Holders of a graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis (ABA) have several options for leveraging their specialized training in a professional setting. While a certificate does not offer the same job-seeking potential as a bachelor’s or master’s degree, it can open doors to stable employment, opportunities to gain experience in the field, and excellent supplementary training for other careers. Certificate programs are also an accessible way for individuals to explore possible work environments and career paths if they choose to pursue a degree in ABA in the future.
Related resource: 40 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate Online Programs
Those who earn a certificate in applied behavior analysis can work in a variety of sites, including the home, out in the community, at a school, clinical setting, residential setting, or substance abuse treatment center. The versatility and flexibility that obtaining the certificate offers are a huge benefit to those who want to build a career surrounding ABA.
Types of ABA Certifications
There are four main types of certifications to be able to work in the world of applied behavior analysis.
- Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)
The RBT level of certification is typically attributed to those with a high school level of education who are looking to become “paraprofessionals” in the field of behavior analysis.
- Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA)
BCaBAs are most commonly those who hold bachelor’s degrees but have not yet earned a master’s in behavior analysis. They typically do not operate independently and work under the supervision of a BCBA or BCBA-D.
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
A BCBA holds a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis and typically is an independent practitioner in the field. They often supervise the work of RBTs and BCaBAs.
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctoral (BCBA-D)
BCBA-D is the highest level of certification one can receive in the field of behavior analysis and is awarded to those with doctoral training in ABA.
Overall, these certificates can help individuals obtain career opportunities in a variety of fields of education and behavior.
Continue reading to learn about what career opportunities are available to those who have an ABA certificate.
Many public school teachers can expand their core skill-set, and possibly earning potential, by gaining additional certifications to supplement their teaching degree. The skills and knowledge gained through an ABA certificate program can equip them with valuable social tools for addressing problematic behavior in the classroom. School teachers, administrators, counselors, and assistants with experience in ABA or special education needs may also fill personalized instructional roles outside of the standard classroom environment. Working directly with individual children allows educators to address specific behavioral, learning, or social problems that are inhibiting their development.
Special education teachers, paraprofessionals, and behavior specialists can all apply ABA strategies in their classrooms.
A few ABA techniques that can be applied within the classroom setting include:
- Discrete Trial Training
- Pivotal Response Training
- Natural Environment Training
- Behavioral Momentum
- Positive Reinforcement
Those in the world of special education should be familiar with ABA techniques, and if they are not, getting certified as an ABA specialist can boost expertise and knowledge in those crucial areas.
Registered Behavior Technician
There are four levels of professional certification available to professionals working in behavior analysis. Becoming a registered behavior technician (RBT) is the most accessible pathway, as the others require a bachelor’s degree or higher, according to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). Applicants must complete 40 hours of approved training, have a high school diploma and pass a background check to be eligible to take the examination. Becoming certified as an RBT is a relatively simple way to bolster a resume and increase hiring potential as a clinical assistant or technician.
An article in Applied Behavior Analysis Programs shares the following about what capacity an RBT can work in.
In educational settings, RBTs can function as general or special education teachers, childcare administrators, reading specialists, occupational therapists, school psychologists, or speech-language pathologists. These paraprofessionals will work with ABA therapists to coordinate the delivery of skill acquisition plans for youth from birth to age 21.
Some Registered Behavior Technicians are employed in residential group homes as special needs staff, nurses, case managers, and administrators. Health care facilities might also prefer hiring clinical social workers, pediatric nurses, emergency medical technicians, home health aides, mental health counselors, and psychiatric aides with RBT credentialing. Joining the RBT Registry certifies your abilities for aiding the applied behavior analysis plan in diverse settings with sound judgment.
People with an RBT certification can work in a variety of settings and are marketable to many schools, organizations, and clinics.
Social and Academic Counseling
Every state in the US has different laws regarding the specifics of the counseling profession, but ongoing professional development is a staple for long-term success in the field. A graduate certificate in ABA may not be a job requirement in many cases, but it can make candidates more appealing and active professionals more effective. Learning the basics of behavior analysis, especially how to implement them in a practical environment, can provide counselors with an extra edge when helping clients manage problematic behaviors. School counselors who work with children with special educational requirements can particularly benefit from behavior analysis expertise.
Both social and academic counselors have the responsibility to train students on how to manage their behaviors, as well as help parents, learn how to utilize ABA strategies in the home and out in the community. Academic counselors may deal less with certain behaviors though, and more with ones that relate to academic and study skills. Teachers or parents may seek out guidance from social or academic counselors to help improve student success in various areas.
Addiction Therapy and Rehabilitation
Much like counselors, people working in addiction therapy and rehabilitation aren’t necessarily subject to specific professional requirements. However, employers may seek out counselors with certified experience and training in the field. ABA practices have proven to be a reliable and effective tool for dealing with the intellectual, social, and physical challenges associated with addiction disorders. Anyone who works in rehabilitation environments should consider pursuing education and certification in behavior analysis to give themselves more options when helping clients.
Traditional substance abuse treatments such as one-on-one therapy, group therapy, mentorship, and other holistic therapies combined with ABA techniques increase the likelihood of success and sobriety.
Two ABA strategies that have been shown to work with substance abuse clients are:
- Voucher-Based Reinforcement Therapy (VBRT)
This is a contingency management intervention in which recovering addicts receive a monetary voucher for achieving a drug-free toxicology result. The monetary value of the voucher increases with each consecutive negative drug test. The incentives reset if the client misses a scheduled screening or tests drug-positive.
- Community Reinforcement Approach
Community-based interventions use a range of recreational, family, social, and vocational reinforcers alongside a voucher program to help the client create a lifestyle that is more rewarding than substance use. The goal of the community reinforcement approach is to maintain abstinence long enough for natural reinforcers to sustain a drug-free life beyond the vouchers (NextSteps).
And speaking of community-based interventions…
Community-Based ABA Therapy
Students who receive ABA therapy at home or in school often also need community-based therapy. While visiting grocery stores, the mall, accessing transportation, etc., children or adults can work on developing community participation skills as well as social skills.
Examples of specific skills that can be worked on out in the community are:
- Basic mobility
- Community knowledge
- Social awareness and manners
Certified ABA therapists conduct skills-based assessments on their clients and begin teaching and modifying skill sets. It is beneficial to practice the skills at home or school first, then go out into the community. Skills should be generalized so that clients can use them whenever, wherever.
A lot of success can happen when clients’ needs are met in the community by a certified ABA specialist.
Conclusion to What Can I Do with an Applied Behavior Analysis Graduate Certificate?
There are plenty of job opportunities in applied behavior analysis for people with all levels of education and experience, which makes it an appealing choice for new students. Obtaining a graduate certificate in applied behavior analysis can be a great first step towards getting a job in the field, building towards larger academic goals, or expanding on existing professional skills.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University
Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University
Updated June 2021