Association for Behavior Analysis International

The Association for Behavior Analysis International® (ABAI) is a nonprofit membership organization with the mission to contribute to the well-being of society by developing, enhancing, and supporting the growth and vitality of the science of behavior analysis through research, education, and practice.

Tiered Model Recognition (Tiers 2a-4b) Standards


Standard Areas

The Tiered Model includes nine standards areas: Mission, Curriculum, Outcomes Assessment, Administration, Resources, Faculty, Student Services, Public Disclosure, and Degree/Non-Degree Program Requirements. Each of those standard areas have additional components; in total there are approximately 50 components across the nine standards. The entirety of the standards and the corresponding components follow the accreditation (Tier 1) standards and are detailed below.


All programs must complete the application in its entirety and provide evidence of each standard, regardless of prospective Tier. Special considerations for may be made based on the evidence provided by the program and consultation with ABAI. Some components of a standard might not be applicable or might require special considerations for certain tiers or regions – each component standard contains additional details and considerations.


Standard 1: Mission

The program has a mission, which is its specific purpose for existing. All programs applying for recognition must demonstrate they meet the Mission standard. A mission statement is significant and should be general enough to align with ABAI, the institution, and the program, yet remain appropriate to the science and practice of behavior analysis.  


Standard 2: Curriculum

The program implements a clear and coherent curriculum plan that provides the means whereby all students can demonstrate substantial understanding and competence in areas pertinent to the program’s mission and recognize the value of lifelong learning. Programs applying for recognition must provide evidence for all the components of the Curriculum standard, especially those related to supervised experiential learning (Tiers 1, 2a, 3a, and 4a).


Standard 3: Outcomes Assessment

Essential to the recognition review process are the outcomes of the program’s training efforts. Fair and reasonable outcomes assessment protects the interests of the program and the public. The program’s overall outcomes are assessed in the context of various outcome measures. Programs applying for recognition must provide evidence for all applicable components, unless otherwise indicated by ABAI.


Standard 4: Administration 

The program is an integral part of its sponsoring institution, and it is governed by its faculty as led by a qualified core member of the faculty. Programs applying for Tiers 4a and 4b are strongly encouraged to develop consortia agreements with a higher education institution using the component standards specified in the Administration standard.  


Standard 5: Resources

The program has fiscal, physical, and learning resources adequate to fulfill its mission. All programs, regardless of tier, must demonstrate they have sufficient resources to accomplish its mission.


Standard 6: Faculty

Program faculty are sufficient in number and quality to fulfill the program’s mission. Special considerations for some components of the Faculty standard may be given to Tiers 3a through 4b, on a case-by-case basis, based on the availability of doctoral-level behavior analysts.


Standard 7: Student Services

Students enrolled in the program have the academic credentials, experience, and skills necessary to successfully complete the program in a timely fashion. Policies and procedures facilitate completion of the program. One of the components of the Student Services standard may not be applicable to programs applying for Tiers 2a through 4b, and if so, special considerations may be given.


Standard 8: Public Disclosure 

The program demonstrates its commitment to public disclosure by providing written materials and other communications that appropriately represent it to the relevant parties. Programs must accurately represent their recognition status as awarded by ABAI.


Standard 9: Degree & Non-Degree Programs 

Programs are recognized at the doctoral, master’s, and bachelor’s level, or appropriate equivalent academic-levels for non-degree programs (i.e., undergraduate, or graduate-level contents). Each program has objectives appropriate to its level as well as requirements for instruction in specific content areas. Distance (online) education components are expected to meet the same standards as on-campus delivered components. In each area the scope of training is expressed in terms of hours of contact with the instructor. Programs are allowed flexibility in terms of how they achieve the prescribed contact hours.


