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To become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (or BCBA), aspiring individuals must obtain a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis or a similar field. BCBAs work with patients who suffer from behavioral and psychological disorders. They help their clients overcome daily barriers that otherwise affect their quality of life. BCBAs frequently treat individuals on the autism spectrum who require assistance with basic communication and social skills.

Graduate students can complete an online BCBA master’s program within two years if attending full-time. Coursework for an online master’s in this specialty integrates psychology, scientific investigation, and application of behavior analysis techniques. The program equips graduates to work with various populations across residential, school, or senior settings. Established programs fulfill the academic and fieldwork requirements for board certification and licensure; however, candidates must still complete a licensure exam before earning their official BCBA credential.

Projection data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that employment opportunities for mental health counselors will increase by 18% over the next decade, which is much faster than average. Individuals working in this field make an average salary of $49,710. A graduate degree and board certification will add to your earning potential.

How to Choose an Online BCBA Master’s Degree Program

Choose your area of study

To become a BCBA, candidates must first earn their graduate degree. In most cases, the best degree to pursue is a Master of Science (MS) in applied behavioral analysis. Some institutions offer a master’s in education or psychology with a specialized track for behavioral analysis. All options should fulfill the necessary educational components for eventual board certification.

You may also be able to select a concentration and focus your studies on a particular niche in this field, such as autism, childhood clinical disorders, mental health, or organizational behavior management. If you already know what you would like to do after you graduate, look for programs that closely match these specific career goals.

Research schools and programs

After determining which online BCBA programs provide the necessary academic coursework for your professional interests, the subsequent step is to research each program further.

You should only apply to institutions that have been approved by a DOE-recognized regional accrediting organization, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education or Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. These organizations evaluate schools to ensure they provide students with a high-quality education. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

You should also look for programmatic accreditation from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), as this is essential for professional licensure.

Significant hands-on practice under the supervision of an experienced BCBA is crucial to future board certification and professional success. Determine how each program integrates internship and other fieldwork components for online students.

To learn more about any schools that you’re interested in, you can visit the school’s website, contact an admissions counselor, follow the school on social media, or attend an in-person or virtual open house.

Prepare for tests and applications

Application requirements vary by school and program. Few online BCBA master’s programs require GRE scores. However, your application packet will probably need to include undergraduate transcripts, a personal statement, and several letters of recommendation. Preparing these materials can take several weeks, so pay attention to submission deadlines and plan accordingly. Before submitting an application, always contact an admissions counselor to ensure you have the most accurate information regarding requirements and deadlines.

Select your program

Determine which programs match your professional goals, learning style, and financial situation. Then, it’s time to apply. While programs can have several start dates each year, space is usually limited. Apply early if you can.

Before making your final decision, review your needs and goals again. Do you plan to attend school full-time or part-time? Do you want your program to be as online as possible, or are you fine with a hybrid program that has a fair amount of in-person requirements? Some programs offer asynchronous courses, which can be completed at your own pace, while others only offer synchronous courses, which involve remotely attending lectures and completing assignments at the same time as other students — which of these two online learning formats do you prefer? Your school should accommodate your scheduling needs and learning preferences.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

There are several avenues to consider when planning how to pay for your degree:

  • Submit the FAFSA to ascertain whether you qualify for federal grants or loans.
  • Share your professional goals with your employer; if you currently work in the educational or mental health field, you might qualify for employee tuition assistance.
  • Speak with a financial aid counselor or academic advisor through the school; they can guide you on whether you qualify for discounts, scholarships, or other funding opportunities.

Ultimately, paying for your degree is a serious financial commitment, but most institutions and loan agencies can help you set up a payment plan that works for you.

Best 50 Accredited Online BCBA Master’s Degree Programs

Best BCBA Master's Degree Program Badge

Northeastern University

Pepperdine University

UW College of Education

Ball State University

Saint Louis University

Endicott College

Arizona State University

Western Connecticut State University

University of South Florida

George Mason University

Simmons University

Saint Cloud State University

University of Southern Maine

MSU Billings

University of West Florida

Slippery Rock University

Florida Institute of Technology

Southeast Missouri State University

UMass Global

Oregon Institute of Technology

Bay Path University

National University

Shenandoah University

Mary Baldwin University

University of Cincinnati

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How We Rank Schools

This list features the best online BCBA master’s degree programs at top colleges nationwide. Each school featured is a nonprofit, accredited institution — either public or private — with a high standard of academic quality for postsecondary education. The programs on our list are accredited by reputable organizations, such as the New England Commission of Higher Education and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, that assess the objectives, quality, and overall effectiveness of colleges and universities.

We evaluated each school’s program on admission, retention, and graduation rates as well as tuition costs, faculty, reputation, and the resources provided for online students. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score on a scale of 0 to 100. Read more about our ranking methodology.

