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How does Someone Become an Applied Behavior Analyst?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a growing field that enables therapists and educators to help people with different behavior disorders and disabilities. Anyone who wants to become an Applied Behavior Analyst will need to earn a master’s degree and complete a supervised practicum. Before this even begins, the student will need to understand Applied Behavior Analysis and earn a bachelor’s degree in the right field.

Understand Applied Behavioral Analysis

Applied Behavioral Analysis refers to psychological principles and therapeutic tools that are used to increase behaviors, such as reinforcing on-task behaviors, and to teach new skills, which includes social, life and communication skills. Applied Behavioral Analysis is used to maintain behaviors, such as through teaching self-control, and it is used for transferable behaviors, which refers to skills that can be used outside in the real world.

Applied Behavioral Analysis is also used to prevent behaviors that cause self-injury and restrict conditions that interfere with socially acceptable behaviors. Applied Behavioral Analysis is a scientifically based, objective discipline that uses reliable metrics and evaluations of observable conduct. Reliable measurement means that behaviors cannot be vaguely defined as something like anger or sadness. Instead, metrics must be observable facts and quantifiable factors.

Earn the Right Degree

All ABA candidates must have at least a bachelor’s degree in a related field, which is usually psychology, education or social work. For example, a general Bachelor’s of Science in Psychology degree will help students build a solid understanding of psychology tools, concepts, thinkers and trends. These programs should follow The American Psychological Association’s basic learning goals for psychology degrees. For instance, the degree should help students gain a fundamental understanding of the historical trends, empirical findings, major concepts and theoretical perspectives.

These frameworks will help them apply psychological principles to behavioral problems. Next, the psychology degree should scientific inquiry and critical thinking. This will help students interpret behavior, study research data, apply principles to draw conclusions and demonstrate psychology information literacy. Finally, the degree should teach student about ethics, communication and social responsibility.

Obtain Certification

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is considered the standard setter for this specific field of behavioral psychology. The BACB requires certified behavior analyst candidates hold master’s degrees in psychology, education or applied behavior analysis. The BACB defines the academic requirements in their Approved Course Sequence (ACS) policy. Next, candidates must have at least 270 hours of core curriculum related to applied behavior analysis. The BACB will consider other coursework under certain conditions.

For example, licensed professionals who already have a qualifying master’s degree can earn a graduate-level certificate in applied behavior analysis. The BACB may accept university-supervised practicums and supervised work experiences of 1,500 hours. The actual number of practicum hours depends on the intensity and frequency of supervision. Finally, BACB certification forms the basis for licensure in most states, but this ultimately depends on the student’s state of residence.

Related Resources

Recommended jobs include therapist assistant, psychology researcher, assessment assistant, clinical specialist, mental health worker and registered behavior technician. In the end, anyone who wants to become an Applied Behavior Analyst will need to gain the right work experience.