Career Opportunities for Master of Behavior Analysis Graduates

If you want to tap into a rapidly growing field where the focus is on people helping people, a career in behavior analysis could be for you.

Behavior analysis, also known as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), is the scientific study of the principles of learning and behavior. Behavior analysts, people with a focus in this field, work on a deep level with their clients. They focus on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading and academics, as well as adaptive learning skills such as:

  • Fine motor dexterity
  • Hygiene
  • Grooming
  • Domestic capabilities
  • Punctuality
  • Job competence

Behavior Analysis Master’s Degree

The field of behavior analysis is broad and encompasses working with both adults and children with psychological disorders in various settings, including schools, workplaces, homes and clinics. Studies have shown that consistent ABA can significantly improve behaviors and skills and decrease the need for special services.

Today, more behavior analysts are needed to support a growing field that many believe is undeserved. People who want to uplevel their expertise and marketability often study for a behavior analysis master’s degree and get board certified after graduation.

James Hawkins, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor, Educator and the Coordinator of UC Online’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Foundations in Behavior Analysis program. Before coming to UC, he worked as a school psychologist in public school settings for 10 years.

“I’m seeing more and more master’s degree programs in behavior analysis cropping up,” says Professor Hawkins. “This is the eighth year for our program, so we have a more established track record — and our program can be completed 100% online.”

Hawkins says that, for a good percentage of the students he works with, their main goal is to complete their master’s degree and then sit for a board exam. “That’s the end goal for many graduates because you can function more independently being certified,” Hawkins added.

ABAI-Certified Program

The Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) has verified that UC Online’s M.Ed. in Foundations in Behavior Analysis program meets the coursework requirements for eligibility, which enables our graduates to take the ABAI’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam.

Hawkins says that number of BCBAs has exploded in the last decade, with more than 30,000 individuals working in this profession across the US. “Traditionally, BCBAs have been tied to autism and the many successes in this focus area working with individuals and families. Some of today’s growth in this practice area is still connected to working with autistic individuals. But a BCBA’s expertise can be applied to many focus areas and that’s why, overall, there’s still a big shortage of certified individuals,” Hawkins says.

Hawkins says UC Online’s graduate population is the sixth-largest in the US, making its program much larger than many other online and on-campus programs. He says that half of the university’s M.Ed. in Foundations in Behavior Analysis graduates go on to become BCBA-accredited. For those who don’t pursue the BCBA, Hawkins says they will likely need to do more to compete in the job market, such as effectively articulating their skills and the applicability to the setting they choose. For example, in a corporate environment, a behavior analysis graduate might want to work in Human Relations with their focus being on making employees more efficient in the workplace.

Behavior Analysis Master’s Courses

UC Online’s Foundations in Behavior Analysis curriculum is broad and covers 10 courses or 30 semester hours. Students can graduate in as few as five semesters or 20 months.

The master’s degree program provides students with foundational knowledge in applied behavior analysis, education and psychology related to practice in schools and other agencies, serving individuals, including those with disabilities; program curriculum includes:

  •  Child Development
  • Applied Behavior Analysis I
  • Frameworks for Disabilities and Disorders in Childhood
  • Behavioral Supervision and Management
  • Applied Behavior Analysis II
  • Working with Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Schools
  • Ethics for Behavioral Practice and Research
  • Functional Behavioral Assessment
  • Applied Behavior Analysis-III
  • Behavioral Research and Accountability Methods

Master’s Students’ Diverse Backgrounds and Locations

Hawkins says that UC Online’s students come from across the US and, at last count, around 35 states. “We’ve also had international students from Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Spain and beyond, and, collectively, we are seeing younger students join the program each year,” Hawks adds.

UC Online currently has around 400 students going through the M.Ed. in Foundations in Behavior Analysis program. (View the academic calendar and the program’s next start date.) Students who enroll have diverse backgrounds, often with bachelor’s degrees in business, education, criminal justice and corrections. “Some of our students come here with a master’s degree in another focus area,” Hawkins says.

Career Opportunities for Graduates

The field of behavioral analysis is rapidly growing and allows for new and exciting employment opportunities. Behavior analysts who graduate with a master’s degree can apply their skills and knowledge in several career fields and settings, including schools, hospitals, mental health centers, behavioral centers, residential facilities and the workplace.

“UC graduates go on to work in a variety of settings with children or adults, meeting one-on-one with clients, working on areas that may include feeding and toilet training or work based around autism or another focus area,” says Hawkins.

Hawkins says that the university’s program is more if centered around holistic education with students needing to be educated on the different settings for their clients. “School is just one of the settings where behavioral challenges occur,” says Hawkins.

Career fields and settings include:

  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst
  • Special Education
  • Mental Health
  • Social Work
  • School Counseling
  • Speech Pathology
  • Substance Abuse
  • Research
  • Education
  • Criminal Justice
  • Human Resources
  • Business/Industrial Psych

People Helping People, With a Purpose

Today, BCBAs are in high demand. A Burning Glass Technologies survey states the annual demand for holders of the BCBA credential increased 800 percent between 2010 and 2017.

A behavior analyst’s role becomes even more critical in the context of national health care organizations and the US health care industry. Those equipped to provide culturally competent care may be even more sought after. (See “A Guide to Addressing Diversity for Behavior Analysts.”)

If behavior analysis is a field that’s new to you — or if you currently work in this area — you can take your interests and passion for helping people to a new level with a master’s degree. A degree, coupled with BCBA accreditation, can open new doors of opportunity for you, both professionally and personally.

For more information about UC Online’s Master of Education (M.Ed.) in Foundations in Behavior Analysis program, view the admission requirements, and contact us to speak with an Enrollment Services Advisor.

birds eye view of students working at a round table with laptops and study materials
Need additional student resources?
Already an online student? UC Online has additional tips and tricks to ensure you are on the path to success. Check out our Student Resources section for what you need to maximize your learning.

Sign up for updates from UC Online