Next, we compared this comprehensive list of online BCBA master’s degree programs to a list of aggregated college rankings from reputable publications like U.S. News & World Report, among others, to simplify a student’s college search. We pored through these rankings so students don’t have to.

What Can You Expect from an Online BCBA Master’s Degree Program?

An online BCBA master’s degree program provides students with the academic knowledge and practical experience required for eventual BCBA examination and licensure. Participants learn the industry expectations for ethical and professional conduct, the principles of behavior analysis, research methods, and application. Many programs facilitate the theoretical component through online discussion or asynchronous study, but the practical application of behavioral analysis techniques demands several hundred hours of in-person, supervised fieldwork.

Most full-time attendees can graduate within two years, though many programs provide a path for part-time attendance. All programs feature a thesis, comprehensive exam, or some form of pinnacle assignment before graduation.

Potential courses you’ll take in an online BCBA master’s degree program

  • Science and Human Behavior. This course enhances student understanding of behavior analysis and how to apply the concept to real-world problems. Participants establish a solid philosophical base; students will read, discuss, and critique fundamental behavioral analysis theory.
  • Behavior Assessment. Students learn how to facilitate and interpret behavioral assessments. Based on their findings, students practice establishing behavioral goals and meaningful strategies for clients.
  • Ethics for Behavior Analysts. Using the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts as a foundation, participants discuss ethical considerations for BCBA practice.
  • Graduate Research in Behavior Analysis. This course prepares individuals pursuing a thesis option. Students develop their research questions and begin conducting research toward their final thesis.

What Can You Do With an Online BCBA Master’s Degree?

Career outlook

The career outlook for individuals holding an online BCBA master’s degree is promising, reflecting the growing demand for professionals skilled in applied behavior analysis (ABA). The field of ABA has gained prominence for its impactful contributions to improving the lives of individuals with behavioral challenges, particularly those with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities.

Indeed, graduates with an online BCBA master’s degree have a wide range of career paths to explore, each centered around applying ABA principles to create positive behavioral changes. Here are some possible career options for individuals with this degree:

  • Substance abuse, behavioral disorder, or mental health counselor — Evaluate the mental and physical health of clients, recommend treatment plans, and monitor progress.
    • Median annual salary: $49,710
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 18%
    • New job openings projected: 42,000 annually
  • Social worker — Help individuals and families deal with problems in their everyday lives, such as health and behavioral issues.
    • Median annual salary: $55,350
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 7%
    • New job openings projected: 63,800 annually
  • Social or community service manager — Oversee operations and secure funding for programs that support public well-being.
    • Median annual salary: $74,240
    • Projected employment growth (through 2032): 9%
    • New job openings projected: 16,000 annually

Online BCBA Master’s Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to an online BCBA master's degree program?

Confirm your admissions eligibility. You must have an undergraduate degree, preferably in a field related to psychology, social work, counseling, or education. Moreover, institutions typically set a GPA minimum for undergraduate coursework. You’ll need a 3.0 or higher to be competitive for a BCBA master’s program.

Each BCBA master’s degree will list its application requirements and deadlines via the program website. In general, you will need to submit the following:

  • A graduate school application form
  • Official copies of your undergraduate transcripts
  • A personal statement
  • A processing fee
  • A resume
  • Two to three letters of recommendation

For specific questions regarding eligibility or application materials, contact an admissions counselor.

How much does an online BCBA master's degree cost?

The average cost of graduate school tuition is $20,513 per year. Private schools are usually more expensive than public schools, and public schools tend to charge out-of-state students a higher tuition rate than in-state students.

Most schools charge similar tuition regardless of course delivery (in-person or online), and some online programs include an additional technology fee. Besides tuition, there are other costs for online BCBA students, including books, technology needs (such as webcams, computers, and reliable home internet), and travel expenses for in-person components.

How long does it take to earn an online BCBA master's degree?

If you attend full-time, you can finish an online BCBA master’s degree within two years. Part-time students may need closer to three years. A standard MS in applied behavioral science is 30 to 40 academic credit hours, which includes supervised field experience.

Is an online BCBA master’s degree worth it?

Earning an online BCBA master’s degree offers many advantages for individuals seeking to make a meaningful impact in the field of applied behavior analysis. A master’s degree equips students for leadership roles and higher salary options than they would earn with a bachelor’s degree.

An online BCBA master’s degree equips you with specialized knowledge and skills in behavioral analysis, allowing you to make a significant difference in the lives of individuals with behavioral challenges. The increasing demand for certified behavior analysts across various sectors, including healthcare, education, and community services, ensures ample job opportunities and the potential for career growth.

An online degree program offers a higher level of flexibility than can be found in on-campus programs, often allowing students to take classes at a time that is convenient to them. This makes an online program particularly appealing to adult learners, who may have other personal or professional commitments that take up much of their time.

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