According to PayScale, professionals in applied behavior analysis who hold a master's degree earn about 10% more than those with an undergraduate degree. Pursuing a master's in behavioral psychology online is the first step toward earning a higher salary in the field. This guide covers the most important factors to consider when choosing an online degree program.
What Are The Best Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Programs?
University of South Florida
|Tampa, FL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
With three campuses in Florida, USF offers more than 230 undergraduate and graduate programs to over 50,000 learners. Founded in 1956 in Tampa, USF opened campuses in St. Petersburg and Sarasota-Manatee in 1965 and 1974, respectively. USF also offers online degrees, including a master of arts in applied behavior analysis.
The online master’s in applied behavior analysis degree builds advanced competencies for behavior analysis professionals. Learners can complete the 41-credit program in as few as five semesters. Learners complete 21 credits of core classes in basic principles of applied behavior analysis, behavior theory, observation and assessment methods, ethics, and single case design and other courses.
During a 15-credit practicum, learners work with a practicing Board Certified Behavior Analyst to gain real-world experience in the field. Students also participate in five credit hours of directed research. Through practicum and research requirements, learners pursue individual interests in subsets of applied behavior analysis, such as education, child welfare, rehabilitation, and business. USF’s online master’s in applied behavior analysis program prepares students to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam offered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
Applicants to USF’s applied behavior analysis master’s degree submit GRE scores and documentation of a bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Learners must demonstrate coursework or professional experience in applied behavior analysis as well. USF holds accreditation through the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
George Mason University
|Fairfax, VA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
Based in Fairfax, Virginia, Mason sits on a wooded campus near Washington, D.C. With more than 34,000 students, Mason provides undergraduate and graduate programs through 10 schools and colleges. As Virginia’s largest public research university, Mason offers more than 50 online and hybrid programs in fields including business, engineering, and education.
Mason’s online master of education in special education program includes specializations in autism spectrum disorders and applied behavior analysis. Both concentrations result in an additional graduate certificate credential. The 30-credit master of education in special education degree includes core classes in special education, computer applications for special populations, universal design for learning, and special education research.
The universal design for learning class explores teaching individuals with various disabilities and needs and may include field experience and residency requirements. Students also complete a capstone research project to demonstrate degree competencies.
The applied behavior analysis concentration emphasizes principles, procedures, and philosophies of applied behavior analysis alongside assessment, intervention, and application methods. Students study empirical bases, verbal behavior, and ethical and professional conduct for behavior analysis. Applied behavior analysis coursework prepares students to work as registered behavior technicians, educators, and community program professionals.
Learners can complete the master’s in special education degree in two years. Applicants submit documentation of an accredited bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Mason holds accreditation through the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
|Philadelphia, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 71%||
Founded in 1891 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Drexel offers educational programs from three campuses in the city, at regional sites throughout the state, and online. As one of the largest private universities in the United States, Drexel’s more than 24,000 learners carry on the institution’s dedication to nonsectarian, coeducational academic excellence and civic engagement.
The online master of science in applied behavior analysis degree at Drexel incorporates the principles, practices, and tools of applied behavior analysis through experiential learning and lecture coursework. Special education teachers, school psychologists, social workers, and behavioral health professionals use functional analysis, social and adaptive behavior tools, and performance assessments to hone their skills. Drexel’s program may prepare students to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst examination.
Core classes in the online master’s in applied behavior analysis program include fundamental elements of behavior change, measurement and experimental design, behavior assessment and interventions, consultation and supervision, and ethics and professional conduct. Students specialize in autism spectrum disorders or a practicum.
The autism spectrum disorder concentration includes 12 credit hours on characteristics, methods, communication, and language of autism, while the practicum provides learners with the opportunity to take elective coursework. All students complete a lesson study capstone, a thesis, or a practitioner summative requirement.
Applicants to Drexel’s 45- to 46-credit online applied behavior analysis degree must hold an accredited bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Students submit transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a personal essay.
Ball State University
|Muncie, IN||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 62%||
Founded as a gift of land from the philanthropic Ball Brothers in 1918, BSU in Muncie, Indiana grew from a modest teachers' college to a regionally accredited institution that boasts seven academic colleges. More than 21,000 undergraduate and graduate students are enrolled in the school’s over 200 educational programs, including an online master of arts degree in applied behavior analysis with an emphasis on autism to current teachers, psychologists, and human service professionals. The degree builds the competencies to work as applied behavior analysis specialists.
The program incorporates 30 credit hours of classes that learners can complete in less than two years. Coursework in behavior consultation, professional issues in applied behavior analysis, and research methods emphasize theories, principles, and practices. Classes in interventions and treatments for persons with autism train students to work with individuals on the autism spectrum. Learners complete a human service supervising course and apply degree knowledge to a field experience requirement.
