If you’re interested in studying mental health and human behavior, then you may be curious about the benefits of a career in applied behavior analysis (ABA). You may want to know, "What can I do with a master's in ABA? Will I enjoy this type of work, and how much can I expect to earn?"
Although it's primarily known as a therapy for autism spectrum disorder, ABA is useful in treating a wide range of psychological disorders and developmental disabilities.
Professionals who specialize in ABA work with children and adults to improve specific behaviors that affect their quality of life. If you're drawn to meaningful work where you can help others build key social, motor, and learning skills, getting a graduate degree is a crucial step toward becoming a certified behavior analyst.
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board® (BACB®) defines behavior analysis as:
“The science of behavior, with a history extending back to the early 20th century. Its guiding philosophy is behaviorism, which is based on the premise that attempts to improve the human condition through behavior change (e.g., education, behavioral health treatment) will be most effective if behavior itself is the primary focus.”
As a field, applied behavior analysis seeks to answer questions around how behavior works, how learning occurs, and how both learning and behavior can be affected by factors such as the environment. This understanding can then be leveraged to devise strategies that increase positive or helpful behaviors in individuals, while reducing negative or harmful behaviors.
Like other fields of science, ABA involves gathering data and evidence to produce the best outcomes. Analysts use behavioral data, research, observations, and feedback to identify patterns and then apply the most helpful forms of intervention.
The most common career option for someone who earns a graduate degree in applied behavior analysis is to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®). That being said, individuals with a background in ABA can also work in a number of other capacities, such as early childhood education, special education, and social work. You can find ABA specialists in diverse industries, ranging from criminal justice to animal training, and new applications are continually being discovered.
While there is a common misperception that BCBAs work primarily with children, the role is not limited in that regard. BCBAs can work with anyone who is looking to change their behavior in order to live a happier and more fulfilling life, whether that be a child, an adult, or an elderly individual.
Below we take a look at two of the most common job titles held by an individual trained in ABA.
A Board Certified Behavior Analyst is an independent practitioner who studies behavior in patients or organizations and creates a plan to implement positive skill-building methods. In some roles, BCBAs also offer supportive training to a patient's family members or teachers. BCBAs work in a variety of environments, including medical facilities, schools, in- home care services, substance abuse clinics, government agencies, and private practices.
To be eligible for certification, you must have a master's or doctoral degree in ABA and complete ABA-specific coursework. You must also complete supervised fieldwork to gain experience for the job. The final step is to pass the certification exam. Once certified, BCBAs assume a supervisory role for assistant behavior analysts and behavior technicians.
Wondering how much you can earn as a BCBA? The average salary for a BCBA in 2021 was $87,535 with the majority of earners making between $68,000 and $97,500, according to ZipRecruiter.
A Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst is a specialist who has completed ABA coursework at the undergraduate level. They are also involved in supervising behavior technicians. To obtain the certification, you must earn a bachelor's degree, complete ABA coursework in an undergraduate institution, and gain supervised experience on the job.
As an assistant, a BCaBA is only certified to work in conjunction with a BCBA and cannot run an independent practice. A career as a BCaBA is a good choice if you want to work in the field without getting a master's degree, but it often serves as a stepping stone for professionals who want an income and industry experience before going to graduate school for ABA.
Applied behavior analysis can be a rewarding occupation if you want to make an impact in the lives of patients and their families.
If you want to know more about the responsibilities of a BCBA or BCaBA, consider reaching out to professionals in the field or contacting a college admission counselor for advice.
Because behavior analysts work in so many different environments and specialized roles, you have the opportunity to find a niche that is well-suited to your skills, personality, and career goals.
To learn more about the ABA program at Regis College: