Question: Are There ABAI-Accredited Online Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis Programs?
Answer: Yes. The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Accreditation Board accredits online master’s in applied behavior analysis (ABA) programs. However, there are only a limited number of ABAI-accredited online programs, as most of the programs that are fully accredited by ABAI are campus-based or hybrid programs. Notwithstanding, there are many online programs that have an ABAI-approved Verified Course Sequence (VCS) in applied behavior analysis, which also meets the requirements for ABA graduates to become board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs).
ABAI accreditation is a process by which applied behavior analysis (ABA) master’s degree programs are assessed and approved according to the standards of the ABAI Accreditation Board. This board is responsible for the accreditation of bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs in applied behavior analysis. The ABAI Accreditation Board is recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), which is a nonprofit, non-government organization that reviews and recognizes accrediting organizations in higher education and ensures they are effective in improving the quality of higher education programs.
Accreditation by the ABAI Accreditation Board is voluntary, meaning that administrators for master’s in ABA programs must first determine if their program meets ABAI requirements, and then submit a formal request for preliminary review. Upon approval to proceed, program administrators submit a self-study, demonstrating that their program meets the criteria for ABA education outlined in the ABAI Accreditation Standards. These standards include:
- The program must have a mission in line with the mission and goals of ABAI and its own institution, as well as the science and practice of behavior analysis, which is readily available to the public.
- The ABA master’s curriculum must promote knowledge of current ABA issues, critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and mastery of research technologies by which all students can demonstrate significant understanding and competence in behavior analysis.
- The program must require 405 hours of instruction, including coursework that addresses six content areas outlined by ABAI’s standards, 90 contact hours in a supervised experience, and required contact hours for a thesis or equivalent.
- Core faculty must consist of full-time doctoral-level behavior analysts with proven expertise in applied behavior analysis, while other full-time or part-time faculty must have master’s or doctoral degrees in ABA or a related field.
What Types of Applied Behavior Analysis Programs Does ABAI Accredit?
ABAI accredits master’s in applied behavior analysis programs with or without specializations that may be offered through education or psychology departments. Subspecialty areas may include autism spectrum disorder (ASD), brain injury rehabilitation, behavior analysis in education, PreK-12 education, organizational behavior management, behavioral pediatrics, health and fitness, sport psychology, clinical behavior analysis, and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
While ABAI accreditation is not mandatory, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), which sets the standards for becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), requires that graduate students attend a program that is either ABAI-accredited or that has an ABAI-approved Verified Course Sequence (VCS).
ABAI Accreditation vs. ABAI Approved Verified Course Sequence (VCS)
Another way to qualify to become a BCBA is to attend a program that has an ABAI-Approved Verified Course Sequence (VCS). As this is a much less involved process, many master’s programs choose to have their ABA courses verified, rather than seek full ABAI accreditation. A verified course sequence is one that has met all of the standards of the ABAI certification board in relation to ABA graduate programs and is designed to prepare graduates to move toward board certification. Programs with ABAI-Approved Verified Course Sequences may display a badge or indicate in writing that they are part of the Verified Course Sequences (VCS) Program.
Both ABAI-accredited and VCS-approved programs lead to the same end result of qualifying graduates to pursue behavior analyst board certification. Therefore, students interested in becoming board-certified should choose programs that fall into one of these two categories.
Note: Once a student graduates from an applied behavior analysis master’s program, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board also requires completing at least 2,000 supervised field hours under the supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with certain types of clients, in specific settings, and while conducting specific behavior analysis activities. To learn more about board certification, visit the BACB website.
How Does ABAI Assess Online Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis Programs?
ABAI does not have separate requirements, assessment criteria, or accreditation standards for online behavior analysis programs. In fact, ABAI makes no formal distinction between campus-based, hybrid, or online behavior analysis programs. Instead, ABAI allows programs to self-identify as online, campus-based, or hybrid and accredits these programs based solely on criteria related to its published standards. Any master’s in applied behavior analysis program housed in a regionally accredited college or university that meets the ABAI standards for behavior analysis education can apply for and receive ABAI accreditation or have their course sequence verified by the ABAI.
It is important to note that ABAI requires master’s in applied behavior analysis programs to provide at least 405 hours of combined coursework and supervised field experience hours. The supervised field experience must include 90 direct professional practice or research hours. As well, a thesis or equivalent must be completed, which includes hours determined by the institution. Since supervised field experience hours cannot be completed virtually, students must be prepared to travel to an approved location for in-person training and supervision. While some online programs match students to a location in their local area, others require students to find their own placements, which must then be approved by the program.
Online ABAI-Accredited Applied Behavior Analysis Programs
|Montana State University Billings||Online Master of Science in Special Education Advanced Studies - ABA Emphasis|
|St. Cloud State University||Online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis|
ABAI-Approved Verified Course Sequence (VCS) Applied Behavior Analysis Programs
|Arizona State University||Online Master of Arts in Special Education - Applied Behavior Analysis|
|Ball State University||Online MA in Special Education and Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis|
|George Mason University||Online M.Ed. in Special Education - Applied Behavior Analysis|
|Mississippi State University||Online Master of Science in Educational Psychology - Applied Behavior Analysis|
|PennState World Campus||Online M.Ed. in Special Education - Applied Behavior Analysis|
|Saint Joseph's University||Online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis|
|The University of Arizona||Online MA in Special Education - Applied Behavior Analysis|
|University of Cincinnati||Online M.Ed. in Foundations in Behavior Analysis|
|University of Dayton||Online Master of Applied Behavior Analysis|
|University of North Dakota||Online Master of Science in Special Education - Applied Behavior Analysis|
|University of Washington||Online M.Ed. in Applied Behavior Analysis|
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