We recognized Caldwell University as one of the Top 20 Best Schools Offering Applied Behavior Analyst Master’s Programs, and seperately for offering one of the 35 Best ABA Graduate Programs (Master’s and Doctorate).
We were excited to hear from Sharon A. Reeve, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA-NY, a faculty member at Caldwell University who took the time to answer a few questions about how the school works to create a great student experience that helps prepare graduates for a career in applied behavior analysis.
Caldwell University Programs:
• Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis
• M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis
• Combined B.A. in Psychology/M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis
• Post-Master in Applied Behavior Analysis
Professor/Faculty Name: Sharon A. Reeve, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA-NY
Tell us about the types of students you see come through your program. Are you seeing more non-traditional students and career changers coming from other fields?
Sharon: At Caldwell University, we usually have a handful of students each semester that are changing careers. Interestingly, we see the most change from business to applied behavior analysis. Business is actually a good background for behavior analysts to have because they will be navigating funding sources and managing budgets in any future behavior analytic position. The majority of our students, however, come directly out of undergraduate programs, typically in psychology or education.
What areas of practice are you seeing graduates going into? Do they tend to find jobs in the local school districts or more often join private practices?
Sharon: We see a mixture of both. There is a high demand for behavior analysts in school districts and they tend to pay rather well. The same is true for private schools dedicated to serving individlas with autism. Working in private practices and consulting groups, however, give our students flexible hours, which is attractive to many of them. In Caldwell’s MA in ABA, students are well prepared for all of these types of positions.
What are some of the things you love most about the ABA program at your university – the kind of things you’d like future students to know about as they consider their options?
Sharon: We built our program to provide students with rigorous and comprehensive academic and clinical training. The part of the program I love the most is our on-campus autism center. This provides the opportunity to clinically train our graduate students prior to graduation. This also allows us to teach a host of professional skills, such as promoting a positive learning environment for our students with autism, effectively working closely with others, and providing parent training, which is a crucial component of any autism program. We are also proud that we can provide scholarships to a number of students to train them in supervisory skills. This is crucial because the majority of our graduates will be in supervisory positions.
What do you feel are the most pressing issues in ABA today, and how does the program at your school prepare graduates to address these issues?
Sharon: Professional interaction and communication with colleagues and parents is one of the most important skills that our students can learn. Regardless of the position for which they are hired, our graduates will need to effectively interact with others. Most graduate students care tremendously about the learners with autism and effectively learn the clinical skills and the science behind behavior analysis. What requires substantial training, however, is teaching graduate students to not only be compassionate and kind but to work effectively with parents and other colleagues. Consistency across every member of an intervention team is critical for the success of all learners with autism. Another pressing issue is communicating with the greater community about how effective ABA can be for a multitude of societal problems beyond helping people on the autism spectrum. In our program, we conduct research with our graduate students on issues such as gun safety, abduction prevention, traffic safety, food portion control, and others. We really want to save the world with ABA!
Your university features a Combined BA in Psychology/MA in Applied Behavior Analysis program. What factors contributed to the development of this accelerated program?
Sharon: When we developed our on-campus autism center, it was the perfect opportunity for us to provide internships for our undergraduate psychology students. This gave us the idea to develop the combined program to allow our undergraduates to concurrently learn clinical and academic skills in ABA.
Approximately how semesters do students save by completing this accelerated program as opposed to a more traditional educational pathway?
Sharon: Students can count 12 credits to both their undergraduate major in psychology and graduate degree in ABA in the combined program. This saves them about a semester in their Master’s program.
What percentage of the students graduating from the MA in ABA program go on to pursue a PhD? Does housing both degrees make this transition easier?
Sharon: Up to five MA students per year apply to our PhD program. What is nice about having them as MA students first is that we can predict how successful they would be in pursuing a Ph.D. We typically invite students that demonstrate outstanding skills during the MA thesis to apply to the PhD program.
Please feel free to add anything else you would like potential students to know about your program; things that would be good for them to consider before choosing a program.
I think it is important for students to know that Caldwell University’s MA in ABA program is one of only 21 Master’s programs worldwide that are accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International’s Accreditation Board. This accreditation indicates that our program is among the best at preparing behavior analysts as professional scientist/practitioners. We also actively contribute to the future development of the field of behavior analysis. In the last 5 years alone, our MA students and faculty co-authors have published 50 research papers in peer-reviewed behavior analysis journals and have given over 100 presentations at local, national, and international conferences in behavior analysis.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.