applied behavior student

Graduate Certificate in
Applied Behavior Analysis

Program summary

Learn to create a purposeful environment that helps children with special needs succeed. This online Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) certificate program is designed to help you prepare for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board®, Inc. (BACB®) exam.

Application deadline

Apply by November 15 to start January 8

Credits and costs

21 Credits $1,017 per credit

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.

Act 48–Approved

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:

  • teachers
  • behavioral specialists
  • mobile therapists
  • educational consultants
  • speech-language pathologists
  • school counselors
  • social workers
  • psychologists
  • 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)

  • 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.

    • Note

      This is a 5-day, on-campus course held in early August that corresponds with Penn State’s National Autism Conference. TRAVEL IS REQUIRED.

  • 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.

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

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:

  • Spring DeadlineApply by November 15 to start January 8
  • Summer DeadlineApply by April 15 to start May 13
  • Fall DeadlineApply by June 30, 2024, to start August 26, 2024

Admissions Help

If you have questions about the admissions process, contact our admissions counselors.

Admission Requirements

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.

Technical Requirements 

Review the technical requirements for this program.

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.

* required 1/3

I agree to be contacted via phone, email, and text by Penn State World Campus and affiliates. I understand my information may also be shared with select providers to offer ads that may be of interest to me. Privacy Policy. reCAPTCHA protected. Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.

Learn more about this program

Download Program Brochure All my programs 

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

Apply by November 15 to start January 8. How to Apply

Start or Advance Your Career

A group of educators collaborating as they review documents at a table

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.

Career Services to Set You Up for Success

Student having a virtual meeting on a laptop with a career counselor

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 

A Head Start toward a Master's Degree

A figure standing halfway up a set of stairs leading towards a graduation cap

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

Some or all credits earned for this certificate can be applied to the following Penn State World Campus degree program:

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  

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.

Contact Us

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
Phone: 814-863-5386
Email: [email protected]

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


  • 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.

  • Tracy J. Raulston

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Special Education, University of Oregon
    • Degree
      M.Ed., Special Education, Texas State University
    • Degree
      B.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.

  • Pamela Wolfe

    • Degree
      Ph.D., Special Education, University of Virginia
    • Degree
      M.S., Special Education, University of Kansas
    • Degree
      B.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. 

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

Apply by November 15 to start January 8. How to Apply