MS in Applied Behavior Analysis

Total units required for MS: 40-42

Program Description

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is the field of Psychology concerned with understanding the environmental variables that reliably influence human behavior, as well as developing procedures to modify socially significant behavior. The Master of Science program in ABA prepares students to work as behavior analysts in a variety of settings including schools, hospitals, neurorehabilitation settings, and agencies providing services to individuals with developmental disabilities. The ABA option coursework should fulfill the most recent requirements to sit for the national certification exam in behavior analysis (BCBA). For more information visit Students should note that this program is also appropriate for those planning to enter doctoral programs in Applied Behavior Analysis, Experimental Analysis of Behavior, or Special Education. Advisors play an active role in the planning process, and students are strongly encouraged to consult with faculty on a continual and intensive basis as soon as they begin their studies in the program. The Graduate Brochure contains the department application procedures, including GRE requirements and the departmental application form.

Although the program is based on a core set of requirements, the structure of the program allows for flexibility. While much material is covered in regular course offerings, the Psychology Department recognizes that specialized study and the development of certain types of skills must take place on a one-to-one student instructor basis. This includes research activities in the laboratory, field, or library; teaching activities; and practicum experience in community settings. Academic credit under individualized study or fieldwork designations is available for these purposes. Our research facilities include human and animal (rats) operant laboratories and research rooms for data collection with children and adults. We have also established research partnerships with different schools and agencies in the region. Finally, clinical training is also an integral part of our program. There are numerous funded internships and job opportunities for behavior analysis students in Sacramento.

Admission Requirements

Admission to the MS in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is selective. The Department equally weighs the candidate's overall grade point average (GPA) and scores on the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). An overall GPA of 3.0 is recommended. When making admissions decisions, the Department takes into consideration the candidate's combined GPA and GRE score, letters of recommendation, previous (research and/or practical) experience, the candidate's interest in a particular faculty member's research agenda, and additional materials.

Applicants are required to have a Bachelor's degree, a lower division undergraduate psychology course in research methods, and an upper division undergraduate course in applied behavior analysis, with at least "C" grades in those courses. The lower division research methods requirement is met by PSYC 8 and the upper division applied behavior analysis requirement is met by PSYC 171 taken at Sacramento State, or their equivalents at other colleges and universities. Course equivalents must be reviewed and approved by the Department's Graduate Coordinator.

Please visit the Department of Psychology for information on additional requirements.

Admission Procedures

All applicants, including Sacramento State graduates, must apply to both the University and the Psychology Department. Please submit the following to the Sacramento State Office of Graduate Studies:

  • an application for admission—via CalState Apply 
  • one set of official transcripts from all colleges and universities attended, other than Sacramento State

For more admissions information and application deadlines please visit the Office of Graduate Studies website

At the same time, each applicant must submit the following supplemental application:

  • unofficial copies of the General GRE scores*;
  • three letters of recommendation, from individuals who can evaluate the applicant's potential for successful graduate study. At least two letters from faculty are preferred. See application brochure—available from— for any additional required materials.

*The General GRE must have been taken by the application deadline.

Minimum Units and Grade Requirements

Units required for the MS: 40-42, each with a grade of "B" or better.

Minimum required GPA: 3.0.  

Advancement to Candidacy

Each student must file an application for Advancement to Candidacy, indicating a proposed program of graduate study. This procedure should begin as soon as the classified graduate student has:

  • removed any deficiencies in admission requirements;
  • completed at least 12 units of 200-level courses in the graduate program with a minimum 3.0 GPA;
  • selected a Thesis or Project committee;
  • obtained the committee's approval of a proposal for the thesis or project (as indicated by committee members' signatures on the Department's thesis/project approval form); and
  • taken a Graduate Writing Intensive (GWI) course in their discipline within the first two semesters of coursework at California State University, Sacramento.

The student will complete the Advancement to Candidacy form after planning a degree program in consultation with a Psychology advisor and members of the student's thesis/project committee. The completed form is then returned to the Office of Graduate Studies for approval.

Culminating Experience Requirements

Students must enroll once for four units of PSYC 500A, which may be satisfied by completing an empirical thesis. Each student will compile an APA-style manuscript, including introduction, method, results, and discussion sections, at the conclusion of the thesis. Students must also successfully pass an oral defense of the thesis.

If the thesis or project is not completed by the end of the first semester in which a student is registered for culminating requirement units, they must enroll for two units of PSYC 500B during the following semester. If the thesis is still not completed by the end of that semester, students must enroll in the university designated thesis/project continuation course.

Program Requirements

Required Core Course (3 Units)
PSYC 200Methods in Empirical Psychology 3
Required Area Courses (27 Units)
PSYC 291Professional Issues in Behavior Analysis3
PSYC 271Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis4
PSYC 272Research Methods in Behavior Analysis3
PSYC 274Theoretical Foundations of Behavior Analysis3
PSYC 281Advanced Experimental Analysis of Behavior4
PSYC 284Assessment and Treatment of Behavior Problems4
PSYC 242Seminar in Learning and Behavior3
PSYC 275Applied Behavior Analysis in the Workplace3
Required Experiential Learning (6 Units)
PSYC 294Cooperative Research1
PSYC 297AAdvanced Graduate Research I1
PSYC 297BAdvanced Graduate Research II2
PSYC 299Special Problems2
Culminating Experience (4-6 Units)
PSYC 500ACulminating Experience4
PSYC 500BCulminating Experience 12
Total Units40-42

 Students must enroll in PSYC 500B if thesis/project is not satisfactorily completed while enrolled in PSYC 500A.