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ABA Therapist: Job Description & Career Requirements

Learn about the education needed to become an ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapist. Get a quick overview of details about job duties to determine if this is the career for you.

Essential Information

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) therapists work with autistic children and other patients with developmental issues, either in a clinical setting or a patient's home. These therapists often reinforce positive, learned behaviors using specialized techniques that may include reward systems, incidental teaching, pivotal response training, and milieu therapy. An ABA therapist works under the supervision of a behaviorial analyst, a position that requires a graduate degree and, oftentimes, licensure or certification. According to PayScale.com, ABA therapists earned between $24,719 and $52,106 per year, as of January 2016, with a median salary of $35,090.

Job Description

ABA therapists usually work one-on-one with children who have autism, a brain disorder that can lead to issues with social interaction and repetitive behaviors as well as verbal and nonverbal communication. Based on consultations with behavior analysts, ABA therapists employ various speech and language therapies as well as behavior management techniques to help their clients develop social and life skills.

Education Requirements

Becoming an ABA therapist usually requires formal education in psychology, behavior analysis, or a related field of study. Required education varies according to employer, but an associate's or bachelor's degree is common. Courses in these degrees might cover:

  • Screening and assessment
  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Human development and behavior
  • Abnormal and clinical psychology

Additionally, students might be required to complete a practicum.

Voluntary Certification

Some ABA therapists choose to demonstrate expertise in the field by earning voluntary professional certification. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board offers the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) designation to applicants who have at least a high school diploma and 40 hours of training, in addition to passing a competency assessment and exam. The Board also confers the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) title to candidates with at least a bachelor's degree and supervised practical experience who pass an exam.


In summary, applied behavioral analysis therapists work with autistic children and other patients with developmental issues. ABA therapists typically need an associate's or bachelor's degree in behavior analysis or psychology, and they might opt to test for voluntary certification.

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