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Graduate Certificate inApplied Behavior Analysis

Program summary

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is an effective, evidence-based approach used by teachers and therapists to create lasting, positive change in an individual's life. This online ABA certificate program is designed to help you prepare for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc.® (BACB®) exam.

Application deadline

Apply by June 30 to start August 26

Credits and costs

21 Credits$1,017 per credit

Gain the Skills to Help Improve Students’ or Patients’ Lives

  • Develop, implement, and monitor behavioral interventions.

  • Help change behavior for those with intellectual disabilities, autism, and emotional and behavioral disorders.

  • Create a purposeful environment in which children with special needs can thrive.

  • Learn to improve communication and social skills through research-based teaching methods.

Advance Your Teaching Proficiency with Online Courses

The courses in this applied behavior analysis certificate program can prepare you to sit for the 5th Edition BCBA certification examination. The program may also help you renew or maintain your existing certification if you are already a certified teacher; however, it is not designed to lead to initial teacher certification in any state.

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)

  • 3

    Introduces students to single-case research design and methodology. This course is designed to provide the student with all the necessary tools needed to formulate questions that require repeated measures observation and analysis, including the use of visual and statistical analytic methods.

  • 3

    This course covers the foundational underpinnings of the field of applied behavior analysis, which uses principles of behavior to positively impact client outcomes. The field emphasizes an empirical base through the use of experimental analysis of key variables in order to develop evidence-based interventions.

  • 3

    This course teaches the basic principles of applied behavior analysis, the building blocks necessary for developing evidence-based behavioral interventions.

  • 3

    This course teaches students how to conduct and interpret various behavioral assessments. Students will explore various behavioral assessments including skills assessments, preference assessments, direct and indirect functional behavior assessments, and experimental functional analysis.

  • 3

    This course utilizes the concepts and foundations taught in the prerequisite courses in order to guide students towards developing the skills necessary in implementing evidence-based practices and selecting the appropriate procedures when targeting behaviors for change.

  • 3

    This course builds on the concepts taught in the prerequisite courses and will cover organizational behavior management, which can be defined as using a behavior analytic framework to teach students how to train, supervise, monitor, and provide feedback to personnel who are implementing academic and behavior change programs.

  • 3

    In this class students will learn about the governmental and professional disciplinary standards that regulate the field of behavior analysis in special education. Beyond the letter of the law, students will work through case studies where ethical dilemmas are presented in an effort to tease out the underpinnings of ethical behavior.

Course Availability

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.

Start or Advance Your Career

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If you want to work in the helping professions (e.g., teachers, speech/language pathologists, therapists, counselors, behavioral analysts), this program can help add to your professional knowledge base, making you better prepared to address behavioral issues in the classroom and in 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.

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

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From the day you're accepted as a student, you can access resources and tools provided by Penn State World Campus Career Services to further your career. These resources are beneficial whether you're searching for a job or advancing in an established career.

  • Opportunities to connect with employers
  • Career counselor/coach support
  • Occupation and salary information
  • Internships
  • Graduate school resources 

Ready to Learn More?

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.

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Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by June 30 to start August 26. How to Apply 

Costs and Financial Aid

Learn about this program's tuition, fees, scholarship opportunities, grants, payment options, and military benefits.

Costs and Financial Aid

Graduate Tuition

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.

2023–24 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2023, spring 2024, and summer 2024 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,017 per credit
12 or more$12,203 per semester

2024–25 Academic Year Rates

Tuition rates for the fall 2024, spring 2025, and summer 2025 semesters.

How many credits do you plan to take per semester?Cost
11 or fewer$1,027 per credit
12 or more$12,325 per semester

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.

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.

To view the detailed list of cost of attendance elements, select “World Campus” as the location on the tuition site.

A Head Start toward a Master's Degree

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Not only can this program help create opportunities in your career, it can also give you a solid head start toward a full master’s degree.

Degree Program Related to This Certificate

If you apply and are accepted into this master's program, you will be able to apply up to 15 credits toward the M.Ed. in Special Education degree requirements.

