Scholarships for ABA Masters Programs in 2024

With the increasing prominence and demand for board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs), pursuing a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) is a smart career move. However, ABA graduate programs can be costly. This guide provides a comprehensive overview of scholarship opportunities available for students enrolling in ABA Master’s programs starting in 2024.

Overview of ABA Master’s Programs

ABA Master’s degrees are graduate programs focused on teaching the principles and techniques of applied behavior analysis. These programs typically take 2-3 years to complete on a part-time basis and include coursework, practicum experience, and an experimental thesis or research project.

Completing an ABA Master’s program that meets the coursework requirements of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) allows graduates to sit for the BCBA exam. Becoming a BCBA is considered the gold standard for practicing ABA therapy and opens doors to various career opportunities in fields like education, autism treatment, organizational behavior management, and more.

The increasing demand for BCBAs is driven in part by the rise in autism diagnoses in recent decades. With ABA therapy as the gold standard behavioral treatment for autism, there is a high demand for qualified ABA professionals. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects the career outlook for BCBAs to grow much faster than average through 2029.

Given these career opportunities and prospects, pursuing an ABA Master’s degree is a smart investment. However, the programs can be expensive, with tuition commonly in the $15,000-$30,000 range per year depending on the school. Scholarships play a key role in making these degrees accessible and affordable for students.

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Scholarships Directly from ABA Master’s Programs

Many ABA Master’s programs offer some form of merit-based scholarships for incoming students. These internal scholarship opportunities are a great first step for applicants to explore.

Graduate Research or Teaching Assistantships: Many programs offer on-campus jobs like research or teaching assistant positions that cover a portion of tuition costs in exchange for work done. Assistantships are competitive and may require some relevant experience for eligibility.

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Merit-Based Scholarships: Programs award competitive scholarships based on attributes like GPA, letters of recommendation, relevant experience in ABA or related fields, personal statements, and other application materials. Award amounts can range from $1,000-$10,000 per year.

Need-Based Scholarships: For students with high financial need, some programs offer need-based grants or partial tuition discounts. The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is usually required to determine eligibility.

Diversity Scholarships: Some schools provide special scholarships earmarked for increasing diversity in their programs, such as scholarships for people of color, military veterans, or students with disabilities.

When applying to ABA Master’s programs, be sure to inquire about internal scholarship deadlines and requirements. These opportunities can make a great difference in affordability and should factor into students’ timelines for applying. Programs may offer awards on a rolling basis, so early applications are recommended.

External Scholarships

Beyond scholarships offered directly through ABA graduate programs, there are numerous external scholarship opportunities available as well. These provide funding that can be applied to any accredited program and are awarded based on various attributes of applicants.

Autism Speaks Student Scholarships: Autism Speaks awards annual scholarships ranging from $2,000-$10,000 for students pursuing graduate degrees related to autism, including ABA programs. Scholarship amounts and eligibility requirements vary from year to year.

Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) Scholarships: APBA offers two annual $3,000 scholarships for students entering or attending ABA graduate programs. Applicants must demonstrate a commitment to serving individuals with developmental disabilities.

Think Autism Scholarship: This $2,000 scholarship from Think Autism is open to both undergraduate and graduate students pursuing careers related to autism. Candidates are evaluated based on academic achievement, leadership qualities, and career goals in autism services.

Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center (SARRC) Scholarships: SARRC awards annual scholarships of up to $3,000 for students enrolled in ABA graduate programs who demonstrate a commitment to serving individuals with autism in the Southwest United States.

Ambit Neuroscience Scholarship: This $5,000 renewable scholarship from Ambit Neuroscience supports students entering ABA graduate studies with a focus on pursuing research to further understand autism. Applicants must demonstrate relevant experience and a clear research agenda.

ASPEN Scholarship: The $2,000 ASPEN Scholarship from the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts of Pennsylvania is open to graduate students pursuing ABA degrees to practice in Pennsylvania upon graduation.

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These are just a few examples of prominent external scholarships earmarked for ABA graduate students. Additionally, there are more general graduate scholarships not specific to ABA that students could qualify for based on attributes like field of study, demographic characteristics, state residency, etc. Applying broadly is recommended.