The applied behavior analysis program offers three application deadlines each year. Students can transfer up to nine credits into the program and must hold a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree for admission.
BSU’s applied behavior analysis master’s degree meets the coursework requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst examination. BSU’s applied behavior analysis program, housed within the school’s Teacher College, holds accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation and the Indiana Teacher Training and Licensing Commission.
Bay Path University
|Longmeadow, MA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 57%||
With undergraduate programs for women and coeducational graduate degrees, Bay Path provides academic programs from its main campus in Longmeadow, Massachusetts; at locations in Concord, East Longmeadow, Sturbridge, and Springfield; and online. Established in 1897, Bay Path’s almost 3,300 learners can participate in corporate learning, women’s leadership, and community engagement through the institution’s strategic alliances.
The online master of science in applied behavior analysis at Bay Path offers educators, mental health professionals, behavioral health workers, and businesspersons information on instruction, management, and treatment of behaviors that may affect individual success and performance.
Bay Path’s program offers three curriculum options. The general master’s in applied behavior analysis includes 36 credit hours that students complete in five semesters, while the 45-credit master’s in applied behavior analysis and autism spectrum disorders requires six semesters of classes and practical requirements. Bay Path also offers a 39-credit education specialist program in applied behavior analysis that students can finish in six semesters.
Core coursework in all three programs emphasizes ethical practice in applied behavior analysis, research methods, behavior assessment and evaluation, intervention methods, and change procedures. Bay Path’s applied behavior analysis and autism spectrum disorders curriculum adds additional classes in teaching, problem solving, and communication for students with autism; the education specialist degree emphasizes research in education.
All programs include 75 hours of supervision and 1,500 supervised fieldwork hours, qualifying individuals to take one of the Board Certified Behavior Analyst examinations offered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Bay Path offers two start dates each year for the applied behavior analysis graduate degrees. Applicants submit a resume, two recommendations, a signed program requirement form, and an essay addressing why the program appeals to their personal and professional goals.
University of Houston-Victoria
|Victoria, TX||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 18%||
Established as an off-campus center of the University of Houston in 1973, UHV in Victoria, Texas received degree-granting status from the Texas Legislature 10 years later. Now a residential institution, UHV provides more than 70 academic programs to more than 4,000 students from its main campus and online.
Offered through UHV’s School of Education, Health Professions, and Human Development, the 39-credit online master of education in special education applied behavior analysis degree prepares students to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam.
Students take core classes in principles of curriculum development and organization, education in a multicultural society, educational research, and human growth and development prior to concentration coursework in education and applied behavior analysis. Education classes in programming and collaborating, appraisal and instruction, diagnostic teaching, and instructional strategies accompany applied behavior analysis courses in behavior applications, interventions, and principles for educators.
Students complete comprehensive exams at the end of the degree, answering three questions put forth by members of the faculty chosen by the learner. Comprehensive exams allow learners to demonstrate degree knowledge, retention of program content, and communication skills.
UHV possesses transfer agreements with community colleges and universities throughout Texas and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. UHV holds accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.
The Sage Colleges
|Albany, NY||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 56%||
The Sage Colleges hosts an online campus and campuses in Troy and Albany, New York. It offers more than 50 undergraduate and graduate degrees with a 10-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. The school empowers more than 2,600 students to carry out its mission, keeping with the vision of the institution’s founder and women’s suffrage activist, Margaret Olivia Slocum Sage.
Online programs at the school include graduate degrees in business administration, organization management, applied nutrition, and applied behavior analysis and autism. The online applied behavior analysis and autism master’s program incorporates 36 credit hours with an optional practicum and fieldwork opportunity. The practicum and fieldwork option expands the program to 44 credit hours.
Learners can complete the online applied behavior analysis and autism curriculum in five or six semesters. Educators, clinicians, business professionals, and other individuals who interact with persons with autism build the competencies to become a board certified behavior analyst through the Behavior Analysis Certification Board.
Core classes teach students how to define and assess behaviors, influence behavioral change, and promote consequential learning. Learners also develop the tools to use language, socialization, and comparable techniques to manage abnormal behavioral patterns. The program also includes coursework in autism as a disorder and its effects on development, learning, and personal behaviors.
The optional practicum and field experience includes four individual exercises during which students observe, assess, and apply degree content to students and clients. To qualify for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam, learners must complete BCBA experience requirements, and a practicum is one way to do so. The program is also approved as a licensure-qualifying program in New York State.
