Are you considering pursuing an ABA degree online? ABA, or Applied Behavior Analysis is a psychiatric methodology used in education, research, and therapy, in areas ranging from addiction recovery to special education to criminal profiling. Its most common use is in behavioral intervention for individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), and many who pursue certification in ABA therapy go on to do just that.
The right training and certification can open up a host of possibilities, even for students who don’t pursue post-graduate level education. The info below will help you find out how to earn an ABA degree, what schools offer the best programs, what classes you’ll take, and what careers you could go into post-college. Keep reading to learn more.
Bachelor’s Program Spotlights: Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Degrees Online
Whether in-person or online, most ABA degrees are tracks or concentrations in psychology bachelor’s programs. Many psych degree programs offer minors in applied behavior analysis. Not all include the actual licensure process, but nearly all that offer a focus in ABA therapy provide the education required to qualify for the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) exam. Even for students who choose to not pursue licensure, earning an ABA psychology degree can open up a variety of job opportunities.
The online Bachelor of Science in Psychology in Applied Behavior Analysis program at Purdue Global is designed for those who intend to pursue clinical therapy roles and who want to prepare for the BCaBA exam. The bachelor’s program itself does not include licensure, but Purdue also offers post-grad certification, as well as a targeted master’s degree for those who are interested.
As part of the Purdue University system, Purdue Global is an online-only institution, regionally accredited through the Higher Learning Commission. They offer a three-week, risk-free trial for those who want to see if online learning is right for them. For those who choose to continue in the ABA program, the bachelor’s degree requires 180 credits for completion, and the cost per credit is $371.
Capella University offers a 100% online bachelor’s program for those seeking to prepare for the BCaBA exam. A BS in Psychology with ABA emphasis, this program is designed for students who need the flexibility and affordability of an online ABA program, but who still need a more formal schedule and structure for their learning.
The university is online only with no dedicated physical campus and is regionally accredited through the Higher Learning Commission. The online ABA bachelor’s program requires 180 credits, with tuition costs at $350 per credit (increasing to $415 per credit for 3000-level courses and above). Capella also offers an MS program in ABA for those who want to take their education further.
The University of Arizona Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science program is a generalist degree with an interdisciplinary emphasis. Designed to provide a broad set of professional skills, it prepares students to pursue a variety of careers, from assistant behavioral health technician to probation officer to human resource specialist. The program offers several specialization options, allowing students to further tailor their experience to jobs for which they hope to qualify.
Courses are accelerated and can be completed in five to six weeks. And classes are taken individually, allowing students to schedule their education around other responsibilities in their lives. The University of Arizona is regionally accredited through the WASC Senior College and University Commission. The program requires a total of 120 credit hours, at $510 per credit hour.
Classes for Your Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Bachelor’s Degree Online
Not all professionals who earn an online ABA will work in positions that require clinical certification. If you’re interested in pursuing training, degrees, or certification in applied behavior analysis, either online or in person, your first objective should be to identify what kind of program you need to achieve those goals. ABA education is typically a subset of psychiatry or psychology programs and is often divided into clinical tracks and research tracks. The former is designed around earning or preparing for certification, while the latter is intended for those heading for careers outside of direct patient care. Below you’ll find descriptions of five classes that you’ll likely find in many undergraduate ABA courses of study.
Statistics, Research, and Empirical Analysis
As a methodology, applied behavior analysis strictly adheres to empirical evidence from reputable research. As a result, much of the coursework involved in earning an ABA degree focuses on reviewing, understanding, and leveraging relevant research. As new developments in the field of psychology are researched and published, ABA professionals should expect to keep abreast of new methods, treatments, and policies.
As part of the healthcare industry, ABA therapists and clinicians are expected to adhere to the same standards of ethical care, patient privacy, and legal compliance as other medical clinicians. What’s more, ABA has been the subject of public controversy in recent years, with autism advocates especially pointing to ABA’s history of less reputable methods. Much has changed over the decades ABA has been in use, and many of those positive changes are owed to an increased focus on ethics in degree programs.
