Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) M.A. [Online]

Cairn’s online Master of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis prepares you with the necessary course work for certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

MS ED Online

Credit Hours


Years (Avg.)

Next Start Date

August 29, 2022

Class Type
100% Online,  7-Week Terms, Asynchronous




Why Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavior Analysis is one of the most effective and frequently utilized treatment approaches for individuals with special needs, including those with developmental disabilities and autism. This program equips you with teaching and intervention skills based on ABA principles for treating autism and other disabilities in a number of different settings such as schools, including traditional and special education classrooms, business and industry specific employers, healthcare, and other community based environments.

The Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) program leading to an M.A. degree is designed to prepare well-trained professionals who are highly competent in designing and implementing ABA interventions and instruction to enhance the lives of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder and/or other disabilities. This program has been developed with the vision to meet a growing need for both research-supported autism interventions and training in biblical integration for educators. The coursework is verified by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) as meeting the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) coursework requirements. Most PA Behavior Specialist License (BSL) course requirements are also met. Additional requirements must be fulfilled to qualify for the BCBA credential and the BSL.


The curriculum is designed to develop the following competencies in students. The goal is that the graduate is able to:

  1. Select, design, and implement appropriate intervention and measurement procedures and systems.
  2. Evaluate, develop, and conduct experiments based on appropriate experimental designs and behavioral principles.
  3. State and plan for the possible undesired effects of reinforcement, punishment, and extinction using appropriate behavior-change considerations.
  4. Apply fundamental elements of behavior change, specific behavior-change procedures, behavior-change systems, and problem identification approaches.
  5. Design and implement appropriate individualized functional and behavioral assessment procedures.
  6. Design and use effective management and supervision systems.
  7. Explain and apply the philosophical assumptions of behavior analysis and the elements of foundational knowledge accompanying the BACB’s most current Task List.
  8. Identify and apply the BACB professional and ethical compliance code for behavior analysts.
  9. Integrate a biblical worldview in all competencies.
  10. Synthesize and evaluate research and integrate technology to enhance practice and learning.

Why the MA in Applied Behavior Analysis from Cairn University?

Faith and Truth Do Matter

Cairn University is committed to the centrality of Christ and the Word of God and is reflected in the curriculum and instruction. We must do more than say it matters, we must act in a way that demonstrates it matters.

While you’ll study the same teaching and curriculum design concepts you would expect from any quality master’s in ABA program, all instruction is grounded in the timeless Truth of God’s Word. No matter what your intended career path or field of study, Cairn is committed to helping educators think about their current and future work in education through a biblical worldview.

Proven Excellence

  • Ranked in Top 62 Online ABA Programs
  • Cairn’s BCBA exam pass-rate in 2020 was 100%
  • First Christian university worldwide to offer a program, with extensive autism training, verified to meet BCBA exam coursework requirements

Eligible to Take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Exam

The Association for Behavior Analysis International has verified the courses listed below toward the coursework 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. Please refer to these additional fieldwork requirements to be eligible for the BCBA exam. Visit for more details.

Community Happens Here

Community is about more than simply taking classes together. It’s more than having a similar experience. Community is powerful, instructive, encouraging, and biblical. And at Cairn, community is intentional. It’s attended to closely as an outworking of the University’s biblical commitment and understanding that in Christ, we are one.


There’s quite a bit of talk these days about the cost of higher education and the question of value. Many assume that you can’t have both value and affordability, so they settle for lesser options or assume that the costliest options must have the most value. But when Cairn talks about walking a different path, value is no exception. It’s possible to get a college education that is both affordable and valuable.

Committed Faculty Mentors

Our online courses are taught by faculty who are committed to your professional and spiritual growth. In addition to the carefully crafted learning activities, our faculty are substantively engaged throughout the course delivery. Students don’t just have professors, they have mentors who invest in them throughout the program and often remain connected long after graduation.

Start Your Studies Right Away

Cairn Online enrolls new students in early September, October, January, early March, May, and early July. You are eligible to enroll up to two weeks prior to the upcoming term.

Advance Standing for Bible or Theology Courses

Advance standing may be granted for Bible or theology credits earned at an accredited Bible college, Christian liberal arts college or university, or seminary. Credits will be granted on a course by course basis.

Career Paths

Careers in applied behavior analysis are in high demand and include a number of different paths. Among them, you’ll find opportunities inside educational environments, hospitals, private and non-profit organizations, and residential treatment settings.