To apply to The Sage Colleges’ online master’s in applied behavior analysis and autism program, learners need an undergraduate degree with a minimum 3.00 GPA, although in some cases a strong applicant will be considered without this minimum. Learners must also demonstrate previous coursework in statistics and psychology. Additional application materials include two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a career goals statement.
University of Cincinnati
|Cincinnati, OH||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 69%||
Based in Cincinnati, Ohio, UC provides more than 46,000 students undergraduate and graduate programs through 13 academic colleges, including extension campuses in Blue Ash, Clermont, and online. UC combines innovative research with educational efforts in all of its degrees, including the master of education in foundations of behavioral analysis.
The online master of education in foundations of behavioral analysis builds competencies in applied behavior analysis through 10 courses. Learners complete six core classes that meet the eligibility requirements to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst examination. Students study ethics for behavioral practice and research, academic and family intervention, functional behavior assessment, and accountability methods. Additional coursework in child development, frameworks for disabilities and disorders, and cultural and linguistic diversity complete the 30-credit curriculum.
UC’s master’s in applied behavior analysis degree advances the competencies of teachers and psychologists by exploring theories and practices applicable to clinical and educational settings. Students complete the degree in as few as five semesters and can transfer as many as nine semester hours into the program.
Applicants to UC’s master’s degree in applied behavior analysis program need a regionally accredited bachelor’s degree with a minimum 3.0 GPA. Additional application materials include two letters of recommendation, a resume, and a statement of interests and goals. Learners who currently work in an environment where they use behavior analysis skills and methods receive admission preference.
UC holds regional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission and programmatic accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
California University of Pennsylvania
|California, PA||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
From its almost 300-acre campus in California, Pennsylvania, Cal U offers more than 200 degrees and certificates, including 75 online programs. Founded in 1852, Cal U offers over 7,300 students an 18-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio.
Through the College of Education and Human Services, Cal U offers two online master of special education in applied behavior analysis degrees. The general master’s in applied behavior analysis prepares learners to design, monitor, and execute behavior plans in educational and professional settings. Learners gain the competencies to oversee teachers, provide support to children and adults, and address aspects of behavior and productivity.
Students complete 33 credit hours of coursework in assessment, intervention, ethics, and evidence-based practice. Through an optional six-hour practicum, learners apply degree content in a real-world setting. The general curriculum prepares learners to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst examination.
The special education applied behavior analysis autism track focuses on the competencies needed to help students with autism thrive in an academic environment and throughout their lives. Students participate in practical training to apply theories, techniques, and methods of applied behavior analysis in an educational setting. Similar to the general track, the autism concentration leads to eligibility for the Board Certification Behavior Analyst examination. The autism concentration also qualifies learners to apply for a behavior specialist license in Pennsylvania.
Cal U maintains accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Teacher education programs hold approval through the Pennsylvania Department of Education and accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation.
Southeast Missouri State University
|Cape Girardeau, MO||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 52%||
Established in 1873, SEMO in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, hosts over 1,200 students who enjoy a 20-to-1 student-to-faculty ratio. SEMO offers over 200 fields of study with almost 270 online classes. SEMO’s online graduate degrees in criminal justice, business administration, and education accompany an online master of arts in applied behavior analysis program.
The online master’s in applied behavior analysis includes 42 credit hours. During 24 credits of coursework and 18 credits of practicum requirements, learners gain the competencies to sit for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board examination. Learners can complete the program in two years, or faster if they pursue the accelerated track.
Core classes in the online master’s in applied behavior analysis emphasize skill acquisition, assessment, behavior reduction, and ethical conduct. Students complete 750 fieldwork hours during three semesters of intensive practicum coursework. Practicum requirements allow students to apply theories, principles, and expertise of applied behavior analysis to real-world situations. Learners complete the program in a synchronous cohort model, working with the same students throughout their degree.
Applicants to SEMO’s master’s in applied behavior analysis submit two letters of recommendation, official transcripts, and a personal statement about their goals and past experiences related to the field. SEMO maintains regional accreditation through the Higher Learning Commission and participates in the Academic Quality Improvement Program accreditation process.
College of Saint Elizabeth
|Morristown, NJ||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 41%||
Founded by the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth in 1899, CSE offers academic programs infused with Catholic and Sisters of Charity traditions and values. Based in Morristown, New Jersey, CSE’s two academic schools work alongside six centers and institutes to provide resources, educational opportunities, and spiritual formation programs to students and community members.
Online and hybrid programs at CSE include master’s degrees in theology, health administration, nursing, and applied behavior analysis. The online master of arts in applied behavior analysis incorporates 31 credit hours of core, elective, and practicum requirements. Required classes in foundations of applied behavior analysis, assessment and strategic design, research methods, applied ethics, and behavior change systems accompany 1,500 field experience hours. Coursework and practicum experiences prepare students to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst examination.
