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.
|#||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||Capella UniversityMinneapolis, MN||Private, For-Profit||$$$||1|
Capella University ‘s online master of science in applied behavior analysis provides the training necessary for developmental and behavioral professionals to help individuals with autism or other disorders to grow and mature in ways that improve their daily lives. The curriculum consists of 11 classes, such as ethics in applied behavior analysis, supervision and management in applied behavior analysis, and basic foundations in applied behavior analysis. This curriculum is specifically designed to allow graduates to obtain their Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification. For instance, the curriculum includes exercises to help students take and pass the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) exam.
Master of Science in Psychology – Applied Behavior Analysis
|AccreditationHigher Learning Commission|
|2||Saint Cloud State UniversitySaint Cloud, MN||Public||$$||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.
MS in Applied Behavior Analysis
|AccreditationABAI Accreditation Board|
|3||Western Connecticut State UniversityDanbury, CT||Public||$$$||1|
In addition to training students to learn the skills, theories, and principles of applied behavior analysis (ABA), the primary goal of Western Connecticut State University’s MS in ABA program is to allow graduates to take and pass the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Certification Examination, as administered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). In an effort to provide maximum flexibility, all coursework is delivered online. Topics covered by the ABA curriculum include behavior change procedures, advanced concepts and principles of behavior analysis, and a capstone in applied behavior analysis. However, to meet BACB certification requirements, students can expect to also complete extensive fieldwork experience.
Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis
|AccreditationNew England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE|
|4||National UniversityLa Jolla, CA||Private, Not-for-Profit||$$$||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.
Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Analysis
|5||Drexel UniversityPhiladelphia, PA||Private, Not-for-Profit||$$$$$||1|
Drexel University’s Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis Online Program is unique in several ways. Students can take advantage of the research produced by the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, which studies autism from the perspective of public health. They can also choose to focus their study in one of the following three concentrations: Practicum; Social, Emotional and Behavioral Wellness; or Autism Spectrum Disorders. Each concentration consists of between two and three courses of the student’s choosing. In addition, students will be completing coursework that has been verified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) as meeting the academic requirements for taking the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) Examination.
MS in Applied Behavior Analysis
|6||The Chicago School of Professional Psychology at Los AngelesLos Angeles, CA||Private, Not-for-Profit||$$$$$||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).
MS in Applied Behavior Analysis
|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).
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.