M.Ed. in Special Education with a Concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Applied Behavior Analysis

VCS LogoThe University of Louisville's M.Ed. in Special Education with a concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Applied Behavior Analysis degree program prepares students to meet the behavioral challenges and needs of the community by delivering a comprehensive curriculum in the philosophical, experimental, and applied domains that inform a natural science of behavior. Through this training, students learn to apply strategies and tactics grounded in the principles of the science to a variety of behaviors and contexts. Specific focus is placed on the assessment and treatment of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) in healthcare and educational settings. The program’s mission is to produce behavior analysts knowledgeable of their science, effective in their practice, and ethical in their interactions committed to using the science of behavior to better lives.

The program accomplishes this mission using a 5-semester cohort model. Each cohort is comprised of no more than 20 students admitted each fall. Courses are offered both online and face-to-face and are scheduled in the evenings. All students adhere to a set schedule of coursework and are expected to commit to the program fully while enrolled. The program’s faculty are comprised of instructors, researchers, and practitioners with a wealth of experience in the science and practice of behavior analysis. The program is rigorous and demands excellence from its students and strives to deliver the same.

Students enrolled in our program are given the opportunity to meet the degree and coursework requirements necessary to sit for their Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification examinations. Additionally, students enrolled full-time in the program will be given the opportunity to accumulate the majority of their fieldwork hours while enrolled.

Applicants interested in the program are encouraged to schedule an in-person or phone meeting with the Coordinator, Dr. Erick Dubuque. To schedule a meeting, send a quick message to erick.dubuque@louisville.edu along with a few options indicating dates/times when you are available to meet.

As of March 2020, the M.Ed. in Special Education with a Concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Applied Behavior Analysis program graduates have a 90% first time pass rate and a 100% all-time pass rate on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BCBA) examination.

Dr. Erick Dubuque talks to Dr. Wayne Tuckson, MD about the diagnosis and treatment of autism with applied behavior analysis.

Value Statement

The following six guidelines embody the values and related behaviors the program promotes to its students and faculty.

  1. Be excellent, diligent, and inquisitive in your studies.
  2. Be involved, curious, and enthusiastic about your education.
  3. Be respectful, cooperative, and helpful towards your colleagues.
  4. Be responsible, tenacious, and creative when applying your science.
  5. Be sincere, empathic, and patient with your clients.
  6. Be honest, reliable, and ethical in all your interactions.

There is both a 39-credit hour full-time option and a 30-credit hour part-time option available for students wishing to complete the program. Both options lead to the same degree in 5-semesters. The primary difference between the full-time and part-time option relates to practical training. Full-time students enroll in an additional 9-credit hours of practicum while enrolled and part-time students do not. Students enrolled part-time in the program are responsible for making their own arrangements for meeting the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB) fieldwork requirements. Usually this involves working for an organization (e.g., clinic, school, hospital, residential facility) that employs Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) that are qualified and able to supervise trainees pursuing their own BCBA credential. Applicants interested in the part-time option are expected to have their fieldwork arrangements ready before they start the program. Students enrolled in the program part-time have the option to complete all of their coursework at a distance during the evening hours.

Full-Time Students

The primary benefit of enrolling in the full-time option is the program facilitates the acquisition of fieldwork hours under a variety of settings and supervisors. In other words, the program arranges site placements and supervisors for the students and helps arrange relevant practical training activities. This ensures that when students graduate from the program, they have developed competencies across a variety of settings and patients/learners. This breadth of practical training helps students become more marketable when seeking employment after graduation. Students enrolled in the program full-time are expected to complete 15-20 hours of practicum each week and participate in weekly group supervision meetings. Practicum schedules will vary depending upon site needs.

A limitation for enrolling as a full-time student is that practicum placements are almost always unpaid. Historically, some full-time students have been able to simultaneously hold part-time employment while enrolled. Full-time employment for a full-time student is very strongly discouraged given the time requirements for practicum and didactic coursework.

Part-Time Students

The primary benefit of enrolling as a part-time student is the possibility of accumulating some fieldwork hours while employed by an agency offering applied behavior analysis services. However, potential applicants should be aware that employers may not offer compensation for the majority of the fieldwork hours trainees are expected to accumulate. This is because 60% of the fieldwork hours accumulated by a trainee must be acquired while engaged in unrestricted activities. Unfortunately, many of these types of activities are not billable by service providers. More information on the difference between restricted and unrestricted activities can be found in the BACB's Fieldwork Standards document.