CSE’s program allows working educators, clinicians, and professionals who work with individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, and behavior changes to expand their competencies. Graduates find work as teachers, school district behavior specialists, researchers, and consultants. To apply to the master's in applied behavior analysis online, students submit a personal statement, two letters of recommendation, and a resume. Applicants may need to participate in an interview. CSE holds accreditation through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
University of Southern Maine
|Portland, ME||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 33%||
As one of seven institutions within the University of Maine System, USM in Portland offers academic programs online and from campuses in Portland, Gorham, and Lewiston-Auburn. Online bachelor’s degrees in leadership and organization studies, communication, and social and behavioral sciences accompany graduate programs in education, leadership studies, and educational psychology.
USM’s online master of science in educational psychology degree emphasizes applied behavior analysis, building competencies in behavior assessments, intervention design and implementation, and behavior analytic supervision for educational professionals. Learners qualify to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam.
USM’s 36-credit online master’s degree in behavioral psychology includes 12 courses. Students complete eight synchronous courses verified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, alongside four additional classes in the biological foundations of behavior, lifespan and behavior disorders, policies and procedures in special education, and educational research. Full-time learners complete the degree in two years. Learners must complete a supervised practicum experience.
Applicants submit a resume, an essay, and one letter of recommendation. Online learners at USM pay a discounted e-tuition rate comparable to in-state tuition.
Southern Illinois University
|Carbondale, IL||Cost: $$$$$||Graduation Rate: 40%||
Founded as the second teachers' college in Illinois in 1869, SIU currently hosts more than 14,500 full-time and part-time students on its Carbondale campus and online. Through the College of Education and Human Services, SIU offers a hybrid master of science degree in behavior analysis and therapy.
SIU’s hybrid master’s in behavioral psychology online prepares students to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Learners complete 75% of coursework online and participate in in-person meetings each semester. With no more than three meetings each semester, students gather in the Chicagoland area to take part in live trainings, discussions, and collaborative activities.
SIU’s behavior analysis and therapy master’s degree includes 45 credit hours that learners compete in 2-3 years. Students complete required courses in basic and complex behavior analysis, behavior analysis research, and behavior observation methods and consultation.
Elective classes in child behavior, developmental disabilities, behavioral applications to medical problems, and behavior analysis with community applications allow learners to tailor the program to their interests and goals. During a required practicum, internship, or research paper or thesis, learners work under the supervision of a behavior analysis and therapy faculty member to apply degree content.
Applicants submit a resume, statement of purpose, documentation of interest and experience, and three letters of recommendation. Applicants need a bachelor’s degree in any field with a minimum 2.7 GPA.
Enrollment for Online Behavioral Psychology Master's Programs
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment for those with a master's degree is lower than unemployment for those with an undergraduate degree. Earning a master's degree creates higher earning potential and more job opportunities. The Council of Graduate Schools releases a yearly report on applications and enrollment to graduate programs. The table below outlines some of these findings from fall 2016, in relation to master's degree programs and enrollment data.
|Master's Institution Type||Total Enrollment||Full-Time||Part-Time|
What Else Can I Expect From an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program?
Online master's in behavioral psychology programs have varying requirements and offer different courses. Below are a few courses common to most master's in behavior psychology online programs.
Curriculum for an Online Master's Degree in Behavioral Psychology
Although curricula vary by program, below are sample courses often offered in most master's in behavioral psychology online programs.
- Behavior Change Systems: Behavioral psychologists create and implement interventions and programs to assist clients and patients in changing unhealthy and destructive behaviors. This course teaches students to create these plans and provides fundamental background knowledge.
- Behavior Assessment: This course prepares students to assess the behavior of new patients and clients and to use this initial assessment to create appropriate intervention plans.
- Research Methods: This course provides the fundamental research skills that graduate students in all areas need to produce quality research and to contribute to the field.
How Long Does it Take to get an Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology?
Generally, online master's in behavioral psychology programs require about two years to complete. However, this timeframe varies widely. Many online programs are individually paced and allow students to complete coursework according to their own timeline. Other programs operate in cohorts; groups of students progress through the program together, at the same pace.
Credit requirements vary by program, and some programs require internships and/or supervised practicum hours. Whether the student is enrolled part-time or full-time also significantly impacts completion time; part-time students typically take longer to complete coursework.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Behavioral Psychology Prepares for
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst: Most online master's in behavioral psychology programs prepare students to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam. This official certification allows professionals with graduate degrees to practice. A set number of internship and practicum hours are required to sit for the exam.
