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.
Though BCBA degrees are frequently used to offer Applied Behavior Analysis in early childhood education settings, it is useful in many different environments. Graduating from a BCBA degree program will allow you to use your education to work with individuals or with groups, in populations ranging from those with autism and developmental disabilities to geriatrics, victims of traumatic brain injuries, and within organizational behavior management in corporate environments. The approach has even proven useful in animal training and in understanding and quantifying consumer behavior.
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.