A limitation for enrolling as a part-time student is the potential lack of variety in settings that comes with acquiring all fieldwork hours with a single employer. Additionally, students enrolled part-time are expected to facilitate the accumulation of their fieldwork hours on their own. For students interested in sitting for a BCBA certification examination, this involves ensuring that they have a qualified BCBA supervisor overseeing their work and are following the BACB's Fieldwork Standards.

Curriculum

Students admitted into the program adhere to a set schedule of coursework that extends across 5 consecutive semesters. Students can choose to enroll in the courses online or face-to-face when available. Didactic coursework takes place in the evening. Practical training occurs throughout the week during daytime hours. With the permission of the Program Director and the approved community site, qualified full-time students may be allowed to accumulate experience hours at their places of employment. Detailed requirements for completing this degree are provided in the Graduate Catalog. Program schedules are subject to change.

Full-Time Student Program of Study (39 credits)

Fall (Semester 1)
EDSP 644: Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)
EDSP 570: Autism: Introduction and Understanding (3 credits)
EDSP 653: Practicum in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)

Spring (Semester 2)
EDSP 669: Single Subject Research Designs (3 credits)
EDSP 671: Autism: Strategies and Techniques (3 credits)
EDSP 653: Practicum in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)

Summer (Semester 3)
EDSP 650: Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)
EDSP 653: Practicum in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)

Fall (Semester 4)
EDSP 546: Behavior Analytic Approach to Communication (3 credits)
EDSP 654: Radical Behaviorism (3 credits)
EDSP 653: Practicum in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)

Spring (Semester 5)
EDSP 673: Research Seminar in Autism Spectrum Disorder (3 credits)
EDSP 651: Professional and Ethical Practice of Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)

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Part-Time Student Program of Study (30 credits)

Fall (Semester 1)
EDSP 644: Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)
EDSP 570: Autism: Introduction and Understanding (3 credits)

Spring (Semester 2)
EDSP 669: Single Subject Research Designs (3 credits)
EDSP 671: Autism: Strategies and Techniques (3 credits)

Summer (Semester 3)
EDSP 650: Advanced Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)
EDSP 653: Practicum in Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)

Fall (Semester 4)
EDSP 546: Behavior Analytic Approach to Communication (3 credits)
EDSP 654: Radical Behaviorism (3 credits)

Spring (Semester 5)
EDSP 673: Research Seminar in Autism Spectrum Disorder (3 credits)
EDSP 651: Professional and Ethical Practice of Applied Behavior Analysis (3 credits)

Admission to this program does not require teacher certification or a specific undergraduate degree.

Priority application deadline: June 15th for Fall admission.
The program does not consider applicants for the spring semester. Please contact the Director of Educator Preparation Student Services for the College of Education and Human Development, Betty Hampton, at betty.hampton @ louisville.edu if you wish to apply after the priority application deadline for the fall semester.

Apply Now

The Program is interested in admitting hardworking students committed to learning the science and practice of behavior analysis. Applicants have the option to apply as a full-time or a part-time student. The steps involved in the application process are outlined below:

  1. Complete the online graduate application for admission (Special Education - Autism (MED)).
  2. Submit official transcripts to: Graduate School | University of Louisville | Louisville, KY 40292. Electronic transcripts should be sent to: gradadm@louisville.edu
    • Applicants must have an undergraduate GPA of 2.75 or better and (if applicable) a graduate GPA of 3.0 or better.
    • Applicants who have attended a college or university outside the United States are also required to submit an evaluation of their transcript through World Education Services (WES) or Educational Credential Evaluators (ECE).
      Please note that transcript evaluations can sometimes take several weeks.
  3. Upload a personal statement to your on-line graduate application.
    • The personal statement is the applicant's opportunity to demonstrate his/her writing ability as well as provide a personal introduction to the admissions screening committee.
    • The personal statement should be no more than 500 words, and should be double spaced and word-processed. Applicants are encouraged to proofread their writing, and to submit the best work possible.
    • In the personal statement the applicant should indicate whether they wish to apply to the program as a full-time student or a part-time student.
  4. Request two professional references. Applicants should indicate the e-mail addresses of two professional references in the appropriate section of the on-line Graduate application. Recommendation letter requests are automatically sent to the recommenders upon submission of the on-line application. (Applicants may check their application account to send reminders and check the status of their recommendation requests.) Adequate time should be given to recommenders to respond to the request by the application deadline!
  5. Upload your signed Acceptable Use of Technology and Code of Ethics statement to your on-line graduate application.
  6. Upload your resume.
  7. Applicants whose first language in not English, and who did not earn a degree from an accredited institution in the U.S., must provide evidence of their English proficiency as part of the application process. For more information about the TOEFL, please visit www.ets.org. Test scores are valid for two calendar years.

