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What are the Most Common Job Settings for a Behavior Analyst?

What are the Most Common Job Settings for a Behavior Analyst?

The best type of job is the one with flexibility and choice. 

A career in applied behavior analysis allows individuals to create their own business, set their own hours, and also choose from a variety of settings to work from. Many people primarily associate ABA with a school or clinical setting, although there are many different job settings to discover for graduates with a Master’s in applied behavior analysis. 

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According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, applied behavior analysts often work in healthcare, education, or social settings. But that isn’t all. ABA specialists can also work for government entities, businesses, in a home setting, or run a clinical practice. Anywhere a behavior specialist is needed, analysts can use their expertise to help out. When behaviors need to be modified, whether that be with a child with autism in an ASD classroom, an employer who is trying to increase productivity in the office, or young adults in a residential eating disorder placement, applied behavior analysts can work their magic. 

Although the choices are broad, this article will focus primarily on the most common job settings that ABA specialists can work in.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied behavior analysis is a systematic and scientific method of evaluating, understanding, and changing behaviors. Commonly, this practice is used with individuals with autism and/or developmental delays; however, as stated previously, ABA strategies can be taught and used with a variety of populations. 

Graduates with a Master’s degree in applied behavior analysis seek to help their clients overcome problems, reduce stress, achieve personal goals, and improve their quality of life. Applied behavior analysis has been proven an effective way of dealing with a lack of social, language, and functional skills. ABA strategies also help clients with reducing aggression, self-harming habits, and other inappropriate and anti-social behaviors.

When an analyst is called upon to work with a client, they first must evaluate, assess, and observe the client in their natural environments, which may include the home, out in the community, and at school, if applicable. 

From there, data is collected and a Behavior Intervention Plan is made. Teachers, parents, and others involved are taught interventions to help the client be successful and increase more appropriate behaviors and learn necessary skills. The clients are explicitly taught new skills through the use of specific ABA interventions and by using consequences and reinforcement to assist the process. And it is a process—analysts are highly trained on how to assess, monitor, and modify behaviors of all types. 

Overall, ABA is a much-needed field to go into!

Mental Health Clinics

working at a Mental Health Clinics is a common job for an ABA therapistBehavioral analysts who have the Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification can choose to work in a clinical mental health setting. In a clinic, analysts work with clients of all ages to help them overcome social, personal, and mental health problems. Clinical behavioral analysts identify undesirable conditions that sustain and contribute to undesired behavior so they can formulate helpful management techniques and interventions.

For those working with children and adolescents, analysts conduct intake assessments with parents so they can develop appropriate behavioral plans that are based on standard practices. They work collaboratively with families, teachers, and other service providers to assist families in implementing behavioral plans and strategies at home and in the school.  

For those working with adults, analysts focus more on behavioral challenges that impede career and personal goals. Adults with developmental delays work with analysts on improving social skills, daily living skills, and communication skills so that they can function more successfully at home and in society. 

ABA specialists often belong to teams of licensed mental health care providers; however, they can also choose to open their own practice or business. 

Working in a mental health clinic can be a great choice for applied behavior analysts. It gives them the flexibility to work with different types of clients with a variety of needs. By going the mental health route, this allows analysts to start their own consulting business, which is what many ABAs strive for. 

Mental Health Centers

In contrast to a mental health clinic, where clients of all types can be seen in an outpatient setting, mental health centers typically focus on one type of disease or disorder. Examples of this are residential eating disorder centers, drug and alcohol addiction centers, and centers specifically geared toward individuals with autism. 

Many behavior analysts work for centers or programs that target specific conditions. While analysts are based out of a center, they are trained to implement one-on-one intervention programs with children in their homes, schools, and community settings. They target maladaptive behaviors so they can increase the proper development of social and academic skills. This may take the form of training their patients about conflict resolution, anger management, and pro-social communication techniques. Analysts are also in charge of collecting and analyzing patient data during their day to increase their understanding of certain conditions and behaviors.

At times, analysts must push into clients’ schools and act as background support through providing coaching and management strategies for teachers and parents.

This job setting is similar to one at a mental health clinic, except that a mental health center focuses on more specific types of disorders and does not broadly work with just anyone. Many mental health centers offer residential or full-day programs for their clients. Working in a center can be advantageous to analysts who have expertise in a particular type of disorder or disease and want to focus on those. 

Public Schools

one common aba job is in Public SchoolsMany applied behavior analysts work in public schools as ABA specialists. They work with students who struggle with behavior and emotional/social challenges. Commonly the work is done in a self-contained setting, an autism classroom, a resource classroom. Children who struggle in these areas typically are not in a general education class setting and thrive more in a small class size. 

ABA specialists implement programs designed for target client groups, such as those with behavioral problems and learning or developmental disabilities. They meet with a few student clients every day for one to two hours. During this time, analysts coach and teach children proper play, social, academic, and communication skills. At times, analysts are needed in one classroom throughout an entire day, or multiple days, to observe a particular student and to help take data and develop an FBA/BIP. 

Behavior analysts in public schools are in charge of recording student data and documenting how each student is progressing and responding to their specific program. They share their conclusions, recommendations, and narrative reports with educators, parents, and case managers.

Home/Community

Applied behavior analysts also can choose to push into client’s homes and follow them out in the community to work on targeted skills. 

An example of this is a parent who has requested ABA services for their three-year-old child with autism due to behavioral and communication concerns. The analyst meets the parent and child at home to do an observation in the child’s natural environment where most of the inappropriate behaviors are happening. The analyst will also sit down to interview the parent, get more information about behaviors outside of the home, and then will conduct an FBA to determine interventions. 

This type of analyst/client interaction can happen out in the community as well. The analyst may follow the parent and child around to take care of tasks and daily errands while making observations and taking data in the background. 

Once the FBA is complete, a Behavior Intervention Plan (BIP) can be created. The parent and child will be explicitly taught interventions and new skills to replace the inappropriate behaviors. More observations will be held and more data will be taken to determine if the interventions are working over time. 

This type of work is called Natural Environment Teaching (NET). 

There are definite benefits to working with a client at home and out in the community, which are their natural environments: 

  • Less structured
  • More focused on the child’s values and functional play
  • Skills are taught in the environment that they will be used
  • Sessions are very interactive
  • Less structured
  • More focused on the child’s values and functional play.
  • Skills are taught in the environment that they will be used
  • Sessions are very interactive

Natural Environment Teaching helps learners acquire skills quickly and also helps them to easily generalize what they have learned to other settings. 

Applied behavior analysts, depending on where they work, have a choice in whether or not to travel to clients’ homes. This is a personal preference and should be considered before taking a job. 

Conclusion to What are the Most Common Job Settings for a Behavior Analyst?

Applied behavior analysts have amazing job opportunities. They are lucky in the sense that they have more choice in the types of clients they see and the settings in which they deliver their expertise. ABA specialists who have their own business and are contracted out have even more flexibility and choice, as they can see however many clients at a time and decide which settings are most conducive to their schedule and career goals. Mental health clinics, centers, schools, and natural environments are not the only settings in which ABAs can work. If these don’t fit into your career goals, there are many more opportunities out there. 

Brittany Cerny

Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University

Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University

Updated August 2021

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