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New PSU graduate program studies behavioral analysis

The Pitt State department of psychology and counseling has a new graduate program in behavioral analysis, made to help fill a demand for providers qualified to work in behavior analysis. The degree can be earned in 17 months, and according to the program webpage will “prepare students to apply behavioral laws to influence positive behavior change and improve the lives of clients.” Students pursuing this degree will also be eligible for certification as a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). 

“I really enjoy the flexibility the field offers, I’ve always been interested in psychology, but I’ve always wanted to do so many different things with it,” said Erykah McClendon who is set to graduate from the program in December. “I was interested in substance abuse, I was interested in helping at risk youth, I’ve been interested in working with kids with developmental disabilities, so behavior analysis offered me a path to do all of those things.”  

The degree can be used for work in schools helping students diagnosed with ADHD and other disorders, working with individuals that suffer from addiction, depression, anxiety, or emotional disorders, with individuals that have autism or brain injuries and more. 

Although students do not specialize in a specific field within the program, they are required to have an internship for the duration of the program in which they can go into a specialized field. 

“…You can kind of specialize in that experience (with an internship) if you want to,” said Brittany Worthington, a student in the program who will also graduate in December.  

Worthington is completing an internship at the Bill and Virginia Leffen Center for Autism in Joplin. Worthington has two undergraduate degrees from Pitt State and said she chose to continue her education at Pitt as she loved the community and professors. 

“The only reason I knew about the program was because professors took the time to reach out to me about it because they thought it may be something I was interested in, so I really loved how much professors at Pitt State care about students and actually take time to learn more about what my goals and interests were for my future,” Worthington said. “…I have known for a really long time that I was interested in working with the autism population and this degree was a good way to do that.”  

Although it is still a new program, graduates from the program have performed well. 

“Our students have a 100 percent pass rate on national exam certifications- the national average is 61 percent- and they’re in high demand when they graduate,” said Ryan Speelman, assistant director of the program, to the Pitt State Marketing and Communications department. 

Worthington said she was initially nervous about entering a new program but has since had a “really great experience with it.” 

“I was a little nervous going into it about what it would be like, but everything has been great,” she said. 

Both McClendon and Worthington said the professors and especially, Speelman, have been instrumental in making a new program successful. 

“It feels really good because our program director, Dr. Speelman, he takes our input seriously… and he really lets us make the program what we need,” McClendon said. 

Worthington said Speelman and the other professors also care about the students post-graduation. 

“Dr. Speelman is super interested in… after we graduate and making sure we have everything we need and are prepared and confident in what we’ve learned, and I think that’s why they make our…exam to be actually able to take the board certification so that way we can be confident that we actually do know everything we leave,” she said. 

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