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Master’s Degree Programs in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy Overview

Majors Overview January 18, 2016

This article talks about master’s degree programs in applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapy and their coursework, job and wage outlook, and licensure and certification choices.

Master’s Programs in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Therapy

Understanding and influencing human behavior is predominant in the field of applied behavioral analysis. Graduate-level training may prepare students for careers as clinical psychologists or organizational psychologists. The focus of applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is on understanding the ways in which human behavior changes through different environmental conditions and stimuli.

Enrollees in a Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Behavioral Analysis program get a grasp of ways in which this knowledge can help in improving communication and efficiency. A therapeutic setting is devised to teach students about applying this information toward improving patient outcomes. Admission criteria typically require incoming students to a master’s degree program to hold a 4-year, undergraduate degree in behavioral science, psychology, counseling or a related field.

Those who seek careers as clinical psychologists must hold a doctorate; however, an organizational psychologist career is well-served through holding a master’s degree. Many ABA programs are devised to help students earn the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s offering of the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification. Those who seek careers in clinical psychology learn about communicating with patients with obsessive compulsive disorder, autism, schizophrenia or other similar conditions that could inhibit their ability to function in social settings. A clinical focus can enable programs to cover diagnosis as well. Aspiring professionals are required to complete internships.


The focus of program coursework is on understanding interpersonal dynamics. Students also learn about preventing workplace accidents, improving communication, enhancing training outcomes and increasing efficiency. The program starts with an overview of psychological disorders, cognitive thought, organizational theory and research methods. Students also learn about common behavioral or psychological disorders, such as depression, autism, and schizophrenia. Core coursework may cover topic areas such as:

•Language and speech development
•Psychological theory
•Behavioral modification strategies
•Behavioral research
•Organizational analysis
•Applied statistical analysis
•Applied ethics in psychology

Job and Wage Outlook

Industrial-organizational psychologists are expected to see a faster-than-average 53% job growth, over the 2012 – 2022 decade (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). In 2014, these professionals brought in an average annual wage of $90,070 (BLS). Clinical psychologists are expected to see an 11% job growth over the 2012 – 2022 decade; in 2014, clinical, counseling and school psychologists brought in an average annual wage of $74,030 (BLS).

Licensure and Certification Choices

A master’s degree in applied behavioral analysis or a similar field is a compulsory requirement for those seeking a career as an organizational psychologist. State licensure and a doctoral degree in psychology are compulsory for those seeking to apply their ABA knowledge in a clinical setting. Most states require the completion of a 1-year or 2-year supervised internship before allowing candidates to practice independently.

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