Credits and costs
Demand Is High for Special Education Professionals with Advanced Certification in the Field of Applied Behavior Analysis
Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is an effective and evidence-based approach for changing behavior of all people, including those with intellectual disabilities, autism, and emotional and behavioral disorders. Teachers and therapists using ABA interventions seek to create lasting, positive change in an individual’s life. ABA practices include rearranging an individual’s environment, managing consequences, and teaching communication skills so problem behavior is minimized and appropriate behavior is maximized. In short, ABA improves lives.
Penn State shares your mission to help make life better for children with special needs. To help meet your goals, Penn State World Campus has partnered with the College of Education to offer graduate courses in applied behavior analysis.
Penn State Offers Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Study
Certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is the most prominently recognized credential in the field and allows professionals to demonstrate that they have met standards for the profession through board examination.
Our 21-credit, 315-hour, seven-course sequence is designed for people who seek advanced knowledge in the field of applied behavior analysis. The Association for Behavior Analysis International has verified our course sequence toward the course work requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® examination. Applicants will need to meet additional requirements before they can be deemed eligible to take the examination. The curriculum is based on the BACB’s 5th Edition Task List, which went into effect in January 2022, and is intended to prepare you to sit for the 5th Edition BCBA certification examination.
The program consists of six online courses plus one on-campus course, which is a week-long seminar held every August at Penn State University Park in conjunction with the National Autism Conference. This on-campus course is mandatory to complete the program, and travel is required.
BCBA exam pass rate data for our program (and all other verified course sequences) can be found on the BACB’s Verified Course Sequences web page.
Your Stepping-Stone to a Penn State Master's Degree
You may pursue the applied behavior analysis graduate certificate as a stand-alone credential or use it to step up into a Penn State master's degree. Many of the certificate courses are embedded into the more comprehensive Master of Education in Special Education. Certificate students who apply and are accepted into this master's program will be able to apply up to 15 credits toward the M.Ed. degree requirements.
Penn State is an Act 48–approved provider for Pennsylvania educators, so the courses for the program in applied behavior analysis may count toward professional development hours.
Who Should Apply?
This program is specifically designed for individuals with a background in education or human services who are interested in becoming Board Certified Behavior Analysts. However, anyone with an interest in learning about interventions to produce lasting change in behavior will find this program to be extremely useful.
Please note that this graduate certificate program is not designed to lead to initial teacher certification in any state; however, it may help you renew or maintain your existing certification if you are already a certified teacher. Please check with your state's Department of Education for initial licensure requirements and renewal and maintenance requirements.
Professionals who can benefit from this program include:
- behavioral specialists
- mobile therapists
- educational consultants
- speech-language pathologists
- school counselors
- social workers
- medical professionals
- occupational and physical therapists
- mental health counselors
Online Education at Penn State
Penn State has a history of 100+ years of distance education and more than two decades of experience in online learning. We create an online learning environment that offers you the same quality education our residential students experience in a face-to-face setting. Learn more about Penn State World Campus.
Penn State’s seven-course sequence is based on the BACB’s 5th Edition Task List, which went into effect in January 2022, and is intended to prepare you to sit for the 5th Edition BCBA certification examination. The Association for Behavior Analysis International has verified the seven courses specific to the ABA emphasis toward the course work requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® examination.
In addition to completing the specified course work, the BACB also requires a graduate degree (i.e., master’s or doctoral) and supervised fieldwork experience that meets the 2022 fieldwork requirements in order to qualify to take the BCBA certification exam.
Required Courses (21 credits)
If you're ready to see when your courses will be offered, visit our public LionPATH course search (opens in new window) to start planning ahead.
Costs and Financial Aid
Graduate tuition is calculated based on the number of credits for which you register. Tuition is due shortly after each semester begins and rates are assessed every semester of enrollment.
|How many credits do you plan to take per semester?||Cost|
|11 or fewer||$1,007 per credit|
|12 or more||$12,082 per semester|
Financial Aid and Military Benefits
Some students may qualify for financial aid. Take the time to research financial aid, scholarships, and payment options as you prepare to apply. Military service members, veterans, and their spouses or dependents should explore these potential military education benefits and financial aid opportunities, as well.
Paying for Your Certificate
Students pursuing a certificate are considered "nondegree," a status that is not eligible for federal student aid, including the Federal Direct Stafford Loan program. A private alternative loan may be an option to consider.
Additionally, Penn State offers many ways to pay for your education, including an installment plan and third-party payments. Penn State World Campus also offers an Employer Reimbursement and Tuition Deferment Plan. Learn more about the options for paying for your education.
Students pursuing a degree and meeting all other eligibility requirements may qualify for financial aid.
How to Apply
Deadlines and Important Dates
The application deadlines are:
- Summer Deadline: Apply by April 15 to start May 15
- Fall Deadline: Apply by June 30 to start August 21
- Spring Deadline: Apply by November 15 to start January 8
If you have questions about the admissions process, contact our admissions counselors.
