What Can I Do With a Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis?
In a way, the field of psychology and behavioral science are trending. There is a nationwide demand for professionals who work in fields surrounding behavior, especially applied behavior analysts (ABA). The job market for ABA specialists is quite strong in 2021, and it is predicted to continue to grow even stronger––at least a 20 percent growth rate between now and 2029. In fact, the demand for individuals with their BCBA/BCBA-D certification increased by 23% from 2021 to 2022 according a study published by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
This is a positive outlook for those who are looking into obtaining a Master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis.
The professionals at the Behavior Analysis Certification Board have data from 2010 to 2022 that show United States employment demands for applied behavior analysts.
Some of their findings are shocking:
- There has been an increase each year since 2010 for BCBA’s
- The number of job postings that required or preferred BCBA/BCBA-D certification rose from just 789 in 2010 to 57,569 in 2022.
- South Carolina and Indiana both have an increase in over 100% for BCBA/BCBA-D job postings between 2021 and 2022.
Regardless of the reasons why the field of applied behavior analysis has spiked in popularity, the point is that it has significantly increased and it will likely continue to rise as the years progress. There is no denying that the field of behavior analysis is growing as are the employment opportunities. For those who are currently in a program, interested in starting down that path, or are already in an applied behavior analysis-related career, you have an interesting and advantageous career ahead of you.
You may have asked the question, “What can you do with a masters in applied behavior analysis?” We are here to help answer that question with some of the hottest jobs in ABA. The following are the top five BCBA careers that professionals can go into with a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis. Continue reading to learn more about each.
- Psychological Assistant
- Special Education Assistant
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
- Social Work
By far, counseling is the most common jobs for masters in applied behavior analysis program graduates. This career has experienced steady growth over the last four years and has a projected job outlook that is significantly higher than other fields. Burning Glass Technologies estimates that approximately one in five counselor job listings are seeking behavior analyst graduates.
The ‘counseling’ career field encompasses many different specialties. Counselors can work in public schools, colleges, hospitals, clinics, or residential programs; they can also have their own practice. They can work with:
- disabled individuals
- low-income families
Of course, a graduate’s potential pay, job outlook and more vary depending on the specific counseling career they pursue.
How does ABA relate to counseling?
When an individual seeks out a counselor, it is generally because they want to learn how to handle their emotions and feelings, as well as to modify certain behaviors that may be blocking their success. Those who go through a counseling program––or an ABA program––are skilled in the role of behavior modification and developing interventions based on unique needs. No matter the age of the client or the type of issue they are having, a counselor with an applied behavior analysis master’s degree can help determine a solution.
When working with an ABA counselor or therapist, one might:
- Determine which behaviors require a change
- Set goals and expected outcomes
- Establish ways to measure changes and improvements
- Evaluate where you are now
- Learn new skills and/or learn how to avoid negative behaviors
- Regularly review your progress
- Decide whether or not further behavior modification is necessary
If you’re looking into working in a counseling-related field, obtaining a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis might be the best route for you to take. This will open up options you may never have considered before.
2. Psychological Assistant
Another of the most popular jobs for applied behavior analysis program graduates is psychological assistant. Graduates who possess a Master’s in Behavior Analysis typically cannot practice as a psychologist unless they obtain a doctorate in Psychology and pass state licensing exams. However, those who are in a psychology program or those who have graduated with a degree in ABA can work as a psychological assistant. Choosing this career path, whether it is temporary or not, can lead to other opportunities opening up later on, as there are several branches of psychology to choose from. Graduates who pursue a career in this field will usually be expected to obtain one of 15 available certifications from the American Board of Professional Psychology to demonstrate their expertise.
The APA Model Act for State Licensure of Psychologists recognizes psychological assistants as:
- graduate students
- unlicensed postdoctoral trainees
- applicants for psychologist licensure
All these individuals are permitted to work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist.
It is important to understand that psychological assistants work with licensed psychologists who are responsible for the professional actions of those assistants.
Psychological assistants with a degree in applied behavior analysis typically are responsible for duties such as:
- being actively involved in behavioral research projects and clinical trials
- gathering and analyzing data
- presenting data
- handling assessments and interventions
- maintaining patient files
This career option is a good stepping stone for the world of ABA, and most people who are in this position go on to do more with their education and psychological experience.
3. Special Education Assistant
Behavior analysts are tremendously helpful in the world of education, especially within special education settings. Students with autism spectrum disorders and other developmental disabilities thrive under structured environments with unique accommodations and behavioral interventions that BCBAs and ABA specialists can help teachers create.
Those who practice ABA in an educational setting have many options. Special education assistants may work in:
- public schools
- private schools
- residential facilities for those with specific needs
They may also work in hospitals or centers, as well as to conduct home visits.
Instead of teaching children, assistants are generally employed to help teach paraprofessionals, teachers, and parents how to most effectively help the children. Assistants might find themselves working on a county level and be pushed out into schools that have behavioral needs, or they might have a specific school as a home base. They assist in taking data, developing FBAs and BIPs, training others on interventions, and modeling in the classroom.
Behavior analysts who obtain teaching licensure can become special education teachers. SPED teachers routinely use ABA strategies and interventions, so this might be the best of both worlds for some individuals seeking out career options.
4. Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
Graduates with a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis can obtain a BCBA certification to become independent practitioners of behavior analytic services. This is one of the most common routes for students to take when entering an ABA program.
To qualify for the certification, applicants must complete a graduate program and have the appropriate amount of supervised practical experience working in the field of behavior analysis. This can be obtained by working in a school, clinic, hospital, autism center, or alongside an ABA/BCBA professional who already has their practice.
After obtaining their initial certification, BCBAs must re-certify every two years.
BCBA-certified analysts are qualified to supervise other behavior analysts, including Registered Behavior Technicians and Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts. All these certified individuals work with clients who exhibit behavior difficulties by:
- identifying behaviors
- creating behavior plans
- managing assaultive and crisis behaviors
- providing assessments of students with complex or severe behavioral disorders
Although these are not autism-specific certifications, many people in this field will choose to work exclusively with clients/students with autism and other developmental delays.
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board has recently come out with the BCBA 2022 Eligibility Requirements if you are interested in viewing them.
5. Social Work
Social work is another of the most popular applied behavior analysis jobs. Clinical behavior analysts (CBAs) work closely with clinical social workers (CSWs) to provide superior services to clients. With a solid psychological and behavioral science background, CBAs can provide cognitive-focused CSWs with behavioral management services, interventions, and management based on empirical evidence. These services are especially needed when social workers are assisting clients with autism and other developmental disorders.
Not only do many social workers work hand-in-hand with behavior analysts when they are assigned a tricky case, but sometimes social workers have the right degree to do it themselves. By combining the social work and behavior analysis fields, the issues are focused more holistically while looking at them from all angles.
Liliana Uribe, DSW, LSCW writes in Social Work Today:
“Social work and behavior analysis, at first sight, appear to be completely different in respect to modalities of service. However, both professions can work well together. As a current lead analyst for children with behavioral challenges and a licensed clinical social worker, I am realizing the need for analysts to encompass case management and clinical experience. My clients at one point have required case management services and/or a holistic perspective of viewing the client’s and family’s challenges in a bigger picture.”
If you’re interested in working in the field of social work and also want to focus on behavioral interventions, becoming a clinical behavior analyst and working closely with clinical social workers may be the best choice for you.
Careers for Graduates with a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis: Conclusion
There are various opportunities for hardworking behavior analysts who want to work in the education, health care, or social work sectors. Some are obvious and yet some are outside of the box. Getting a Master’s in ABA is something that you won’t regret, as the job outlook for this field continues to grow and thrive. This is an excellent time to begin pursuing a graduate degree in this high-demand field.
Master of Education (M.Ed.) | Northeastern State University
Behavior and Learning Disorders | Georgia State University