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San Diego State University


Frequently Asked Questions: MA Program in Autism / BCBA

Have a question about the M.A. Degree Program / Autism Specialization or Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis? If you can't find the answer below or elsewhere on the site, email or



Q: Can I take a class toward the Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis even though I am not a matriculated student?
Yes. You can try to enroll through Open University and pay per unit to the College of Extended Studies. Bring a copy of the completed Open University Registration Form to the class on the first day the course is offered, and if there is room and the instructor approves, you can be added to the class. Check the SDSU Class Schedule for time and place of course offerings.

Q: Are there any online courses at this time, or are all courses taught on campus?
Currently, no online courses are available. All courses are taught on campus.

Q: Do I need to have a teaching credential to apply for the M.A. degree or Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis?
No. You need a B.A. in a related field for both programs. However, you will not be able to work in public schools as a special educator without a teaching credential so applicants need to be confident that they want alternative career paths. You also must have experience working with individuals with ASD and their families prior to entering the M.A. Degree program with a specialization in Autism as there are more applicants than spaces and we accept only applicants with experience.

Q: Can prerequisites for the M.A. degree be substituted or waived?
No. All M.A. students must take SPED 527. In addition, completing SPED 553 is required for the BCBA, which is an integral part of the degree. (See course descriptions.)

Q: Can I substitute courses taken elsewhere for SPED 553 or other courses in the programs?
Yes, but. Faculty will consider substituting a course taken at another university if a Substitution/Waiver form (PDF, download Adobe Acrobat Reader, if needed) is submitted to the Special Education Office (NE70) along with a syllabus from the course completed and a transcript showing the grade received. BUT, if you are planning to apply to take the exam to become Board Certified as a Behavior Analyst, you will have to submit the transcript for this course with your application as SDSU has an approved sequence, with approved faculty who teach the sequence of courses. It is up to the student to demonstrate they have the required hours if they deviate from the SDSU sequence approved by the BACB®.

Q: Can I take the prerequisites as co-requisites once I’ve been admitted to the program?
Yes. You may take prerequisite courses concurrently with the regular course load, although this makes for a very full schedule.

Q: Can I take the prerequisite courses through Open University?
Yes. You can take up to 9 credits through Open University or College of Extended Studies prior to being accepted and matriculated in a program. You must be matriculated to graduate with the Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis. To take a course through Open University, obtain a form on line and show up to the first day of classes and ask the instructor to sign your forms. The instructor will let you add the class if there is space.

Q: Can I clear my teaching credential in special education at the same time I am taking the M.A. Degree?
Yes. Some of the courses needed to clear your credential are embedded in the M.A. Degree program. However, you will need to complete a department application for the Clear Credential program and meet with an advisor to work out the required sequence of courses for the Clear for your credential. (Link to a PDF document about the Clear Credential.  Download Adobe Acrobat Reader, if needed.)

Q. Can I attend the M.A. Degree program part-time?
No. The M.A. Degree Program with a Specialization in Autism is a 2-year program that must be completed with the others in your cohort. Completing this program requires a large time commitment.

Q. Can I complete the Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis part-time?
Yes. You can complete the course sequence when courses are offered and as quickly as one year or more if you prefer. Please note that once matriculated it costs the same amount of tuition for between 1 and 6 credits.

Q. Does SDSU provide assistance with the fieldwork requirement for the BCBA?
No. We do not offer fieldwork placements for those completing the Advanced Certificate in Behavior Analysis. Many people get their supervision on the job. We can recommend some possible supervisors with BCBA but you may need to pay for supervision of the required 1,500 hours.