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ABA Coursework at SCSU

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc.® has approved the following course sequence as meeting the coursework requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Examination®.  Applicants will have to meet additional requirements to qualify. 


The ABA programs prepare students to meet the coursework and supervision requirements to sit for the exam to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), an international certification in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). Professionals with certification in ABA are highly sought after in many fields including education, special education, and school psychology, There are two ABA program options - a Sixth Year Diploma Program and a Certificate Program. The programs are centered on understanding the science of behavior analysis and how it can be used to help individuals become more successful.  Both programs prepare students to take and pass the BCBA exam and to use ABA in applied settings, such as with individuals with or without disabilities in educational or therapeutic environments. The ABA courses will be particularly relevant for special educators, school psychologists, and other educational professionals. However, professionals from other fields may also benefit from an in-depth understanding of learning and behavior.  

The ABA programs at Southern were designed to meet the requirements of the BACB and provide students with a rigorous course sequence in ABA.  Students will be expected to demonstrate a strong understanding of the principles of ABA, and how these principles can be used in a variety of real-world settings to help individuals succeed.  


Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a science of learning and behavior.  The focus of ABA is on the relation between an individual's environment and his/her behavior in real-life situations.  Roughly 100 years of research has identified consistent laws of learning that form the core principles of behavior analysis.  By examining and understanding these principles, changes can then be made to help individuals experience more success in their daily activities, including interpersonal, educational, vocational, and other domains.


Since the 1990s, ABA has become closely linked to educational and behavioral interventions for individuals with autism.  Currently, ABA is the most well-researched intervention paradigm for helping individuals with ASDs experience greater success.  This demonstrated effectiveness is likely due to ABA's focus on careful measurement of observable variables and thoughtfully designed individualized assessment and intervention.  Unfortunately, ABA is often misrepresented as simply discrete-trial teaching (DTT) instead of an extensive science of learning and behavior.  ABA does not focus on any particular intervention strategy, instead ABA uses individualized assessment to inform development of whatever strategy a given individual needs.  ABA has likely lead to consistent success for individuals with ASDs because of the flexibility gained through a scientific understanding of learning and behavior.  In other words, ABA is not DTT, it is the means through which to gather information and develop whatever intervention an individual needs to succeed.  

The ABA programs at Southern will provide the coursework essential to preparing professionals to work effectively with individuals with ASDs as well as other individuals with or without disabilities. 


A BCBA is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst.  It is a Master's level professional who has met the requirements of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) for training in applied behavior analysis.  BCBAs can be found in a variety of fields and have unique classroom and real-world training that is not found in other professions.


Professionals must meet several requirements to become a BCBA.  First, they must complete coursework in ABA.  The courses cover 10 topic areas with specific learning standards essential for professionals to become BCBAs.  Under current requirements, coursework must include a variety of graduate level courses in ABA, including principles of learning, observation, measurement, data-based decision making, single-subject research, behavioral interventions, and ethics and professional responsibilities.  Second, they must be supervised using principles and practices consistent with ABA in applied settings.  This supervised experience can begin only after the individual has started the ABA coursework (i.e., attended their first class).  Third, professionals must have obtained a master's degree in a relevant field.  Finally, after professionals have met all other requirements, they must past the BCBA exam administered by the BACB.  See the website for additional details on requirements.

For students with a Master's Degree, the courses at Southern will meet the coursework requirements for the BCBA exam.  Southern also provides students the option of receiving supervision, consistent with the supervision requirements for the BCBA exam.  The optional supervision consists of 1:1 supervision by qualified personnel through the Center of Excellence on Autism Spectrum Disorders and a 1-credit seminar (SED 695).

The 6th Year Professional Diploma in Special Education with a specialization in ABA (6th Year) is a 30 credit course sequence that results in a 6th Year in Special Education.  The ABA coursework provides students a strong background in ABA and meets the coursework requirement to sit for the BCBA exam.  In addition to the ABA coursework, the 6Th Year includes 9-12 credits in electives in the Special Education and Reading department (to be approved by the students advisor).  

The Graduate Certificate in ABA is an 18-21 credit program that provides students a strong background in ABA and meets the coursework requirement to sit for the BCBA exam.  (Note: The graduate certificate issued at the end of the course sequence is NOT the same as the certification conferred by the BACB after passing the BCBA exam.)


Applicants to the ABA programs at Southern must 
-Complete the School of Graduate studies application (completed online ;

The following must be submitted or arranged with the Special Education and Reading Department:
-Complete their Master's Degree before beginning the course sequence 
-Write an 800-1000 word essay on "What is your experience with ABA and what role do you see ABA playing in your future endeavors?"
-Complete an interview
-3.0 GPA