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Top Online PhD Programs in Applied Behavior Analysis

Applied behavior analysis (ABA), an exciting and growing field of psychology, involves the analysis and modification of behaviors in people over time. Often used in helping treat the symptoms of autism spectrum disorders in young people, ABA can also be used to alter and improve behaviors related to addiction or even age-related mental decline.

A PhD in applied behavior analysis signifies that a professional has reached the pinnacle of formal training in ABA and qualifies them not only to teach and conduct academic research in the area, but it prepares them well to sit for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) exam, which could open new career avenues.

This growing field is further supported by expanding academic options, including online programs for a PhD in applied behavior analysis that allow students the ultimate flexibility while they pursue doctoral training.

Before deciding what’s right for you, learn more about earning a PhD in applied behavior analysis online.

Why Get an Online Applied Behavior Analysis Degree?

Pursuing a PhD in applied behavior analysis online is a smart option for many students. The flexibility offered by online programs often means students are able to continue working while they obtain their doctorate, and reputable online programs allow students that flexibility without sacrificing the rigors of a PhD program.

Capella University

Capella’s online PhD in behavior analysis, for instance, strikes an ideal balance between the flexibility of online education and the need for real-world training in a complicated and evolving field of psychology. Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. No GRE Required!

91% of alumni said Capella gave them the flexibility to graduate on schedule. -Source: Gallup Research Study, 2016.

Visit Capella University

Considering an online degree not only allows a student the flexibility to continue working while they train, but it gives learners access to programs that may be based hundreds of miles away. Here are a few other important considerations in deciding whether an online PhD in applied behavior analysis is right for you (or which program is best):

  • Academic offerings: With online programs, all the classes you’ll need to take should be listed online. Check them out and make sure they align with the areas of ABA that excite you.
  • Faculty: In most classes, your education is only as good as your teacher. Find out who will be mentoring and guiding you in your doctoral program.
  • Dissertation: Be sure you understand each school’s doctoral dissertation process before committing. Capella’s program, for instance, includes three dissertation research seminars; other schools may not be as expansive.
  • Format: Be sure you understand if the classwork is fully online or if the program takes a hybrid approach for classroom learning.
  • Accreditation: Capella’s online PhD in applied behavior analysis is accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International; other schools may have different accreditation.

Applied Behavior Analysis Program Length & Cost

Each college or university varies in the total cost for obtaining your PhD in applied behavior analysis, and program lengths for online degrees vary depending on how many classes a student is able to take in a semester. But generally, doctoral degrees take about twice as long to complete as undergraduate degrees, so most doctoral candidates will need seven to eight years to complete their degrees.

Students who begin their doctoral journey after earning a master’s degree may be able to shave some time off, and very motivated online students can earn a PhD in as little as four to five years. Remember that a PhD is the highest academic degree conferred in the area of psychology, and the rigors of doctoral programs reflect that.

Most schools limit the maximum number of courses a student can take per term; at Capella, the limit is three courses per quarter, and students who are able to max out their course load can considerably shorten their overall time in school.

Similarly, costs vary widely from program to program, with online PhDs generally being a bit more affordable than in-person programs, though it’s important to remember that some traditional schools still offer assistantships and other resources to offset the cost of a doctoral degree. Those arrangements are less common in online settings. But with an online PhD, you may be able to continue working and earning a living, which is not common for traditional doctoral students.

Doctoral graduates at Capella can expect to pay about $60,000 for a PhD in applied behavior analysis; by comparison, a traditional PhD at a private institution is likely to run well into the six figures.

Applied Behavior Analysis Jobs in the Field

Most students considering an online PhD in applied behavior analysis probably already have a job title in mind, and it’s not hard to understand why. Many of the occupations a doctorate in ABA qualifies a professional for are among the highest-paying and most in-demand of all jobs in psychology, counseling, therapy and other behavioral occupations.

SEE ALSO: 9 Careers for Applied Behavior Analysis

It’s important to remember that simply earning your PhD may not be enough to get your dream job. That’s because many jobs and employers will require candidates to have specific certifications, such as the Board Certified Behavior Analyst indicator. But here’s a look at where ABA jobs may be the most plentiful and highest paying in the U.S.

Behavior analyst

Classified by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as psychologists, behavior analyst is probably the most popular and obvious job title for PhD in applied behavior analysis graduates. Elementary schools employ about 1 in 4 psychologists in the U.S., but nearly another quarter are in practice for themselves.

Behavior analysts and other psychologists have a bright employment outlook, with job openings projected to rise about 14% through 2026, double the growth rate for all jobs across the U.S. economy.

These tend to be high-paying jobs, as well, with most states offering wages near $90,000 or higher and several eclipsing six figures.

Median annual wage, psychologist

California $112,350
Maryland $106,670
New Hampshire $106,060
Hawaii $104,490
Connecticut $104,140
New York $103,630
Minnesota $102,640
Kansas $102,420
Virginia $101,790
Georgia $101,780

Mental health counselor

With an ABA degree, individuals working as mental health or substance abuse counselors provide treatment and support to help their clients change their addictive behavior. They may work with people who have serious mental health or behavioral problems, addictions, even eating disorders. These types of counselors generally work in outpatient facilities, which account for nearly 20% of employment, but for professionals with doctoral-level training, private practice and facility directorships are more common.

Job growth for substance abuse and mental health counselors is very strong, with employment projected to rise by 23% through 2026, much faster than the 7% growth expected for the economy as a whole.

In many states, high-level wages for these counselor positions are near $100,000, though one state eclipses that.

Mental health and substance abuse counselor, 90th percentile annual wage

Utah $125,450
Oregon $96,240
Alaska $92,040
Hawaii $87,070
District of Columbia $86,940
California $85,890
Vermont $84,920
New Jersey $82,750
Maine $79,800
Wyoming $79,050

Psychology professor

Earning a PhD qualifies a person not only to practice in psychology at the highest levels but to teach psychology to the next generation of professionals, and postsecondary education is a very popular destination for many online PhD in applied behavior analysis graduates. Private colleges and universities employ nearly 4 in 10 postsecondary teachers, while public schools account for another 37%.

Job growth in college- or graduate-level education is strong, with postsecondary teaching jobs expected to increase by about 15%, higher than the growth rate for all education jobs, which is 9%. Psychology teaching, in particular, is expected to see rapid growth, with a 15% jump expected, tying the field for the fourth-highest growth rate.

Postsecondary psychology teachers earn a median wage of about $76,000, though several states have median wages far higher.

Median wage, psychology postsecondary teacher

California $109,340
District of Columbia $99,050
Connecticut $88,570
New Jersey $87,050
Michigan $86,780
Idaho $84,460
New York $84,000
Rhode Island $83,240
Massachusetts $82,120
Iowa $80,600

Applied Behavior Analysis Conclusion

The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder has risen rapidly over the past 20 years, climbing from about 1 in 150 children in 2000 to 1 in 59 today, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Whether that’s because it really is more common or we’re just better able to treat it, such as with ABA-style therapies, is unknown. But either way, whether it’s used to help those with autism develop successful habits or help people struggling with addiction to finally get free, applied behavior analysis is an important field, and earning a PhD in ABA online is a more attractive path for increasing numbers of people.

SEE ALSO: Salary Outlook with Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis

Additional References

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Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Ann Steele, Ph.D.

Editor-In-Chief

Ann Steele, Ph.D., is Editor-In-Chief of PsydPrograms.org. Ann has training as a clinical psychologist and psychoanalyst who has worked with adults, couples, adolescents, and preteens throughout San Diego county.