For admission to the Graduate School, an applicant must hold either (1) a baccalaureate degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution or (2) a tertiary (postsecondary) degree that is deemed comparable to a four-year bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited U.S. institution. This degree must be from an officially recognized degree-granting institution in the country in which it operates.
Please note that while Penn State's program requires a bachelor's degree for admission, the BACB requires a master's degree in order to become certified as a BCBA. If board certification is your ultimate goal, we advise you to verify that your degree will satisfy the BACB requirement before you begin your course work with Penn State. Please visit the BACB's website for more information.
What You Need
For admission to the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis program, the online certificate application and the application fee are all that is required. You do not have to provide transcripts, a cover letter, letters of recommendation, test scores, or any other documentation with your application.
English Proficiency — The language of instruction at Penn State is English. With some exceptions, international applicants must take and submit scores for the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) or International English Language Testing System (IELTS). Minimum test scores and exceptions are found in the English Proficiency section on the Graduate School's "Requirements for Graduate Admission" page. Visit the TOEFL website for testing information. Penn State's institutional code is 2660.
How to Apply
Begin the Graduate School application
- Choose Enrollment Type: "Certificate Admission"
- Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus
- Choose "Applied Behavior Analysis" as the certificate
Checking Your Status
You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form.
Review the technical requirements for this program.
Get the resources you need to make informed decisions about your education. Request information on this program and other programs of interest by completing this form.
Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?
Start or Advance Your Career
Start or Advance Your Career
If you want to work in the helping professions (e.g., teachers, speech/language pathologists, therapists, counselors), this certificate program can add to your professional knowledge base, making you better prepared to address behavioral issues in classroom, early intervention, home, and community settings.
You can use the knowledge gained from this program and the support of Penn State career resources to pursue careers in a variety of fields, depending on your goals.
Professional Licensure / Certification
Many U.S. states and territories require professional licensure/certification to be employed. If you plan to pursue employment in a licensed profession after completing this program, please visit the Professional Licensure/Certification Disclosures by State interactive map for more information.
To learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis program, offered in partnership with the Penn State College of Education, please contact:
World Campus Admissions Counselors
Email: [email protected]
Kelly A. Mercorella, Ph.D., BCBA-D
E-mail: [email protected]
DegreePh.D., Special Education, The Ohio State University
DegreeM.A., Special Education, The Ohio State University
DegreeB.A., Psychology/Sociology and Women’s Studies, Youngstown State University
Dr. Rick Kubina, BCBA-D, is a professor of special education at Penn State and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with doctoral designation. Dr. Kubina's research focuses on the science of individual measurement and performance/learning improvement. He is the co-author of The Precision Teaching Book and the co-founder of Chartlytics, a web application system for precisely pinpointing and recording behavior for making decisions and using repeated problem-solving to help learners experience effective and efficient learning outcomes.
DegreePh.D., Special Education, Purdue University
DegreeM.Ed., Special Education, California University of Pennsylvania
DegreeB.S., Psychology, University of Pittsburgh
Dr. David Lee, BCBA-D, is a professor of special education. The focus of Dr. Lee’s research is to develop, evaluate, and disseminate programs to support students with or at risk for emotional/behavior disorders. His research draws upon a behavior analytic framework to create positive, function-based interventions for students, primarily in middle/high school.
DegreePh.D., Applied Behavior Analysis, Columbia University
DegreeM.S., Applied Behavior Analysis, Columbia University
DegreeB.S., Psychology, Fordham University
Dr. Kelly Mercorella, BCBA-D, is an assistant professor of special education at Penn State and teaches a variety of courses for the online M.Ed. program in Special Education. Dr. Mercorella's research interests center around facilitating reading comprehension for elementary students with disabilities, particularly designing interventions to instruct students on visualization strategies related to reading. Prior to earning her doctorate, Dr. Mercorella was a special education teacher in both self-contained and inclusive settings, serving students from Pre–K through fifth grade.
Tracy J. Raulston
DegreePh.D., Special Education, University of Oregon
DegreeM.Ed., Special Education, Texas State University
DegreeB.S., Special Education, Texas A&M University
Dr. Tracy J. Raulston, BCBA, is an assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology, Counseling, and Special Education at Penn State. Her scholarship focuses on the implementation and sustainability of evidence-based practices for children with autism spectrum disorder and related developmental delays/disabilities. Specifically, she is interested in supporting caregivers to implement behavioral interventions in home, community, and school settings.
DegreePh.D., Special Education, University of Virginia
DegreeM.S., Special Education, University of Kansas
DegreeB.S., Special Education, University of Kansas
Dr. Pamela Wolfe is an associate professor of special education at Penn State and the director of the Educating Individuals with Autism certificate program. Her teaching and research center on work with persons having autism spectrum disorders (ASD), severe disabilities, and intellectual disabilities. Her research includes interventions related to social skills and sexuality for persons with ASD, as well as advocacy and transition. She has presented at international and national conferences on topics such as teacher training, application of evidence-based instruction, and intervention models.