We recognized Rider University for offering one of the 23 Best Master’s in Psychology Degrees with an ABA Track, adding them to our list of top recommendations for psychology graduate students.
We were excited to hear from Frances A. Perrin, Ph.D., BCBA-D, a faculty member at Rider 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.
Rider University Program:
- M.A. in Applied Psychology: Applied Behavior Analysis
Professor/Faculty Name: Frances A. Perrin, Ph.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?
Frances: Rider’s ABA program has a diverse student population. We get many students who are coming directly from undergraduate programs, including our own, where they have been exposed to behavior analysis in their coursework. We also have students who have been working in the field for a number of years. Additionally, we get quite a few students who are non-traditional or career changers.
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?
Frances: Again, there is diversity in where students are working. If they are already teaching, they tend to stay in the public school system. Otherwise we see many at private schools, clinics, and consulting agencies.
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?
Frances: Rider’s program offers some distinct differences from the other local programs with BACB verified course sequences. Being a degree in applied psychology is different than the above programs which offer degrees in ABA or education. Most of these programs have a heavy focus on autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with few elective options outside of this. While most of the students applying to behavior analytic programs are interested in working with individuals with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities, Rider has seen a growing number of applicants expressing interest in other areas of behavior analysis including addictions, organizational behavior management, and sports and fitness. We are attempting to meet these needs by increasing the breadth of elective options and prepare our students to practice ABA in other areas.
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?
Frances: There are many more board certified behavior analysts today than there were even 10 years ago, yet there is still a need for many more. It is imperative that we are providing quality education and training to ensure that the behavior analysts of the future are qualified to address the needs of the individuals that we provide services for. Rider is committed to teaching using best practices in higher education and partnering with local organizations to ensure that students can receive competency-based training.
How will completing the MA in Applied Psychology—ABA program help to increase a prospective student’s marketability as a practitioner?
Frances: Rider’s program in ABA provides depth of study in the content requirements from the BACB’s® 5th Edition Task list as well as breadth of study in different areas of behavior analysis. Our academic standing requirements ensure that students have a thorough understanding of the material taught.
The university is conveniently located between Philadelphia and New York City. How does this location promote ABA student access to internships and future job opportunities?
Frances: New Jersey is one of the top states in terms of numbers of individuals diagnosed with ASD. Across the region there are many private schools and centers serving this population, public school districts with strong ABA components, and a large number of behavior analytic consulting agencies providing services. Students have choices in terms of both field experience and employment once they have graduated.
New Jersey is leading the nation in diagnosed cases of autism spectrum disorder. How is the ABA program helping to assist individuals, families and communities affected by autism?
Frances: Over the past 20 years, the number of children identified with autism spectrum disorder has grown steadily, with New Jersey leading the nation in diagnosed cases. In recent years, applied behavior analysis (ABA) has shown remarkable success in helping students learn, particularly children with autism spectrum disorders, as well as individuals with other developmental disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and brain injuries. With the growing number of children and adults presenting with unique behavioral challenges and requiring additional supports, mental health providers, agencies and school districts are increasingly seeking the services of professionals with highly specialized training in ABA. As a result, board certification as an applied behavior analyst is becoming increasingly important, providing professionals with enhanced training and credentials to work with children and adults with autism and other developmental disabilities. Rider University’s ABA program is designed to respond to this demand regionally and nationally. Students can gain real-world experience through field experience, networking, and mentoring as a result of our longstanding, successful relationships with nationally recognized schools and organizations providing services for individuals with disabilities.
The Applied Psychology program has increased its visibility external to the University through our offering of the lecture series and training for both professionals and families of individuals with ASD.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.