Applied Behavior Analysis Master of Arts (MA) program

The Master of Arts (MA) in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program has been developed to meet the growing need for practitioners who are knowledgeable of the principles of behavior and skilled in the development, implementation, and evaluation of behavioral interventions. This program is designed for current or prospective practitioners in education, mental health, clinical, and other human-service settings (e.g., school- and community/home-based settings, in- and out-patient hospital and clinics).

The coursework will provide students with a foundation in the philosophy of behaviorism, the principles of learning theory, and behavior-analytic research methods. Over the course of the year, students will also be exposed to current and best practices in behavioral assessment, intervention, and evaluation. Consistent with the experiential model of the William James College, students will complete a practicum during each of their first two semesters and an internship during each of their final summer sessions. This direct, hands-on experience in applied behavior analytic settings will provide students with the link between coursework and real-world applications. The coursework schedule has taken into account the work-schedules of potential students and all courses will be scheduled in the early evenings.

Upon completion of the program requirements, students will meet the minimum coursework and fieldwork standards set forth by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to take the exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Contingent on passing the BCBA exam, students will also meet the requirements to become a Licensed Applied Behavior Analyst (LABA) in Massachusetts.

For more information on becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst see the BACB website: bacb.com.

For more information on becoming a Licensed Applied Behavior Analyst in Massachusetts, see: www.mass.gov/ocabr/licensee/dpl-boards/mh/forms

Program Goals

A rigorous course sequence has been developed to surpass the minimum requirements set forth by the BACB.   Our goals for graduates of the MA in ABA program are to:

  1. Be knowledgeable and fluent in the principles of behavior analysis to the extent that graduates will be well-prepared for the national certification examination to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.
  2. Be skilled in the implementation of behavioral techniques such that our graduates will be qualified in the assessment, intervention, evaluation, and follow-up in the treatment of behavioral excesses and deficits.
  3. Be sensitive to the needs, rights, and preferences of clients, consumers, families, communities and other important stakeholders in the behavior-change process so that effective and meaningful behavior-change is achieved in the least restrictive and most acceptable manner.
  4. Be aware of the role of the behavior analyst in multidisciplinary settings so that they can support therapeutic goals while also advocating for the rights of clients and consumers to access evidence-based approaches and techniques.

The William James College community is an engaging, interactive, intellectually-stimulating, and mutually-supportive environment.  Our knowledgeable educators support a model that seeks to promote student success in this program so that they are the most effective professional afterwards.  Our goals as instructors and advisors to our students are to:

  1. Be available for meetings, discussions, consultation, and other advice regarding how to succeed in a class and program-at-large.
  2. Be responsive to the queries of our students so that concerns can be addressed in a timely manner.
  3. Be fair in the development and assignment of tasks and in the evaluation process for students.
  4. Be aware of every student’s individual needs and to help identify plans of action to assist each student in maximizing their chances of success.
Working as an Applied Behavior Analyst

Applied Behavior Analysis and Autism

Most Applied Behavior Analysts have found professional opportunities in the field of educating and treating people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Over the past 30 years, the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has increased from 1 per 2500 children to 1 per 68 children (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014). With this increase in ASD to near-epidemic levels, the need for educators and practitioners who are knowledgeable in the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis and skilled in the provision of behaviorally-oriented procedures has grown exponentially. This demand continues to grow as numerous public and private agencies have endorsed ABA as an important component in the treatment of people with autism.

  • In 1999, the U.S. Surgeon General stated, "Thirty years of research have demonstrated the efficacy of applied behavioral methods in reducing inappropriate behavior and in increasing communication, learning, and appropriate social behavior."
  • In 2007, The American Academy of Pediatrics reported that, "The effectiveness of ABA-based intervention in ASDs has been well documented through 5 decades of research using single-subject methodology and in controlled studies of comprehensive early intensive behavioral intervention programs in university and community settings."
  • The American Psychological Association (APA) has reported that behavioral interventions are crucial for children with autism, indicating that "this approach can help improve communication and social interaction and decrease troublesome behaviors like aggression or self-injury."
  • In 1998, The New York State Department of Health published its report of recommendations for early intervention for children with autism. In their report they concluded, "It is recommended that principles of Applied Behavior Analysis…and behavior intervention strategies be included as important elements in any program for young children with autism."

Because of endorsements like these and many others, Applied Behavior Analysts will find work providing direct intervention, supervising other treatment providers, consulting for individual cases, for families, schools, or school districts, and conducting behavioral assessments and providing treatment recommendations.


Applied Behavior Analysis and Other Fields

Besides the treatment of autism and developmental disabilities, Applied Behavior Analysts have found their skills to be useful and relevant in a wide range of fields, such as:

  • Organizational Behavior Management (OBM), or what is more commonly known as Industrial/Organizational Psychology
  • Regular and Special Education (Preschool, Elementary, Secondary, High School and Graduate School)
  • Mental Health
  • Sports Psychology
  • Behavioral Health, Behavioral Medicine, Behavioral Pharmacology
  • Community Research and Applications

Rooted in the science of behavior, Applied Behavior Analysis can have useful applications in a diverse range of fields of interest beyond those listed above. For more information on areas in which ABA is being used, take a look at the Special Interest Groups of the Association for Behavior Analysis International.


BCBA Supervision

In addition to working as a practitioner, many BCBAs find themselves in demand to provide supervision for other students entering the field and who are seeking to become certified and licensed in ABA. This is the manner in while many BCBAs can share their experiences, expertise, and wisdom that promotes growth in our field. Further, many BCBAs may formally become Continuing Education Providers with the BACB allowing them to conduct presentations and workshops in their areas of expertise for other BACBs and LABAs.

Dr. Lee Addresses ABA Misconceptions

Kids holding Puzzle pieces with the letters ABA