Applied Behavior Analysis 

Degrees to Pursue

A career in Applied Behavior Analysis can be sought through coursework in these degrees and certification:

  • Special Education (M.S.)
  • Special Education (Ed.D.)
  • Non-degree certification (must have a master's degree)

Course Links

What is ABA like?

The Applied in ABA refers to the application of the principles and procedures of the scientific study of behavior to improve socially significant behavior to a meaningful degree.

The Behavior in ABA refers to the assessment and treatment of objectively defined behaviors of social significance.

The Analysis in ABA refers to the application of the scientific method to demonstrate that the improvement in behavior is a result of the procedures used to improve the behaviors. Once these procedures have been demonstrated to be effective they can be disseminated to improve the behavior of others.

In sum, ABA is a scientific discipline that is devoted to understanding and improving human behavior for the better (Cooper, Heron, & Heward, 2007).

For well over the past 30 years scientists, teachers, therapists, business people, psychologists, parents, and counselors have used the methods and findings of behavior analytic research to improve academic performance, communication, safety skills, social skills, activities of daily living skills, teaching procedures, and assessment methods, among many other important behavioral repertoires.

In general, behavior analysts ask, “Why does behavior change over time?” Behavior analysts answer that question by primarily looking at environmental factors. Behavior analysts engage in tasks such as:

  • Conducting functional behavior assessments and analysis (FBA)
  • Interpreting data from FBAs
  • Designing and implementing interventions based on the principles of behavior
  • Monitoring progress and graph and interpret behavioral data
  • Usually working with a team of professionals.

Why is the ICL department in the COE the best place to start?

The University of Memphis is now offering an eight course plus  practicum sequence at the graduate level that will allow students to qualify to sit for a national board certification in behavior analysis. This program is the only program approved by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board in the Midsouth. Moreover, it is one of a handful of programs in the world that offer a practicum approved by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board.

How do our faculty work in this career community?

We participate in the TN Association for Behavior Analysis which allows us to interact with many practitioners across the state. We also work closely with several community agencies utilizing ABA for a variety of populations in the Memphis area. In addition, we have grants that offer ABA services to the community such as the Regional Intervention Project, Restructuring for Inclusive School Environments (RISE) Project, and West TN Positive Behavior Support Initiative.

What is special about our programs?

Our courses are designed to provide hands-on experience in conjunction with the practicum in ABA. Students will learn how to precisely define and measure the behaviors of interest of their students. They will learn how to determine whether their particular teaching method was effective using the performance of the student as their guide. They will go beyond the basics of learning what to teach when, and learn how to apply the principles of behavior to augment learning for any of their students.

Job Opportunities

Behavior analysts work in many applied fields including education, business, and clinical psychology. Currently, applied behavior analysis (ABA) has received a lot of attention for its effectiveness with children with autism. Researchers and clinicians (e.g., U.S. Surgeon General, NY Dept. of Health) recognize ABA as the treatment of choice for behavior problems and learning difficulties associated with autism. ABA has applications for other populations as well and has been recognized for producing remarkable results in academic learning and behavior in classrooms. Many behavior analysts work in schools as teachers or school psychologists working with students enrolled in special education. Many also work as scientists and scholars in higher education. Some behavior analysts provide in-home supervision of direct care providers or provide direct care for children with developmental disabilities and Autism. Others provide clinical services including functional analysis of behavior and treatment of serious behavior disorders such as self-injury and physical aggression. Still others work in business providing training for new employees and improving training programs.

However, not everyone who calls them self a behavior analyst is certified by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board®. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a professional who has documented graduate training and supervised, hands-on experience in applying the principles and procedures of behavior analysis, and has passed an examination in ABA given by the BACB

For more information on certification requirements go to



Our Faculty

Dr. Laura Baylot Casey, BCBA

Laura Casey received her doctoral training from Mississippi State University. Following coursework, she completed a dual internship in behavior analysis at May South, inc. a subsidiary of the May Institute affiliated with Hughes Spaulding Children's healthcare in Atlanta and the Marcus Autism Institute, an affiliate of Emory University. Prior to joining the University of Memphis's ABA program she was a visiting Assistant Professor in the psychology department. She has also worked as a behavior consultant in Georgia public schools, a behavior specialist in Mississippi public schools, and a children's behavior therapist for a community counseling agency in Mississippi. She has recently been accepted for publication in Education and Training for Autism and Developmental Disabilities, the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, and Beyond Behavior. She has published in The Encyclopedia of School psychology, ACA encyclopedia, Phi Delta Kappan, Journal of Vocational Rehabilitation, Children & Schools, and The Family journal. Her research interests include assessment and early intervention for academic difficulties specifically written expression, effective assessment and intervention for children diagnosed with Autism, ADHD, working with parents and families of exceptional children, and merging applied behavior analysis with other disciplines. She is on the board directors of the Autism Society of the Midsouth. She has been a BCBA since 2008.

Dr. James Nicholson Meindl, BCBA

James Meindl is an associate professor of applied behavior analysis and special education at the University of Memphis.  He received his M.A. from Penn State – Harrisburg, and his Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis and Special Education from The Ohio State University.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in both home and school settings on areas ranging from developing academic programming, to teaching independent living skills, to focusing on problem behavior—primarily self-injury and aggression.  In addition to his clinical work, he has written several book chapters as well as published in a variety of peer-reviewed journals on a broad range of topics in behavior analysis ranging from clinical intervention to conceptual analysis of behavioral phenomena. His research interests include choice and preference, interventions on problem behavior, and delayed consequences. In 2016 he was elected at President of the Tennessee Association for Behavior Analysis.

Dr. Diana Delgado, BCBA

Diana Delgado received her Masters and Doctoral degrees from the Behavior Analysis Program at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2005, and 2008, respectively. After completing her coursework, she worked as an Associate professor in Bogota, Colombia. In that role, she directed a research group in Behavior Analysis and was director of the research laboratory on the Experimental Analysis of Human Behavior. She conducted research on stimulus equivalence, causal learning and resistance to change and published in national and international peer reviewed journals. In 2015 she moved to Pennsylvania to obtain her License as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, after meeting additional coursework and clinical experience requirements, from Penn State University. While doing so, she taught ABA courses in the online Satellite Masters Program at the University of Nevada, Reno, and worked as a behavior analyst at a specialized schools and centers for children with autism in Central Pennsylvania. She obtained her certification as an Applied Behavior Analyst in 2017. She joined the ABA program at the University of Memphis in 2018.