Students applying to applied behavior analysis (ABA) programs and those already enrolled in those programs will want to know what the job outlook for that position looks like in the future. Autism and developmental disabilities aren’t going out of style anytime soon, so neither are the job duties of a behavior analyst. In fact, the cases of those diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder have been increasing over the years. There are many theories for this, yet the latest assessment and diagnostic tools along with more general awareness of symptoms have helped diagnose more individuals.
Related resource: 40 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate Programs
While it is impossible to pinpoint an exact cause for autism on an individual basis, epigenetics, or the combination of biological and environmental factors which affect changes in certain genes plays a role. It is helpful that more young children are being diagnosed instead of slipping through the cracks. Early intervention is key and that is how ABA therapists are here to help.
ABA therapists work with those on the autism spectrum and those with developmental disabilities. They also can work with individuals who struggle with attachment disorders and other conditions. The educational, home, office, and community settings are available for analysts to work in part or full-time, and some of them start their own business and are contracted out to clients.
Those who look at the potential earnings and the job outlook can get a good idea of whether the field has room for them and how much they can make.
Regardless, ABA is a wonderful and helpful field of work to get involved with, and there are various career paths one can choose with a background in ABA.
What Does an ABA Therapist Do?
ABA therapists often work with clients one at a time, but they may also work with small groups to observe and analyze. Behavior analysts may work within a school district at a county level and then be sent to specific schools to work with children in need. Another option is to advertise services and go out to individual homes to work with families. ABA therapists also can have office space where clients go to them and they work in a small clinical-type setting.
When working with young children, analysts speak to the parents first and go over what they hope to achieve through the sessions. Areas of need are discussed and goals are made. Children are observed in their natural environments, such as at home during meals, playing with peers, when given a prompt to do something, or out in the community on an errand with their parents. This gives the ABA therapist an idea of what they are working with and what behaviors need to be modified. Data will be collected once target behaviors are identified.
The job-searching site, Glassdoor, offers a general job description regarding responsibilities for an ABA therapist:
- Study patient behavior and apply ABA principles
- Respond appropriately to different situations common among Autism patients and others with behavioral and developmental challenges
- Utilize key communication skills to provide effective feedback to patients
- Effectively communicate positive feedback to patients
- Be able to recognize and respond to critical improvements in patient behaviors.
- Become familiar with and use behavioral redirection techniques
- Know how to respond to negative behaviors appropriately
- Provide written documentation on each patient.
Each company or organization that hires ABA therapists will have its own set of job requirements, but the above is a general list to get an idea of primary responsibilities.
How to Become an ABA Therapist
While students can gain experience working with clients when they’re in high school, they cannot become therapists without a degree and full certification.
To become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, these individuals need either a graduate or a doctoral degree and a transcript that shows they took advanced courses in ABA therapy. They also need several years of experience working with clients, which they can do while they go to school or during their required supervision hours. A passing score on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) exam is needed as well.
Those who have degrees in other subject areas and more years of experience can sit for this test too as long as they meet all requirements. Most of the graduate programs in ABA therapy include courses that prepare students for this exam.
Job Outlook for ABA Therapist
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), roughly one out of every 59 kids in the United States is on the autism spectrum. This represents a sharp increase from the rate reported in 2000, which was roughly one out of every 160 children.
The CDC also found that boys are four times more likely to get this type of diagnosis than girls are. As the number of children diagnosed with autism and related conditions increases, the need for analysts will also increase. Hospitals and other medical facilities will need professionals who can diagnose children and adults and create treatment and therapy plans for them.
Data from several years was aggregate in a database and analyzed, which included online job postings collected from over 50,000 sources; these findings were turned into the US Employment Demand for Behavior Analysts document that is available on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
These findings show that…
- Over the past 11 years, demand for behavior analysts holding BCBA or BCBA-D certification has increased by 4,209%. Annual demand for individuals holding BCBA/BCBA-D certification has increased each year since 2010, with a 17% increase from 2019 to 2020.
- There are currently 31 states that license behavior analysts, and 1,054 job postings in 2020 either required or preferred a license to practice behavior analysis.
- The top five states with the most ABA job postings are California, Massachusetts, Texas, Florida, and Georgia.
Simply put, there will always be a demand for ABA therapists.
Earnings Potential for ABA Therapist
The job outlook for applied behavior analysts goes along with the earnings potential.
BACB certified therapists can make $20 to $30 an hour or more. Some of the top earners in this profession earn a salary of more than $40 an hour. Therapists have the choice of working in hospitals and treatment facilities or running their own therapy firms and offices. The more education and experience, the higher the salary.
Conclusion to Job Outlook for Applied Behavior Analyst
As the number of people diagnosed with autism and similar conditions continues rising, the need for trained professionals will rise at the same rate. Students enrolled in these college degrees and certificate programs will find that the job outlook for applied behavior analysts is quite high.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University
Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University
Updated July 2021