Psychology, Mental Health, and Psychiatric Treatment
Likely what most people imagine forms the bulk of ABA studies, a large portion of the coursework focuses on aspects of psychology, including psychological development, exceptional behavior, diagnostic methods, application of treatment, and more. Because it’s so often used for interventions with autism spectrum disorder, there are often classes dedicated to this subspecialty.
Biology and Neuroscience
It wouldn’t be a healthcare degree without a healthy dose of biology classes. While ABA professionals are not physicians or surgeons, you’ll still need to learn about how the body and brain interact with the mental and emotional experience of an individual. These classes help students gain a better understanding of the interplay of hormones, brain chemistry, and comorbidities, so they can better apply ABA in their work.
A surprising amount of coursework in ABA programs revolves around effective communication in various forms — written reports, public speaking (e.g. training and presentations), and direct interactions with patients and caregivers, just to name a few. As much of the work in ABA fields depends on effectively describing problems, treatments, methodology, etc., these skills are critical for virtually every career an ABA student might pursue. Classes may focus on critical reasoning and analysis, empathetic interactions, or a number of other core communication aspects.
Job Outlook: Careers and Salaries with an Online Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Degree
There is a shockingly long list of professions for which ABA graduates can qualify. Obviously, proper training and certification can prepare you to be a clinical therapist, assistant therapist, or even a school therapist. But many of the options are far less obvious, such as animal trainer, HR specialist, market research analyst, and more. Below, find three common jobs that degree-holders pursue, along with salary expectations for these positions.
Job #1: ABA Therapist
ABA therapists work with patients, their caregivers, and other healthcare professionals to help treat individuals struggling with behavioral issues. From helping individuals on the autism spectrum develop improved regulation and coping skills to providing rehabilitation support for patients with behavioral disorders to instructing parents and educators on methods for assisting such patients, ABA therapists find plenty of opportunities to change lives in their work.
ABA therapists can expect an average base salary of more than $20 per hour.
Job #2: Special Education Teacher
Surprisingly, many special education teachers come to their roles with psychology/therapy degrees, rather than education degrees. The reason for this is the unique nature of both the needs of their students and the methods required to meet those needs, both of which fall outside the core training provided to standard educators. That said, there’s a fair amount of overlap, and teachers in these roles may have come from either direction — an education degree with a special education emphasis, or a psychology/ABA degree with an education emphasis. Either way, the goal is the same: help students who find themselves requiring the most support to succeed in a school environment.
Special education teachers earn average base salaries of $58,442 a year.
Job #3: Social Worker
Where therapists serve in clinical capacities and special ed teachers serve in a school setting, social workers provide similar support as public servants. Working in welfare, workforce services, child and family services, and similar areas, social workers are often on the front lines of the fights against food shortages, homelessness, domestic violence, substance abuse, and other societal epidemics. Those who want a clinical position will be required to earn a master’s degree, and many states require licensure for social workers.
National averages for social worker base salaries are around $62,000 a year.
How Much Do Online ABA Programs Cost?
Like many online degree paths, tuition fees and total costs will vary depending on the school and program. However, earning a degree online typically costs less than on-ground counterparts, considering many schools offer the same, lower-price tuition to online students, regardless of where they live. Keep in mind you may qualify for financial aid for your program as well. Below, find five schools representing a broad spectrum of tuition costs for an ABA degree.
|School||Cost||Number of Credits|
|Saint Joseph’s University||$51,140 per year (includes tuition and fees)||120|
|Florida International University||$575 per credit||120|
|Central Methodist University||$230 per credit||120|
|Ball State University||$561 per credit||120|
|Oregon Institute of Technology||$308 per credit||180 (quarter credits)|
What Should I Look for in an ABA Degree Online Program?
