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5 Courses in an Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate Program

ABA Graduate Certificate Courses

ABA Graduate Certificate CoursesAre you considering starting an ABA graduate certificate program? 

If so, you might be in the initial research phase: searching for programs within your area, looking at costs and admissions requirements, and identifying which courses you will need to take to finish with a certificate. 

Related resource: 40 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate Programs

Program-specific courses in an applied behavior analysis graduate certificate program prepare students to work with a broad range of clients who have unique behavior and learning needs. Some of the courses required for the completion of these programs often vary depending on the school that students choose to attend, but the following five courses are typically common requirements regardless of students’ chosen educational facilities.

  • Assessments in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Methods of Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Ethical Conduct in Applied Behavior Analysis
  • Applied Behavior Analysis Research Methods
  • Behavior Change Systems

What is learned in these five courses is critical to becoming a successful and effective applied behavior analyst. Without any of these courses, relevant and necessary information would be missing from an individual’s graduate experience. 

Continue reading to learn what these 5 crucial ABA courses are. 

1. Assessments in Applied Behavior Analysis

Among the most important courses in an applied behavior analysis graduate certificate program is Assessments in Applied Behavior Analysis. Careful assessments are crucial to determine proper diagnosis and treatments in behavior analysis. This course prepares students for this essential aspect of behavior analysis by examining such topics as identifying and implementing appropriate assessment methods, experimental designs, problem identification and measurement, data collection and analysis, and treatment integrity.

Assessment and data collection are paramount in an analyst’s profession. Becoming an expert in the entire process of assessment is important, and this course is the first step in doing so. 

There are a variety of direct and indirect assessments that analysts must give, analyze, and make decisions based upon. They must also be able to communicate assessment results to parents and others involved in a clear way. 

Some examples of assessments that are given to children and adults who are receiving ABA services include:

  • Assessment of Basic Language and Learning Skills – Revised (ABLLS)
  • Verbal Behavior -Milestones Assessment and Placement Program (VB-MAPP)
  • Assessment of Functional Living Skills (AFLS)
  • Essential for Living (EFL)
  • Promoting Emergence of Advanced Knowledge (PEAK)
  • Early Start Denver Model (ESDM)

Other assessments include reinforcer assessments for individuals with disabilities, functional behavior assessments, observations, preference assessments, ABC data collection, and so on. 

Although an applied behavior analyst will not conduct a neuropsychological assessment, it is one in which can be reviewed with parent or guardian’s permission. 

The goal of a neuropsychological evaluation is to assess and identify strengths and weaknesses across multiple areas: intellectual level, language skills, nonverbal or visual skills, memory, attention, organization, judgment, planning, efficiency, academic skills, and social/emotional functioning.  Neuropsychologists examine how a child’s intellectual ability, learning style, and personality traits interact to affect overall development. A neuropsychological evaluation can help clarify diagnoses related to a range of learning and psychological concerns and develop specific recommendations to address a child’s needs at home and at school. A neuropsychological evaluation will include information about the child’s weaknesses and strengths as a learner and practical recommendations for interventions at school and home will also be offered, (MPG). 

Overall, the ABA graduate certificate course in assessments will give the student taking it the foundation to be able to appropriately choose assessments for clients, accurately conduct the assessments, analyze results, and effectively use results to make the proper decisions. 

2. Methods of Applied Behavior Analysis

Another important course included in an applied behavior analysis certificate program is Methods of Applied Behavior Analysis. In this class, students will learn how to choose appropriate methods of behavior analysis by defining an individual’s problem behavior, conducting thorough behavior assessments, and developing effective behavior analysis interventions. The course often includes several scientific-based case studies that help students gain a clearer perspective of behavior analysis and common behavior change procedures.

Methods include everything from how, when, and where a client will be observed and through the process until a behavior intervention plan is written and implemented with specific ABA strategies. 

There are various methods of observation, data collection, and interventions. 

Some examples of methods taught in an ABA course and used frequently in the field are:

  • Discrete Trial Training
  • Shadowing
  • Incidental Teaching
  • Naturalistic Teaching
  • Pivotal Response Treatment
  • Token Economy

In an applied behavior analysts graduate certificate program, students will learn numerous methods, some they may use more often than others, and some that they will have on the backburner when needed. 