- State Licensing: While many states require only certification, some states have their own licensing procedures. Students should research their state's requirements prior to graduating and entering the job market.
Accreditation for Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Degrees
Accreditation is the process by which schools and programs are held to academic standards. Accreditation is very important to choosing a reputable school. Unaccredited programs are often non-reciprocal, meaning degrees and credits may not be recognized by other institutions or employers.
A school may be accredited regionally or nationally, but regional accreditation is more popular. Regional accrediting agencies are widely recognized, and degrees and credits from regionally accredited schools are more easily transferred to other institutions. Some programs also have field-specific accreditation. Master's in behavioral psychology online programs are often accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International, which provides a list of accredited programs on its website.
The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation offer comprehensive databases of all regionally and nationally accredited institutions. Choose an accredited school to ensure eligibility for federal aid.
Employment Outlook for Master's in Behavioral Psychology Graduates
Master's in Behavioral Psychology Salary
Salaries vary by employer, position, and geographic location. According to PayScale, the average salary of a board certified behavior analyst is $57,511 per year. The table below details the five U.S. cities in which behavior analysts earn the highest salary.
|City||Median Pay||% Above National Average|
Master's in Behavioral Psychology Careers
Each online master's in behavioral psychology program prepares students for different careers. Programs may be housed within master's of arts, science, or education degree tracks. Each type of degree fosters different skills, preparing students for specific roles.
- Substance Abuse and Behavioral Disorder Counselors
These counselors often work in drug and alcohol rehabilitation centers, with patients recovering from substance abuse. They may also work in mental health facilities.
Median Annual Salary: $41,070
Projected Growth Rate: 22%
- Social Workers
Social workers work within communities to help struggling clients build stable lifestyles and create healthy environments for families and children. Clinical social workers may also diagnose and treat mental illnesses and substance abuse issues.
Median Annual Salary: $46,890
Projected Growth Rate: 12%
- Mental Health Counselors
Mental health counselors work in a variety of settings, including private practices, university health centers, hospitals, and mental health treatment facilities. They counsel patients and provide support.
Median Annual Salary: $44,170
Projected Growth Rate: 19%
- Rehabilitation Counselors
Rehabilitation counselors work with clients who have a physical, mental, or emotional disability. These counselors may work in assisted living facilities, rehab centers, physical therapy practices, or youth centers.
Median Annual Salary: $34,670
Projected Growth Rate: 9%
Sociologists study the behaviors and cultures of people within certain groups, including organizations, workplaces, and neighborhoods. These researchers often work at universities or colleges, but some work in government.
Median Annual Salary: $79,750
Projected Growth Rate: -1%
Financing Your Online Master's in Behavioral Psychology Program
Financing a graduate degree can be difficult, but there are plenty of options. First, complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine how much federal funding you are eligible for. Many graduate programs offer fellowships and graduate assistantships; check your program's guidelines for applying for these funds. Some employers may offer tuition assistance to employees earning a higher degree or certification.
Approximately two-thirds of today's college students rely on loans to fund their education, but there are plenty of overlooked financing options you can use to reduce your overall student debt.
Completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is a crucial first step for any student with financial needs. Our FAFSA guide features a step-by-step rundown on the process and answers to several frequently asked questions.
Financial aid for online learning is equivalent to what you'll find for campus-based learning, but that hasn't always been the case. Learn about the changes that have taken place, as well as the different funding opportunities available to online students.
Online college programs can be a flexible, affordable option for single parents who are interested in earning a degree and securing their family's financial future. We've compiled a list of scholarships, grants, and other financial aid options geared toward single moms and dads.
Millions of dollars in free money is available to U.S. military personnel, but much of it goes unused. Learn more about grants, scholarships, and other financial aid opportunities available to veterans, active-duty service members, and reservists.
- Best Online Master's in Behavioral Pyschology Programs of 2018
Ranking School Location 1 Northeastern University Boston, MA 2 George Mason University Fairfax, VA 3 Florida State University Tallahassee, FL 4 University of South Florida Tampa, FL 5 University of Houston-Victoria Victoria, TX 6 Arizona State University-Tempe Tempe, AZ 7 Florida Institute of Technology Melbourne, FL 8 The Sage Colleges Troy, NY 9 Drexel University Philadelphia, PA 10 University of Cincinnati Cincinnati, OH 11 California University of Pennsylvania California, PA 12 College of Saint Elizabeth Morristown, NJ 13 University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth North Dartmouth, MA 14 Bay Path University Longmeadow, MA 15 Southeast Missouri State University Cape Girardeau, MO