Teaching Degrees with a Concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis

Degrees in education with a focus on applied behavior analysis (ABA) provide students with a foundation of knowledge in education and applied behavior analysis that prepares them to serve children, including those with disabilities, in schools and other educational settings. Students of these programs learn to focus on making meaningful changes in these settings and become highly competent practitioners that positively impact children and their families and the schools and agencies that serve them.

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Degrees in education with a focus in ABA address a wide variety of behaviors associated with identified disability categories in educational and clinical settings:

  • Intellectual development disorders
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Specific learning disabilities
  • Emotional disturbances

Degrees in Education with a Focus in Applied Behavior Analysis (MEd, MAT, EdS)

Graduate degrees in education with a concentration in ABA prepare current educators, future teachers, ABA therapists, and professionals in the field of autism who:

  • Want advanced training and education in evidence-based strategies
  • Want to earn a master’s degree in special education with a concentration in ABA
  • Want to become a certified special education teacher
  • Want to earn the BCBA® credential

Program options for graduate degrees in education include:

  • Master of Education (MEd) programs in ABA (includes MSEd and MAEd) teach practicing educators and mental health practitioners about the fundamental principles that guide the practice of behavior analysis.
  • Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) programs are generally designed for students who have a bachelor’s degree in another area of study and want to become an educator capable of creating positive learning environments for students with a broad range of exceptionalities. These programs often lead to initial teacher certification.
  • Educational Specialist (EdS) programs are designed for educators who already hold a master’s degree in an area of educational specialization and are interested in studying ABA as it relates to education.

Just a sampling of education degrees available with a concentration in ABA includes:

  • MEd Special Education: Board Certified Behavior Analyst
  • MEd Curriculum and Instruction: Applied Behavior Analyst
  • MEd in Foundations in Behavior Analysis
  • EdS Behavior Analysis
  • MAT Applied Behavior Analysis
  • MEd in Special Education with a concentration in ABA

In addition to traditional, campus-based programs, many institutions now offer educational degree programs with a focus in ABA as interactive, online programs. These programs employ a variety of resources and technologies to allow students to interact with program faculty and classmates. Practicum and fieldwork experiences are often arranged by program faculty at sites close to home to accommodate students with busy work schedules and those who do not reside near a campus-based program.

Curriculum Requirements

Most degree programs with a focus on ABA meet the curriculum requirements to pursue the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). However, not all advanced degrees in education meet these requirements.

More information on choosing a program that meets BACB requirements can be found here.

Graduate degrees in education with a concentration in applied behavior analysis consist of about two years of study and 36-40 credits, which includes major requirements, core coursework, and electives.

Core coursework often includes:

  • Research in Special Education
  • ABA in Developmental Disabilities and Autism
  • Applied behavior analysis I, II
  • Ethics for Behavioral Practice and Research
  • Behavioral Assessment
  • Methodologies for Behavior Change
  • Legal and Ethical issues
  • Frameworks for Disabilities

BCBA® coursework requirements include:

  • Principles of Behavior
  • Assess and Instruction
  • Positive Behavior Support
  • Language Development and Intervention
  • Advanced ABA
  • Ethics and Professional Conduct

Students seeking initial special education teacher certification must also complete general and special education pedagogy courses and complete a student teaching experience or approved internship.

Many programs require the completion of a master’s thesis, a research project that results in a manuscript detailing a subject of behavior analytic research. A thesis advisor guides students as they conduct research and complete a research thesis in an area of ABA.

Finally, a practicum of 750 to 1,000 hours or an independent fieldwork experience of 1,500 hours provides you with the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in real world settings. Meeting practicum requirements also satisfies the experiential requirements for BCBA® certification.

The general admission requirements for a graduate degree in education with a specialization in ABA include at least 60 undergraduate credits leading to a bachelor’s degree and:

  • A minimum GPA (usually 3.0)
  • Minimum GRE scores (usually 900, verbal and quantitative combined)
  • Curriculum vita/resume
  • Two letters of recommendation

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