Applicants interested in the Program are encouraged to schedule an in-person or phone meeting with the Coordinator, Dr. Erick Dubuque. To schedule a meeting, send a quick message to erick.dubuque@louisville.edu along with a few options indicating dates/times when you are available to meet.

The Program's faculty are comprised of instructors, researchers, and practitioners with a wealth of experience in the science and practice of behavior analysis.

Erick Dubuque, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA
Erick Dubuque is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Special Education at the University of Louisville. Dr. Dubuque. Prior to his work at the University of Louisville, Dr. Dubuque served as an Assistant Professor and Program Director for Spalding University's M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis Program and as the Accreditation Administrator for the Association for Behavior Analysis International's (ABAI) Accreditation Board. Dr. Dubuque is a former U.S. Peace Corps Volunteer (Kenya) and is a former President of the Kentucky Association for Behavior Analysis. As an active member of the behavior analytic community, Dr. Dubuque is a member of the Kentucky Applied Behavior Analyst Licensing Board and serves as the Director of the University of Louisville M.Ed. in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Applied Behavior Analysis Program. He is past Academic Coordinator for the Jordan University of Science and Technology Master's Degree Program in Applied Behavior Health Analysis, the first graduate degree program in behavior analysis founded in the Middle East. Dr. Dubuque's scholarly interests extend across the philosophical, experimental, applied, and professional domains in behavior science. A general theme across all of his interests is the understanding of technology and complex human behaviors, especially as they relate to the topics of education and social justice. Dr. Dubuque is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctor (BCBA-D) and Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Terry Scott, Ph.D.
Terrance M. Scott is a Professor and Distinguished University Scholar in the College of Education and Human Development at the University of Louisville. Having received his Ph.D. in Special Education at the University of Oregon in 1994 (with an emphasis on emotional and behaviors) he has previously been a faculty member at the Universities of Kentucky, Florida, and Oregon. He has over 80 publications on a variety of issues in the areas of behavioral disorders and behavioral support systems and has conducted over 900 presentations and training activities throughout the U.S., Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand, the Netherlands, Sweden, and Norway. Dr. Scott has successfully competed for more than $13 million in external grant funding. In 2004 he received the Distinguished Early Career Award from the Research Division of the International Council for Exceptional Children and in 2012 he received the Outstanding National Leadership Award from the Council for Children with Behavior Disorders and was elected President of this organization in 2013. As a former counselor and teacher of students with seriously challenging behaviors, his research interests focus on school-wide prevention systems, the role of instructional variables in managing student behavior, functional behavior assessment/intervention, and scientific research in education.

Justin T. Cooper, Ed.D.
Justin T. Cooper is an Associate Professor of Learning and Behavioral Disorders in the Department of Special Education. He has worked in the field of special education for more than 29 years. He has been a special education classroom teacher in Utah, Wyoming, and Florida, working primarily with elementary and middle school students who have learning disabilities and emotional and behavioral disorders. Dr. Cooper has provided training and professional development to classroom teachers and school districts on a variety of topics related to academic instruction, functional assessment of behavior, and effective behavior management strategies. His research interests include interventions to improve the academic and social-behavioral success of students with emotional and behavioral disorders, Functional Behavioral Assessment, and post-secondary outcomes for students with disabilities. He currently serves as the Immediate Past President of the National Council for Children with Behavioral Disorders and served two terms on the Kentucky State Advisory Panel for Exceptional Children.

