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Behaviour Analysis - Applied


Study Applied Behaviour Analysis at Ulster University in the United Kingdom.

The broad aim of the MSc Applied Behaviour Analysis is to give students the opportunity to develop their theoretical and conceptual knowledge in behaviour analysis, develop skills in behavioural assessment, and acquire the ability to work in partnership with clients where they plan and implement programmes that are aimed at establishing, strengthening and/or weakening targeted behaviours.

The course is designed for professionals who work (or intend to work) in the caring professions, for example with people with autism and other learning disabilities, in the area of general behaviour management, parent training, community development, and adult mental health.

The programme aims to provide a foundation that contributes to the preparation of candidates interested in applying for the internationally recognised examination leading to Board Certification in Behaviour Analysis (BCBA). It will normally be completed over two calendar years to allow time for students to obtain relevant work experience, which is a requirement for certification in Behaviour Analysis.

This course is undergoing academic revalidation during 2016/17, and course content/ modules are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, please contact the Course Director.


The course has high internal coherence and allows for academic progression. Module 1, “Introduction: theory & application of behaviour analysis”, sets the scene for both the conceptual issues surrounding ABA and the practical issues that confront the practitioner in this field. No prior knowledge of ABA (or degree-level psychology) is assumed. This module will usually be taken in parallel with Module 2, “Scientific principles of behaviour analysis”. This module sets out the science of behaviour analysis, which underpins ABA. It is thus not primarily concerned with applied issues, but the links to ABA will be made clear throughout the module. Again, no prior knowledge of behaviour analysis or degree-level psychology is assumed. These first two modules cover both the science of behaviour and its application, with a strong emphasis on ensuring that students obtain a mastery of the conceptual issues at this early stage. It is the view of the course team that such mastery is crucial for progression of students or trainees in ABA.

In the second semester of enrolment, students complete three modules that relate to professional and applied issues. Module 3, “Ethical and legal issues in Applied Behaviour Analysis”, deals with many of the professional and social-context issues that are encountered in the practice of ABA. This is taken with Module 4, “Autistic Spectrum Disorder and Applied Behaviour Analysis”, which outlines the major features of ASD and introduces students to some of the techniques of assessment and intervention (e.g., discrete trial procedures, precision teaching) particularly associated with this area of application. Alongside these two modules, students will complete Module 5, “Behavioural assessment and intervention techniques in Applied Behaviour Analysis”. This will cover measurement of behaviour in natural settings, the key role of functional analysis in assessment and the selection of treatment strategies, single-case designs, and the range of techniques available for increasing or decreasing target behaviour.

At this point, after one academic year of study, the student who has completed the five modules prescribed should have a grounding in ABA and be in a position to benefit from, and act responsibly in, a work environment where they can participate in the planning, design, implementation, and evaluation of behavioural programmes. An appropriately qualified person, however, should supervise all these activities.

Once the first academic year of study has been successfully completed, the student will be equipped to begin a Placement with work experience in Applied Behaviour Analysis. In fact, there are roughly 16 months available for placement and dissertation work (see below) within the 24-month timeframe, which should be plenty of time to complete both activities. Placement activities must be approved by the course team as providing involvement with the delivery of ABA services over a period of at least 20 weeks with appropriate supervision.

In the second year of study, students will complete Module 6: Research methods and advanced techniques in Applied Behaviour Analysis. This will cover evaluation of their own interventions and of published studies, and the design of behavioural treatment programmes that can effect lasting change in the natural environment. For the MSc, students will also complete the Dissertation based on a research project in Applied Behaviour Analysis.This will be carried out at a location and with a topic approved by the course, and in accordance with University and School ethical review requirements. The dissertation should reflect the skills and knowledge acquired through the whole course.

Entry requirements

Entry conditions

We recognise a range of qualifications for admission to our courses. In addition to the specific entry conditions for this course you must also meet the University’s General Entrance Requirements. For general entrance requirements go to:

Entry Requirements

You should possess a second class honours degree in psychology or equivalent subject (e.g., education, child development, social work) and have relevant experience. Candidates will be interviewed to assess motivation and experience.

