ABA Programs

Reviewed by:
Hannah Andreasen
M.Ed BCBA

December 19, 2022

ABA programs are graduate programs that give you the education you need to become a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). As a BCBA, you can provide applied behavior analysis (ABA) services that can improve the lives of children with autism. 

Finding the right ABA program for you can be a daunting task. This article will give you the information you need to start your journey. 

What Is ABA?

ABA refers to the process of studying and modifying behavior. ABA applies knowledge of how behavior works in real-life situations to increase helpful behaviors and decrease harmful behaviors. 

Examples of ABA teaching styles used to treat autism include:

  • Pivotal Response Training (PRT)
  • Discrete Trial Training (DTT)
  • Early intensive behavioral intervention (EIBI)

ABA is one of the most common interventions for children with autism but can also be used for individuals with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or those with other intellectual or developmental disabilities. 

What Is a BCBA?

A board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA) provides ABA services. They must have a Master’s or Ph.D. in ABA or psychology and pass a national certification exam given by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). Some states also require a license. 

It takes at least three years of school and additional training after earning an undergraduate degree to become a BCBA. 

What’s Included in the ABA Program Curriculum?

ABA programs typically follow the curriculum requirements set by the BACB for a BCBA certification. This is often referred to as the BACB Task List.

ABA programs can apply for accreditation from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). The ABAI establishes the standards for the accreditation of educational programs in ABA. ABAI-accredited programs will meet the BACB's degree and coursework requirements.

The BACB coursework requirements include:

  • Ethical and professional conduct
  • Concepts and principles of behavior analysis
  • Research methods in behavior analysis
  1. Measurement (including data analysis)
  2. Experimental design
  • Applied behavior analysis
  1. Fundamental elements of behavior change and specific behavior change procedures
  2. Identification of the problem and assessment
  3. Intervention and behavior change considerations
  4. Behavior change systems
  5. Implementation, management, and supervision

What Are the Benefits of Attending ABAI-Accredited Programs?

ABA programs that achieve accreditation by ABAI must continue to update and improve their curriculum and student services to ensure they meet accreditation standards. As a result, ABAI-accredited programs typically update their curricula with the most relevant and current research in the field. 

ABAI-accredited programs typically have excellent learning resources—such as equipment, software, and technology—available to their students. Additionally, students can include the accreditation status of their education on resumes and job applications. 

Six Things To Look For in an ABA Program

1. BCBA Exam Pass Rate

This is the percentage of students that graduated from the program that pass the BCBA exam. A higher score indicates that the program does a good job of preparing students for the exam. Look for schools with at least an 85% pass rate.  

2. Student-to-Teacher Ratio

Look for programs with between 15 and 20 students for every teacher. 

3. Tuition and Financial Aid Options

Tuition may be different for in-state schools than out-of-state schools. Make sure the program you choose is within your budget. 

4. Location and Cost of Living

If you will attend the program in person, check out the area around the university. Make sure there are housing options that fit your budget. 

5. Resources for Support

Contact the school directly to find out about the resources available for support, such as internships, career services, and networking opportunities.

6. Satisfied Current and Former Students 

Talk to current and former students to get a first-hand account of what the program is like. You may try contacting the school directly or searching social media groups for people willing to talk to you about their experience. 

Top 10 ABA Programs in the US

The following universities are the top 10 ABA programs in the US, according to the Applied Behavior Analysis Programs Guide.

Each school on this list offers the ABAI-approved course sequence for BCBA certification. The rankings are based on the BCBA exam pass rate in 2020, the student-to-teacher ratio, and the cost of tuition.

1. University of North Carolina Wilmington

The University of North Carolina Wilmington offers two Master’s degrees and doctoral degrees in ABA. This program gives students a strong foundation in a data-driven approach to ABA. 

BCBA pass rate: 100%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 18:1

In-state tuition: $7,238 per year

Out-of-state tuition: $21,303

2. University of Houston Clear Lake

The University of Houston Clear Lake is an ABAI-accredited ABA program offering a Master’s in behavior analysis. In addition to an academic approach to learning ABA, students can get hands-on training at one of the university’s partners, like the Center for Autism and Developmental Disabilities.

BCBA pass rate: 100%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 17:1

In-state tuition: $7,698 per year

Out-of-state tuition: $20,994

3. Jacksonville State University

Jacksonville State University in Jacksonville, Alabama is an ABAI-accredited program offering two Master’s degrees in ABA.

BCBA pass rate: 100%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 18:1

In-state tuition: $11,120 per year

Out-of-state tuition: $20,840

4. James Madison University

James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia offers a Master’s in Psychological Sciences with a concentration in behavior analysis. This program prepares students to take the BCBA exam or continue their studies with a doctorate. 

BCBA pass rate: 91%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 16:1

In-state tuition: $12,638 per year 

Out-of-state tuition: $29,564

5. Oregon Institute of Technology

Oregon Institute of Technology in Klamath Falls, Oregon offers a Master’s in ABA. A benefit to this program is that the required practicum is a paid position. 

BCBA pass rate: 100%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 16:1

In-state tuition: $11,622

Out-of-state tuition: $32,515

6. California State University Sacramento 

California State University in Sacramento, California offers a Master’s in ABA that prepares its students to pass the BCBA exam and work in a variety of settings. 

BCBA pass rate: 100%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 26:1

In-state tuition: $7,392

Out-of-state tuition: $19,272

7. Northern Illinois University 

Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Illinois offers a Master’s in Special Education with a behavior analysis specialization. Although the BCBA pass rate isn’t 100%, the university reports that most students land a job in ABA within a year after graduating. 

BCBA pass rate: 83%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 15:1

In-state tuition: $12,478

Out-of-state tuition: Not applicable 

8. Florida State University

Florida State Univerity in Panama City, Florida is an ABAI- accredited program offering a Master’s in ABA. This program doesn’t require a thesis, but students must pass a comprehensive exam and show mastery over several skills before graduating. 

BCBA pass rate: 93%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 21:1

In-state tuition: $5,656

Out-of-state tuition: $18,786

9. Auburn University

Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama offers a Master’s in ABA. Students graduate ready to work in a variety of settings, such as homes, schools, and juvenile corrections. 

BCBA pass rate: 100%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 20:1

In-state tuition: $11,826

Out-of-state tuition: $31,986

10. Western Michigan University

Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, Michigan is an ABAI program offering a Master’s and a doctorate degree in ABA. 

BCBA pass rate: 100%

Student-to-teacher ratio: 16:1

In-state tuition: $13,434

Out-of-state tuition: $16,768

Can You Practice ABA Without a Graduate Degree?

You can still practice ABA without a graduate degree under the supervision of a BCBA. Some people may choose to do this before attending an ABA program. 

Board-certified assistant behavior analysts (BCaBAs) can provide ABA services under the supervision of a BCBA. To become a BCaBA, you must have an undergraduate degree with coursework in behavior analysis and pass a certification exam. 

Registered behavior technicians (RBTs) can provide ABA services under the supervision of a BCBA or a BCaBA. RBTs must be at least 18 years old, receive 40 hours of training, and pass a certification exam. 

Conclusion

ABA is a growing and rewarding field to work in. Finding the right fit to complete your education is an important first step. If you are interested in providing high-quality autism care to children, contact us to learn how you can join our team

‍Songbird Therapy is a technology-enabled provider setting a higher standard for children’s autism care. With a deeply passionate team and innovative technology, we’re building a world where every child can access world-class care at home, uniquely tailored to them.

Our Locations

Get started with care from Songbird — covered by insurance