We recognized University of West Florida as one of the Top 57 Best Schools Offering ABA Bachelor’s and BCaBA Courses, adding them to our list of top recommendations for students in the area.
We were excited to hear from Sal Ruiz PhD., BCBA, a faculty member at University of West 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.
Professor/Faculty Name: Sal Ruiz PhD., BCBA
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?
Sal: We have more non-traditional students in both our undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Many of our students have decided to pursue a career change, so they have obtained one degree in another field, delayed college to work first, and/or have pursued behavior analysis because they have a loved one who was diagnosed with ASD. Generally, our students are not the traditional 18-22 year old straight from high school.
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?
Sal: Our students mainly enter education, ASD treatment. We have had a few students that want to apply the principles of behavior in other fields, but that is not as common as education. Many of our students have the RBT credential and look to receive promotion with their current employer. It is a good mix of local schools and private practice. Student jobs largely depend on where the students are in their lives and where they live. For example, in more rural areas it is likely that the student will seek to establish a practice verses a place like NJ where behavior analysts have options regarding school district or current existing company.
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?
Sal: I love several things at UWF. First, I truly enjoy and love that we implement behavior analytic principles in our training program. Currently we utilize elements from direct instruction and precision teaching to ensure our students are acquiring skills. Second, I like that our team reviews teaching and course content frequently and attempt to make improvements based on data. Third, the team at UWF is always available for students. For example, I can recall multiple times where staff member meets with students to discuss career options, degree plans, and career advice. Fourth, I love that our staff have frequent and open communication. It creates an ease in transitioning from course to course and consistency for students across the program.
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?
Sal: As Behavior Analysts we are fortunate to be experiencing a time of massive growth. However, with that we have issues of private equity, job opportunities, and new sectors previously limited. When a student enters any of our programs we ensure that they receive a well-rounded education. They have a thorough understanding of the principles of behavior, data collection, and visual displays of data. These three critical tools provide our graduates the ability to be successful in any behavior analytic job. As our field grows a strong emphasis in core concepts will provide the foundation for personal career growth.
University of West Florida offers several programs that ensure students meet the eligibility requirements for BACB certifications. What are the major differences between them?
Sal: We currently offer two degree programs and two verified course sequences. The degree programs are a Bachelor of Science in Health Science or a Master of Arts in Exceptional Student Education. The verified course sequences are for the course component of BCBA and BCaBA certification. The Center for Behavior Analysis is committed to providing training for students and meet them where they are in their education. For example, if a student has a graduate degree and does not wish to pursue a second graduate degree they may choose to enroll in a course sequence. The content in the course sequences and degree courses is the same, but a student will NOT earn a degree if they take the course sequence options. That saves money and time for our students.
Are these BACB-approved programs offered online, on-campus or both?
Sal: Our program is 100% online. We do NOT do on-campus classes. We do offer courses with live lecture that are done via Zoom or similar software and create interactive environments that are similar to face-to-face learning.
Do any of the programs offer opportunities to accumulate supervised hours?
Sal: We currently do NOT offer supervision hours; however, the Office of ABA has done a wonderful job of providing resources for students seeking to accumulate hours.
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.
For those seeking to enter the field of Behavior Analysis, students have many options to fit their needs. Whatever program and supervision options one selects attempt to ensure that it is a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions. University programs that offer verified courses all have to teach the same topics. The differences lay in the options. All students have different needs and there is a program that is appropriate for them.
Check out our full interview series here to see what other professors and faculty are saying about their ABA programs.