Masters Degree in Behavioral Psychology: Program Information

Master's degree programs in applied behavior analysis prepare graduates to work as human services specialists in behavioral, learning and developmental disorders. Learn about prerequisites, curriculum and continuing education options.

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Essential Information

A master's degree in applied behavioral analysis may be a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Clinical Psychology with an applied behavior analysis (ABA) specialization or Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Behavior Analysis. These master's degree programs prepare students to work in rehabilitation or treatment centers, helping patients with autism, learning disorders, behavior disorders or developmental disabilities.

Most programs allow students to specialize in a particular field and customize their curriculum accordingly. Master's degrees in this field are characterized by research based on experimentation and often culminate in a thesis. These programs generally require five or six semesters of study. It's important to note that most states require a doctoral degree for licensing as a psychologist.

Educational Prerequisites

Applicants to master's degree programs that offer behavioral psychology training must have at least a bachelor's degree, preferably in a related field, to be considered for admission. Most admissions committees also ask for college transcripts, standardized test scores and letters of recommendation. The strongest applicants usually have participated in psychological research.

Program Coursework

The majority of coursework in this field is based on research, although some programs require students to complete clinical hours to graduate. Here are some classes that are typically part of the curriculum in these programs:

  • Common behavioral disorders
  • Child development
  • Family dynamics
  • Autism
  • Child abuse and neglect
  • Parenting techniques and training
  • Developmental disorders and treatment

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the employment rate for all psychologists will increase 22% between 2010 and 2020, which is faster than average (www.bls.gov). The BLS also notes that the median annual salary for clinical, school and counseling psychologists was $67,650 in May 2012.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

Master's degree graduates of a clinical psychology or ABA program with substantial work experience may consider a doctorate degree in the field, such as the Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Clinical Psychology and Ph.D. in Behavioral Psychology. Ph.D. degree programs in these fields usually focus on intensive, original research and dissertation publication, which can be based on a large-scale psychological experiment. Graduates of this degree typically pursue careers in psychology.

Students may also consider behavior analyst certification, which is offered through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and offered through programs across the country (www.bacd.com). This certification is not required; however, it can help with career opportunities.

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