Learn to support students with special needs. This online degree program focuses on current issues and topics in the field of special education and gives you the opportunity to choose an emphasis in academic and behavioral supports, applied behavior analysis, or autism.

Learn more about the Master of Education in Special Education

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. It allows professionals to demonstrate that they have met standards for the profession through board examination.

  • 21-credit, 315-hour, seven-course sequence based on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s 5th Edition Task List and intended to prepare you to sit for the 5th Edition BCBA certification examination. 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.
  • In order to qualify to take the BCBA certification exam, students will need to complete a supervised fieldwork experience that meets the 2022 fieldwork requirements set by BACB. 
  • 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.

Who Should Apply?

If you have a background in education or human services, would like to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or want to learn about interventions to produce lasting change in behavior, you will find this program to be extremely useful.

  • teachers
  • behavioral specialists
  • mobile therapists
  • educational consultants
  • speech-language pathologists
  • school counselors
  • social workers
  • psychologists
  • medical professionals
  • occupational and physical therapists
  • mental health counselors

Act 48–Approved

Penn State is an Act 48–approved provider for Pennsylvania educators, so the courses for the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis may count toward professional development hours.

How Long to Complete This Program?

Our courses typically follow a 12- to 15-week semester cycle, and there are three semesters per year (spring, summer, and fall). The fieldwork for the BACB certification usually takes at least two years to complete.

Convenient Online Format

This program's convenient online format gives you the flexibility you need to study around your busy schedule. You can skip the lengthy commute without sacrificing the quality of your education and prepare yourself for more rewarding career opportunities without leaving your home.

A Trusted Leader in Online Education

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Penn State has a history of more than 100 years of distance education, and World Campus has been a leader in online learning for more than two decades. Our online learning environment offers the same quality education that our students experience on campus.

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.

How to Apply to Penn State

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Apply by June 30 to start August 26

Application Instructions

Deadlines and Important Dates

Complete your application and submit all required materials by the appropriate deadline. Your deadline will depend on the semester you plan to start your courses.

  • Fall Deadline

    Apply by June 30 to start August 26
  • Spring Deadline

    Apply by November 15 to start January 13
  • Summer Deadline

    Apply by April 15, 2025, to start May 19, 2025

Steps to Apply

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. To begin the online application, you will need a Penn State account.

    Create a New Penn State Account

    If you have any problems during this process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

    Please note: Former Penn State students may not need to complete the admissions application or create a new Penn State account. Please visit our Returning Students page for instructions.

  4. You can begin your online application at any time. Your progress within the online application system will be saved as you go, allowing you to return at any point as you gather additional information and required materials.

    • Choose Enrollment Type: "Certificate Admission"
    • Choose "WORLD CAMPUS" as the campus

    Checking Your Status 
    You can check the status of your application by using the same login information established for the online application form. 

    Technical Requirements  
    Review the technical requirements for this program.

  5. 5. Complete the application.

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact an admissions counselor at [email protected].

Contact Us

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Have questions or want more information? We're happy to talk.

To learn more about the Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis program, please contact:

World Campus Admissions Counselors
Phone: 814-863-5386
Email: [email protected]

Kelly A. Mercorella, Ph.D., BCBA-D
Phone: 814-863-2286
Email: [email protected]

Learn from the Best

One of the primary reasons Penn State is recognized around the globe as a distinguished university is the faculty. This program is offered in partnership with the Penn State College of Education and as a student, you will have the opportunity to learn from the same instructors who teach traditional, face-to-face classes on Penn State's campuses across Pennsylvania.


  • Rick Kubina

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Special Education, The Ohio State University
    • Degree
      M.A., Special Education, The Ohio State University
    • Degree
      B.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.

  • David Lee

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Special Education, Purdue University
    • Degree
      M.Ed., Special Education, California University of Pennsylvania
    • Degree
      B.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.

  • Kelly Mercorella

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Applied Behavior Analysis, Columbia University
    • Degree
      M.S., Applied Behavior Analysis, Columbia University
    • Degree
      B.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.

Ready to take the next step toward your Penn State graduate certificate?

Apply by June 30 to start August 26. How to Apply