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Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist

Autism Spectrum Disorder Specialist Career Information

An autism spectrum disorder specialist is a special kind of applied behavior analyst who works with children and adults who have been diagnosed with autism. These professionals may work in an educational setting or with groups of autistic children or adults. Part of the job of working with autistic children is the process of early intervention to diagnose and treat the symptoms of autism when they are first expressed in a child.

ASD specialists are just one type of applied behavior analyst, and they work exclusively with autistic individuals. These professionals can also choose to specialize in working specifically with autistic children. This career is not a medical profession, so ASD specialists do not prescribe medication or diagnose medical conditions. They are qualified to treat autism by developing treatment plans specifically designed to address the symptoms of autism. ASD specialists often work with a team of clinicians to treat a group of autistic people in a clinical setting. The work can be very demanding and stressful but also highly rewarding.

Related resource: Top 25 Online Master’s in Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)


The salary for an autism spectrum disorder specialist is the same as the salary for an applied behavior analyst. After graduating from college and becoming certified to work with autistic people, an ASD specialist can spend about 10 years working in a clinical setting as a part of a team treating autistic patients. During this phase of an applied behavior analyst’s career, the salary typically increases from entry-level to intermediate. At this point in their careers, most ASD specialists move on to higher positions in their organizations and earn greater pay.

The median annual salary for applied behavior analysts is about $41,500, according to Payscale. The top-earning 10 percent of professionals in this occupation earn about $67,000 per year or more. Yearly bonuses can increase the base pay by about $3,000.

Entry-level salaries for this occupation start at around $29,000, with most analysts receiving promotions and raises within the first three years of work. With advanced education, certification, and experience, ASD specialists can expect to earn a higher salary than the median.

Key Responsibilities

At the beginning of his or her career, an ASD specialist is responsible for working with autistic people in a group or home setting and treating the symptoms of autism with professional methods. Treatments may include speech therapy, sensory therapy, games, and other exercises designed to reduce the anxiety of living with ASD.

After a few months or years of entry-level work, an ASD specialist will typically receive more responsibility for designing schedules and developing treatment plans for autistic children and adults. This initial phase of an applied behavior analyst’s career usually lasts about 10 years, after which he or she will take on additional administrative, supervisory, and clinical responsibilities as well as higher pay.

Necessary Skills

To get started in applied behavior analysis as an ASD specialist, you must have expertise in autism spectrum disorder as well as experience working in a clinical setting with autistic individuals. Important skills for this profession include analytical aptitude, in-depth knowledge of behavioral disorders with symptoms similar to autism, and excellent communication skills. The most effective ASD specialists are passionate about working with autistic children and helping people cope with severe disabilities. Expertise in special education may be required for some positions, and state certification may be required by some states. All of the skills needed to succeed as an ASD specialist can be obtained by completing an applied behavior analysis degree program and undergoing additional training for treating autism spectrum disorder.

Degree and Education Requirements

For most positions, a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis is required. Some entry-level positions require only a bachelor’s degree, and some organizations hire candidates with a bachelor’s degree and specialized training in treating autism spectrum disorder. As this profession is experiencing above-average growth, finding a job in this field usually doesn’t take very long in highly populated areas such as cities and urban centers. Because this profession is not very competitive or crowded with job seekers, enrollment in applied behavior analysis degree programs is generally attainable for most people. Before obtaining a master’s degree, students must have a bachelor’s degree in applied behavior analysis or a related field.

Pros and Cons of the Position

The job of an ASD specialist can be very challenging. It can also be highly rewarding for compassionate professionals who love working face-to-face with people on a daily basis. The benefits of this job include a relatively low barrier to entry, the opportunity to help improve the lives of autistic children and adults, the opportunity to advance to positions of greater responsibility and higher pay, and the personal autonomy of the profession. Some of the drawbacks include low starting pay, occasionally stressful work, and the unpleasant experience of watching children suffer from an incurable condition. Most ASD specialists agree that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks. The majority of these professionals advance to higher-paying positions after an introductory period.

Getting Started

If you’re still in high school, you can begin preparing for a career in applied behavior analysis by enrolling in advanced placement social science and natural science courses. To ensure that you get into a good college undergraduate program, it’s important to graduate from high school with a strong academic record. With a high GPA and a well-rounded extracurricular record throughout your undergraduate years, you can expect to be accepted by a highly ranked graduate program. Graduate students with strong academic records can usually pay for their education by working as teaching assistants. Upon graduation, you will need to complete a training program for applied behavior analysts in your state.

Future Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the field of special education are projected to increase by about eight percent over the next 10 years. Psychology careers are projected to grow by around 14 percent over the same period. As diagnosed cases of autism continue to increase, specialists in this field will have many job prospects.

Autism is a serious condition that affects the lives of about one in 68 people beginning in early childhood. Specialized therapists can alleviate some of the symptoms of this disorder and make life easier for individuals diagnosed with this condition. If you enjoy working with people, you may want to consider becoming an autism spectrum disorder specialist.