Begin a Career in ABA Therapy: Options and Requirements

Sep 20, 2019

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an applied behavioral analyst. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about education, job duties and certification to find out if this is the career for you.

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A career in ABA (applied behavioral analysis) therapy could include working as an ABA therapist or as an analyst. ABA therapists may work in classrooms or education, hospitals, rehab facilities and other settings, helping individuals develop living and social skills. They need a graduate degree and professional certification.

Essential Information

Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) is essentially the empirical study of observable behavior, as well as how behavior changes with certain stimuli. ABA therapists have advanced degrees, either master's or doctoral, and are certified. Career opportunities are available for ABA therapists in classrooms, hospitals, mental health clinics, rehabilitation centers and residential living facilities. ABA therapists may work with other professionals or independently as consultants.

Required Education Advanced degree
Other Requirements Certification
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028) 15% for clinical, counseling and school psychologists*
Median Salary (2018) $76,990 for clinical, counseling and school psychologists*

Source: * U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options in ABA therapy

ABA therapists typically deal with less overt behaviors often resulting from depressed mood or anxiety. On the other hand, applied behavior analysts generally work with doctors, parents, teachers and therapists to develop treatments for clients with more observable behavior challenges, such as aggression and self-harm. Whether therapist or analyst, those in the field of behavior analysis aim to assist diverse populations with the development of social and living skills.

ABA professionals often work with children and adults with autism or developmental disabilities and individuals recovering from brain injuries, as well as with the elderly and mentally ill. They may also work with family and child service agencies. ABA therapists usually work with clients one-on-one to observe and analyze behavior, as well as find environmental attributes that drive behavior.

Typical occupations for ABA professionals include education, autism and rehabilitation consultation; staff or administration at transitional or assisted living facilities; counselor and researcher. Businesses may hire ABA consultants to develop techniques for improving output and efficiency.

Career Requirements in ABA Therapy

ABA therapists should be detail oriented, patient, cooperative, inquisitive and attentive. A career in ABA therapy requires good oral and written communication, interpersonal, analytical and research skills. Tasked with helping clients improve social, communication, reasoning and job skills, ABA therapists are trained to motivate clients while attempting to understand their motivations.

Education and Certification Requirements in ABA Therapy

ABA therapists and analysts typically have a master's or doctoral degree, as well as certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). Areas of study may include applied behavior analysis, developmental or clinical psychology, special education or social work. Study in courses such as neuroscience, computer science and statistics in conjunction with internship opportunities prepare prospective ABA professionals for a career in the field.

Some postsecondary institutions have graduate-level ABA programs. A master's degree in applied behavioral analysis typically takes two years. Doctoral programs often take longer to complete, their length largely dependent on the institution.

BACB certification has multiple requirements based on education level. Master's holders must have at least 225 graduate credit hours, pass the certification exam and have the required experience to become board certified. Certified ABA professionals can maintain certification through continued education.

Salary and Job Outlook

According to projections from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the occupational group of clinical, counseling and school psychologists, including ABA therapists, is expected to grow by 15% from 2018 to 2028. As of May 2018, the median annual salary for these workers was $76,990.

ABA professionals typically have a master's or doctoral degree and certification. This allows them to work in the field of ABA therapy, where they help individuals and find solutions to observable behaviors, sometimes resulting from depression and anxiety. They may work in education, rehab facilities, with autistic patients, as counselors or researchers.

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