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10 Best ABA Master’s Programs

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In this article, we profile the 10 best ABA graduate programs from accredited colleges and universities for 2023.
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is designed to bring about positive change in behavior. To become a certified ABA specialist, highly specialized skills and education must be acquired. Few programs that lead to Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification exist. Those that do exist provide the necessary curriculum to sit for board certification.

10 Best Masters in ABA Programs Ranking Methodology

For this list, we looked at 42 regionally and nationally accredited colleges and universities. We looked at those that offer ABA master’s degree programs in a traditional on-campus format. We selected accredited top ABA programs. Many of these aligned with the standards of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). We also chose schools with graduate tuition (inclusive of fees) of less than $25,000 per year. Many programs on our list are BACB-certified. These offer eligibility to sit for the Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification exam. We narrowed down our options still further. To do this, included only programs with course sequences (VCS) approved by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). Also, to help prospective students we included only programs with indicated BCBA examination pass rates of 70% or higher.

Ranking the 10 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Schools

Logo for GSU for our ranking of top master's in ABA10. Georgia State University

Applied Behavior Analysis, M.S.

Atlanta, Georgia

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $24,517

Georgia State University’s master’s in applied behavior analysis is a great ABA program. It is among the best behavioral analysis degree programs available. Georgia State University ranks with U.S. News & World Report as #3 among most innovative schools. It also ranks among top national universities. This school had a BCBA examination pass rate of 71%. Some of the courses in this applied behavior analysis master include:
  • principles of behavior analysis
  • psychology of learning & learners
  • strategies for challenging behaviors
  • ethics for behavior analysts
The ABAI, or Association for Behavior Analysis International, approves the Verified Course Sequence (VCI). The Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges has accredited this university. This is one of the top applied behavior analysis graduate programs.

Logo for University of Nebraska for our ranking of top master's in ABA9. The University of Nebraska Omaha

Applied Behavior Analysis, MS

Omaha, Nebraska

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $21,718

The University of Nebraska Omaha is one of the best ABA therapy schools. It is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. It is not the cheapest on our list of top applied behavior analysis graduate programs. But it is a high-quality degree, as shown by several factors. These factors include its 17-1 student-to-faculty ratio and its BCBA pass rate of 88%. Another factor is that this master’s degree program ranks among top national universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. It is also one of the top performers on social mobility. This means that it helps students with family incomes below the national median to graduate and acquire jobs. The Verified Course Sequence (VCS) for this program is approved by the ABAI. Students will need to choose the path that is approved, as there are multiple course sequences offered. The applied behavior analysis master in applied behavior analysis is available for those with a bachelor’s degree in:
  • education
  • psychology
  • or applied behavior analysis.

Logo for UNT for our ranking of top master's in ABA8. The University of North Texas

MA in Applied Behavior Analysis

Denton, Texas

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $20,906

The Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis offered by the University of North Texas is one of the top ABA therapy programs available. Some of the courses in this ABA program are:
  • fundamentals & techniques of compassionate & effective behavior change
  • evidence-based practice: understanding & using applied behavior analytic research
  • culturally responsive ethics in behavioral practice.
The courses in this master’s degree program are available every semester. Students do not need to wait for the course they plan to take. The course sequence is ABAI-approved and is one of the best BCBA programs. Graduates of this program have a pass rate of 94% on the BCBA examination. This is remarkable among applied behavior analysis schools. The University of North Texas tied for #44 in social mobility, according to U.S. News & World Report. It also ranks among top national universities and top public schools. It is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges. The University of Texas is among the best applied behavior analysis schools.

Logo for University of Houston Clear Lake for our ranking of top master's in ABA7. The University of Houston Clear Lake

Behavior Analysis M.A.

Houston, Texas

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $20,752

Here is a great option from the University of Houston Clear Lake. It ranks #7 on our list of top applied behavior analysis graduate programs. This program offers a balance of experience, coursework, and research. All three of these are invaluable for those going into the field of behavior analysis. The program emphasizes both knowledge and skills. This emphasis appears to be effective. The University of Houston Clear Lake has a BCBA pass rate of 100%. This is rare even among the best applied behavior analysis programs. The University of Houston Clear Lake is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges. It has a student-to-faculty ratio of 17-1. Some graduates take the BCBA exam. Others continue further in their studies, either in applied behavior analysis or in psychology.

Logo for CSUN for our ranking of top master's in ABA6. California State University Northridge

M. S., Applied Behavior Analysis

Los Angeles, California

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,897

California State University Northridge is a top pick for accredited ABA graduate programs. It offers one of the best ABA master’s programs. Their Verified Course Sequence aligns with the standards set forth by the ABAI (Association for Behavior Analysis International). Major publications like U.S. News & World Report rank California State University Northridge one of the best global universities. The courses will get students ready to assess patients’ behavior. The courses also prepare them to change the patient’s behavior for the better. Graduates of this program had a 92% pass rate on the BCBA examination. Also, this school is accredited by the WASC Senior College & University Commission.

