Applied behavior analysts study how learning and behavior affect individuals and systematic ways to modify behaviors. More specifically, it is a type of therapy that applies the understanding of how behaviors work in real life, everyday situations. With the appropriate training, behaviors can be improved such as social skills and communications. Generally, individuals that earn a Masters Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) work with children diagnosed with autism.
According to Payscale.com, the average annual salary for an applied behavior analyst is $66,999 or roughly $28.65/hour. Applied behavior analysts have the ability to earn a higher wage with increased years of experience.
What is a Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis?
A Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is an advanced graduate-level degree that can be completed in roughly two years of full-time study. Students engage in a vigorous classroom curriculum and hands-on practical application. Because a degree in applied behavior analysis can lead to a variety of careers, it’s important to determine what career path you are interested in prior to starting a graduate program.
For example, if interested in autism therapy, you will want to apply to a program that focuses on the study of autism, and fieldwork is completed with the appropriate patient population. On the other hand, if your goal is to work for the FBI, then applying to a program that focuses on person profiling might be a better fit.
What Can You Do with a Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis?
There are many careers that are available after earning a degree in Applied Behavior Analysis. Because applied behavior analysis is a scientific field that focuses on the study of human and animal behavior, career options are endless. Earning a graduate degree will give you the tools to conquer any career.
Applied Behavior Analysis Salary and Career Outlook
As of December 2022, according to Payscale.com, the average annual salary for an applied behavior analyst is $67,682. Applied behavior analysts are a subsector of psychology, so they have the ability to earn a higher wage with increased years of experience.
Years of Experience
Average Annual Salary
Applied Behavior Analysis Career Paths
A Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior analyst can lead to a variety of careers. Each career is different in its own right and requires specific fieldwork.
- Median Salary: $81,040 per year or $38.96 per hour
- Career Outlook: +6% (2020-2030)
Psychologists study cognitive, emotional, and social processes and behavior by observing, interpreting, and recording how individuals relate to one another and to their environments.
- Median Salary: $61,820
- Career Outlook: +4% (2020-2030)
Special education teachers work with students who have a wide range of learning, mental, emotional, and physical disabilities.
- Median Salary: $50,390/year or $24.23/hour
- Career Outlook: +9% (2020-2030)
Social workers help people prevent and cope with problems in their everyday lives.
- Median Salary: $49,880/year or $23.98/hour
- Career Outlook: +14% (2020-2030)
Marriage and family therapists help people manage and overcome problems with family and other relationships.
Earning an Applied Behavior Analysis Degree
What to Expect in a Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis Program
A Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis is a two-year program that can be completed on a full-time or part-time basis. Students can be expected to complete didactic coursework and also practical fieldwork. Recently, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some coursework can also be completed online.
Pros and Cons of Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis
Working in the field of ABA can be extremely rewarding but at the same time challenging. ABA degrees are most commonly associated with and utilized by autism therapists. While the degree can be used for a variety of jobs, the pay scales can be drastically different.
Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis Program Prerequisites
Admissions criteria for a Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis are similar at most major colleges and universities. Every program will have specific requirements so it is important to thoroughly review the application criteria and/or speak to an admissions counselor. Applicants can expect to submit the following:
- Official university application
- Application fee
- Transcripts: All official undergraduate and graduate transcripts
- Professional resume
- TOEFL (if required)
Courses in a Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis
Each ABA program has its own curriculum based on the university as well as the expertise of the faculty. Here are several courses that most ABA students can expect to take:
- Lifespan Development
- Advanced Behavior Analysis
- Behavioral Supervison and Management
- Research Design and Applications
- Interventions for Autism Spectrum Disorders
- Child Development
- Behavioral Assessment
- Behavior Analysis
How Long Does It Take to Get a Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis?
