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What Related Degrees Would be Good to Pair with a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) Certification?

Image of a graduate for our FAQ about what degrees to pair with a BCBA

The Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification shows that professionals have both the skills and the experience needed to work with anyone who has a behavior problem. To get this type of certification, the person applying must have a set number of years of experience in the field and some type of graduate degree. Many colleges in the United States offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) programs that prepare students to get their certification, and some of these programs are now available online. Graduate students can major in other related subjects and get their certification.


One of the degrees that can go along with BCBA certification is a graduate degree in psychology. Psychology is essentially the study of human thought and behavior. Graduate programs will often feature courses such as Research Studies in the Social Sciences and Abnormal Psychology. Students learn more about how humans develop over time and now environmental factors and biological factors can increase the risk of someone suffering from a behavioral issue. A psychology graduate program may include some courses that look at the autism spectrum and classes that cover other behavioral problems such as attachment disorders that can change the way people act.

Behavior Analysis

Most of the graduate programs designed for students who want to get their certification have majored in behavior analysis. These programs look at what causes behavioral problems and how professionals can work with patients. Most programs include courses on individual therapy to prepare students for working with their patients in one on one sessions in either clinical settings or their patients’ homes. They also learn which treatments and methods work best with those patients and how they can train their assistants. Their assistants can work with those clients when they are not available.


According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), only those who pass an exam will get certification. To even take that exam, applicants must have a graduate degree and meet two other requirements. This can include having a faculty appointment, several years of post-graduate experience, a set number of hours in the field or supervised clinical work. Not everyone who takes the exam has a degree in psychology or behavioral science/analysis though. Some applicants earned their graduate degrees in education. Special education graduate programs provide students with the knowledge they need to work with students who need more help and support such as those in special education classes or programs. Those graduates will have experience working with students on the spectrum.

Autism Studies

Another major that can help professionals applying for their BCBA certification is in autism studies. Though this major is similar to the behavior analysis major, it focuses more on those diagnosed with autism and other individuals who are on the autism spectrum. It includes training designed for students who want to work with both children and adults. They learn how to work with both verbal people who can communicate in different ways and with nonverbal patients who do not speak.

Anyone who wants to work as a certified behavior specialist must have an advanced degree and several years of experience, but they also need to have certification from a professional agency. Some of the related graduate degrees that are good to pair with a BCBA certification include those in psychology, autism studies, education and behavior analysis.

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