9 Careers for Applied Behavior Analysis/Analyst
Applied behavior analysis, often abbreviated ABA, is a therapeutic method that aims to modify an individual’s behavior. What was once termed “behavior modification,” ABA uses the principles of education and learning to alter various behavior, particularly behaviors that are seen as problematic socially. Applied behavior analysis is especially popular as an early method of therapy for children with autism spectrum disorders, but the principles of ABA have been used on a range of other behaviors, such as substance abuse, phobias and even criminal behaviors.
While a primary goal of most individuals who are pursuing advanced education in applied behavior analysis is to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, the BCBA marker simply signifies that a person is certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
In other words, a BCBA certification doesn’t limit a person to the narrow job title of “Behavior Analyst,” though for most job-seekers, that’s a good place to start. The truth is that the skillset ABA students build, regardless of whether they are BCBAs, can be applied to any number of areas in which the need to understand and modify human (or even animal) behaviors is necessary.
Here’s a sampling of some of the most exciting careers for those with an applied behavior analysis degree:
Focusing on testing and analysis, a psychological assistant will be tasked with administering, scoring and interpreting clients’ and patients’ psychological test results and, depending on the employer, may also help provide individual or family therapy services. In cases of jobs that involve direct clinical work with patients, licensure will be necessary in the state where you’re working, and some employers require psychological assistants to obtain a doctorate, either a PhD in Psychology degree or PsyD degree, though some will accept a master’s degree.
Salary range: $40,000-$90,000
Special Education Assistant
In a job that’s focused on students, particularly elementary-aged children, special education assistants are tasked with supporting special needs students, especially those who have been diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder. These individuals are most often sought in public school settings, though many private employers also seek to hire qualified special education assistants to support their clients. Depending on the particular population served, special education assistants may need to help students with hygiene and other physical tasks and will need to assist students and teachers in implementation of lesson plans and classroom instruction. Licensure and certification requirements vary by state.
Salary range: $20,000-$45,000
One of the fastest-growing jobs in the economy, the demand for social workers is expected to rise by 16% through 2026, far faster than the growth rate for all jobs in general. A challenging and often thankless job, social workers are responsible for helping individuals understand and cope with the hurdles of their lives and may help individuals and families navigate the matrix of social services. In some cases, social workers may provide direct counseling services, though that requires a specific licensure, which varies by state.
SEE ALSO: Salary Outlook with Ph.D. in Social Work
Salary range: $40,000-$70,000
Counselors work with individuals, families or other groups to help them manage issues that impact their emotional or mental well-being. Whether they’re working with a particular population, such as those dealing with substance use disorders, or work more generally in the mental health field, a counselor with a background in ABA will focus specifically on helping people make lasting changes to their behavior. It’s important to remember that some employers and states will require specific licensure for counselors, such as the Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor.
Salary range: $25,000-$65,000
Occupational Therapy Assistant
These professionals assist individuals in developing or recovering the skills needed in their day-to-day lives and work environments. They typically provide therapeutic services directly to patients and can work in a variety of settings, including medical and nursing facilities, schools or within the home. Common populations for occupational therapy assistants include children with disabilities and the elderly. Most employers require certification from the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy, and some states have licensure requirements as well.
Salary range: $45,000-$70,000
Working in the private sector, public sector or even for nonprofits, life coaches observe their clients’ behavior and help them develop methods to improve the outcomes of their lives, often including building particular skills necessary for success in life. Depending on the population served, this ranges from learning how to pay a bill to taking their career to the next level. Life coaches work with young people, individuals with disabilities, even famous celebrities, to help their clients in realizing their goals in life. Employers may have specific licensure requirements; for instance, people working with children may need to be certified in CPR.
Salary range: $30,000-$90,000
The principles of applied behavior analysis aren’t only applicable to humans. In fact, the foundations of the therapeutic methods involved can extend even to our four-legged friends. Animal behaviorists may work for dog-training facilities or even in the film and television industries, as they use their background in ABA to modify animals’ responses to stimuli over time and ensure they are behaving in a predictable way. Animal behaviorists may also work to help train service animals to assist those with physical or emotional disabilities. Depending on the employer and mission, certifications may be required.
Salary range: $25,500-$69,600
Most often serving in a consultancy, organizational therapists aim to help companies, nonprofits, government agencies and other groups of coworkers understand the behavioral hurdles they face and devise and implement ways of altering staff behaviors and practices to ensure better operational flow. Not exactly a business consultant, an organizational therapist, rather than focusing on specific business failures, will instead tackle the interpersonal conflicts or ineffective staff practices that may be holding the business back.
Salary range: $50,000-$105,000
Helping train the next generation of applied behavior analysis professionals, ABA instructors work in educational settings, whether undergraduate or beyond, depending on their own educational attainment. For upper-level programs, such as those conferring master’s degrees, professors usually need to have completed doctoral work in applied behavior analysis, and most educational institutions prefer to hire professors who have had considerable professional experience.
Salary range: $55,000-$91,000
Most of us have habits and behaviors we wish we could change. Maybe we eat too many sweets or don’t exercise enough. But for some of us, our behavioral problems are intense and impact our ability to lead happy, healthy lives. That’s why the field of applied behavior analysis is so important, as it enables professionals to help those of us who need it to change our behavior over time with compassion and understanding of human nature. With job titles so diverse and interesting, the practice of ABA looks to continue expanding more and more.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Social Workers. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.bls.gov/ooh/community-and-social-service/social-workers.htm
- Inc.com, Does Your Company Need a Therapist? (2015.) Retrieved from https://www.inc.com/jessica-stillman/does-your-company-need-a-therapist.html
- Salary range information was culled from job listings posted on Indeed.com in August 2019.
- Things You Can Do With a Doctorate In Psychology Degree. 2019 (N.D.). Retrieved from: https://psydprograms.org/50-things-you-can-do-with-a-doctorate-in-psychology/