We recognized Northern Arizona University among the 62 Best Schools with Online ABA Master’s and Certificate Programs, adding them to our list of top recommendations for ABA grad students.
We were excited to hear from L. Juane Heflin, PhD, BCBA-D, a faculty member at Northern Arizona 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.
Northern Arizona University Programs:
- MEd in Special Education (without teaching certification) – PBS Emphasis
- Graduate Certificate in Positive Behavior Support
Professor/Faculty Name: L. Juane Heflin, PhD, BCBA-D
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?
Juane: A range of students apply for one or the other (or both) programs, from students just completing their Bachelor’s degrees in a variety of programs (e.g., Special Education, Psychology, Criminal Justice, English) to individuals who have been working for more than 20 years. Some are career changers, but about one-third have spent their careers in related fields (e.g., teachers, SLPs, School Psychologists), and have been inspired to become BCBAs because they have worked with BCBAs.
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?
Juane: There’s a fairly even mix of graduates who join (or open) private practices, and those who advance their careers within school systems, both public and private.
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?
Juane: The program at NAU is extremely student-centric. We have fantastic support personnel in Financial Aid, Registrar’s, Graduate College, and Instructional Technology Support. Student matriculation and graduation are truly group efforts. I have been amazed by staff willingness to go above and beyond to support students, and many graduates have mentioned this as well.
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?
Juane: Clearly, the international need for more BCBAs is a pressing issue, and the NAU program enables individuals to earn a degree (if needed) and complete the courses required by the BACB in a convenient online format with rolling admissions. Students may begin the program at five times throughout the year. Another pressing issue is to expand to benefits of ABA beyond individuals with ASD. At NAU, we use case studies and readings to illustrate how ABA can improve the quality of life for all individuals across the lifespan, including those with dementia or gambling additions, as well as those across the continuum of disabilities and those without disabling conditions.
How does the Positive Behavior Support Graduate Certificate program partially fulfill the requirements to become a BCBA?
Juane: Completing the PBS Graduate Certificate at NAU is one of three steps that needs to be completed to be eligible to sit for the exam to become a BCBA. Another of the steps is to have a Master’s degree, and NAU also provides that opportunity with just 3-4 additional courses. The third step is for the candidate to accrue the required number of hours of supervised practice. NAU students complete this step via independent field work typically where they are employed.
Does the PBS Certificate program also help students to become Licensed Behavior Analysts in Arizona?
Juane: Very few of our students actually reside in AZ so there is no need to help them become LBAs in AZ.
What is the relationship between Positive Behavior Support and ABA?
Juane: Some argue that PBS presumes a comprehensive lifespan perspective and ensuring contextual fit to real-life settings, while others have argued that there is no difference between ABA and PBS. The NAU PBS Grad Cert program is designed to prepare professionals who will conduct individual assessments and develop unique behavior plans to help people improve their problem (or challenging) behaviors. Students in the PBS Grad Cert are taught how to understand and use the principles and tactics of ABA to promote quality of life. The courses are structured in a way that students will learn to use the science not simply to reduce problem behavior, but to do so with the clear goal of making problem behavior irrelevant, ineffective, and inefficient. This is one of the lessons from the field of PBS.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.