Why This Matters

  • THERE WILL BE NEARLY 200,000 PSYCHOLOGIST JOBS BY 2029

    There were 192,300 psychologist jobs in 2019, and that’ll grow to 198,000 by 2029. Include therapists and analysts, and the number of jobs is even higher.

  • BEHAVIORAL PSYCHOLOGISTS CAN SPECIALIZE IN A DOZEN AREAS

    Behavioral analysts may choose to specialize in a dozen officially recognized areas, such as education, sports, and clinical behavior. Your degree program can start you toward a chosen specialty.

  • EARN AN ADDITIONAL $17,752 PER YEAR WITH A MASTER’S

    The average salary for a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is $61,600, compared with Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts’ (BCaBAs) $43,848 average salary. A master’s degree is required to become a BCBA.

Our Research

We reviewed many master’s in behavioral psychology degrees, including on-campus, online, and dual-mode programs. Online programs often require at least some in-person clinical experience, and they may have a short on-campus component.

All of the degree programs listed are regionally accredited, and many are also accredited by the Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) or the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). To earn a BCBA credential, you must complete an accredited degree.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

  • 50 hours to write this article
  • 182 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 355 education programs we compared

The Top 10 Master's in Behavioral Psychology Degree Programs

St. Cloud State University

Intelligent Pick

St. Cloud State University’s Master of Science in Applied Behavioral Analysis program has strong connections in and out of academia. Faculty have partnerships with more than 120 international and community agencies, which aids in career placement. The on-site program specializes in autism spectrum disorder, developmental disabilities, community integration strategies, program evaluation, organizational development, and staff training and development. A highlight of the program is its opportunities for research and teaching. Thirty percent of students receive graduate assistantships that provide a stipend and hands-on work as an instructor and researcher. Additionally, students present their research with faculty at state, regional, and international conferences.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: St. Cloud, MN
  • Cost per credit: $653.42
  • Credits required to graduate: 45
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Room and board: $8,900
  • Graduation rate: 50%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 320-308-4894

Learn more

University of Washington

Best for Special Education

The University of Washington’s program is unique in that it is actually a Master of Special Education with a verified pathway to apply for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® exam. The program is held on campus but is compatible with a traditional work schedule since classes are held three evenings a week. A practicum is required to complete this two-year program and one option for placement is the school’s Haring Center for Inclusive Education. This well-regarded facility provides early childhood education to children with and without disabilities and conducts leading-edge research in special education. Of note: You can only start Washington’s program during the fall semester.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: Seattle, WA
  • Cost: $6,725 per quarter
  • Credits required to graduate: 36
  • Academic calendar: Quarter system
  • Room and board: $13,296
  • Graduation rate: 83%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 206-543-7834

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Bay Path University

Best for Autism Spectrum Disorder

Bay Path University offers a highly hands-on Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis with a concentration in autism spectrum disorder. The on-site program provides an intensive focus on educating and supporting individuals with autism spectrum disorders. Students have the opportunity to take courses at two different Bay Path campuses. A distinguishing aspect of this program is its emphasis on fieldwork. Students must complete a 100-hour supervised learning experience and 2,000 hours of supervised independent fieldwork. Unlike more traditional fieldwork experiences, which focus on simply accruing hours, Bay Path’s experiential learning program places a strong emphasis on the personalized supervision relationship.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: Concord or East Longmeadow, MA
  • Cost per credit: $735
  • Credits required to graduate: 48
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Room and board: $12,799
  • Graduation rate: 57%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 978-318-3979

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University of Central Missouri

Best Career Services

The University of Central Missouri’s Master of Science in Psychology program offers unique research opportunities for students. All students complete a thesis, which is the capstone of the program and sets it apart from many master in psychology programs that do not require this project. To aid in research, several laboratory facilities and a participant pool are available to students. Along with the thesis, students are encouraged to collaborate with department faculty on research across a variety of areas in the field. Applicants do not need to have a bachelor’s degree in psychology but do need to have completed at least 12 hours of courses in the subject. Scholarships, financial aid, and graduate assistant positions are available.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: Warrensburg, MO
  • Cost per credit: $326.50 (in-state) $653 (out-of-state)
  • Credits required to graduate: 36
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Room and board: $8,962
  • Graduation rate: 54%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 660-543-4185

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Arcadia University

Best Accelerated Program

Arcadia’s Master of Education in Applied Behavior Analysis offers a solid accelerated program for students with limited time or funds to complete a graduate degree. Students who commit to the program full time are able to finish it in just one year. Additionally, the school offers an early entry master’s program for its current undergraduates to begin master’s degree coursework while finishing their bachelor’s degree. Fieldwork is not required for this program, but students must complete a culminating, action-research master’s project. For students interested in autism spectrum disorder, Arcadia offers many applicable elective courses, including Teaching Methods for Students with Autism and Special Topics in Autism.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: Glenside, PA
  • Cost per credit: $705
  • Credits required to graduate: 36
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Room and board: $13,900
  • Graduation rate: 64%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 215-572-2938

