Best Doctorate in Applied Behavior Analysis Programs

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Are you interested in a career focused on mental health? Check out these in-person and online doctoral programs in applied behavior analysis.

A doctoral program in applied behavior analysis can equip students with the skills necessary to identify and analyze behavioral and social conditions.


As a social science within the field of psychology, applied behavior analysis (ABA) uses strategies like positive reinforcement to understand and change behavior. Commonly used to support individuals on the autism spectrum, ABA helps individuals develop social and emotional skills.


According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), the average graduate program cost $19,792 in tuition and fees during the 2019-2020 academic year. Although tuition rates may make students wonder if graduate school is worth the debt, opting for an in-state program, pursuing scholarships and financial aid, and choosing an online program can help them cut costs. Accredited online colleges offer the same high-quality education as in-person schools. These institutions are increasingly popular among students, especially busy professionals.


A typical doctoral degree program takes 4-6 years to complete, but it may take more if a student is on a part-time schedule. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that jobs in applied behavior analysis will grow about 8% between 2020 and 2030. According to Payscale data from July 2022, the average wage for a board-certified ABA therapist is $66,420 per year.


A doctoral degree qualifies professionals for higher-paying roles in the field. The BLS reports that the top 10% of psychologists made more than $133,890 in 2021. Considering graduate school may be worthwhile for applied behavior analysis professionals who want to grow in their careers and earn higher salaries.


Best Accredited Doctorate in Applied Behavior Analysis Programs


Rankings compiled by the BestColleges Ranking Team


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Caldwell University

Location Caldwell, New Jersey
Admission Rate 93%
Graduation Rate 69%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes

Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 21%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,020
Out of State | $1,020

Credits to Graduate
90

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Ph.D. program in applied behavior analysis at Caldwell University is designed to help students reach their professional goals. Graduates go on to work in developmental services, special education, mental health, and academia in the applied behavior analysis field. Students complete the required coursework, an applied practicum, and dissertation research to complete their degree. 

Learners work closely with Caldwell’s Center for Autism and Applied Behavior Analyst. Led by faculty, the Center provides assessment and intervention services for autistic people.

To enroll, all applicants must have a bachelor’s degree or higher, a GPA of 3.6 or higher, and a satisfactory score on the Miller Analogies Test (MAT).



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Columbia University

Location New York, New York
Admission Rate 5%
Graduation Rate 95%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes

Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 6%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,913
Out of State | $1,913

Credits to Graduate
75

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association for Behavior Analysis International Accreditation Board

Columbia University’s doctorate in applied behavior analysis program focuses on research in four core areas: effective classroom practices, language/verbal development interventions, observational learning, and systems-wide scientific approaches to education. Coursework covers applications of research and how to properly generate new research. 

Applicants are required to submit an online application with a statement of purpose, resume, transcripts, two letters of recommendation, a writing sample, and a $65 application fee. All applicants must already hold an MA in applied behavior analysis from an accredited CABAS university.



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Emory University

Location Atlanta, Georgia
Admission Rate 16%
Graduation Rate 90%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Semester
In State | $22,900
Out of State | $22,900

Credits to Graduate
54

Program Information
N/A

Emory’s Ph.D. in behavioral, social, and health education sciences is provided through the Laney Graduate School. The program is designed to prepare students to identify, analyze, and intervene on public health issues. Enrollees can design and implement their own research study on a topic of their choosing. 

It is recommended that all applicants hold a master’s in the public health field. Those without a relevant master’s degree are required to take additional core classes. Application requirements include letters of recommendation, a statement of purpose, and a resume.



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Endicott College

Location Beverly, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 69%
Graduation Rate 74%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes

New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 41%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $932
Out of State | $932

Credits to Graduate
60

Program Information
N/A

The Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis at Endicott College is a research-based program that prepares students to work as professors, scientist-practitioners, and public policy professionals. Students participate in 60 total semester hours: 30 hours of coursework and 30 hours of research and clinical immersion. 

