What Can I Expect from an Online Master’s in Behavior Analysis Program?

If you’re ready to make the commitment to enroll in a master’s in behavioral psychology program, distance learning options offer a number of benefits to students. The attendance requirements for an online degree program are less strict than those of an on-campus program, giving you the freedom to schedule your classes around other full-time commitments such as work. Distance learning also provides the same quality education you receive in a traditional program and opens the door to a greater variety of colleges and universities without the need to relocate. Every program has its differences, so take the time to weigh all your options to find the one that best matches your career goals.

Concentrations Offered for an Online Master’s in Behavior Analysis

CONCENTRATION DESCRIPTION POSSIBLE CAREERS THIS CONCENTRATION PREPARES FOR
Child and Adolescent Behavioral Health The curriculum focuses on the developmental stages of children as they relate to behavior. This concentration provides the foundational principles needed to offer targeted care to children and adolescents with behavioral issues and to provide support for common childhood stressors. School counselor in an educational institution
Health Communication Prepares students for engaging in research regarding the public’s relationship with health information delivery. Professionals in this field aid in planning communication strategies and work with healthcare providers to improve the delivery of health-related messages. Health communication consultant for a government agency, private or nonprofit organization

Curriculum for an Online Master’s in Behavior Analysis

The curriculum for a graduate degree program in behavioral psychology can vary depending on the school, so it’s a good idea to assess your career goals and find a program that offers the courses most closely aligned to your preferences. When comparing distance learning programs, keep in mind that some may require on-campus courses to complement their online offerings, which may limit your options if you don’t wish to relocate.

The school you select and any concentration you choose will have an impact on the courses you are required to complete. Despite varying curriculum, the following are some courses that you are likely to encounter in any program you choose.

COURSES DESCRIPTION
Research Methods Learn research techniques and best practices to lay the foundation for post-graduate work and for scientific contributions to the industry.
Behavior Assessment Equips students the knowledge to confidently and accurately assess clients and patients during the initial encounter and use the information to begin plans for intervention.
Behavior Change Systems Develop appropriate intervention plans, assess their impact on patients and clients and adjusting these plans when necessary.

How Long Does It Take to Get an Online Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis?

Graduate degrees in behavioral psychology are generally designed to be completed in two years, but there are several influencing factors that can have an impact on the timeline. Some colleges and universities offer an accelerated program that can cut completion time by half, but this requires a more intense course load and may be difficult for students who have other life obligations and are unable to dedicate themselves fully to the program. There are also cases in which a student can only manage a part-time class load, which will increase the amount of time needed to complete all required courses.

The structure of a program also has an influence on your timeline. Cohort structures group attending students together and require them to work through each course as a team, increasing networking opportunity and peer support. Others programs allow an individually paced structure that gives students the freedom to complete courses on their own schedule. Individually paced programs often have several start dates throughout the year, while cohort structures may only have one or two.

Certifications and Licenses an Online Master’s in Behavior Analysis Prepares For

CERTIFICATION DESCRIPTION
Board Certified Behavior Analyst Students who complete an online master’s in behavioral analysis from an Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Verified Course Sequence (VCS) curriculum and have successfully gained professional experience are eligble to sit for the BCBA examination. This certification allows oneself to practice behavior analysis independently and to supervise other behavior analysts.

Accreditation for Online Master’s in Behavior Analysis Degrees

When researching your options for an online master’s in behavioral psychology degree, it’s a good idea to stick with programs that hold accreditation from a respected agency. Accreditation is given to schools and programs that demonstrate an educational quality that meets or exceeds the expectations set by the accrediting agency. The benefit to you, as a student, is a guarantee that your efforts will result in the development of the skills needed to be competent in your field and your degree will be recognized as valid by other schools, potential employers and certification and licensing agencies.

When researching the accreditation for programs on your list, it’s important to keep in mind the differences between types of agencies. National agencies, like the U.S. Department of Education, give accreditation to colleges and universities that meet general education standards. There are six recognized regional accrediting agencies, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, that limit accreditation to schools within a designated area. Schools accredited by the same agency are likely to accept transfer credits between them, making it easier to switch schools and pursue a post-graduate degree. Finally, there are industry-specific agencies that set standards directly related to your chosen career field. The Association for Behavioral Analysis International is a respected accrediting agency that focuses on programs for a master’s in behavioral psychology.