The closing date for applications for entry is normally 31 May and interviews are held in June. Applications received after that date may be considered if all places are not filled. If all places are filled then late applications will be considered the following year.

Those with a 2:2 are welcome to apply, but preference will be given to those who have some additional relevant experience to add to their CV.

English Language Requirements

English language requirements for international applicants
The minimum requirement for this course is Academic IELTS 6.0 with no band score less than 5.5. Trinity ISE: Pass at level III also meets this requirement for Tier 4 visa purposes.

Ulster recognises a number of other English language tests and comparable IELTS equivalent scores.

Exemptions and transferability

As the School of Psychology reviews and implements postgraduate courses, every opportunity will be taken to facilitate transfer between courses and the sharing of modules. Students who have completed other postgraduate courses with an ABA component (e.g. the MSc Applied Psychology offered recently at Magee, or the ABA course currently offered at Trinity College Dublin) will be considered for exemptions in this ABA course.



In Semesters 1 and 2 students will attend the campus on Fridays during the teaching period of 12 weeks. In semester 4 students will attend the campus on Thursdays for the teaching period of 12 weeks. In Semester 1, they will take Module 1 (3 hours class time) and Module 2 (3 hours). In Semester 2 they will take Module 3 (2 hours), Module 4 (3 hours) and Module 5 (3 hours. In Semester 3, they will commence work on the placement, which will continue through Semester 4 (the first semester in their second year of enrolment). In Semester 4, they will also take Module 6 (4 hours). The dissertation based on a research project in ABA will begin in Semester 5 of enrolment (i.e. the second semester of the second academic year) and continue through Semester 6, the summer period.

Behavior Analysis Cerification Board ( ) stipulate that students must attend at least 80% of Approved Course Sequence classes in order to eligible to apply for the Certification Exam.

Careers or further progression

Career options

Those students who have completed the course have gone on to have successful careers in a number of areas. For example numerous students have gone on to work for local health authorities and charities as behaviour specialists in both Northern Irland and the Republic of Ireland. Numerous students have gone on to work privately by providing home- and school-based behavioural interventions for families. A number of students who completed their placement year with the New England Center for Children (NECC) in Boston went on to work for NECC in London and Abu Dhabi.

As the BCBA qualification is internationally recognised a number of graduates have gone on to work as behaviour analysts in countries such as the US and Canada.

Those students who completed the course whilst in employment have gone on to bring their new skillset to such diverse backgrounds as education (Special Needs and mainstream), social work, and mental health nursing.

Further enquiries

Faculty Office
T: +44 (0)28 7012 4159

Course Director: Dr Stephen Gallagher
T: +44 (0)28 7012 4292

Subjects taught

Here is a guide to the subjects studied on this course.

Courses are continually reviewed to take advantage of new teaching approaches and developments in research, industry and the professions. Please be aware that modules may change for your year of entry. The exact modules available and their order may vary depending on course updates, staff availability, timetabling and student demand. Please contact the course team for the most up to date module list.

Year one

Introduction: theories and application of applied behaviour analysis
Year: 1
This module is a first introduction to Applied Behaviour Analysis for postgraduate students; no prior knowledge is assumed. Students will gain an understanding of basic issues in the analysis of behaviour. The seminar-based design of the course means that students develop an understanding of some basic issues and some of the research literature, improve their presentation skills and further their skills in debating in an academic forum.

Scientific principles of behaviour analysis
Year: 1
This module is part of a course of study on Applied Behaviour Analysis ABA for postgrad students; no prior knowledge is assumed. In this module students will gain an understanding of the experimental analysis of behaviour, a scientific approach to human psychology which underpins ABA. Focus is on explaining the fundamentals of this approach, including its experimental techniques and the principles of behaviour that have been discovered using those techniques. In Coleraine practical activities will demonstrate how behavioural processes can change behaviour, whilst in Abu Dhabi online practical activities will be used.