Additional Funding Sources

For students still facing affordability gaps after exhausting scholarship options, additional funding approaches can help make an ABA Master’s degree possible:

Student Loans: Federal student loans offer unrestricted repayment terms and may cover a portion of the remaining costs not addressed by other aid. Private loans also exist but come with higher interest rates. Careful consideration of the total debt load upon graduation is important.

Income-Based Repayment Plans: For those taking out loans, income-based repayment plans allow loan payments to be calculated as a percentage of discretionary income upon graduation, making the debt more manageable.

Employer Tuition Assistance: Some organizations that employ ABA therapists, such as school districts or autism treatment centers, offer tuition assistance programs as an employee benefit. Working in a relevant field while pursuing a degree can help fund education costs.

Payment Plans: Most graduate programs allow tuition costs to be split across multiple semesters or paid in installments over a term. Speaking to the school’s financial aid office about payment options provides flexibility.

Crowdfunding: Sites like GoFundMe enable students to create campaigns explaining their goals and estimated education costs. Family, friends, and community members can then contribute donations as a way to supplement other financial aid.

With careful planning, the right combination of scholarships, loans, on-campus jobs, payment plans, and other strategies can make an ABA Master’s degree affordable even for students with limited financial resources. Consulting the financial aid office at prospective schools is a must.

Tips for Maximizing Scholarship Success

Applying for scholarships requires thoughtful preparation. Here are some tips for students to maximize their chances of scholarship success:

  • Start early – Many scholarship deadlines are in the fall, so research and application preparation should begin over the summer.
  • Highlight relevant experience – Emphasize any previous experience working or volunteering in ABA therapy, special education, or related fields on your resume and personal statements.
  • Focus personal statements – Capture what makes you personally passionate about pursuing an ABA career and serving those with autism or developmental disabilities.
  • Provide strong recommendation letters – Ask recommenders who can speak specifically to your skills, work ethic, character, and suitability for the field of ABA.
  • Proofread thoroughly – Free of grammatical or factual errors with clear, compelling writing that sells your candidacy.
  • Follow all instructions carefully – Ensure you include all required application materials by the posted deadline. Missing anything could disqualify your application.
  • Express gratitude – Send thank you notes to recommenders and scholarship sponsors to promote your professionalism.
  • Target specific scholarships – Apply to awards most closely aligned with your goals, experiences, demographics, and program of interest rather than scattering applications broadly.
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Maximizing your success through strategic preparation and application is critical to securing funding support. Scholarship providers are looking to award deserving candidates, so represent yourself as clearly and professionally as possible.

Frequently Asked Questions

This section addresses some common questions students may have regarding scholarships for ABA masters programs:

Can international students apply for ABA scholarship opportunities?

While most scholarships are limited to US citizens or permanent residents due to BACB exam eligibility requirements, some programs, and scholarships may consider international applicants on a case-by-case basis. Be sure to properly review eligibility criteria and consult financial aid offices for guidance.

What if I have not begun my ABA master’s program yet – can I still apply for scholarships?

Yes, many scholarships are intended for incoming students who have been accepted to a program but have not yet begun coursework. The application deadlines often fall in late summer/fall before the start of the next academic year, so you can apply before classes start. Just be sure to provide proof of admission in your scholarship materials.

Can scholarships be combined or is it one award per applicant?

Students are permitted and even encouraged to pursue multiple scholarship opportunities simultaneously. However, financial aid packages cannot exceed the total cost of attendance, so scholarships will be adjusted accordingly if combined totals go over that threshold. Apply broadly while keeping track of award amounts.

How often do scholarship amounts and eligibility criteria change?

Most scholarship programs evaluate criteria and award amounts on an annual basis, so details may vary slightly each year. However, the general opportunities and requirements tend to remain fairly consistent. Make sure you always find and reference the most current year’s guidelines when applying for any given scholarship.

What if I need to defer acceptance to a program or take a semester off – does it affect my scholarships?

This would depend on the individual scholarship policies. Some allow deferrals with no penalty, while others may only disburse award funds during active enrollment periods. It’s best to check with the scholarship organization and your academic program to understand the implications of breaks in enrollment on existing funds. Having a clear plan will help minimize any impact.

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