Northern Illinois University Interview

We recognized Northern Illinois University for offering one of the 32 Best Master’s in Education Programs with an ABA Emphasis, adding them to our list of top recommendations for special education teachers.

We were excited to hear from Jesse W. Johnson, Ed.D., BCBA-D, a faculty member at Northern Illinois 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 Illinois University Programs:

  • BCBA Verified Course Sequence; Certificate of Graduate Study
  • MSEd in Special Education, Specialization in Advanced Special Education Practices

Professor/Faculty Name:      Jesse W. Johnson, Ed.D., 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?

Jesse:  Our program was designed to accommodate school-based professionals. Most of our students are special education teachers, social workers, school psychologists, or other education professionals. We also have individuals who are working for private agencies as registered behavioral technician’s and seek to continue as behavior analyst.

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?

Jesse:  The teachers, social workers, and school psychologist who complete our program usually continue in their current positions. Many of them are already involved in developing behavior support plans for students with challenging behavior and they come to us for training. Individuals who wish to work for private agencies typically have many opportunities for employment. The BCBA credential gives an individual many options.

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?

Jesse:  Our hybrid program works well for individuals who are working full-time. It offers the convenience of online meetings combined with the connection and sense of community provided by face-to-face meetings. Since students go through the sequence of courses with the same group of peers, they develop a sense of community and establish relationships and professional connections. Our alumni and current students often help each other by assisting with BCBA exam preparation, supervised experience opportunities, and employment opportunities.

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?

Jesse: More and more school districts are recognizing the need to hire well-trained BCBAs. Our program offers students a strong background in providing effective behavioral services in school-based settings.

Is it possible for students to take the BACB-verified course sequence without enrolling in the Certificate of Graduate Study in Behavior Analyst program?

Jesse:  At NIU, the Certificate of Graduate Study in Behavior Analysis only requires individuals to complete the BCBA course sequence. Since the CGS requires no additional coursework, everyone who completes our VCS also completes the CGS.

Can credits earned in either the course sequence or graduate certificate be applied toward earning the M.Ed. in Special Education degree later?

Jesse:  Yes, as long as the coursework is current (within 5 years).

What’s the easiest way for non-degree seeking students to apply for the certificate program?

Jesse:  We have an application form on our department website. People can also email me for an application.

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.

The BCBA program at NIU has developed a very positive reputation in the region. We have a dedicated group of faculty and we have designed a program to accommodate the needs of working professionals. I would encourage anyone interested in the program to set up a time to talk with us.


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