Graduate Degrees in Behavioral Analysis: Program Overview

Graduate degrees in behavioral analysis give students advanced knowledge of human behavior. Students can earn a Master of Science, Master of Arts or a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D). Learn more about the program, courses, and employment information.

Essential Information

In master's-level programs in behavioral analysis, students are instructed in areas including behavior theory, applied behavior analysis techniques and experimental behavior analysis. Students must have a bachelor's degree, preferably in psychology or a related field and complete psychology courses before admission. Once in the program, internships and/or research projects are required prior to completion of the degree.

A doctoral program in this field of study gives students training in treatment methods for behavioral issues as well as in research. For the doctoral program, students must have a master's degree in behavior analysis or a related field, submit GPA and GRE scores, statement of interested, and letters of recommendation. In addition, some schools may require students to be a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Students in these programs must complete fieldwork and a dissertation.


Master's Degree in Behavioral Analysis

Master's degree students can sometimes choose from an applied track that trains them for certification as a behavior analyst or a research track that offers preparation for a doctoral program in this field. Students in the applied track usually must complete a clinical internship along with their coursework, while the research track may substitute research projects for clinical practice. Other programs offer training in both clinical practice and research methodologies. Core courses that all students might take include:

  • Social bases of behavior
  • Behavior observation and management
  • Behavioral and functional assessment
  • Evaluation of behavioral intervention
  • Conditioning and learning
  • Ethical and legal issues in behavior analysis

Doctor of Philosophy in Behavioral Analysis

Through a Ph.D. program in behavior analysis, students can learn advanced behavior analysis research methods and evidence-based techniques for treating various behavioral issues. Doctoral students typically receive broad training in the principles behind behavioral analysis, but they have opportunities to focus on an area within the field, such as educational behavior analysis or disabilities affecting children. Commonly, students formulate original behavior analysis models regarding specific issues and begin to contribute more to the professional field. Generally, students complete required coursework within the first couple years and devote the rest of their time to researching and writing their dissertations. Fieldwork or other practical experience in appropriate environments is a common component of the curricula. Course topics may include:

  • Biological foundations of behavior
  • Verbal behavior
  • Behavioral pharmacology
  • Behavior disorder assessment
  • Behavior analysis in educational settings
  • Quantitative research

Certification Information

A graduate from a master's degree program is usually eligible to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). To qualify to take the exam, one must meet the coursework requirements set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) or have accumulated significant experience in the field via teaching, fieldwork or other practical assignments. Upon passing an exam, this designation is conferred (www.bacb.com).

Popular Career Options

Graduates of behavioral analysis programs can seek careers in a variety of areas. They may find themselves working in businesses, agencies, service facilities or educational institutions. A few positions they might consider are:

  • Consultant for behavioral services
  • School behavior specialist
  • Clinical behavior therapist
  • Postsecondary teacher of behavior analysis

Graduate level behavioral analysis degrees are available at the master's and doctoral level. Master's programs prepare students for certification, while doctorate programs focus on advanced research and give the opportunity to focus on a specific area within the field.


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