Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What is Applied Behavior Analysis?
A: Applied Behavior Analysis, or ABA, is the science of learning and behavior used in order to solve problems related to human behavior and to create positive and meaningful changes in people’s lives and those around them. It is relevant to any aspect of behavior and is not limited in its application to only individuals with particular diagnoses.

Q: What makes our program unique?
A: Our program is multidisciplinary. We collaborate with faculty from the Education, Psychology, and Human Services and Rehabilitation Studies (HSRS) departments in order to provide a broad perspective on application. Our curriculum provides in-depth instruction on all aspects of behavior analysis (applied, basic, and conceptual) so that you will be well-equipped to handle the unique situations of each of your clients. A graduate degree in ABA from Assumption will allow you to effectively apply behavior-analytic principles for clients in a wide variety of settings and successfully collaborate with other professionals who also serve those clients.

Q: How many courses would I need to take each semester and when do classes meet?
A: Students typically take 2-3 courses a semester. Classes meet from 4:00 pm to 7:00 pm once a week on campus. Students may choose to take fewer courses per semester, but this will extend the time it takes to complete the program.

Q: How long will the program take to complete?
A: The Master’s degree is 45 credits (51 for the thesis option) and can be completed in 2 years, including 2 summer semesters.

Q: Are there any degree-related prerequisites to the program?
A: You must hold a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university or college. The program is open to students from any field, but preference will be given to students with a background in psychology, education, human services, and related fields.

Q: What grade point average (GPA) do I need to have?
A: Applicants should have a minimum GPA of 3.0. Applicants who have a GPA below 3.0 may still apply. We take the entire application into consideration when making a decision about acceptance. Your personal statement is an excellent place to highlight your unique strengths and to address any extenuating circumstances.

Q: Do I need to take the GRE?
A: You do not currently need to take the GRE.

Q: What needs to be included in my application package?
A: Your application should include the graduate application, application fee (waived for Assumption students and alumni), all official college transcripts, three letters of recommendation (academic or professional - with at least one being academic) written within the past 2-3 years, a current resume, and a personal statement. International applicants also should include official TOEFL scores. The Program Director may then contact applicants to schedule an interview (to be held in person or as a phone call).

Q: What are the application deadlines?
A: Click here for the Application Schedule & Deadlines.

Q: What does a Board Certified Behavior Analyst do?
A: Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are most often hired to work with individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental and intellectual disabilities. Frequently, they work to reduce instances of aggression, self-injury, interfering stereotypy, and non-compliance. BCBAs also teach a wide variety of academic, language, social, vocational, self-care, and leisure skills.  BCBAs may work in public or private schools, agencies, corporations, or as independent consultants. They often consult on issues related to sleep problems, feeding disorders, education, organizational behavior management, behavioral health, and other areas.

BCBAs work as part of a team of professionals to improve human behavior. This begins with an initial assessment that takes into account the situational, environmental, and motivational factors that are unique to the individual client. This often involves interviewing the client’s family and caregivers (in addition to the client) as well as conducting direct observations in multiple settings. The BCBA will then use this information to create a program that teaches particular skills and/or reduces undesired behavior. The outcomes of the program are carefully and continuously monitored to ensure they are effective and meaningful to the client. The ultimate goal is to help the client make positive changes in his/her life in order to reduce the need for behavioral services.

Q: How does someone become a BCBA?
A: To become a BCBA, you need to pass the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB) credentialing exam. To be approved by the BACB to sit for the BCBA exam, you need to have a master’s degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or education, complete 270 hours of graduate classroom instruction relevant to specific areas of the BACB Fourth Edition Task List, and complete 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork in applied behavior analysis. The BACB has verified that Assumption College six-course sequence meets the coursework requirements for eligibility to take the BCBA exam. In addition, the BACB has verified that Assumption College practicum meets the experience requirements to take the BCBA exam. Applicants need to meet other requirements to qualify.

