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Why This Matters


    According to a study conducted on behalf of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, the demand for behavior analysts is increasing dramatically throughout the United States.


    A study published in the journal Behavior Analysis in Practice reported a 400% increase in the number of BACB certifications, and linked that growth to the growing number of states requiring licensure in order for behavior analyst services to be available.


    Though salary depends upon numerous variables, including geographic location, years of experience, and work environment, reports that the average annual salary for a behavior analyst in the United States is $69,000.

Our Research

Becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) begins with a graduate-level degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or education, so the programs we’ve included on our list are either Master’s degree programs offered by colleges of education or graduate certificates in Applied Behavior Analysis offered as supplements to Master’s degree programs. All of them meet the criteria for Verified Course Sequence as prescribed by the Association for Behavior Analysis International and meet the coursework eligibility for the BCBA or BCaBA as part of the application for BACB examinations. Many of these programs are offered online, though some are available on campus. In most cases they are offered synchronously, meaning that students must attend classes following a schedule. Programs may allow classes to be taken either synchronously or asynchronously, offering greater flexibility.

Becoming a BCBA relies upon the curriculum you choose meeting the criteria, which at a minimum includes earning a graduate degree in ABA, psychology, or education and then pursuing any of three additional options. Though one of those options accommodates students whose Behavioral Analysis courses were not accredited, this route requires seeking a BACB review. The other two options are to earn a Master’s degree from an ABAI-accredited master’s degree program or to pursue an ABAI-accredited Verified Course Sequence as part of a Master’s degree or as a post-master’s certificate program. In both cases, choosing an ABAI-accredited program is essential.

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.

  • 59 hours to write this article
  • 151 universities and colleges we assessed
  • 393 education programs we compared

The Top 50 Affordable BCBA Degree Programs

The Most Affordable BCBA Degree Programs
Intelligent Pick
East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania
Best in the Midwest
St. Cloud State University
Best Bachelor of Arts Degree
Ball State University
Best for Multiple Locations
Umass Global
Best Private Research University
Drexel University
Best Field Experiences
Simmons University
Best State University System
Educational Psychology at Texas A&M University
Best Small University
Endicott College
Best in the Southeast
George Mason University
Best Bachelor of General Studies Degree
The University of Kansas
Most Military Friendly
National University
Best On-Site Research Facility
Florida Institute of Technology
Best in the Northwest
Oregon Institute of Technology
Most Affordable
University of Nevada, Reno
Best Psychology Focus
Central Washington University
Best PhD Degree
West Virginia University
Best Special Education Focus
The University of Oklahoma
Best Mid-Sized University
University of Arkansas
Best Non-Thesis Program
Auburn University
Best Christian University
Bethel University
Best in the West
California State University, Los Angeles
Best for Evening Classes
Daemen College
Best Assistantships
Florida State University
Best Advanced Certificate Program
Hunter College

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What You Should Know About This Degree

There are many treatment models used to help those with special needs, and each has its own approach and application. The Applied Behavior Analysis that is used by those who have BCBA degrees focuses on improving social skills, communication, learning, and competencies in order to reduce challenging behaviors and improve social interactions. It does this through careful analysis of the cause of unwanted behaviors and development of an individualized treatment plan that teaches adaptive behaviors. By contrast, Cognitive Behavior Therapists use talk therapy counseling to teach techniques for managing emotions and resolving conflicts. Those with degrees in CBT help patients to recognize the thought processes that are causing the problem and teaches them coping skills.

Both Applied Behavior Analysis and Cognitive Behavior Therapy are extremely helpful, scientifically-based approaches, they meet different needs. There have also been some studies that point to success in combining the two types of therapy.

Over the last ten years there has been a remarkable increase in demand for behavior analysts who hold BCBA certification. This is due in part to the effectiveness of the approach and in part to reforms to insurance reimbursements for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder and other diagnoses well served by applied behavior analysis.

What’s Next?

Here are some questions to ask when researching BCBA degree programs:

  • Am I eligible for this program? Admission to a BCBA degree program requires having completed your undergraduate application, usually with a minimum cumulative GPA of 3.0. In most cases, you will need to have your transcript sent directly from the institution from which you graduated, letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and an application fee. Some programs will also require that you take and score well on the standardized Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Those choosing to pursue a certificate program as part of their graduate school curriculum or as a postgraduate supplement will need to provide similar supporting documentation.
  • Are courses offered synchronously or asynchronously? Most BCBA degree programs are offered online, with instructional delivery that combines both synchronous and asynchronous approaches. A typical curriculum will offer structured, paced courses combined with live review sessions and faculty and instructional support from researchers, teachers and other professionals in the field.

Because the criteria required for board certification is so high and the work that behavior analysts do is so important, BCBA degree programs maintain high standards and expectations of their students. Students applying to these programs are expected to apply themselves strenuously to their studies and must generally score a minimum of 70% or better in all classes.

By selecting an accredited program, students who are choosing a BCBA Master’s degree program make themselves eligible for federal, state, and local financial aid. Identifying these or other sources of tuition support should be pursued as early as possible in order to be sure that you will have the funding needed before entering a program. Post-graduate certificate programs may not be eligible for federal support.

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