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Harvard Extension School

Best Ivy League Program

Ivy League Harvard University offers a flexible Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies, Psychology through their extension school. A unique feature of this degree program is that it’s an earn-your-way-in situation. Admission is based on performance in three specific Harvard Extension courses students complete before submitting an application. These three courses do not require an application and are in the areas of social science, statistics, and psychology. Harvard’s program is interdisciplinary and requires students to conduct empirical research via a thesis track or apply research to practice via a capstone track. The average age of students in the program is 35 and more than half work full time while completing the program.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: Cambridge, MA
  • Cost per credit: $745
  • Credits required to graduate: 48
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Room and board: $17,682
  • Graduation rate: 98%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 617-496-3790

Learn more

University of Southern California

Best for Child Language Acquisition

The Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis at the University of Southern California is a top-tier graduate training program that offers a strong mix of classroom and real-world experiences. Students complete 315 instructional hours of coursework and 1,500 to 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork. Upon graduation, they are ready to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® exam. Distinctive features of USC’s program include two required courses in developmental psychology and elective coursework that focuses on child language acquisition. Admission is based on a holistic review process, and a psychology-specific bachelor’s degree is not required to apply.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: Los Angeles, CA
  • Cost: $60,446 per academic year
  • Credits required to graduate: 42
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Room and board: $15,912
  • Graduation rate: 92%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WSCUC), the Senior College and University Commission
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 213-740-5930

Learn more

Pepperdine University

Best Student-Faculty Ratio

Pepperdine University’s Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis is an efficient program that prepares students to work with clients with impairments, including autism spectrum disorders and traumatic brain injury. Upon graduation and completion of experiential hours, students are eligible to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® exam. A highlight of the program is purposefully small classes with excellent student-faculty interaction. Students also receive supervised clinical experience and access to a dedicated team for fieldwork and career placement. Classes are held at Pepperdine’s West Los Angeles Graduate Campus.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: Malibu, CA
  • Cost per credit: $1,145
  • Credits required to graduate: 37
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Room and board: $15,670
  • Graduation rate: 84%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 310-568-5600

Learn more

Florida State University

Best for Mental Health and Aging

Florida State University Panama City offers a Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis with an impressive track record for student success. In 2019, the school had a 100% pass rate for students taking the Behavior Analyst Certification Board exam for the first time. Another distinguishing factor of the program is that all current students receive assistantships and tuition waivers through placement with approved behavior analytic agencies. Students have the opportunity to specialize in one of four areas that are in high demand for practitioners, including behavior analysis in mental health and aging. Most students in the program have one to five years of work experience in the behavioral psychology field, but applicants from allied fields like counseling and education are also welcome.

Things to Consider:

  • Location: Panama City, FL
  • Cost per credit: $444.26 (in-state) $1,075.66 (out-of-state)
  • Credits required to graduate: 39
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Room and board: $10,780
  • Graduation rate: 80%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 850-770-2160

Learn more

University of Kansas

Best Online Program

The University of Kansas offers a research-centric Master of Arts in Applied Behavioral Science degree that can be done online. In addition to coursework, students must complete 1,500 to 2,000 hours of field experience supervised by a board-certified behavior analyst. A unique feature of this program is the abundance of department-specific graduate scholarships, fellowships, assistantships, and other funding opportunities. Students are also eligible to receive a $400 award to cover expenses associated with attending and presenting a paper at a professional conference. A distinguishing feature of the program is that among the required application elements is a list of faculty members at the University of Kansas with whom you’re interested in working on research. These faculty members conduct the initial review of the application.

Things to Consider:

  • Cost per credit: $700
  • Credits required to graduate: 30
  • Academic calendar: Traditional semester
  • Graduation rate: 63%

More Program Information:

  • Accreditation: Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
  • Email: [email protected]
  • Phone: 785-864-4840

Learn more

Other Master’s in Behavioral Psychology Degree Programs to Consider

Best Master's in Behavioral Psychology Degree Programs
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What You Should Know About This Degree

The master’s in behavioral psychology is a specialized degree that prepares students specifically to pursue careers as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA). Those who want to go on further can later complete a doctoral degree in the field and become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctoral (BCBA-D). A master’s degree and coursework in behavioral counseling are required to become a BCBA.

Students who already have a master’s degree in a related field, such as psychology or counseling, don’t need to complete a full master’s in behavioral psychology. A certificate program in behavioral psychology is sufficient in this situation. Certificate programs aren’t eligible for financial aid due to federal guidelines, however.

Because behavior analysis involves working directly with people, these master’s degrees commonly include a supervised practicum that must be completed in person. You may be able to complete the practicum in a setting near you, but consider how this time requirement will fit into your schedule when evaluating online program options.

Upon completion of a master’s in behavioral psychology, you must pass a certification exam before earning the BCBA credential. Some states also have their own licensure requirements, but most rely on the BCBA to regulate professionals in the field.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when considering a master’s in behavioral psychology:

  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Online programs usually include both synchronous and asynchronous courses. All enrolled students attend synchronous ones at the same time (although remotely), while asynchronous coursework is completed on the students’ own schedules. Consider how you’ll fit both types of courses into your schedule as you evaluate online degree options.
  • What licensing or certifications are required? You have to pass a certification exam to become a BCBA after graduating from your degree program. Some states also have licensing requirements, although many don’t. Check with your state to see whether it has specific licensing requirements outside of what the BCBA requires.

When you have a list of potential degree programs, check their admissions requirements and deadlines. You can get these details directly from programs or their websites.

Also consider how you’ll cover the cost of tuition. Ask program counselors about scholarship opportunities and other financial aid provisions. If you’re employed, your employer might provide tuition reimbursement.