Is it Worthwhile to Get a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis?


According to the Association for Behavior Analysis International, Baer, et al., introduced the fledgling discipline of applied behavior analysis in 1968. Before that, the general approach to studying behavior was largely experimental. By focusing on actual social interactions and real-world causes and effects of the behaviors in question, Baer and his associates made great strides in the understanding of human behavior.

What Is it?

Applied behavior analysis is important not only because of the improvements practitioners can make in their patients’ lives but also because of the societal impact of their work. Analysts observe, form hypotheses, gather data, and then use those data either to buttress or refute their hypotheses, often modifying their original thoughts, conclusions, or both.

Why Is it Crucial to Have a Degree?

At the most basic level, analysts who have degrees bring legitimacy to the field. By conferring degrees at all levels, institutions of higher learning also bolster their own academic reputations. In fact, for any position higher than the entry level, a master’s degree will be required, particularly in the field of healthcare itself. In many cases, high-level job placements will require certification by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. BACB® certification reinforces state level credentials and gives individual states a common reference point for applied behavior analysts.

Related resource:10 Best Online ABA Degree Programs (Master’s)

Other Reasons a Degree is Important

A degree in applied behavior analysis allows people with varied interests to receive a multipronged education. Analysts can get training in social work, counseling, and psychology as part of the broad spectrum of classes associated with applied behavior analysis.

Many analysts who love children find the career rewarding because of the growing focus on young people, particularly those are autistic. Autism Speaks maintains that measuring and studying how autistic people interact with the environment is essential to understanding autism. The lab is a controlled environment, but it is usually not possible to create a situation in the lab that translates directly to the real world. That is the chief reason why applied analysis is better than experimental analysis when it comes to autistic people. Because most institutions require a degree, having such a degree is necessary to be able to help these people.

The ever-changing nature of the real world lends fun and creativity to the field. It’s impossible to plan for any and all contingencies the way you can in the lab, so you will likely have to make decisions “on-the-fly” when studying people’s behavior. The critical thinking, ability to think on your feet, and flexibility all translate to other fields, too, so you can use the skills and experience you gain as an applied behavior analyst in other jobs.


As a growing field, applied behavior analysis provides prospective practitioners with ample opportunities. Because analysts can make tangible differences in people’s lives, the career can be quite rewarding. In many cases, analysts can even set their own hours and work as much or as little as they choose. Over the last five decades, the ideas have grown in both scope and applicability to the world. New analysts can apply their creativity and continue the trend.