We recognized University of South Florida among the 57 Best Schools with ABA Bachelor’s and BCaBA Courses and for offering one of the 35 Best ABA Graduate Programs, adding them to our list of top recommendations for ABA undergrads and graduate students.
We were excited to hear from Raymond G. Miltenberger, PhD, BCBA-D, a faculty member at University of South Florida 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.
University of South Florida Programs:
- Undergraduate Minor in ABA (BCaBA Verified Course Sequence)
- Master of Science in ABA
- Online MA in ABA
- PhD in ABA
Professor/Faculty Name: Raymond G. Miltenberger, 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?
Raymond: Most students in our master’s program are traditional students that enter the MS program right after getting their undergraduate degree. All students have some ABA background through coursework and or work experience. Some work for a while in the field as an RBT or BCaBA before entering our program. All students, traditional or nontraditional, will be considered for admission to our program if they have a background in ABA.
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?
Raymond: Most graduates find jobs in agencies that serve children and adults with autism and developmental disabilities and children with behavioral difficulties. These are often private agencies, but also consist of public and private schools. Our MS graduates are employed immediately upon graduation because they are ready to sit for the certification exam and because of the high demand for BCBAs locally, across the state, and nationally.
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?
Raymond: The ABA MS program at USF has great faculty members. All are excellent teachers and researchers who work closely with the students in their classes and in their research. Our program integrate coursework, research, and practice so that all students are trained as practitioners and researchers who can choose to work with their master’s degree or apply to a doctoral program. We have a full time practicum coordinator, Dr. Cividini-Motta, who helps students find placements in community agencies and schools for their supervised hours and guides them through the process of gaining great clinical experiences. We have a cohort model so all students who enter in the fall take all classes together while in the program. This model helps create closeness among our students. We have a great culture in our program that supports student growth and accomplishment.
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?
Raymond: I think one of the most important issues facing the field of ABA today is assuring competent and ethical practice of graduates of ABA programs. Competence comes from providing a solid foundation in basic principles, training to conceptualize problems and solutions from a behavioral perspective, and guiding students through a rigorous process of approaching every clinical case or every research project from this perspective. The USF program values the importance of a strong behavioral foundation and strives to connect practice to basic principles so all students operate from this perspective. Ethical practice comes from the expectations set forth by the faculty members in the program. The USF program emphasizes ethical practice throughout the two-year program in coursework, in the five semesters of practicum seminar, and in weekly research meetings so students learn to incorporate solid ethical decision-makings in everything they do.
How does the PhD in ABA program foster research opportunities within the curriculum?
Raymond: The presence of doctoral students in the ABA program at USF provides enhanced opportunities for MS students to get mentoring in their research. The doctoral students assist the faculty members in working with MS students on their research and provide additional feedback to MS students in and out of research meetings as they are conceptualizing their research and working on data collection or writing. USF doctoral students are as passionate as the faculty members are about ABA in their teaching and research and serve as great models for the MS students.
What are some examples of current ABA practicum sites for MA and MS students?
Raymond: We have BCBAs providing supervision in private agencies that serve children with autism in home, in clinic, and in school. We have BCBAs providing supervision in private agencies that serve individuals with intellectual disabilities in school and home settings. We have BCBA supervisors in public schools in three counties to provide a wide variety of experiences for practicum students in diverse school settings. We also have BCBA supervisors in private schools. All supervisors across all settings are reviewed and approved by the USF ABA program to supervise our MS students
The school offers an ABA minor that helps students to become BCaBAs. How important is it for students to earn professional credentials prior to entering into Tampa Bay’s competitive job market?
Raymond: It is imperative that students get the RBT credential at a minimum to enter the job market in the Tampa Bay area. There are numerous jobs for RBTs and students in these entry-level positions often find out how much they love ABA and then decide to enroll in our ABA minor or master’s program. The USF ABA program has an online RBT course that many of our students take to get the credential. The ABA Minor at USF is growing each year as students learn about it and about the opportunities that come with having the minor. Some who take the minor decide to become BCaBAs and some decide to apply to a master’s program in ABA.
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.
I have only described the on-campus MS program at USF, which is just one of four ABA programs available at USF. We also have a doctoral program, an online MA program, and the ABA minor. The online MA program in ABA is ideal for students who cannot attend classes on campus at USF or who prefer the online approach. The MA program, coordinated by Dr. Scalzo, has a Verified Course Sequence just like the MS program so students are ready to sit for the certification exam upon graduation. The MA program also approves all supervisors who provide supervision to the online students. Across the MA and MS programs, the USF pass rate for the BCBA exam was 92% in 2018,
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.