Erica Ranade, SSP, NCSP, BCBA, LBA
Erica Ranade is Adjunct Faculty for the Special Education with a Concentration in Autism Spectrum Disorder and Applied Behavior Analysis Program at University of Louisville. She obtained her MS in Psychology and went on to receive her SSP (Specialist in School Psychology) degree from Illinois State University. Erica has previously taught courses in Psychology and Applied Behavior at Bradley University and Ball State University. She has spent the last decade in the Midwest and Washington DC area conducting applied work in school districts, developmental clinics, and private psychological practices. Erica is currently working as Applied Behavioral Analyst at Norton Children’s Autism Center in Louisville. She serves as Practicum Instructor for the graduate students concentrating in Autism Spectrum Disorders and Applied Behavior Analysis. Erica’s special interests include effective supervision techniques, crisis management procedures, assessment and treatment of behavioral disorders, staff management, and cultural competence.

What is the job outlook for a career as a behavior analyst?

The job outlook for behavior analysts is fantastic. There is a large demand for behavior analysts and too few of us to fill the need. All of our past graduates have accepted employment offers in the field while still enrolled in the program. For more information, please see a recent Workforce-Demand Report published by the BACB.

What is the annual average salary for a behavior analyst?

Behavior analysts make very competitive salaries. According to Payscale.com and Indeed.com, the annual average salary for a master's level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is between $58,000 and $68,000.

Do I need a specific undergraduate degree to apply to the Program?

No, the training offered in the program is self-contained and does not require a specific bachelor’s degree. However, experience working or being around developmentally disabled populations is recommended prior to starting as the vast majority of behavior analysts work with these populations after graduating.

How much does it cost to complete the program?

The University's tuition rates can be found at the Office of Admissions website. Historically, the university has been able to offer graduate assistantships to some students enrolled in the program.

Are students satisfied with the program?

The program is well-respected and received by our students. Exit survey data from our last two cohorts show that the program scored a 5 out of 5 average rating from graduating students evaluating the program's overall quality.

When should I apply?

The program admits a cohort of 20 students or less every Fall. Priority applications are due June 15th, although late applications may be accepted.

Am I allowed to accumulate my supervised experience hours with my employer?

Possibly, if your employer is a community practicum partner and you have permission from both the Program Director and the community site, you may be allowed to accumulate supervised experience hours at your place of employment. If you would like to explore this option please contact the Program Coordinator, Dr. Erick Dubuque at erick.dubuque@louisville.edu to setup an appointment to discuss.

Am I allowed to work full-time while enrolled in the program?

Full-time employment is permissible for student enrolled as full-time students as long as they are accumulating their supervised experience hours at an approved community site and are maintaining their grades. Full-time students accumulating their supervised experience hours in other locations should not plan on working full-time, although part-time work may be acceptable as long as it does not interfere with their grades. Students enrolled part-time in the program may work full or part-time with the expectation that their employment offers them the opportunity to accumulate their fieldwork hours towards eligibility to sit for the BCBA examination.

Can I schedule a meeting to discuss the program?

Yes, we strongly encourage you to reach out and setup an appointment to speak with us about the program and more generally about a career in behavior analysis. During our meeting, we can discuss your career goals and determine whether the program is a good fit. If you wish to setup a face-to-face or phone meeting please contact the Program Director, Erick Dubuque, at erick.dubuque@louisville.edu. When you reach out, please include some dates and times you are potentially available to meet and indicate whether you would prefer to meet in-person or over the phone.

Financial Aid

In addition to the financial aid opportunities offered by the University, the College of Education & Human Development also has information about financial aid.

Other financial aid opportunities available include graduate assistantships.

A recent program graduate from the University of Louisville's Autism and Applied Behavior Analysis Program, Emma Brink, M.Ed., BCBA, describes the importance of her work as a behavior analyst. After graduating from the program, Emma was hired by Clinical Behavior Analysis, a program practicum site and a local multi-speciality group offering quality behavior analysis and therapy services in the community.

Practica

The Program's structured practical training system offers students the opportunity to practice the skills learned in the classroom across a variety of populations and settings. Full-time students dedicate around 15 hours per week to their practicum coursework across four of their five consecutive semesters. Students are assigned to community sites where they gain a wealth of experience working with a variety of populations in schools, clinics, and hospitals alongside talented BCBA professionals. The program is proud to have partnerships with the following community providers.

With the permission of the Program Coordinator and the approved community site, qualified full-time students may be allowed to accumulate fieldwork hours at their places of employment.

Below is a video highlighting some of the great work conducted at one of the program's practicum sites, the University of Louisville Autism Center. The parent interviewee agreed to share her experiences with applied behavior analysis therapy by her child's former case manager, Dr. Erick Dubuque, after services with the UofL Autism Center were terminated.