Best Online Master’s in Behavioral Psychology Programs

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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.

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Rank School Name Ranking Score Relative Cost % Enrolled Online Location Description
1 Northeastern University RANKING SCORE 74.30 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 7% LOCATION Boston, MA

Northeastern University is a research institution with campuses located across the United States. Northeastern offers an extensive selection of online programs, including an entirely online MS in applied behavior analysis. The 30-credit program culminates in a professional portfolio capstone, and most full-time students complete the degree in two years. Coursework prepares students for careers as behavior analysts and provides skills crucial to assessing behavior, designing interventions, evaluating clinical interactions and outcomes, and creating teaching programs.

The flexible program allows students to design a degree path tailored to their career goals and clinical interests. Students engage in group and team projects through Northeastern’s online platform. Applicants must have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of at least a 3.0 and are not required to submit GRE scores.

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2 George Mason University RANKING SCORE 70.57 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 22% LOCATION Fairfax, VA

The largest public research university in Virginia, GMU offers online degree programs that provide the same rigorous and high-quality education as their on-campus counterparts. GMU offers an online behavior psychology degree with an educational focus; the M.Ed in special education with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis is 100% online and asynchronous, allowing for maximum flexibility.

GMU's M.Ed in special education program adheres to certification guidelines set forth by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and prepares graduates to sit for the BCBA exam. The program requires 30 credits, and students may choose to complete 12 additional practicum hours. Pre-K through 12 educators based in Virginia can apply for a tuition discount, and all Virginia residents pay lower tuition rates than out-of-state students.

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3 Florida State University RANKING SCORE 70.24 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 28% LOCATION Tallahassee, FL

One of the top 50 research universities in the United States., FSU's research-based degree programs include an MS in applied behavior analysis. The program is offered from both the Panama City and Tallahassee campuses. Faculty members conduct class through interactive television, so students at both campus locations learn from the same highly qualified faculty. Students at the Panama City campus work in the early childhood autism program, potentially as part of the assistantship awarded to all incoming students.

Applicants should have at least 15 undergraduate credits in psychology, and one to five years of professional experience is preferred. After completing the 39-credit program, graduates are qualified to sit for the BCBA exam.

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4 University of South Florida RANKING SCORE 66.46 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 49% LOCATION Tampa, FL

USF is located in the heart of Tampa, but students across the country take advantage of the university's fully online degree programs. The MA in applied behavior analysis is offered fully online, so students can continue working while completing graduate coursework. The MA program can be completed in as few as five semesters and includes an exam preparation program for students who plan to take the BCBA exam. Students learn through both coursework and hands-on practicum experiences.

Applicants should have a background in applied behavior analysis, whether in undergraduate coursework or professional experience. They should be have a BCBA supervisor who is willing to work with them throughout the program and a minimum 3.0 GPA in all upper-level undergraduate coursework.

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5 University of Houston-Victoria RANKING SCORE 63.80 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 74% LOCATION Victoria, TX

Texas-based UHV offers a fully online behavioral psychology degree: an ME.d in special education with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis. The 39-credit program is ideal for students planning to work in an educational clinical setting. Coursework provides skills in curriculum development, working with students with disabilities, and behavior interventions. The curriculum meets the requirements for graduates to take the BCBA examination.

While coursework can be completed entirely online, students must take a comprehensive examination in Victoria or Katy at the end of the program. Students complete supervised field hours in their local communities as a requirement to sit for the BCBA examination. The GRE is required for admission.

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6 Arizona State University-Tempe RANKING SCORE 59.60 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 47% LOCATION Tempe, AZ

ASU is known for its wide array of online degree offerings, which includes an M.Ed in curriculum and instruction with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis. This education-based online behavioral psychology degree includes coursework designed to meet the requirements to sit for the BCBA exam. Courses cover topics such as behavior change systems, behavior assessment, and research methods.

Each of the required ten courses lasts seven and a half weeks. Students must complete supervision hours independently to be eligible to take the BCBA exam. Applicants should have a cumulative undergraduate GPA of 3.0, and GRE scores are not required.

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7 Florida Institute of Technology RANKING SCORE 57.23 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 0% LOCATION Melbourne, FL

Florida Tech's MA in professional behavior analysis is one of the best online behavioral psychology degree programs in the country. This unique hybrid program includes two stages; one is entirely online, and one is completed at an approved site in the student’s community, under the supervision of Florida Tech faculty. The BACB-approved program requires 24-credits of online coursework and 21 credits of practical, on-site training. The coursework is based in science and experimental analysis.

After completing the coursework, students take a final comprehensive exam. Florida Tech's four-term academic year allows students to complete coursework more efficiently. Online courses are delivered asynchronously, and students can view lectures on any device, including mobile phones.

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Sage's MS in applied behavior analysis program emphasizes research and clinical practice working with clients on the autistic spectrum. Based in Sage’s Center for Applied Behavior Analysis, this degree program prepares students to work with individuals with autism and to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst after passing of the certification exam. The MS coursework consists of 34 credits. Although the additional practicum hours are optional for the degree, they are required to sit for the BCBA examination.