Students must hold an MA in applied behavior analysis. An active BCBA certificate is also recommended prior to enrollment. The program takes an average of three years to complete and has no residency requirement.



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Florida Institute of Technology

Location Melbourne, Florida
Admission Rate 66%
Graduation Rate 59%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
Percent Online Enrollment 10%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Year
In State | $30,300
Out of State | $30,300

Credits to Graduate
48

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association for Behavior Analysis International

Based in Melbourne, the Ph.D. in behavior analysis from the Florida Institute of Technology is a flexible program designed for full-time working professionals who are looking to advance their careers in applied behavioral sciences. 

Students can specialize in clinical applications of behavior analysis or organizational behavior management. The curriculum includes courses on radical behaviorism and statistical research methods. Students must also complete 12 credit hours of fieldwork.  

Applicants must have completed an MA in applied behavior analysis and hold an active BCBA certificate. 



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Harvard University

Location Cambridge, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 5%
Graduation Rate 97%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes

New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 18%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

100% On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Academic Year
In State | $52,456
Out of State | $52,456

Credits to Graduate
64

Program Information
N/A

Students interested in pursuing a Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis at Harvard University should enroll in the population health sciences doctoral program and choose social and behavioral sciences as their concentration. This program includes a broad range of coursework that covers social, political, and historical factors that influence behavioral health. Harvard also provides students with a program mentor based on their interests.

A previous graduate degree is not required for this program, but applicants must possess a bachelor’s degree and have completed coursework in statistics and quantitative methods. GRE scores are not required for admission. 



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Simmons University

Location Boston, Massachusetts
Admission Rate 73%
Graduation Rate 81%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes

New England Commission on Higher Education
Percent Online Enrollment 55%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.
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100% Online | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,135
Out of State | $1,135

Credits to Graduate
48 

Program Information
N/A

The Simmons University Ph.D. in behavior analysis is a 100% online program of live classes designed to train students to make contributions to the scientific community of behavior analysis. The program is ideal for distance learners who are looking to develop research skills to design, conduct, and interpret experimental research. 

Students are enrolled in lab meetings with faculty and get to pick between concentrations such as conditioned reinforcement, the analysis of verbal behavior, and behavioral medicine. Candidates must already hold an MA in behavioral science and a BCBA certification or significant coursework in the field. 



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The Chicago School of Professional Psychology

Location Los Angeles, California
Admission Rate 13%
Instituation Type Private
Accreditation Yes

Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior Colleges and University Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 82%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $1,622
Out of State | $1,622

Credits to Graduate
58

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association for Behavior Analysis International Accreditation Board

The Ph.D. in applied behavior analysis (ABA) program at The Chicago School of Professional Psychology is a flexible, hybrid course of study that takes either three or five years to complete. Graduates learn evidence-based practices in the areas of experimental analysis of behavior, applied behavior analysis, and radical behaviorism. 

Applicants must possess a master’s degree with a GPA of at least 3.0. 



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University of Washington

Location Seattle, Washington
Admission Rate 52%
Graduation Rate 84%
Accreditation Yes

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Percent Online Enrollment 8%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

Hybrid | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Quarter
In State | $6,174
Out of State | $11,128

Credits to Graduate
N/A

Program Information
N/A

Within the doctoral program in special education at UW, students have the option to specialize in applied behavior analysis. Coursework emphasizes collaboration and equips students to implement structural change in the field. Students design and conduct research with experienced faculty and have the opportunity to supervise master’s degree students in their practicums. 

Applicants must have been admitted to the special education Ph.D. program at UW, hold Board Certification in Behavior Analysis, have two years of work experience, and be able to enroll full time.



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Western Michigan University

Location Kalamazoo, Michigan
Admission Rate 80%
Graduation Rate 57%
Accreditation Yes

Higher Learning Commission
Percent Online Enrollment 28%

Percentage of all students who are enrolled online.