Content AreaBachelor’s & Undergraduate Level Contact HoursMaster’s & Graduate Level Contact HoursDoctoral Contact Hours
Principles of Behavior 45 45 45
Research Methods 45 45 90
Conceptual Analysis 45 45 90
Applied Behavior Analysis 45 90 90
Basic Behavior Analysis 45 45 90
Ethics 45 45 45
Specialized Elective -- -- 45
Supervised Experiential Learning* 45* 90* 90*
Thesis or Equivalent** -- Required: Hours at discretion of institution Optional: As required by the institution
Dissertation -- -- Required: Hours at discretion of institution
Total Hours of Instruction 315 405 585
*Supervised Experiential Learning is required for Tiers 1, 2a, 3a, and 4a
**Thesis or Equivalent is required at the master’s/graduate level for all tiers


Coursework/Content Areas

All tiers must meet the same content hours and areas of the coursework requirements. Each program must have objectives appropriate to its level and demonstrate it meets the instructional requirements in six content areas and supervised experiential learning (when applicable). The content areas include Principles of Behavior, Research Methods, Conceptual Analysis, Basic Behavior Analysis, Applied Behavior Analysis, Ethics, and Electives (for doctoral programs). Furthermore, the supervised experiential learning hour requirements, thesis, thesis-equivalents, and dissertation requirements vary by degree/program level.


In each content area the scope of training is expressed in terms of hours of contact with the instructor. Programs are allowed flexibility in terms of how they achieve the prescribed contact hours. ABAI expects each program that applies, regardless of the tier, to complete the recognition application in entirety, though some tiers may have varying component requirements within each standard area (as indicated in the application system).  

To assess if your program is currently meeting ABAI content area requiements, complete the appropriate program details document.


Supervised Experiential Learning

Supervised experiential learning is an important component of a training program; its purpose is to develop skills in professional practice and/or research. At the graduate-program levels, the experiential learning requirement may be fulfilled with the completion of a thesis, thesis-equivalent, a dissertation, or other relevant activities. Supervised experiential learning can take place on or off campus. Examples of off-campus settings include laboratories, educational settings, clinical settings, and organizations. The experience can be in basic or applied research involving behavior change interventions. The experiential learning requirement can be met through the student's professional employment if an appropriate level of supervision is provided by the program faculty. Programs applying for Tiers 1, 2a, 3a, and 4a must have experiential learning as a requirement for obtaining the degree or completing the non-degree program.


ABAI’s supervised experiential learning requirements permit arrangements to meet some or all the licensure and credentialing bodies’ fieldwork requirements, though it is not required. ABAI’s standards do not prescribe how many direct, indirect, supervision, or total applied hours must be accrued. Typically, those requirements are determined by licensure boards, credentialing bodies, and training programs. ABAI will instead assess whether the Tiers 1, 2a, 3a, and 4a meet the following five components of the supervised experiential learning standard:


i. Opportunities

The program defines practicum opportunities, learning objectives, and an evaluation system consistent with the contemporary science of behavior.


ii. Objectives

The program specifies skills and objectives that are differentiated by the level of the degree program or education.


iii. Learners' Evaluation

The program provides an opportunity for learners to evaluate their training experience and to offer suggestions that may contribute to its improvement.  


iv. Sites

Sites are sufficient in number, are spacious, and provide a good range of training experiences. In addition, they have a sufficient number of professionals who may provide supervision to support the achievement of learning outcomes and program objectives.


v. Supervision

The program assesses experience, qualifications, and availability of site supervisor(s).


In conclusion, programs must provide evidence for how they meet the standard and components with each of their experiential learning sites (on or off campus). ABAI does not review the operations of service providers, only behavior analysis training programs. Please see the Supervised Experiential Learning Guidance document for additional details.  


Dissertation, Thesis, or Thesis-Equivalent 

The purpose of a dissertation is to demonstrate independent scholarship in the context of an investigation that produces an original contribution to the basic, applied, or conceptual analysis of behavior. The purpose of a thesis or equivalent is to develop competence in defining a research problem, designing a method to address the problem, and conducting and reporting an investigation that carries out the method to conclusion. The requirements for a dissertation, thesis, or thesis equivalent are specific to the program level (e.g., doctoral, master’s, etc.). Plese see the Thesis or Equivalent Guidance document for additional details.  


Standards and Materials

Download the application templates ahead of time to review the standards and requirements. Prepare narratives and data for the online application system. These templates are also available in the online application system.  

See the Documents and Resources section for more!


Modifed by Eddie Soh