Applied Behavior Analysis

ABA Degree Types @ ABA Degree Programs

What is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a person with a certification in applied behavior analysis which is critical for professional caregiving for ASD. BCBAs receive this certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) uses scientific and systematic processes to help influence an individual’s behavior. Behavior analysts can work in schools, classrooms, hospitals, clinics, and nonprofits; many analysts specialize in certain areas like autism, developmental disabilities, or mental health issues.

How does BCBA certification work?

To receive BCBA certification, there are four main requirements every applicant must meet:

  • Hold a graduate degree in a relevant field

  • Fulfill relevant coursework

  • Complete supervised experience

  • Pass the BCBA exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst

What is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA)?

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a type of therapeutic intervention that can improve social, communication, and learning skills through reinforcement techniques. In addition to improving general adaptive behaviours, such as social skills, learning skills, it can focus on specific skill learning such as fine motor dexterity, hygiene, grooming, etc. Some also call it Autism Behavioural Therapy but it’s just one of ABA’s applications. ABA is effective for both children and adults with psychological conditions in a variety of settings, including schools, homes, and clinics. It has also been shown that consistent ABA therapy can significantly improve positive skills and behaviours and decrease the need for special services in the future

ABA therapy programs can help:

  • Improve language and communication skills

  • Increase attention, focus, social skills, memory, and academics

  • Reduce the occurrence of behavioural problems

ABA is a type of therapy based on the psychology of learning and behavioural trades. ABA therapy applies the understanding of how behaviour works in real-life situations, to increase behaviours that are helpful and decrease behaviours that are harmful or affect learning. Applied Behavior Analysis involves several techniques for understanding and changing behaviour. ABA is a form of flexible treatment that can be adapted to meet the needs of each unique person. It can also be provided in many different locations – at home, at school, and in the community. ABA therapy can involve one-to-one teaching or group instruction ABA therapy programs can help:

A qualified behavioural psychologist designs and directly oversees the program. They customize the ABA program to the child’s skills, needs, interests, preferences, and family circumstances. The ABA program is started with a detailed assessment of the child’s existing skills and preferences in order to formulate specific treatment goals. Treatment goals are decided after taking into consideration the age and ability level of the child with autism. Goals can include different skill areas, such as:

The instruction plan breaks down each of these skills into small, concrete steps. The therapist teaches each step one by one, from simple (e.g. imitating single sounds) to more complex (e.g. carrying on a conversation). Progress is measured by collecting data in each therapy session. Data helps to monitor the child’s progress toward goals on an ongoing basis.

The therapist egularly meets with family members to review information about progress in order to plan ahead and adjust teaching plans and goals accordingly.

5 Techniques Used in Applied Behaviour Analysis

Applied Behavior Analysis involves several techniques to produce desired results in children who can benefit from behaviour modification. Here are five of those valuable techniques:

  1. Positive Reinforcement: A child with special needs who face difficulties in learning or social interaction may not know how to respond in certain situations. One way to encourage positive social behaviours involves using positive reinforcement immediately to encourage the behavior in the future.

  2. Negative Reinforcement: When maladaptive behaviours occur, the behavior needs to be corrected immediately. A good way to correct bad behavior is to remove a desired object or activity from the child. This is a form of non-aversive punishment. More importantly, negative reinforcement should be consistent for the child to understand the relevance of the action and consequence.

  3. Using prompts and cues: Prompts are visual or verbal cues used to encourage a particular behaviour. Verbal cues are gentle reminders while visual cues are even less direct and might be a gesture or a look of your eyes. The child will see this cue and be reminded to behave in a simple way. Examples could be taking their shoes off when walking into the house or washing their hands before a meal. The idea is to eventually fade out the prompts when the child no longer needs them. The prompts can be helpful because they are typically not intimidating or accusatory.

  4. Task Analysis: This is an analysis model of current behavioural trends and actions to help learn about the child rather than correct or reinforce the behaviour. The child psychologist gives the child a task and observes how they perform it. This analysis is broken down into a number of categories :

    • Physical actions

    • Cognitive actions

    • Repetition

    • Allocation

    • Environment

Once the therapist has analysed how the child performs tasks, this information is used to make other tasks easier for the particular child by breaking them down into steps that will be easily understood by the child.

  1. Generalization: Through this model, the therapist takes what the child has learned in one instance and applies it to other instances. For example, If a child knows how to say the alphabet when singing it, the child psychologist can take their knowledge of the alphabet and try to apply it to teaching the child to spell out their name.

Children with special needs benefit the most from personalized and special assistance. Therapists who use applied behaviour analysis use these particular techniques and others that help make children who need a little more help independent, well adjusted and happy adults.


Further reading:

Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc.® (BACB®) has been the leader in behavior analyst certification for over two decades. The BACB is a nonprofit corporation that was established in 1998 to meet professional certification needs identified by behavior analysts, governments, and consumers of behavior-analytic services. The BACB’s mission is to protect consumers of behavior-analytic services by systematically establishing, promoting, and disseminating professional standards of practice.


The BCBA®, BCaBA®, and RBT® certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accreditation body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence (ICE). NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs were the first standards developed for professional certification programs to help ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public. NCCA standards articulate the essential elements of a high-quality certification program. Consistent with these standards, the BACB’s certification requirements, examination content, and procedures undergo regular review by subject matter experts in the discipline.

