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Applied Behavior Analysis: M.S.

Ouachita is pleased to offer the first full master’s degree in applied behavior analysis in the state of Arkansas, seeking to address the critical shortage of trained Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) in the nation. As a successful therapy option to treat autism, Alzheimer’s and dementia in addition to common behavioral problems, applied behavior analysis focuses on applying key principles to improve the learning and lives of students, the elderly and other at-risk populations. Ouachita’s low-residency program combines online and in-person instruction, carefully and efficiently aligning field experience with course curriculum to allow students to complete the program in just 15 months.

*We are in the process of determining licensing requirements in other states.

The priority application deadline is January 15. Applicants who are currently working in a location where there is a BCBA who could serve as their supervisor may be considered for admission after the January 15 deadline. Please contact Cris McGough at to determine if this category applies to you.

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  • Autism Therapy
    Developmental Preschools
    Special Education
    Skilled Nursing Facilities
    Hospice Care

  • Training, Supervision, and Consultation
    Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities
    Legal, Ethical and Professional Issues
    Research Methods

  • No particular undergraduate degree is required for this program. Common areas of study for BCBAs include psychology, education or speech pathology.

VCS LogoThis low-residency degree program includes one on-campus intensive with the remainder of the curriculum delivered online, carefully paired with clinical experience in the field.


Only M.S. in ABA in Arkansas



Job Postings in Arkansas for ABA Therapists



Month Program



 On-Campus Intensive (One Week)

In their words

learn more about our program & how ABA is making a difference

“Applied behavior analysis is the application of scientific principles of behavior like positive reinforcement to build useful skills and reduce problematic behaviors in a wide variety of settings. As the first Master of Science degree in ABA in Arkansas, Ouachita’s program will meet deeply-felt needs in our state and nation. We are proud to provide a program that prepares professionals for lives of meaningful work in a format that creates synergy between course and field work for deep and effective learning.” 

Sheila headshotSheila K. Barnes, Ph.D., BCBA-D, LBA
Director, Applied Behavior Analysis Program

Student and senior adult


One in 59 children in the nation is diagnosed with autism each year (CDC 2019), and the state’s senior population will increase an estimated 72% from 2000-2030. Therapists trained in applied behavior analysis are at the forefront of improving quality of life for these currently underserved populations and their families.

Student working with child


Ouachita’s innovative approach to ABA training pairs the knowledge learned in class to the practical work done in the field with clinical partners in real time. This allows students to apply theoretical concepts immediately, improving learning outcomes, and allows them to complete the program in just 15 months, 3 months shorter than typical ABA programs.

Student working on computer


Ouachita’s low-residency program allows you to complete the degree almost completely online so you can continue or begin your career from your own community while also making face-to-face connections with other students in your cohort. Plus the clinical work completed in the program is a great launching point for your future as an ABA therapist.



Meet Dr. Sheila Barnes:

In addition to learning from carefully vetted clinical partners in the field, you’ll study under the instruction of Dr. Sheila Barnes, program director. Dr. Barnes not only has the highest credentials offered in the field but also has extensive professional experience. She is a doctoral level Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA-D) and completed her doctorate in educational psychology. She has earned two master’s degrees – one in special education and one in counseling psychology. Dr. Barnes has extensive experience working directly with infants and young children with autism or other disabilities and has worked in a variety of settings, such as home-based infant intervention, public school early childhood special education, a residential treatment center for adjudicated youth and others. As a former president of ArkABA, Dr. Barnes led efforts to expand Medicaid coverage for BCBA therapy in Arkansas. She is highly regarded throughout the state and region for her expertise in ABA.

program details

Ouachita is a place of community and relationship. By coming to campus for a five-day intensive, you will connect with your classmates, professors and your future alma mater. This will enrich your academic experience as you complete the program remotely through online courses. After five days, you will have a jump start on the rest of your degree. And, research indicates that online students who engage with their campuses have much higher success rates.
 Dates: May 19-23, 2021

 Total Hours=36

  • May Term boot camp and online follow up – one course (3 hours.)
  • Summer – One 8-week term including one 3-hour course and one 3-hour intensive practicum (6 hours.)
  • Fall – Two 8-week online classes and a 16-week practicum (9 hours.)
  • Spring - Two 8-week online classes and a 16-week practicum (9 hours.)
  • Summer – One 8-week term including two 3-hour courses and one 3-hour intensive practicum (6 hours.)

ABA program structure chart

Tuition and fees are determined by the Board of Trustees and updated annually. For current financial aid and cost information, visit our graduate and professional studies financial aid and cost information page.

Ouachita Baptist University General Graduate Admissions Requirements:

  • Conferred bachelor’s degree from a regionally-accredited institution
  • 2.5 minimum GPA on a 4.0 scale
  • Completed application, which includes a personal statement
  • Three references
  • Minimum English proficiency requirements for international students are as follows:
    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL):
      At least 79 on the Internet-based TOEFL (iBT)
      At least 550 on the paper-based TOEFL
    • International English Language Testing System (IELTS):
      At least a 6.5 on the IELTS exam


Admissions Requirements for the M.S. in Applied Behavior Analysis:

  • Meet general university graduate admissions requirements
  • A minimum GPA of 3.000 on a 4.000 scale*

*Conditional admission is considered for applicants who meet all other admissions requirements and have a GPA below 3.000, but not lower than 2.500.

*Applications are evaluated based on the following criteria:  Personal Statement: Writing; Personal Statement: Goals/Program Fit; GPA; Letters of Reference; Related Experience; and Persistence/Motivation.

*A GRE score is not required for admission to the ABA program.

Applications are open annually from September 1 through January 15. Admissions decisions are made on a rolling basis. Notifications begin the first week of November and then occur once a month until the final round of notifications in early February. Each new cohort begins in May.

Clinical placement is not required for acceptance, but is required for enrollment in the program. We will work with accepted students to find clinical placement but it might require relocation to an available clinical placement site. Clinical placement requires significant time commitment of at least 20 hours per week. See the Behavior Analysis Certification Board guidelines for additional information about the expectations of supervision. If you cannot devote this time to the program and your placement, you will not be able to complete the program requirements.

Some of our clincinal partners: 

Pediatrics Plus
Autism In Motion (AIM)
Nash Therapeutic Service
Hope 4 Autism
Children’s ABA Team
The Learning Center
Irby Psychological Services
Temple Memorial
Rose Street

International students may be considered for admission to Graduate and Professional Studies programs. Please note, transcript evaluation and visa status may take several months to work through so earlier deadlines will be observed for international students. Contact Cris McGough ( with any questions.

Additonally, residents of California are not eligible for enrollment in online and low-residency programs.

The State of Arkansas and Ouachita Baptist University requires students to show proof of immunity for MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella). Ouachita Baptist University must receive an immunization record that includes the MMR vaccinations.  For more information please click here.


Graduate professional studies


Graduate and Professional Studies at Ouachita seek to be a source of ongoing intellectual and spiritual growth for those pursuing lifelong learning or career advancement. Ouachita fosters community through relationships with classmates and professors in all learning environments. Through innovative modalities, fields and approaches, these programs combine the very best of Ouachita’s more than 130 years of Christ-centered learning with meeting the ongoing and changing needs of the work force.


Have a question about Ouachita? Want more information? Shoot our Graduate and Professional Studies team a message!



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