Autism Specialist Degree and Training Program Overviews

Oct 13, 2019

Essential Information

An autism specialist might medically, socially, or psychologically assist people who have been diagnosed with autism. They might also educate students with autism as teaching professionals. Master's-degree holders in ABA may seek certification through the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board. Likewise, master's degree holders in education can seek teaching licensure. Other than autism specialists, potential career outcomes include therapy and educational consulting.

Programs are typically two years in length and students will likely complete a student-teaching experience. ASD applicants typically should have a bachelor's degree in education or a related field, while ABA applicants typically should have a bachelor's degree in psychology, education, or special education. Some programs may require previous student-teaching experience.

Master's Degree Programs in Education with Specialization in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD)

Specializing in ASD while earning a master's degree in education or special education will qualify a student to teach and provide intervention services to autistic students. University programs in education offer a variety of options that include solely earning a master's in special education or earning a master's degree with an additional autism certificate. The graduate certificate can also be pursued alone.

Coursework will mainly include in-depth coverage of learning disabilities, behaviors, and characteristics of autism. Courses will also focus on how to manage the special needs of autistic students and implement academic interventions for their education. Coursework often covers the following topics:

  • ASD characteristics and theory
  • Communication and socialization concepts and strategies
  • Mathematics and reading for special needs students
  • Educational intervention and assessment methods
  • Classroom behavioral management

Master's Degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) and Autism

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a branch of psychology that focuses on the study of human behavior. A master's degree in ABA and autism will teach a student about ABA functions and concepts, as well as methods to provide services for autistic individuals ranging from childhood to adulthood. An ABA master's degree program aims to prepare the student to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

Program coursework includes study in multiple areas of ABA and its applications to autism. Programs typically require elective coursework in psychological concepts and include core classes in the following:

  • ABA introduction
  • Ethics and professionalism in ABA
  • Scientific writing and research methods
  • Language and social skills in ASD
  • Autism intervention assessment

Popular Career Options

Although many graduates pursue the BCBA credential, their job options aren't limited to autism-related behavioral analyst positions. A graduate education in ABA, along with board certification, can also lead to the following job titles:

  • Clinical service director
  • ABA therapist
  • Education and training consultant

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job demand for pre-school special education teachers is expected to rise by than average rate of 8% from 2018-2028. This growth rate is due to medical improvements that diagnose student disabilities at earlier ages. However, middle and high school special education teachers were predicted to see only a 3% increase in jobs. The BLS reports that the annual mean salary for all special education teachers was about $62,500 in 2018.

Continuing Education

Teaching licensure requirements vary by state and must be sought after completion of the degree program. Special education teachers are required to be licensed in every state.

Once they've attained master's degrees, graduates can become BCBAs. To apply for certified status, the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board requires graduate-level classroom hours and BCBA-supervised experience in addition to the master's degree. Applicants must also pass the Behavioral Analyst Certification Examination.

Students wishing to work in careers dealing with autism can earn a master's degree in education with a specialization in ASD, or a master's degree in ABA and autism. Graduates of both programs will need to obtain state-specific licensing and certifications to work as special education teachers or therapists.

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