Choosing the right school and program is critical if you want to avoid earning a degree that fails to lead to new job opportunities. If you’re ready to take the leap and enroll in an online ABA program, there are a few details to keep in mind as you search for the right one for you.
As seen above, costs for online education aren’t exactly standardized. Be aware that there’s not necessarily a “correct” answer here: You’ll simply want to have a target tuition in mind as you explore programs, considering only those programs that meet your budget and lifestyle needs. When examined collectively, most reputable institutions will charge somewhere between $300 and $600 per credit hour.
Because ABA professions often require certifications or licensure, it’s important to find a program that can provide an educational path to the qualifications you need. When researching programs, look for statistics indicating post-graduation employment in related fields, and also research graduation rates for the schools you’re considering. These two statistics can paint a picture about program quality.
ABA therapy has changed a great deal over the past few decades. Many of the original practices and methods are now considered outdated, or in some cases, even unethical. As such, it’s important to find a program taught by faculty who are up to date on the latest research, methodology, and ethical discussions.
When a school is accredited, it has received scrutiny from an agency that monitors educational standards to ensure it’s delivering on its promises to students. Although online ABA degree programs don’t always have their own programmatic accreditation, be sure to look for the regional or institutional accreditation of every school to which you’re applying.
Online ABA degree programs will offer different formats of learning. You may be able to take all classes at your own pace — which is called asynchronous coursework — so you can best fit them into your busy schedule. Alternatively, if you prefer live interactions with your peers and instructors, you can enroll in a program that’s synchronous, meaning lectures are held at scheduled times just as they would be if you were on campus.
Questions to Ask About Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Degree Programs Online
Here are six of the most pressing questions about online ABA degrees, according to our readers.
Are online bachelor’s degree programs in applied behavior analysis fully online?
For ABA programs, bachelor’s degrees can often be earned through 100% online education. Even institutions with dedicated physical campuses commonly offer ABA degrees or psychology degrees with an ABA focus. In fact, in many cases, students can even pursue master’s degrees through online programs. However, certification may require additional steps outside of your online coursework, and some programs have in-person clinical or internship requirements.
What does the admissions process look like for this degree?
Admissions for online ABA bachelor’s programs tend to follow similar processes to those of other online degree programs. You’ll be expected to submit an application, transcripts from high school or college, SAT or ACT scores, and a personal essay explaining your interest in this discipline. Schools often expect applicants to have at least a 3.0 GPA overall and minimum grades in specific courses, like psychology.
How long does it take to complete a bachelor’s degree in applied behavior analysis online?
As a bachelor’s program, online ABA degrees are designed to be four-year programs. Many will require a minimum of 120 credits (the usual baseline for four-year degrees). However, it’s not uncommon for degrees to require significantly more — often 180 credits — for programs that include additional preparation for certification exams.
What academic and career support services are available to online students earning their bachelor’s degree in applied behavior analysis?
The most common aspect of online ABA programs that students can expect is certification prep. Most of these degree tracks will at least provide options for those seeking certification, from requirement-centric coursework to advisement and guidance to actual certification in some instances. Considering how important licensure is for some ABA professions, the level of certification prep should be a major factor when choosing a program.
What are some of the technical requirements of earning an online degree in applied behavior analysis?
Students can expect that the majority of their studies and coursework will be resource-light from a technology perspective. Unlike degree programs in software development, visual arts, or music composition, ABA students won’t typically need premium-level computer performance to keep up with their assignments. Web browsing, video conferencing, word processing, and media streaming are the technologies requiring the highest resource demands.
Can I work while pursuing an online applied behavior analysis degree?
While some programs will be more rigid in structure and timeline, online ABA degree programs can often be undertaken while working and/or balancing other life commitments. Most are designed specifically to facilitate asynchronous distance learning. How flexible a program is will vary by institution, so be sure to research commitment expectations for the programs you’re considering.
Other Degree Options in Psychology
If you are still unsure which path in computer science you want to take, look at these other bachelor’s degree options: