We recognized University of Southern Maine (USM) 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 Jamie L. Pratt, a faculty member at University of Southern Maine (USM) 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 Southern Maine (USM) Programs:
- Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis
- Master of Science in Educational Psychology with a Concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis
Professor/Faculty Name: Jamie L. Pratt, PsyD, BCBA, Assistant Professor and Chair of the Department of Educational and School Psychology
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?
Jamie: Given our focus on applied behavior analysis to support academic, social, emotional, and behavioral success for school-aged children, many of our students have professional backgrounds providing behavioral health or educational services to children from birth to 20 years of age. The majority of our students are employed as behavior therapists, paraprofessional educators, teachers, educational specialists, or educational administrators, and they are seeking opportunities to expand their skills or advance their careers. All courses are scheduled on weekday evenings, so students typically maintain full-time employment and obtain supervised field experience while completing their coursework. The online program option also enables students to participate in the program from anywhere in the world. Our current population of students includes representation from all regions of the country and military posts overseas. Our students’ diverse professional backgrounds and shared interest in supporting school-aged children contribute to a genuinely rich classroom experience.
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?
Jamie: Our graduates often secure initial employment in preschool programs and K-12 schools or with behavioral health agencies that provide clinic or home-based ABA services. After gaining experience in these environments, some pursue private practice. Behavior analytic consultation and supervision services are in high demand, and these opportunities often appeal to more experienced behavior analysts.
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?
Jamie: The students and faculty are the greatest assets of our program! Our students are exceptionally committed to promoting positive outcomes for school-aged children and therefore engage actively in collaborative learning. Our faculty are unique because they are dually credentialed as behavior analysts and school psychologists. All faculty have extensive experience providing behavior analytic services to school-aged children with developmental and emotional-behavioral disorders and embrace a collaborative, problem-solving approach to assessment, intervention, and consultation. Faculty draw from their clinical experience to support students in developing awareness of implementation considerations in schools and related settings and thus prepare students to bridge the gap between research and practice.
The structure of our program also is unique. Students may participate in ABA courses on campus or via videoconferencing. This approach to delivering an online program allows students to engage with program faculty regularly, in real time, and enables faculty to supplement didactic instruction with ample opportunities for students to engage in small group discussion and guided learning activities during class sessions.
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?
Jamie: Translating research into practice is complex! It requires a deep understanding of behavior analytic principles and procedures and skillful application of a collaborative, data-based problem-solving model. Faculty therefore strive to impart students with knowledge of evidence-based practices, an understanding of the individual and contextual factors that must be considered for effective implementation of behavior analytic services, and the skills needed for collaboration with diverse multidisciplinary teams. They accomplish this by blending didactic instruction with frequent opportunities for collaborative, in-class application using case examples. Additionally, the curriculum supplements coursework on topics such as behavioral principles, ethics, single-case research design, functional behavior assessment, skill acquisition procedures, behavior reduction strategies, and supervision with a course on behavior analytic consultation and collaborative problem-solving. Students in the master’s degree program also complete supplemental courses to facilitate their understanding of special education procedures and the IEP team process.
How many credits are required for the MS in Educational Psychology—ABA Concentration program? Of these, how many are part of the BACB Verified Course Sequence?
Jamie: The MS in Educational Psychology (ABA Concentration) program of study includes twelve courses (36 graduate credits). Eight of these courses comprise our Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB®) Verified Course Sequence. Four additional courses provide students with background knowledge about educational research, special education procedures, and the needs of school-aged children with exceptionalities.
Is the MS—ABA program available in on-campus, online or hybrid format?
The MS in Educational Psychology (ABA Concentration) program is offered in a fully online (blend of synchronous and asynchronous courses) or hybrid (blend of on-campus and online courses) format. Students in both online and on-campus programs benefit from regular opportunities to interact directly with program faculty and participate in real-time learning activities with their peers.
What kind of professionals and students would benefit most from the Certificate in ABA program?
Jamie: The post-master’s Certificate in ABA program requires completion of eight courses (24 graduate credits). This option is designed for students with an earned graduate degree in education, psychology, or behavior analysis who wish to complete a Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB®) Verified Course Sequence in order to meet the coursework requirements for credentialing in behavior analysis. Master’s-level educators seeking professional development in behavioral assessment and intervention often pursue this pathway. To accommodate these working professionals, all certificate courses are offered on weekday evenings, and students may participate in class meetings on campus or via videoconferencing.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.