To learn more about accreditation, see ICE’s video, Value of Accreditation: Why it Matters.

The Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. Professionals certified at the BCBA level are independent practitioners who provide behavior-analytic services.

BCBAs may supervise the work of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts® (BCaBAs®), Registered Behavior Technicians® (RBTs®), and other professionals who implement behavior-analytic interventions.

Role in the Profession

In the profession of applied behavior analysis, the BACB’s primary role is to operate certification programs, which involves responsibilities similar to regulatory boards.. In this role, the BACB establishes practice standards, administers examinations, and provides ethics requirements and a disciplinary system for each of its certification programs. Due to the BACB’s 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status, regulatory-like function, and NCCA accreditation, certain activities are limited, such as engaging in political activity. To learn more about our role and limitations, read our blog post, The BACB: What it is, What it Does, and Why, and listen to Episode 11 of our podcast, Inside the BACB.

Episode 14: Introducing the BCBA and BCaBA Handbooks

The BCBA Handbook describes the requirements for obtaining and maintaining BCBA certification.

In this episode 11 of Inside the BACB, CEO Jim Carr and Deputy CEO Melissa Nosik explore the BACB’s role in the profession of behavior analysis and discuss diversity policies, processes, programs, and other developments.

ABA Degree Programs

ABA was established in the 1970s at the University of California-Los Angeles by researchers Ivan Lovaas and Robert Koegel. Applied behavior analysis is an increasingly popular therapeutic approach for intervening when socially unacceptable behaviors start negatively affecting one’s life. ABA therapy involves modifying and reinforcing proper behaviors, from good hygiene to social interaction, to improve daily functioning.

Behavior analysts now use ABA methods for several disabilities, including autism, oppositional defiant disorder, anxiety, bulimia, cerebral palsy, and manic depression, with great success. A study from the Center for Evidence-Based Policy found that 92.9 percent of special needs children treated with ABA displayed positive progress. Delivering applied behavior analysis services in 1:1 settings requires becoming certified after ABA training.

What is an ABA Degree? What are types of ABA Degrees?

Applied behavior analysis degrees are post-secondary, vocational training programs often housed in universities’ education departments to prepare therapeutic practitioners for correcting unfit behaviors. Getting an ABA degree online, on-campus, or in a hybrid format is extremely valuable for entering Forbes magazine’s #6 most meaningful job. ABA students learn the latest techniques like discrete trial training or naturalistic teaching to model and reinforce appropriate social interactions. Applied behavior analysis programs are suitable for any patient, open-minded, and compassionate professionals who wish to specialize in treating neurodevelopmental disabilities in today’s growing special education field.

Applied Behavior Analysis Bachelor’s

Undergraduate ABA majors introduce baccalaureate learners to the basics of behavioral assessment and intervention plans for entry-level positions. Investing four to five years on bachelor’s curricula would qualify individuals for the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCABA) credential. This ABA training traditionally consists of 120-130 semester hours by blending liberal arts classes like English composition with foundational courses in child psychology, special education, neuroscience, sociology, and more. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) requires that bachelor’s students complete 500+ intensive practicum hours during their degree to satisfy licensing.

Applied Behavior Analysis Master’s

Graduate students who’ve culminated bachelor’s study would enter ABA master’s programs to develop the advanced skills and authority to address autism symptoms independently. This is the most streamlined licensing pathway for becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) within two to three years full-time. Master’s degrees in ABA build atop undergrad education for 36-54 additional credits of graduate courses, such as quantitative design, psychometrics, intervention support, and ethics, with integrated practicum. Master of Arts or Science degrees typically require thesis research or applied projects for capstone competency evaluation too.

Applied Behavior Analysis Certificates

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that graduate certificates are America’s fastest-growing college credential held by around 4 million adults. ABA certificates are designed for post-bachelor’s students with education, human services, and social sciences backgrounds to become BCBAs. Quicker than master’s degrees, certificates require 12-24 semester credits focused solely on special needs behavioral changes. Completing the four to eight courses frequently involves some level of practicum, but theses and capstones aren’t requisite. If desired, accredited graduate certificate credits could be transferred into master’s or doctoral programs later.

Applied Behavior Analysis Doctorates

Earning a PhD lets ABA professionals reach the highest academic echelon with terminal training devoted to acquiring new empirical knowledge on special needs treatment. Generally requiring GPAs above 3.5, doctorates are challenging journeys for ambitious analysts to conduct behavioral science studies. The PhD will take three to seven years full-time for 60 credits beyond a master’s or 90 credits after a bachelor’s, including an intensive dissertation paper of 100-200 pages. Reaching the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Doctoral (BCBA-D) distinction is helpful for supervisory, faculty, and research careers.

Top ABA Degree Programs

One of the most important factors when selecting applied behavior analysis programs is accreditation, especially if ABA certification is one’s goal. Regional accreditation is an essential, third-party review process from CHEA-recognized bodies to ensure quality standards for credit transfers and financial aid. The best ABA degrees are often specifically accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International. Headquartered in Portage, Michigan, the ABAI ascertains whether training has the curriculum, commitment, equipment, faculty, and connections for launching applied behavior analysis careers.

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