  • Behavior Analyst
  • Behavior Analyst Consultant
  • Clinical Director
  • Special Education Teacher
  • Wellness Coach
  • Nonprofit opportunities
  • School Psychologist
  • Social Worker

Program Curriculum

The Cairn Master of Arts in ABA has been designed with input from our expert faculty in the School of Education, ensuring you graduate with the in-demand skills and knowledge that your career needs. The program requires 6 credits from the core curriculum courses, 18 credits from Applied Behavior Analysis Specialization courses, and 6 credits in Bible/theology courses. View a sample curriculum sheet for a snapshot of the courses you will complete.

Other Important Information
  • Individuals residing outside of the U.S. and Canada may apply to complete this program to earn a Master’s degree in ABA but effective January 1, 2023 will not be eligible to apply for BCBA certification from the BACB.
  • Completion of program requirements leads to a master of arts degree but not certification in behavior analysis or special education.
  • Students are responsible for verifying if the program meets the ABA licensing or certification requirements of the state and/or country where they intend to practice. Please see ABA Licensure and Certification.

SPE 661 – Foundations of Special Education
A course designed to introduce the regular classroom teacher to the philosophical, historical, legal, and ethical foundations of special education. Students engage in a study of the categories of disabilities, educational adaptations, and family and life span issues. Includes a field experience practicum in a more restrictive setting to observe and develop competency in working with exceptionalities. 3 credits.

SPE 721 – ABA for Autism and Other Disabilities I
A course designed to introduce the principles of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and their application in improving learning and behavior among individuals with autism or other disabilities. Areas of emphasis include philosophical assumptions, core concepts and principles of behavior, functional behavior assessment, and positive behavior support plans. 3 credits.

SPE 790 – Applied Behavior Analysis Comprehensive Examination
An exam designed to assess candidates’ understanding, application, and synthesis of significant content and process areas within their MA (ABA) degree program. Passing the comprehensive exam is a graduation requirement. Online exam proctoring is used. 0 credits.

Students with a significant number of undergraduate Bible/theology credits may be permitted to substitute other graduate courses for these credits. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

BIB 621 – Biblical Integration for Educators
A course designed to develop the ability of educators to integrate the Bible into their teaching and their own lives. 3 credits.

THE 601 – Overview of Christian Theology
An introduction to the major doctrines of the Bible. 3 credits.

SPE 722 – ABA for Autism and Other Disabilities II
A course focused on the behavioral and social communication skills assessment and instruction among individuals with autism or other disabilities. Areas of focus include types of behavioral assessment, assessment of relevant skill strengths and deficits, verbal behavior concepts and instruction, VB-MAPP administration and interpretation, and assistive technology and social skills assessment and intervention. 3 credits.

SPE 723 – Interventions for Autism and Other Disabilities
A course to develop competencies in designing and implementing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) interventions among individuals with autism or other disabilities. Areas of focus include shaping, chaining, stimulus and response prompts, modeling, discrete trials, token economy, and group contingencies. 3 credits.

SPE 724 – Single Subject Research
A course designed to develop competencies in behavioral measurement and single subject research. Areas of focus include types of behavioral measurement, data graphing and interpretation, validity and reliability, and single subject experimental designs. 3 credits.

SPE 725 – Principles of Behavior
A course designed to further extend understanding of behavioral principles including respondent and operant conditioning, reinforcement and punishment contingencies, automatic and socially mediated contingencies, complex stimulus control, special motivating operations, and rule-governed behavior. 3 credits.

SPE 726 – Secondary Transition Assessment and Intervention
A course designed to address secondary transition issues using an Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) approach. Areas of focus include transition assessments, transition IEPs, function-based intervention, task analysis, self-management, behavioral data collection, and student-centered planning. 1 credit.

SPE 727 – Supervision and Management
A course designed to enhance supervision and management of personnel based on a behavior analytic approach. Areas of focus include staff competence training; performance monitoring, feedback, and reinforcement systems; and function-based assessment and strategies for strengthening performance. 2 credits.

SPE 728 – Ethics for Behavior Analysts
A course designed to examine the Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts. Emphasis is placed on applying the ethical principles and professional standards in professional practice. 3 credits.


Receive credit for previous experience and coursework: At the discretion of the program advisor, three to six credits for prior learning (CPL) can be awarded for students with extensive background in areas addressed by specific courses.

