: Number of online programs in subject area reported by school to Department of Education.
  • Academic Counseling: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Career Placement: Existence of this service on campus or online.
  • Students w/ Institutional Aid: Percentage of students who receive financial aid from the school itself.

About Our Data

EduMed’s rankings use the latest official data available from The Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS).

Most recent data pull: February 2020

#School NameTypeCostOnline ProgramsMore DetailsSchool InformationOnline StudentsAcademic CounselingCareer PlacementStudents w/Institutional AidMedian Earnings 10yrs After EntryAccreditation
1Capella UniversityMinneapolis, MNPrivate, For-Profit$$$1

Capella University ‘s online master of science in applied behavior analysis provides the training necessary for developmental and behavioral professionals to help individuals with autism or other disorders to grow and mature in ways that improve their daily lives. The curriculum consists of 11 classes, such as ethics in applied behavior analysis, supervision and management in applied behavior analysis, and basic foundations in applied behavior analysis. This curriculum is specifically designed to allow graduates to obtain their Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification. For instance, the curriculum includes exercises to help students take and pass the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) exam.

Program Overview:

Master of Science in Psychology – Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Credits: 60 quarter credits
  • Length: 10-30 months
  • Cost: $495/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
50%
AccreditationHigher Learning Commission
2Saint Cloud State UniversitySaint Cloud, MNPublic$$1

Students looking for the highest level of recognition and flexibility in an applied behavioral analysis (ABA) degree can consider Saint Cloud State University’s Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program. Saint Cloud State University is one of the few online ABA graduate-level programs accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Students can choose from two program pathways; they can take the thesis option, which consists of 45 credits, or they can take the comprehensive exam option and complete their degree in 46 credits. Regardless which option a student chooses, they will also have to complete a 750 hour clinical internship.

Program Overview:

MS in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Credits: 45-46
  • Length: Less than two years
  • Cost: $8,570/year (resident); $12,444/year (non-resident)
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: HLC (school); ABAI (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
36%
AccreditationABAI Accreditation Board
3Western Connecticut State UniversityDanbury, CTPublic$$$1

In addition to training students to learn the skills, theories, and principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), the primary goal of Western Connecticut State University’s MS in ABA program is to allow graduates to take and pass the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Certification Examination, as administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). In an effort to provide maximum flexibility, all coursework is delivered online. Topics covered by the ABA curriculum include behavior change procedures, advanced concepts and principles of behavior analysis, and a capstone in applied behavior analysis. However, to meet BACB certification requirements, students can expect to also complete extensive fieldwork experience.

Program Overview:

Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Credits: 30
  • Length: Approximately two years
  • Cost: $616/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: NECHE (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
57%
AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE
4National UniversityLa Jolla, CAPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$1

National University is the largest nonprofit private university in San Diego and offers numerous programs, including the Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). The curriculum is specifically designed to help students pass the BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) examination offered through the BACB (Behavior Analyst Certification Board). By completing this program, students will meet all academic requirements for taking the examination. Besides helping obtain professional credentials, the curriculum will also prepare students to apply ABA concepts in an academic, clinical, and community setting to help individuals tackle developmental or behavioral challenges and reduce unwanted conduct.

Program Overview:

Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Analysis

  • Credits: 45 quarter credits
  • Length: Approximately one year
  • Cost: $442-$760/credit (cost depends on course level)
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: WSCUC (school) and NCATE (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
4%
AccreditationWSCUC, NCATE
5Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PAPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$$1

Drexel University’s Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis Online Program is unique in several ways. Students can take advantage of the research produced by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, which studies autism from the perspective of public health. They can also choose to focus their study in one of the following three concentrations: Practicum; Social, Emotional and Behavioral Wellness; or Autism Spectrum Disorders. Each concentration consists of between two and three courses of the student’s choosing. In addition, students will be completing coursework that has been verified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) as meeting the academic requirements for taking the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Examination.

Program Overview:

MS in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Credits: 46.5-48 quarter credits
  • Length: Approximately one year
  • Cost: $978/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: MSCHE (school)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
Yes
Students w/
Institutional Aid
98%
AccreditationBACB
6The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los AngelesLos Angeles, CAPrivate, Not-for-Profit$$$$$1

With the growing number of individuals diagnosed with autism, there is a strong need for professionals trained in applied behavior analysis, or ABA. To help meet this demand, the Chicago School of Professional Psychology in Los Angeles offers prospective graduate students the option to enroll in its Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program. This program allows students to attend full-time and finish their degree in two years or take three years to complete the curriculum as part-time students. The curriculum is also carefully arranged so that students will be eligible to earn their Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential that’s offered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Program Overview:

MS in Applied Behavior Analysis

  • Credits: 49
  • Length: Two or three years
  • Cost: $1,198/credit
  • Mode: Fully online
  • Accreditation: WSCUC (school) and ABAI (program)
Academic
Counseling
Yes
Career
Placement
No
Students w/
Institutional Aid
0%
AccreditationWSCUC and Association for Behavior Analysis International

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.

CareerMedian SalaryLowest 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.