This will vary depending on if you are earning a bachelor’s degree or master’s degree. A traditional Bachelor’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis takes four years to complete while a master’s degree takes approximately two years. The length of time is dependent on a few factors including:
- Whether a student is taking the program in person or online
- Whether a student is pursuing the degree on a full-time basis or part-time
- Previous coursework that is applicable
Applied Behavior Analysis Degree Specializations
Applied behavior analysis can work in a variety of fields. Most commonly, they work with patients on the autism spectrum. Common specializations include:
- Human Resource Specialist
- Special Education Teacher
- Addiction Treatment
- Weight Loss Therapy
- Animal Behavior Counselor
- Market Research Analyst
- FBI Profiler
- Organizational Behavior Management
- Social Worker
- Psychological Assistant
Applied Behavior Analysis Certification and Licensure
The Behavior Anaylst Certification Board offers the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) certification. It is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. There are four main pathways toward certification including,
- Degree from ABAI-Accredited or ABAI-Recognized Program
- Behavior-Analytic Coursework
- Faculty Teaching and Research
- Postdoctoral Experience
Selecting an applied behavior analyst degree is dependent on numerous factors, especially when weighing the advantages and disadvantages of different academic institutions. One non-negotiable is accreditation.
Accreditation is awarded to a University after an accrediting agency evaluates the courses and curriculum and determines if it meets specific criteria and meets a specific set of standards.
Accreditation provides both students and their future employers with assurance that the program of study qualifies graduates to work in their field. It is used to help institutions determine whether to accept transfer credits, to help employers determine eligibility for employee tuition reimbursement, to allow graduates to sit for certification and licensure examinations, and to determine eligibility for federal student financial aid.
Best Schools Offering Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis Degrees in U.S.
University of Cinncinati Online
This 10-course program focuses on foundational knowledge in applied behavior analysis, education, and psychology. This program can be completed in as little of five semesters or 20 months and is completed entirely online. After successfully completing the program, students are eligible for Board Certified Behavior Analyst Examination.
Application requirements include:
- Bachelor’s Degree (in a related field)
- Overall 3.0 GPS or higher from all previous undergraduate courses
- Application fee
- Letters of Recommendations
- Goal Statement
This program is designed for special education teachers that need additional training and practice with ABA in the educational setting and are specifically focused on increasing their knowledge related to school-based applications. The program at Vanderbilt is within the U.S. News & World Report No. 1 ranked Department of Special Education in the country.
Application requirements include:
- Online application
- Transcripts from all prior undergraduate and graduate work
- Letters of recommendations
- GRE scores
- Statement of Purpose
Located in the heart of Philadelphia, Temple University offers one of the top ABA programs in the country. A unique aspect of the program is they offer both an undergraduate and graduate degree in ABA. The master’s program blends courses in education and psychology. Coursework is held entirely in person at the Main Campus.
Western Michigan University offers an undergraduate and graduate program focused in applied behavior analyst. The graduate program utilizes the mentorship model that allows students to work closely with faculty members. After admission, students are matched with faculty mentors based on interests.
Application requirements include:
- A bachelor's degree with at least 18 semester hours in psychology
- A minimum GPA of 3.0 on a 4.0 scale
- GRE information
Skills Learned in a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis Degree Program
ABA requires speciality training to learn and understand behaviors and how to change them. This is especially significant to patients with autism. Students in ABA programs will learn so much in their degree program, and these are some common topics:
- Communication styles to change behaviors
- Understand communication and decision making
- Develop practical knowledge
- Learn effective intervention strategies
- Time management
- Organizational skills
Next Steps to Earning a Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis
After determining that you’d like to attend an accredited ABA graduate program, you should determine which programs fit your needs. There are several things to consider including,
- Full or part time
- Online vs. in person
- Degree specialization
- Degree level
- Career opportunities after graduation
After narrowing down options, reach out to an admissions counselor to discuss specific admissions requirements and tuition. It is also helpful to meet with a financial counselor to discuss scholarships, grants, and payment options. Admissions and financial counselors are meant to help students, so it is important to use them!
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