Q: How does the practicum work?
A: The BACB has verified the Assumption College practicum toward the experience requirements to take the BCBA exam at the “practicum” level. Students are required to complete 1,000 hours of fieldwork in applied behavior analysis with 7.5% of their hours supervised by a BCBA each week. Students are asked to identify a placement and have it approved by the Program Director during their first semester. Practicum begins during the second semester. Students are required to work or volunteer at their approved site for a minimum of 25 hours a week (with a maximum of 30 hours per week). Students will receive 50% of their supervision during the weekly class meeting; the remaining 50% will be received individually at their worksite. All supervision will be provided by BCBAs who are also licensed applied behavior analysts in Massachusetts. Students will complete three semesters of practicum in order to accumulate the required 1,000 fieldwork hours. Students may only accumulate fieldwork hours while enrolled in the practicum class for graduate credit. Students are encouraged to work with the Program Director in order to identify a practicum placement.

Q: Will I be able to sit for the BCBA exam after I graduate?
A: We offer a BACB verified course sequence and practicum experience, which meet the education and fieldwork requirements to sit for the BCBA exam. This includes 270 hours of graduate classroom instruction in specific areas of the BACB Fourth Edition Task List and 1,000 hours of supervised fieldwork in applied behavior analysis at the practicum level. The Assumption College Course Content Verification is available upon request. Applicants must also possess a master’s degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or education. 

Because the BACB periodically changes requirements to sit for the BCBA exam, applicants are encouraged to apply to take the exam soon after graduation. Assumption College cannot guarantee that students who delay to apply to take the exam will be approved. Ultimately, it is the student’s responsibility to ensure all the requirements to be approved to take the exam have been met. Assumption College cannot guarantee that students who are approved to take the exam will pass and become certified.

Q: What is the difference between licensure and certification?
A: Licensure and certification are two different things. Certification as a BCBA is a graduate-level, internationally recognized certification that is offered by the BACB. Applicants are required to have a master’s degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or education, complete a minimum number of supervised fieldwork hours in applied behavior analysis, and complete 270 graduate classroom hours of instruction in applied behavior analysis consistent with the Fourth Edition Task List and pass the BCBA exam.

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts requires individuals who independently practice applied behavior analysis to be licensed, independent of their status as a BCBA. Licensing in Massachusetts is governed by the Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professionals. In order to obtain a license, an applicant must demonstrate good moral character, have a master’s degree that includes 30 graduate credit hours in applied behavior analysis in specific content areas, complete the required number of supervised fieldwork hours in behavior analysis, and successfully complete a Board-approved exam. The course content areas and fieldwork requirements are similar to those of the BACB. Licensing standards continue to evolve, and licensing regulations are expected to periodically change. Although the ABA programs at Assumption offer coursework and practicum experiences that allow students to meet these requirements, the program cannot guarantee licensure. Ultimately, the licensing board determines whether an individual satisfies the licensure requirements, and students are responsible for ensuring that they meet these requirements. Students who are interested in becoming licensed in states other than Massachusetts are encouraged to speak with the Program Director.

Q: What is the Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS)?
A: The 30-credit CAGS in ABA is offered to students who have completed a Master’s Degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or education and wish to complete the BACB Verified Course Sequence courses. It consists of the six-course sequence courses verified by the BACB, three practicum courses and an integrative seminar in ABA. CAGS students also have to pass the qualifying exam.

Q: What is the qualifying exam?
A: The qualifying exam is required for students in both the M.A. and C.A.G.S. in ABA programs. Students may take the qualifying exam after completing all of their coursework or during their final semester. The exam provides the student with the opportunity to exhibit integration of the theoretical, basic, applied, and ethical principles learned across the curriculum. Students will be given specific cases and asked to demonstrate how behavioral principles inform their clinical decisions. Students completing the optional master’s thesis in ABA will complete a thesis defense in lieu of the qualifying exam.

Q: Do I have to complete a research thesis?
A: At this time, completing a research thesis is optional. Students who choose to complete a thesis have the same coursework and practicum requirements as non-thesis students. Students enrolled in the thesis option will be required to complete an applied research project of publishable quality under the direction of a thesis advisor. In lieu of the qualifying exam, students will complete a thesis defense in front of a committee of three members.

Q: Do you offer online courses?
A: All of our applied behavior analysis courses are offered in “live” classrooms. Live classrooms provide students with the advantage of dynamic interaction with program faculty and other students. These interactions promote acquisition of professional skills relevant to the discipline of ABA. Many of our classes include active role play components in which students have the opportunity to practice the ABA skills they are learning about and receive immediate feedback.