We recognized Nicholls State University among the 62 Best Schools with Online ABA Master’s and Certificate Programs, and for offering one of the 32 Best Master’s in Education Programs with an ABA Emphasis.
We were excited to hear from Dr. Laura Darcy, a faculty member at Nicholls State 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.
Nicholls State University Programs: M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction-High Incidence Disabilities with ABA option
Professor/Faculty Name: Dr. Laura Darcy
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?
Laura: We have students who are pursuing a full master’s degree with the ABA option, as well as students who already have their master’s and are just seeking the ABA add on. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds, but most of our students are already working in the field—as teachers in public schools, line technicians providing direct clinical services, or other educational professionals. We have students who are local to the Southeast Louisiana region, as well as many distance learners enrolled in our program from the United Kingdom, Richmond VA, San Diego, CA; Jacksonville, FL; Charlotte, NC, Seattle WA and others.
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?
Laura: This really depends on the student and their interests. We do have many graduates who are passionate about teaching and look to stay in the classroom or in the public school setting; however, there is an ever-growing demand for qualified practitioners to provide clinical services and we see many of our graduates take that route as well.
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?
Laura: One of the things I love the most about our ABA program is that it focuses on training candidates as teachers AND behavior analysts. We believe that effective teachers function as strategic scientists within the classroom. We are one of only two programs in the world (the other is housed at Columbia University) to offer our candidates the opportunity to pursue certification through both the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) and Comprehensive Application of Behavior Analysis to Schooling (CABAS®) board.
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?
Laura: In my personal opinion, one of the most pressing issues in ABA today is how we can provide quality services to individuals who need them in school settings. In order to do this, there must be effective communication and collaboration between behavior analysts, families and school professionals. Our program is uniquely designed to prepare graduates to use their knowledge of behavior analysis and teaching as a strategic science to effectively serve a wide variety of individuals, especially in school settings.
Why is it important for students enrolled in the M.Ed. in Curriculum and Instruction program to have the High Incidence Disabilities with ABA concentration option available to them?
Laura: The High Incidence Disabilities concentration with an ABA option is an important one for candidates enrolled in the M.Ed. program because it not only prepares them to become highly qualified special educators, but allows them to pursue both BACB and CABAS certifications which will ultimately open up a multitude of career opportunities for them.
How much of the ABA concentration centers around practicum hours? Where do students do their fieldwork during the program?
Laura: Students in our program complete their coursework while also completing fieldwork. Our program offers a verified course sequence under ABAI standards, and we support our students in completing their supervised fieldwork per BACB requirements. Many of our students come into the program already working in an educational or clinical setting, and our courses are designed to compliment these practicum experiences. We are in the process of establishing a clinic on campus, in order to be able to offer an on campus practicum site as an option for our students as well.
Do all students choose the ABA concentration en route to earning BCBA certification? How does the program help students become certified?
Laura: In order to be eligible for BCBA certification, students must meet several requirements including: obtaining a master’s degree, completing a verified course sequence that meets ABAI standards, and completing supervised fieldwork hours. Our program supports students in meeting all of these requirements, and additionally provides students with the opportunity to pursue CABAS teaching ranks.
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.
Students should know that our program at Nicholls is continuing to expand and flourish, and we are hoping to open an on campus clinic to provide additional practicum opportunities. Additionally, we as a faculty are dedicated to cultivating our students’ individual interests and passions, and we aim to provide each student with the individual attention they need to succeed in whatever career path they decide to follow.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.