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Mount to Add Master of Science Degree and Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis

Nicole Patterson

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Mount St. Mary’s University will add a Master of Science degree and certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to its graduate degree offerings, aligning with the growing demand for skilled professionals in psychology, education and the health professions. The Maryland Higher Education Commission, the coordinating board responsible for establishing statewide policies for Maryland public and private colleges and universities, approved the Mount’s proposal in November 2020, and the Mount anticipates launching the program in Fall 2021.

ABA is a discipline concerned with the application of behavioral science in real-world settings such as clinics, schools and industry with the aim of improving socially important issues such as behavior problems and learning.

“The program and interdisciplinary degree are housed jointly between the Department of Psychology in the School of Natural Science and Mathematics and the School of Education,” explained Dean of the School of Education Barbara Marinak, Ph.D. “The program recognizes the need to support these providers long before they enter the profession, and the training is in accordance with the standards of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Verified Course Sequence,” she added.

Joining the Mount’s nine graduate degree and 11 certificate programs, the new ABA degree will have a significant remote component and supports numerous strategic priorities and goals of the 2018-2023 Strategic Plan. “As a result of a carefully integrated course sequence, training in the model code of conduct, and rigorous practicum experience, behavior analyst candidates will be prepared to assume the mantle of ethical leadership in the profession,” Marinak added.

The Mount’s Strategic Plan also includes a goal to “develop new academic programs and systematically review existing programs in order to meet the needs of society.” There is a market demand for ethical, highly trained and resilient behaviors analysts in many sectors.

“This program will facilitate the courses, practicum experience and holistic training to apply toward careers as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). BCBAs go on to work in a variety of settings: hospitals and outpatient, educational, private and nonprofit organizations and residential facilities,” explained Jonathan Slezak, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology and chair of the Psychology Department.

A recent report published by the U.S. Employment Demand for Behavior Analysts showed demand for board-certified behavior analysts has increased nearly 800% from 2010 to 2017. Market analysis shows the growing demand for national licensed behavior analysts growing locally, regionally and nationally. Behavior analysts provide a therapeutic environment for individuals struggling to control their behavior. In addition to providing direct, therapeutic intervention to a child, adolescent or adult, behavior analysts also train parents, teachers and other professionals how to implement support plans for challenging behavior.

“The program supports the preparation of applied behavior analysts who typically (although not exclusively) work with children, adolescents, and adults diagnosed with autism and developmental disabilities. These nationally licensed professionals design and deliver interventions that facilitate independence and enhance quality of life,” Slezak noted.

According to EAB, in partnership with Economic Modeling Specialists International, the increase in demand for master’s level ABA professionals indicates a strong job market for program graduates. Employer demand for master’s level ABA professionals in the Mid-Atlantic region increased from 312 to 681 postings over the last two years, an increase of 118%. The statewide demand rose from 26 to 55 postings, an increase of 112%. 

Slezak and Stacey Brown-Hobbs, Ph.D., director of teaching education in the School of Education, are leading the search for an ABA director and are designing an assessment system to ensure the courses are in compliance with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Verified Course Sequence. They also will support marketing and recruitment efforts and design.

Support for the program’s first year, funded by the Governors Emergency Education Relief grant which awarded the Mount $273,200 for its novel approach for at-risk students, will be the unique partnership with Frederick County Public School involving ABA and technology facilitation.  

An undergraduate ABA course, to be offered in the Psychology Department in Spring 2021, will be taught by a BCBA licensed adjunct from Washington County Public Schools.  

 

Nicole Patterson