Overview of Applied Behavior Analyst
Applied behavior analysts (ABA) are licensed clinical therapists who work with autism patients as well as children and adults who have behavior problems. They study the individual’s patterns and behaviors, as well as the environment surrounding them, and develop plans to correct the bad behavior. Applied behavior analysts are generally psychologists who specialize in applied behavior analysis. They either work directly in the area of applied behavior analysis or in research. Applied behavior analysts spend a lot of their time working with patients suffering from autism spectrum disorder patients because of the success applied behavior analysis has been for these individuals.
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Applied behavior analysts earned an average annual wage of $42,000, according to a July 2018 report by PayScale. Wages range from $27,390 to $71,517 or more. The average hourly rate in the U.S. is $16.57. The average wage in the U.S. for board-certified applied behavior analysts with master’s degrees is $53,416. The salary for applied behavior analysts can vary by many factors, including:
- work experience
- geographic location
Some companies put more emphasis on work experience. Others feel education or geographic location is most important.
Applied behavior analysts must be competent in putting together individualized behavioral and educational programs for the patient. Whether the patient has autism or is suffering from another type of behavior program, the program must be one created by Board Certified Behavior Analysts. It is also the ABA’s responsibility to attend any and all seminars, workshops, conferences and training programs aimed at ABAs.
It’s also important that the ABAs read scientific journals related to autism patients and patients in need of applied behavior analysis. The ABA must be aware of any advances and changes in applied behavioral science. It’s also the ABA’s responsibility to ensure that the educational programs are individualized and aimed at treating each specific patient.
Because ABAs work with patients with autism as well as other mental or social problems, the ABA must be patient, friendly and willing to spend as much time as possible with patients and their families. One of their many duties is to write patient progress reports and conduct presentations, so they must have good oral communication skills. The ABA must be organized and have excellent interpersonal skills because he or she will be working closely not just with children but also with their family members.
They must also have the ability to function well as part of a team because they work closely with other analysts, specialists, and psychologists. The ABA should have good critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. Above all, the applied behavior analyst must have the utmost patience and compassion. Psychology Today states that ABAs have been very successful at helping autistic patients:
- learn new skills
- improve social interactions
- maintain positive behaviors.
Degree and Education Requirements
To work as an applied behavior analyst, you must have at least a bachelor’s degree in psychology, behavior analysis or a similar field. Many employers require a master’s degree in this field. Individuals who hold a bachelor’s degree in psychology may opt to complete a graduate degree in applied behavior analysis. Candidates must complete fieldwork through a supervised internship or practicum.
In addition to the graduate degree, you must pass the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification exam. Every state has different licensing exams for applied behavior analysts. Because of the different insurance laws, each state has its own requirements that ABAs must meet. This ensures that their services will be eligible for reimbursement. The ABA program must meet the educational requirements set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
Pros and Cons of the Position
As with any occupation and career, there are pros and cons of working as an ABA. Pros of being an ABA include:
• Research has proven that ABAs are effective in helping autistic patients.
• Because of the education requirement, ABAs are highly-trained therapists.
• The ABA program is customized for each patient.
The cons of the position include:
• ABAs must have years of education, certifications and continuing education.
• ABA treatment can be time-consuming and expensive.
• Highly-trained ABAs may be hard to find.
• Some feel that ABA therapy doesn’t allow patients to think for themselves.
Because ABA therapy is a relatively new method of treatment, many people are still undecided about its effectiveness, despite the documentation proving that it has been beneficial to patients.
Once you decide that becoming an applied behavior analyst, the first step is determining your career goal. If becoming a board-certified behavior analyst is the end goal, you should look into different programs and certifications. At the very least, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree. You should look into prerequisites that may need to be completed. Certifications also require certain academics.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you may be able to use that as a foundation to enter a master’s degree program in applied behavior analysis. You should also check into the state’s requirements for licensure. Most behavior analyst programs, including online programs, require that students complete a practicum or supervised work experience. Researching and making a checklist of all the requirements is a great way to get started in this career.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that psychologists overall should see an employment growth of 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. Board-certified behavior analysts are becoming more in demand every year. The demand for applied behavior analysts doubled between 2012 and 2014. The biggest demand was in the states of California, New Jersey, and Massachusetts. However, there has been a demand for behavior analysts in almost every state. There is also an increasing number of certifications available for applied behavior analysts. The BCBA is the credential most in demand. This contributes to the increasing demand for board-certified applied behavior analysts.
Applied behavior analysts have seen a high success rate in treating not just patients with autism but patients suffering mental and social disabilities. This has made applied behavior analysis a popular field with excellent job growth. Working as an applied behavior analyst can be challenging at times but extremely rewarding for the right individual.