Frequently Asked Questions

The tuition for post-secondary education has become expensive in general. However, Cairn Online programs rank amongst the most affordable online bachelor’s and master’s programs. While the tuition costs vary by program level, the rate is typically $425 per credit or 12K per year for A.A. and B.S. programs and $300-$725 per credit for graduate programs. 

The current tuition rates are available from this page. Scholarships and financial aid are also available. 

Currently there are over 6 million online learners in the United States, and those numbers are growing every day. Online degrees that have regional accreditation are held to the same standards as traditional universities, ensuring that students earn a valuable degree that will prepare them with the skills and credentials for their career. Do research to find an online degree that is accredited and reputable, such as those offered at Cairn University.

Cairn Online courses based on Cairn’s 100+ years tradition of excellence in biblical education. Our on faculty has carefully designed them taking into consideration what works best for the online learner. The modular design and asynchronous delivery enable you to complete your studies while you pursue your career, ministry and spend time with your family.

Courses typically contain seven units and are delivered in 7-week terms*. Each unit contains 5-7 modular activities. Each learning activity includes instructional videos accompanied by reflections, quizzes, discussion forums and other assessments. Courses also utilize adaptive learning technologies such as Cerego for long-term retention of concepts and VoiceThread for enhanced collaboration.

The asynchronous delivery provides flexibility around your daily busy schedule. In most courses, interactive activities are typically due by Wednesday while the rest of the unit’s work is due by Sunday night. The MBA, M.A. in Music and Criminal Justice programs use the 7RD2 process and require the completion of certain activities daily to optimize learning.

Our own Cairn faculty intentionally participate in the course throughout the week to provide you with an incarnational experience.

*Few capstone courses are intentionally offered in 14 weeks to optimize student learning.

A.A. programs usually take 2 years and B.S. and B.A. programs typically take 3-4 years to complete.

Graduate programs vary in length by program. As an example, Cairn’s traditional MBA typically takes 20 months to complete but then there is also the accelerated One-Year MBA that you can complete in 12 months.

If you are looking to complete your program sooner, you can consider taking more 7-week courses at a time. 

All courses are developed by one or more course developers and taught by our own faculty. The instructors are also intentionally involved in the course throughout the week by providing direction in the course activities, participating in the forum discussions, grading the student work and providing substantive feedback. Most courses also offer optional office hours weekly via Zoom or similar video conferencing tools.

Our instructional design team works very closely with the course developers and carefully plans the courses to balance the technology requirements. Most courses use the eLearning platform for hosting the course materials, Panopto for video capture and storage, VoiceThread for enhanced discussion forums, and Cerego for adaptive learning. Zoom is used at times for virtual office hours. These sessions are optional.

Except for the Hebrew and Greek language courses for the B.S. in Biblical Studies program, typically there are no required meeting times for the completing the course activities.  

The course transfer depends on where you are transferring from, and what program you are transferring to. If you are coming to Cairn Online from another institution, it is very likely you will have some credits that will transfer. Because there are so many options, we encourage you to talk to an enrollment counselor. If you are transferring out, Cairn is a regionally accredited school and some credits should transfer with relative ease. Each college sets their own transfer criteria, so be sure to check their policies for specifics.

Cairn Online offers a variety of options for prior learning and experience. You can receive up to 6 credits for prior learning for graduate programs. At the discretion of the program advisor, three to six credits for prior learning (CPL) can be awarded for students with extensive background in areas addressed by specific courses. Additionally, advance standing may be granted for Bible or theology credits earned at an accredited Bible college, Christian liberal arts college or university, or seminary. Credits will be granted on a course by course basis.

Cairn is approved to offer financial aid because of its regional accreditation. There are many options available and typically students qualify for at least one type of federal aid. Many students receive scholarships and grants that make earning their degree even more affordable. Cairn offers a variety of scholarships and discounts in addition to options for loans and grants. Please refer to this page for details. 

The requirements depend on the program you are considering. Please refer to this page for details. 

Program Details

Additional Information

NC-SARA Approved InstitutionCairn Online has been approved to participate in the National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA), which regionally oversees postsecondary online education.

  • Additional Accreditation Information
  • Completion of program requirements leads to a master of arts degree but not certification in behavior analysis or special education.
  • Students are responsible for verifying if the program meets the ABA licensing or certification requirements of the state and/or country where they intend to practice. Please see ABA Licensure and Certification.