George Mason University Interview

We recognized George Mason University among The 62 Best Schools with Online ABA Master’s and Certificate Programs, adding them to our list of top recommendations for ABA graduate students.

We were excited to hear from Theodore A. Hoch, Ed.D., B.C.B.A.-D., L.B.A., a faculty member at George Mason 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.

George Mason University ABA Programs:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate (BCBA Verified Course Sequence)
  • MEd in Special Education with ABA Graduate Certificate

Professor/Faculty Name:      Theodore A. Hoch, Ed.D., B.C.B.A.-D., L.B.A.

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?

Theodore:  Our students are a pretty diverse group. They range in age from recent college graduates in their early 20s to career-changers or retirees in their 50s and 60s. Many have degrees in education, special education, psychology, or related fields. A number of licensed clinical psychologists, speech and language pathologists, physicians, and even attorneys have completed our program. Many are also teachers and other personnel employed by school districts.

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?

Theodore:  Our graduates have made careers in a variety of places. Many work in behavior analysis practices or start their own practices. Some have gone to work in pediatric groups. Many become or remain employed as teachers, behavior specialists, administrators, or others in school districts. A number work with veterans and active duty military personnel promoting health, well-being, and resilience. Some have secured faculty positions at other universities. Several have started their own schools. Others have gone on to find positions in organizational behavior management firms. Still others are involved in providing education, training, and behavior analysis services in countries in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, Scandinavia, and Central America.

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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?

Theodore:  The faculty in our program come from a variety of backgrounds, to include education, experimental analysis of behavior, medicine, psychotherapy, pediatrics, speech and language pathology, and other areas. All are practicing behavior analysts, serving clients, teaching, training others to become behavior analysts, and keeping their skills sharp. All are actively involved in professional organizations such as ABAI, VABA, WIBA, APBA, and others. Our faculty have connections to many resources around the DC Metro region, around the US, and even internationally, and are able to connect students with others who can provide additional training and experience to further the students’ careers.

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?

Theodore: Applied Behavior Analysis as a service is growing exponentially, and it is essential that this service remain grounded in the philosophic roots of radical behaviorism, true to the basic science o the experimental analysis of behavior, and consistent with all of the facets of the applied science of Applied Behavior Analysis. To this end, our curriculum includes reading and work by seminal authors such as B.F. Skinner, Murray Sidman, Aubrey Daniels, and others; and exposure to behavior analysis applied to all areas of human endeavor, across the lifespan. Our students learn about behavior analysis applied to education, business and industry, management, sport, medicine, crime and corrections, and many other areas. We do not limit our training to any one specific population, and we do not simply prepare students to pass the certification exam. We train our students to competently practice Applied Behavior Analysis with a well articulated grounding in a particular science and philosophy.

Undergraduate students can begin their graduate ABA coursework by enrolling in the Accelerated Master’s program. How is the Accelerated Master’s program designed?

Students enter the Accelerated Master’s program as undergraduates. As they are nearing completion of their undergraduate coursework, they may begin taking graduate courses in our Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate program. Once these courses begin, they may also begin accruing their supervised experience. On completion of their master’s degree, these students will have satisfied the coursework and degree requirements to sit for the behavior analyst certification examination, and many will have completed the supervised experience requirements, as well. Others will complete their supervised experience after graduation.

The university offers an ABA graduate certificate program. Can this program be taken in tandem with the M.Ed. program?

Theodore:  Absolutely. Students may complete a Master of Education Degree that is comprised of our six graduate applied behavior analysis courses, plus four of our Special Education courses (three required, one of the student’s choice). This 30 credit hour Master of Education degree meets the degree and coursework requirements to sit for the Behavior Analyst Certification Exam. We anticipate that in Fall of 2020, we will offer our seven course applied behavior analysis certificate, and at that time, the MEd would consist of our seven ABA courses plus three required Special Education courses. This will meet the coursework and degree requirements to sit for the Certification Exam after 1 January 2022.

How do students that take the online version of the graduate certificate program earn practicum hours? If so, have these practicum options been approved by the BACB?

Theodore:  While we do presently offer a practicum option for those seeking to complete their supervised experience hours through this avenue, it is unsure whether we will continue to do this beyond 2021. Current BACB supervised experience policies incentivize completing supervised experience through the Practicum and Intensive Practicum option, with fewer practicum work hours a greater number of hours with a supervisor required. This, however, will change on 1 January 2022, when new BACB requirements will not differentiate between supervision completed through a university and supervision completed independent of a university program – the same number of hours worked will be required, and time with a supervisor will be similar. We are currently thinking this through.

At present, though, we have been able to locate supervisors for many of those wishing to participate in our practicum program, whether they are local to the Washington, DC Metro area, or are elsewhere in the United States (or even outside of the United States). Having faculty who are active in the field and active in professional organizations certainly facilitates this process.

Please feel free to add anything else you would like potential students to know about your program and that would be good for them to consider before choosing a program.

Our program was one of the first BACB Verified Course Sequences back in 2002 (when the list comprised one side of one sheet of paper), and was the first in Virginia. We have grown over the years, responding not only to requirements of the BACB and ABAI, but also as the field as continued to develop. We prepare our students to see and hear and think like behavior analysts, but to be able to speak like regular people, so that, along with the exposure to the many areas in which behavior analysis is applied they have from their coursework, and through their supervised experience, they can find or make careers in any area in which human or animal behavior is important. As one of our faculty often says, “when you’re a behavior analyst, you can work anywhere.”

Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.

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