Ethical and legal considerations in applied behaviour analysis
Year: 1
This module is concerned with professional practice in Applied Behaviour Analysis. Students will learn of the legal and ethical obligations they must follow in order to ensure the well being of their clients and to practice as behaviour analysts. Students will also gain a knowledge of how to relate ethical concerns to the basic tenets of behaviour analysis and how these relate to its philosophical underpinnings.

Autistic spectrum disorder and applied behaviour analysis
Year: 1
In this module, postgraduate students will gain an understanding of autistic spectrum disorder (ASD) and knowledge of the practice of Applied Behaviour Analysis with ASD. They will be introduced to the debates around the most effective treatment for children with ASD. They will learn basic intervention techniques developed within ABA and should acquire a beginning knowledge of how to design an effective ABA programme for children with ASD within an ethical and reflective framework.

Behavioural assessment and intervention techniques in applied behaviour analysis
Year: 1
This module is for postgraduate students of Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA). Behavioural assessment and intervention techniques are core elements of ABA. This module trains the student to use these elements in the applied domain to develop effective intervention plans for individuals suffering from behavioural deficits or excesses. This module will prepare students for placement (Coleraine only) in ABA as well as lay the foundations for the research dissertation for Masters students.

Year two

Research Methods and Advanced Techniques in Applied Behaviour Analysis
Year: 2
This module builds upon earlier elements of the postgraduate course in Applied Behaviour Analysis Society. The module facilitates the development of the skills and knowledge necessary to become an effective applied scientist and the critical viewpoint required to remain one. It reflects the scientist-practitioner module in emphasising both the responsibility of the behaviour analyst to their client and the need to use of sophisticated behavioural strategies.

Dissertation based on a research project in applied behaviour analysis
Year: 2
This module is for students on MSc Applied Behaviour Analysis and draws on prior training research methods. It provides experience of conducting a research study and producing a dissertation at postgraduate level that contains data presented in a manner typical of that used in international journals in this field. Students must have completed all taught elements of the MSc in Applied Behaviour Analysis prior to submitting a dissertation.

Preparing for a Research Project
Year: 2
This module is optional
This module is intended to bring the critical thinking and academic writing skills of postgraduate students in Behaviour Analysis up to the level required for writing theses and academic papers in their discipline. Objectives will include: competence in critical thinking skills, and developing the ability to revise and edit drafts of documents of all types relating to research in their discipline.

Placement with work experience in applied behaviour analysis
Year: 2
This module is optional
In this work-experience placement module, students on postgraduate courses in Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA) will transfer their learning from previous modules into practice. Students may be able to access placement opportunities in local agencies where ABA is practiced, international agencies with whom links are established, or experimental settings. It is essential that appropriate supervision is available and that ethical guidelines are followed. This experience is an essential step towards achieving professional competence.

Work placement / study abroad

Students are responsible for sourcing their own suitable placement opportunities which will allow them to complete a minimum 250 hours of work based practice using the principles of behaviour analysis. We anticipate the use of a variety of types of placement. These will include those where the student is an employee of an organisation that regularly employs ABA, or is a full-time employee of an organisation that employs a range of approaches in working with clients (e.g. a learning disability service), or is a part-time employee involved in delivering a behavioural programme at the home of a child. Where none of these conditions are possible we will endeavour to help students identify a community-based activity which could form the basis of a suitable placement. In every case, there will be active negotiation with the agency to ensure that suitable opportunities for the placement student can be made available, that adequate health safety standards will be met, and that adequate supervision arrangements can be established.

Those students interested in carrying out a placement in the New England Center for Children (NECC) should be aware that the Ulster University cannot guarantee any student a placement position or the number of placements available. These decisions are at the discretion of NECC. Please also note that Ulster University cannot guarantee any student a work visa for the US, thus any student applying for a visa should not give up employment or book flights until the visa application has been successful.


Academic profile
Three members of the teaching staff on the MSc in ABA are Board Certified Behaviour Analysts. All staff have a strong record of research and/or teaching in both experimental and applied behaviour analysis. This quality of teaching has been recognised through numerous international awards for the dissemination of the science.

Application date

Application is directly to the University via an online system.

The closing date for applications is the 31st May.

Enrolment and start dates

Start Date: September 2017

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