Employment Outlook for Master’s in Behavior Analysis Graduates

Job Placement: Master’s v. Bachelor’s

Obtaining a graduate degree in behavior analysis improves your chances of finding and keeping a position in your field when compared to those who hold a bachelor’s degree. The Bureau of Labor Statistics research shows that professionals with a master’s degree experience a lower unemployment rate than their bachelor’s-holding peers. The additional education and experience that comes with completing a graduate degree also provides better negotiating leverage to help you get the most out of any position you accept. This can translate into better benefits, more desirable hours or the option to choose which clients and patients you want to work with.

Expected Salary

A graduate degree in behavior analysis can have a significant impact on salary potential. Employers are often willing to pay more for a candidate with more experience and education in their field. The following table breaks down the salary range for several potential positions for someone who’s completed an online master’s in behavioral psychology program.

Job Title Salary Range
Board Certified Behavior Analyst $41,214-$75,006
Behavioral Health Specialist $30,508-$72,361
Rehabilitation Counselor $29,641-$65,263
Mental Health Counselor $30,540-$56,409
Substance Abuse Counselor $29,202-$51,260

Source: PayScale.com

The level of degree you hold can give an instant boost to your salary by increasing your experience level in your field. A master’s degree can be earned while working full-time in your chosen profession, adding to your years of work experience and your skill set. If you look at the table below, you can see how the average salary for each job title increases with additional experience.

Source: PayScale.com

Career Opportunities

Holding a master’s in behavior analysis opens the door to several different career possibilities. By completing an online graduate’s degree program, you earn the benefit of selecting a position with the benefits, job security and professional environment you prefer.

JOB TITLE JOB DESCRIPTION MEDIAN SALARY PROJECTED GROWTH RATE
Substance Abuse, Behavioral Disorder and Mental Health Counselors Counselors for substance abuse, behavioral disorders and mental health provide support and treatment to clients and patients who suffer from drug and alcohol addiction, eating disorders, mental disorders or behavioral disorders. $43,300 per year 23%
Special Education Teachers Special Education Teachers work with children and adolescents with a variety of physical, mental, emotional and learning disabilities. They develop targeted lesson plans that cover a range of educational topics and help students with severe disability learn fine motor skills, communication and literacy. $58,980 per year 8%
School Counselors School Counselors work with school-age children to aid in developing their social and academic skills. This can be done using assessments and interviews, allowing the counselor to identify issues and help the student find a resolution. Counselors often preemptively address hot-button school issues such as bullying, substance abuse and life planning after graduation. $55,410 per year 13%
Sociologist Sociologists are responsible for the collection and analysis of data related to the study of social behavior in society. This includes the development of research projects, presentation of findings and collaboration with other scientists and policymakers. $79,650 per year 1%

Professional Organizations

Professional organizations offer several benefits to members, providing networking opportunities, offering continuing education courses and keeping up with the latest in industry news and trends. The following are a few organizations created to support psychology professionals.

Society for Personality and Social Psychology: The SPSP provides members with access to a variety of professional publications, offers several educational and career resources, hosts events throughout the year so members can network and provides a number of members-only deals.

Association for Behavior Analysis International: Membership in the ABAI comes with discounts on professional resources, subscriptions to industry-related publications, access to an online job board, career-building resources and invitations to a variety of hosted events.

Financing Your Online Master’s in Behavior Analysis

Choosing an online program for your master’s in behavioral psychology will often net you a savings on tuition when compared to an on-campus program. Despite this, you may find yourself in need of assistance when your education bill comes in. To find relief, your first step should be filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to see if you qualify for government grants and loans. You also have the option of applying for scholarships and private loans. The resources below are an excellent place to start your search.

Resources

Scholarships

Scholarships

Details

Behavioral Health Academic Scholarship

Award: $2,500-$5,000

Deadline: April 30

Eligibility: Open to students who are pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in a major related to substance abuse and mental health treatment.

Franklin D. Boyce Scholarship

Award: $2,500

Deadline: February 15

Eligibility: Open to students who choose a health-related major, demonstrate financial need and have at least a 3.0 GPA.