Logo for SSU for our ranking of top master's in ABA5. Salem State University

Master of Science in Behavior Analysis

Salem, Massachusetts

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $18,480

Salem State University offers an ABA master’s degree program. It is made to prepare students to be highly competent behavior analysts. This may be in applied or research settings. The school’s website states the mission of the program. This is “to use behavior analysis to inspire solutions that lead to a more rewarding life.” Salem State University graduates had a 71% pass rate on the BCBA examination. Those who complete ABA therapy masters programs may need to meet more requirements to take the exam to become a BCBA.  Besides the reputation of the ABA program, Michigan State has earned top rankings with U.S. News & World Report. They are tied for:
  • #36 for social mobility
  • #44 in top public schools
  • #125 in best regional universities in the North

Logo for USF for our ranking of top master's in ABA4. The University of South Florida

Master of Science in ABA

Tampa, Florida

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,898

One of the best ABA programs online on our list is the 44-credit master of science in applied behavior analysis at the University of South Florida. Three colleges work together to award this degree:
  • the College of Behavioral & Community Sciences
  • the College of Arts & Sciences
  • the College of Education.
This program had a 82% BCBA pass rate. According to the program’s website, this ABA master’s program prepares students for work in the fields of:
  • mental health
  • education
  • autism
  • rehabilitation, and others
The University of South Florida is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges & Schools Commission on Colleges. It ranks #103 with U.S. News & World Report among best national universities. Also, the course sequence for the ABA therapy masters programs is approved by the ABAI. This school has one of the best masters in ABA programs available.

Logo for St. Cloud State for our ranking of top master's in ABA3. St. Cloud State University

Applied Behavior Analysis (M.S.)

St. Cloud, Minnesota

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $17,195

Breaking into the top three on our list of the best ABA master’s programs: St. Cloud University’s master’s in applied behavior analysis. St. Cloud University offers this program either online or on-campus. It is a top applied behavior analysis online degree. Students in this program have the opportunity to present at conferences during the course of their studies. There are two options for completion of this degree. Plan A is heavy on research and the student writes a thesis, while Plan B finishes with a comprehensive exam. Plan A requires 45 credits, while Plan B requires 46. The Verified Course Sequence is approved by the ABAI and is among the best BCBA programs. St. Cloud University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. The BCBA pass rate for this program is 90%.

Logo for Cambridge College for our ranking of top master's in ABA2. Cambridge College Boston

Autism/Applied Behavior Analysis

Boston, Massachusetts

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $16,266

Cambridge College Boston offers a master of education in autism/applied behavior analysis (MEd) that takes 38 credits to earn. 14 of those credits are autism or special education credits, and 24 of them are part of the ABA course sequence. Cambridge College Boston serves adult students who have other responsibilities than school. This means here are online, evening and weekend options for working students. Graduates of this program had a 94% pass rate on the BCBA exam. Cambridge College Boston is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education. It has the remarkable student-to-faculty ratio of 11-1. This affordable college has among the best ABA degree programs available. This online learning opportunity provides graduate students some flexibility.

Logo for Queens College for our ranking of top master's in ABA1. Queens College

Psychology: Master of Arts (MA) in Applied Behavior Analysis

Cambridge, Massachusetts

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Graduate Tuition/Fees: $15,488

Queens College offers the most affordable ABA master’s degree on our list. This master of arts in applied behavior analysis program supports students. They may plan to continue with their education and earn a doctoral degree. Or they may plan to begin work in the field immediately upon graduation. Those who wish to study in this program must have taken 15 credits in undergraduate psychology. This is including specific laboratory courses. If they have not met this requirement, they will be required to take the courses they have missed at the undergraduate level. Queens College tied for #50 in best regional universities in the North and is #23 in best colleges for veterans, according to U.S. News & World Report. Queens College had a BCBA pass rate of 88%, making it one of the best behavior analyst schools. This is the most affordable ABA master’s degree on our list of the best ABA master’s programs.

ABA Frequently Asked Questions

What is Applied Behavior Analysis? 

ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis, is a science-based approach to dealing with behavioral disorders. This form of therapy uses reinforcement both to teach skills and to correct behavior. Behavioral issues usually refer to the very basic skills that are needed for an individual to relate to others, as well as to work, play, learn, and live. The therapeutic ABA approach is personalized, as it assesses each individual and their very specific needs
The goal of applied behavioral analysis is to determine the “why”  behind specific behaviors. The first step is to identify the cause for an individual’s behavior. The plan is often to both correct harmful behaviors and establish new behaviors. ABA is often used as a therapy for social and behavioral issues such as:
communication, social skills, and language. ABA professionals view behavior and behavior patterns as a science. They approach the therapy with this perspective. Analysis of what happens before a behavior occurs is paired with the analysis of what happens after a behavior occurs . These are combined to construct a plan to change an individual’s particular behavior. 
Through positive reinforcement, applied behavior analysis can successfully work to retrain behavior patterns. There is a long list of behavioral disorders that have been shown to improve through the use of applied behavior analysis.  

What Does an Applied Behavior Analyst Do? 

An applied behavior analyst is an expert on the science of behavior. ABA therapists attempt to find the cause of certain behaviors, and then they determine a plan to help to correct problem behaviors as well as to teach new behaviors
The goal of an ABA professional is to identify behavioral issues. After identifying issues, they will then work to try to improve the lives of the individuals, as well as all of those who care for them. The day to day jobs of ABA professionals will vary based on areas of focus.  All applied behavior analysts can expect their job to include many of the following:
  •  meetings with individuals, teachers, and families to identify and assess behavior that need to be addressed 
  •  observing behaviors in a variety of settings and environments 
  •  analyzing information gathered through various methods, including observation and conversation
  •  determining appropriate intervention and plans based on information gathered
  •  teaching new, appropriate behaviors 
  •  choosing reinforcements that work well with an individual’s needs 
  • educating patients and their parents/caretakers in behavioral plans 
  • maintain records of meetings and plans – both successful and unsuccessful 
Applied behavior analysts aim to approve the lives of their patients by making positive changes in the areas of behavior, speech, and physical abilities. The education that ABA professionals receive prepares them to deal with a variety of situations, and to apply the science of behavior with the ultimate goal of helping improve the life of each patient.  

What kind of settings does an ABA professional work in?

ABA professionals can work in a variety of settings, but some of the most common environments are home, school, hospital or medical facility, and clinic
Home therapy occurs most often when children are involved. Applied behavioral analysis within the home allows the parents and caregivers to observe how this therapy works. Through close observation, caregivers will be able to support by taking a more active role in the ongoing therapy plan. Home therapy can sometimes speed up the process. Patients may benefit from working in a familiar environment with their caregivers nearby.  
ABA therapists will often work in a school environment. Though not as common as therapy within the home, ABA will often be a part of the plan for a particular student with special needs. Public schools are required to make accommodations for students’ learning and development. Occasionally, this will include the work of an applied behavioral therapist within the walls of the school
ABA therapists who have graduated from behavior analyst schools will sometimes work at a hospital or a medical facility. Many mental health institutions offer applied behavior analysis as part of a treatment plan for a patient. Hospitals may also offer this. The ABA professional will come in to assess and treat the patient. This can take place in both out-patient and in-patient facilities. 
Many ABA professionals will treat patients in a private clinic. In this setting, applied behavior analysis is often the primary treatment offered to patients. Those diagnosed with a variety of behavioral disorders will come to the clinic to receive treatment in that setting.  

What is the difference between a BCBA and an ABA?

A BCBA is a graduate-level, board certified behavioral analyst. Board certified behavior analysts are certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to train and to supervise an applied behavior analyst. An applied behavior analyst, or ABA, will always work under the direction of a BCBA. 
It is often a BCBA who will establish goals and treatment plans, and an ABA who will practically implement the treatment. They work in the same profession and towards the same goal. Still, an ABA will professionally be viewed differently because of different qualifications. 

What courses will I take for this applied behavior analysis degree?

For this applied behavior analysis master you will take courses such as:

  • Research Methods for Behavior Analysis
  • Behavioral Science and Psychology
  • Organizational Behavior Management

The ABA degree may be housed in the department of:

  • Special Education
  • Human Services
  • Education

How much can I make working in the applied behavior analysis field?

According to ZipRecruiter, board certified behavior analysts make between $59,000 and $140,000 per year. This variation in salary depends on many factors which include location, experience, and work setting. The salary for applied behavior analysts is lower. ABA therapists average around $55,000 per year.  

What kind of education/certification do I need to work in the applied behavior analysis field?

To work as a BCBA, which is considered to be the highest position in the field, one should plan on six to eight years of study. After earning an undergraduate degree, it is essential to earn a graduate degree in applied behavioral analysis. Following the completion of a graduate program, applicants must complete 1,000 hours of supervised experience. The final step to becoming a BCBA is to take the BCBA certification exam. 
It is the most lucrative decision to continue education and become certified as a BCBA, but not everyone chooses this route. To work as an ABA therapist, you need an undergraduate degree. More and more organizations are requiring master’s degrees for work in the field. Although it is not absolutely necessary, it may be the wisest decision to pursue additional degrees in the ABA field. This will open the door for professional growth as well as for upward mobility.  