Sage's small class sizes allow online students to benefit from one-on-one instructor attention and feedback. Coursework is offered entirely online through video lectures and active learning experiences. Students gain a critical understanding of autism and its effects on behavior, language, and socialization. The program offers rolling admission.

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9 Drexel University RANKING SCORE 53.56 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 31% LOCATION Philadelphia, PA

Social workers, case managers, and school psychologists can all benefit from Drexel's MS in applied behaviors analysis program, which helps professionals in these areas learn how to educate, work with, and care for people with special needs — specifically those with autism. Students learn within the A.J. Drexel Autism Institute, an esteemed organization in the field. Students may concentrate in autism spectrum disorders or in an applied behavior analysis practicum.

Drexel’s online programs are offered in 10-week quarters, allowing students to complete more courses in less time. The practicum option meets the requirements to sit for the BCBA examination. Students may complete practicum hours in-person on Drexel’s Philadelphia campus or at an approved location in their community.

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10 University of Cincinnati RANKING SCORE 50.87 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 34% LOCATION Cincinnati, OH

Along with programs at its historic campus in the heart of Cincinnati, UC offers fully online programs available to students around the world. UC's M.Ed in foundations in behavior analysis is one of the best online behavioral psychology degree programs for students with career goals in education. The program provides foundational knowledge and skills in education, applied behavior analysis, and psychology and prepares students to work and practice in schools. The required 30 credits include courses such as child development, frameworks for disabilities, and functional behavior assessment.

The ten required courses are offered in 15-week sessions, and students complete the program in as few as 20 months. There are no on-campus requirements, and courses are offered asynchronously.

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11 California University of Pennsylvania RANKING SCORE 47.59 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 49% LOCATION California, PA

Cal U's home campus is located California, Pennsylvania, but students in any location can enroll in Cal U's online M.Ed in special education program. The program is available entirely online and includes a focus in applied behavior analysis. Students can pursue an autism track or a general track. Both tracks require 33 to 39 credits and prepare students to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst exam. Optional program components include an intensive practicum and a BCBA exam preparation course.

Full-time students can complete the program in as few as four semesters. Those completing the optional practicum work closely with Board Certified Behavior Analysts in their home communities. Applicants should have a minimum cumulative undergraduate GPA of 2.8.

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12 College of Saint Elizabeth RANKING SCORE 46.02 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 27% LOCATION Morristown, NJ

Located an hour outside New York City, CSE offers various graduate and professional online degree programs, including a 30-credit MA in applied behavior analysis program for students planning to become Board Certified Behavior Analysts. Coursework is available entirely online and covers topics such as supervision and management, interventions and evidence-based practice, and analysis for verbal behavior. Courses give students a deeper understanding of core concepts and develop their understanding of clinical practice and research.

Upon completing the required coursework, students undertake the fieldwork hours required to qualify for the BCBA exam. All coursework is approved by the BACB. Applicants should have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA and must complete a personal interview.

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13 University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth RANKING SCORE 42.20 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 8% LOCATION North Dartmouth, MA

UMass Dartmouth offers a master’s in behavioral psychology online program; the MA in psychology with an emphasis in applied behavior analysis is offered in a blended format, with each course in the applied behavior analysis concentration including both online and in-person components. Designed to be completed on a part-time basis, most students finish the 36-credit program in about seven semesters. The program meets the academic requirements to sit for the BCBA examination.

Students can use work hours to fulfil the internship/practicum requirements, provided they are supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Students without the undergraduate statistics prerequisite may complete it during their first semester of graduate study. Applicants should have a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field.

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14 Bay Path University RANKING SCORE 42.14 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 17% LOCATION Longmeadow, MA

Although Bay Path was established as a women’s institution, its online undergraduate and graduate degree programs are now available to men, too. The MS in applied behavior analysis program is offered in blended and entirely online formats. Local students often choose the blended format and take courses both online and in-person. Students may choose from a general focus, a concentration in autism spectrum disorders, or an applied research focus.

Bay Path's program includes supervision hours, which are required to sit for the BCBA examination. Supervision hours may be completed on campus or remotely. Students may complete the program on a full- or part-time basis. The program includes an optional intensive exam preparation course for students planning to sit for the BCBA examination.

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15 Southeast Missouri State University RANKING SCORE 38.57 COST % ENROLLED ONLINE 41% LOCATION Cape Girardeau, MO

SEMO offers a cohort-based online MA in applied behavior analysis program with a course sequence approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Students in the cohort-based program forge strong bonds with classmates as they work through the degree program together. The program prepares students to work with individuals on the autism spectrum and those with other neurodevelopmental disorders.

Students who take six to seven credits per term complete the program in two years. An intensive practicum involves at least 750 hours of field experience, which may be applied toward the 1,500 hours required to take the BCBA examination. The program culminates in a master’s capstone project. Distance students must arrange their own practicum sites.

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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
Public 67,517 33,597 33,920
Private, not-for-profit 44,665 25,755 18,788

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 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.

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
Miami $75,942 27%
New York $69,031 16%
Los Angeles $65,049 9%
Orlando $63,900 7%
Chicago $63,311 6%

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 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.


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