On Campus | Scheduled Classes

Avg. Cost per Credit
In State | $731
Out of State | $1,096

Credits to Graduate
73

Program Information
Program Accreditation | Association for Behavior Analysis International

The doctoral degree program in behavior analysis at Western Michigan University allows students to complete coursework and participate in research and applied experiences to prepare for a career in behavior analysis. The program is designed to train the next generation of teachers and researchers in an academic setting. Graduates go on to apply for positions in human services organizations and within the behavioral health industry. 

To enroll, students need a minimum of 79 hours in related coursework and a B grade average. They must also possess an M.A in a related field.



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Featured Online Programs

Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.


How We Rank Schools


Each year, the BestColleges Ranking Team evaluates hundreds of programs to produce our annual Best Doctorate in Applied Behavior Analysis ranking. In 2022, the team sourced the most recent data available from the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System and College Navigator, both of which are hosted by NCES. We identified 11 schools that qualify for our ranking, listed in alphabetical order. The programs in our list are based on the following criteria.

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  • Each school must be an accredited public or private, nonprofit institution.
  • Must offer a doctorate degree program in the given subject.
  • Must submit an annual report to NCES.


The BestColleges Ranking Team is made up of contributors from our data science and product management teams. These contributors operate independently from the editorial team. All BestColleges school rankings are produced by the ranking team and are free of editorial influence. Read our Editorial Policy and Standards to learn more.


Frequently Asked Questions About Applied Behavior Analysis Programs


Is a doctorate in applied behavior analysis worth it?


A doctorate in applied behavior analysis can lead to career opportunities and expand earning potential for professionals. For students passionate about the field of psychology and behavior analysis, the degree is often worth it.


The BLS projects psychology jobs will grow 8% between 2020 and 2030, leading to an estimated 13,500 additional job openings.


There are many people who wonder if online degrees are worth it. Accredited online programs teach the same material and confer the same licenses as in-person programs. Online degree programs are just as challenging and respected by employers.


What can I do with a doctorate in applied behavior analysis?


A doctorate in applied behavior analysis can open many career doors. Graduates are qualified to work as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs), counselors, social workers, special education administrators, and teachers. The majority of these jobs require applicants to possess doctorate degrees and licenses, but in some cases, prospective employees only need master’s degrees.


Applied behavior analysis graduates can work in a variety of settings, including schools, private practices, nonprofits, and government agencies. Professionals in this field often work nights and/or weekends to be available for clients. ABAs work with individuals with a variety of neurological conditions, including autistic patients.


How long does it take to get a doctorate in applied behavior analysis?


A doctoral program in applied behavior analysis takes approximately 4-6 to complete in addition to four years of undergrad and two years in a master’s program. The program can longer if a student enrolls part time. Ph.D. programs often consist of 60 semester hours of courses and research.


During the coursework, students learn how to conduct clinical research, become mentors and teachers, and specialize in autism or other behavioral health conditions.


How much money can I make with a doctorate in applied behavior analysis?


The salary potential for applied behavior analysis graduates is higher than the national average. According to Payscale data from July 2022, the average wage for a board-certified ABA therapist is $66,420 per year. Obtaining a doctorate in applied behavior analysis increases earning potential


Salaries for behavior analysis professionals vary based on employer and job type. Psychologists’ pay also depends on location and their level of experience.


What are the highest-paying jobs with a doctorate in applied behavior analysis?


The highest-paying BCBA jobs tend to be leadership roles or private practice positions.


Some titles and average salaries as of July 2022 are:


  • BCBA licensed behavioral analyst (LBA): $163,415
  • Vice President BCBA: $144,550
  • BCBA Consultant: $117,440
  • BCBA Therapist: $111,789


These roles usually require applicants to possess a graduate degree, and a Ph.D. is often desired. Although there is no minimum amount of work experience for these positions, about 3-5 years of experience is preferable.


Feature Image: aquaArts studio / E+ / Getty Images

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