Can applied behavior analysis be useful for both children and adults? 

Applied behavior analysis is often considered to be used primarily as a treatment for children. Although this is usually true, there are some instances when applied behavior analysis can be used for adults, as well. Top ABA programs are highly individualized to the needs of each learner, so this plan of action can easily be applied to adults, as well
Applied behavior analysis has been especially successful with adults when teaching specific skills. These include dining in public, basic household skills, hygiene, or riding public transportation. Applied behavior analysis is also helpful for adults who exhibit aggressive behaviors. Applied behavior analysis works to retrain behavioral patterns using positive reinforcement. It is undisputed that early intervention is usually the best option. However, applied behavior analysis for adults can also be a good option to consider. 

Is applied behavior analysis only used with those diagnosed with Autism Disorders? 

Applied behavior analysis is considered to be one of the top treatment plans for those who have been diagnosed with autism disorders. It is a good fit for autistic learners, as the skills and behaviors that are most commonly targeted in ABA therapy align well with the challenges faced by those diagnosed with autism
ABA therapy has been proven to help those on the autism spectrum with common challenges that they may face. These challenges include areas such as social skills, developmental disabilities, communication, and behavioral issues. These are challenges that are also faced not only by those with autism, but also by many who are not dealing with an autism disorder. ABA therapy has been known to successfully help with other behavioral disorders as well. The following is a list of other mental health conditions that can benefit from applied behavior analysis:
  • Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Anxiety disorder
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Oppositional defiant disorder
  • Panic disorder
  • Traumatic brain injury sufferers
  • Substance abuse disorder
For both those on the autism spectrum and those who aren’t, applied behavior analysis is a successful way to improve quality of life. It does this by targeting destructive and unhealthy behaviors and encouraging healthy alternatives.  

What are some examples of Applied Behavior Analysis?

As we have mentioned, applied behavior analysis is a scientific approach to understanding behaviors The goal is then to correct or retrain these negative behaviors in order to improve an individual’s quality of life. One may wonder how this could play out practically
In simpler terms, what would one actually do to utilize the ABA approach?  There are a number of different techniques in ABA, and here are a few of them, as well as a basic description of how they work:
  • Reinforcement systemsThis could be either with positive reinforcement or negative reinforcement, although it is more common to use positive. When dealing with an unwanted behavior, this method clearly pairs a behavior with a consequence. It is essential for the connection between the behavior and the consequence, whether positive or negative, to be clearly laid out. It is also very important to be consistent when using reinforcement.
  • Modeling – This is a simple concept, but can be very effective. Through modeling, an applied behavior analysis patient will watch an example of the behavior that needs to be learned. Through watching it clearly modeled, it becomes easier to “copy” and therefore learn. An ABA therapist may ask an individual to mimic behavior that they have seen displayed for them. This can be a successful way to teach new behavior.
  • Picture Exchange Communication System – This is especially helpful for those who have a difficult time expressing themselves verbally. If an individual is unable to find the words to explain a desire or an emotion, they are often able to point to a picture that depicts what they are thinking or feeling. This works as a gateway to communication with their therapists, and possibly with others as well.  
  • Discrete Trial Training – This technique aims to break down the skill or behavior that needs to be taught into small, or discrete, steps. Each of these components are taught, one by one, and each small step is reinforced along the way. Some individuals greatly benefit from this method of breaking down whatever task may be at hand.

What type of skills and qualities are needed for an ABA professional to be successful?

Many people are drawn to this demanding, yet rewarding career. There are a few qualities that are essential for those wishing to make an impact as an ABA therapist. It is quite important to be empathetic. ABA professionals interact with families and individuals who are facing challenges in their everyday life. Having eyes of compassion and a heart of empathy when trying to understand another’s struggles is important. This will make the patient and therapist relationship more successful, and there will be a greater level of understanding and listening.  
It is also important for an ABA worker to be a good communicator. Communication, both verbal and non-verbal, is a crucial part of the success of therapy. Being able to listen intently, as well as to read non-verbal cues, will go a long way. 
Lastly, it is important to be able to think criticallyMuch of the job involves assessing a situation or behavior, and then choosing a treatment plan or program based on an individual’s needs. This part of the job is ever-changing. It is helpful for the therapist to be able to gather information. They must also use critical thinking to make appropriate decisions for each person they encounter.  
The need for applied behavior analysts is expected to continue to grow. If someone is looking for a career in which they can be sure to make a difference in the lives of others, they should look no further.  
ABA Staff
Updated January 2023

This concludes our ranking of the top masters in ABA programs.