Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)
While working with students who have autism or similar disorders can be challenging, the potential reward is immeasurable. A degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, gives you the tools and skills to help these children and their families. ABA applies the principles and theories derived from studying behavior to solve social, behavioral and learning problems.
By using ABA methods with students, you can help them learn to increase and maintain desired behaviors, acquire new skills, transfer behavior from one situation to another, reduce interfering behaviors and narrow down situations in which these interfering behaviors occur.
Autism is the most commonly studied specialization in ABA, and students and children with this disorder seem to respond very well to these methods, with observed improvements in their communication, social relationships, play, self care, school and employment. If you are interested in helping students in a school setting overcome behavioral and learning disorders to achieve academic success, earning a master’s degree in ABA may be the right choice for you.
A master’s degree from an accredited institution is essential to becoming a practicing behavior analyst, and, when combined with state certification, will allow you to become a behavior analyst at any grade level.
Before you begin the application process, be sure to contact your accredited institution for information about any prerequisites you may need to fulfill. Depending on the requirements of the program you are applying to, you may be asked to submit some or all of the following items:
- Application: Fill out an initial application, which you can find on the website of your accredited institution of choice. Paper and online forms are both generally accepted.
- Bachelor’s degree: You should have a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent from an accredited institution prior to applying to an ABA program.
- Transcripts: Request transcripts in advance of the application deadline, and upload one official copy of each transcript from any postsecondary schools you have attended.
- Personal statement: Write a personal statement, which is typically in the form of an essay. You may be required to submit multiple essays to fully express the intent and purpose of your application. Below are some common topics that should be mentioned in a statement.
- Your main academic and personal interests
- Experiences in school or work that have helped to prepare you for this course of study
- Why you wish to study for the degree you’ve chosen
- Why you wish to study at the university
- Your plans for the future after you earn your degree
The curriculum and number of credits required to complete a master’s program vary widely depending on your school and specialization. However, a typical master’s program in ABA includes courses in:
- Intensive practical training
- Biological foundations of behavior
- ABA electives
After completing a master’s program in ABA, the next step is to get licensed, which will enable you to officially work in the field of your choice. Every state has its own licensure requirements to become a school behavior analyst. The median annual salary for a board certified behavior analyst was $55,018 in 2015. The most common behavior analyst roles are in schools ranging from the elementary level through high school.
Graduates with a master’s degree in ABA can pursue other specializations and different roles including:
- Autism spectrum disorders (ASD): Currently there is a shortage of behavior analysts specializing in autism and other developmental disabilities. In this specialization, you’d be focusing on helping children and students improve language, motor, social and reasoning skills.
- Special education teacher: This role entails educating special needs students and addressing their individual differences and needs to promote learning, motivation and self-sufficiency.
- Staff performance: Rather than working with students, you may also work with your peers in a school setting, analyzing data and conducting assessments to see if students’ needs and skills are being addressed.