3. Ethical Conduct in Applied Behavior Analysis

Ethical Conduct in Applied Behavior AnalysisAlso among the most important courses in an applied behavior analysis certificate program is Ethical Conduct in Applied Behavior Analysis. Ethical behavior and conduct are crucial in almost any professional occupation including careers in behavioral analysis. This course explores the laws and regulations concerning ethics in behavior analysis as set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Topics covered in this course include resolving ethical dilemmas, roles, and responsibilities of behavior analysts, and conducting risk/benefit analysis of treatment approaches.

Using sound judgment and abiding by moral and ethical codes and laws are critical when working with anyone, and it is especially important with those more vulnerable populations such as children and adults with autism or developmental disabilities. 

Within the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts, students and professionals will find the following ten categories that have multiple subcategories within them:

  1. Responsible Conduct of Behavior Analysts
  2. Behavior Analysts’ Responsibility to Clients
  3. Assessing Behavior
  4. Behavior Analysts and the Behavior-Change Program
  5. Behavior Analysts as Supervisors
  6. Behavior Analysts’ Ethical Responsibility to the Profession of Behavior Analysts
  7. Behavior Analysts’ Ethical Responsibility to Colleagues 
  8. Public Statements
  9. Behavior Analysts and Research
  10. Behavior Analysts’ Ethical Responsibility to the BACB

Each ABA professional will stumble upon ethical conundrums from time to time. With the support of the BACB, mentors, and colleagues, and ethical and moral common sense, the situations that arise should be easy to navigate. 

The course on ethical conduct is invaluable to students within the ABA program.

4. Applied Behavior Analysis Research Methods

Applied Behavior Analysis Research MethodsApplied Behavior Analysis Research Methods is yet another course found in applied behavior analysis graduate certificate programs. The goal of this class is to provide students with the knowledge and practical skills necessary to interpret and apply behavioral research. Through hands-on learning, students will learn how to use analytic technologies to evaluate the effectiveness of behavioral interventions. Special research projects allow students to determine proper assessment methods for various case studies as assigned by their instructors.

Learning how to efficiently read and analyze others’ research (various types of research designs, data, analyses, findings, limitations, etc.) is a must. Applied behavior analysts utilize other professionals’ findings to help themselves make appropriate decisions. Students in this course will learn how to weed out unreliable and invalid pieces of research and stick to scientific, evidence-based studies. 

Not only will students taking this course learn how to read published research, but they will also have a lot of practice in conducting research and writing their own papers.

Research and writing a solid paper take semesters of practice. This is a foundational class that will be built upon. 

5. Behavior Change Systems

Behavior Change Systems is a course in applied behavior analysis programs that examines various behavior change systems and their typical procedures. Students who are enrolled in this course will learn how to use the intrinsic elements of behavior change to determine, implement, supervise, and manage appropriate interventions. The course also explores such issues as ethics in the use of behavior change systems, data collection for monitoring behavior change progress, and special considerations in behavior change methods.

When reviewing the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts, section four covers Behavior Analysts and the Behavior-Change Program and reviews the following sub-categories:

  • Conceptual Consistency
  • Involving Clients in Planning and Consent
  • Individualized Behavior-Change Programs
  • Approving Behavior-Change Programs
  • Describing Behavior-Change Program Objectives
  • Describing Conditions for Behavior-Change Program Success
  • Environmental Conditions that Interfere with Implementation
  • Considerations Regarding Punishment Procedures
  • Least Restrictive Procedures
  • Avoiding Harmful Reinforcers
  • Discontinuing Behavior-Change Programs and Behavior-Analytic
    Services

This course is critical in helping ABA students understand the process of modifying behavior from the very beginning to the end when the program is no longer needed. 

Conclusion to Courses in an Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate Program

Individuals who are interested in the fascinating field of applied behavior analysis will need to complete a variety of general education and program-specific coursework. While the courses in an applied behavior analysis graduate certificate program may differ a bit from one school to another, the courses described above are common requirements for most schools today.

Brittany Cerny

Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University

Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University

Updated June 2021

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