Applied behavior analysis is a type of treatment widely used today for behavior issues, and many aspiring applied behavior analysts (ABAs) wonder if they have to take an exam to become an ABA. There are various levels an ABA therapist can achieve, and the type of exam required is determined by the level the individual chooses. Here is an overview of the different types of ABA titles and careers available to interested candidates.
Steps to Become an ABA Therapist
The first step towards becoming an ABA therapist is earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work or sociology. Finding an internship is a beneficial way for an undergraduate student to obtain experience working with clients under the supervision of an ABA therapist. Earning the bachelor’s degree prepares candidates for entry-level positions in this field as ABA technicians.
Aspiring ABA therapists must complete a master’s degree in behavior analysis, which takes an additional two years to finish. The student completes coursework and must do a thesis. The student must research a topic related to ABA and choose which topic they wish to use for the thesis. The research and thesis are generally done in the final year of the graduate program.
Most states require ABA therapists be licensed, which includes certain requirements. One requirement is that the therapist must complete from 1,000 to 1,500 hours of clinical work under the supervision of a licensed ABA therapist. Some students to do fieldwork prior to completing the clinical work. Once the student has completed all requirements for the graduate degree, he or she must obtain certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
Before an aspiring ABA therapist can obtain board certification, the individual must meet the eligibility requirements set by the BACB. The BACB mandates that candidates must meet one of these three requirements to be eligible to take the certification exam:
• Must have at least a master’s degree and be a faculty member at an accredited school
• Must have at least master’s degree and have completed fieldwork experience
• Must have a doctoral degree and at least ten years of experience working in this field.
To work as a certified ABA therapist, an individual must have both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.
What Certifications are Required?
The type of certification required depends on the career goals of the individual. Here are some possible choices the BACB offers.
• Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) – Applicants who are at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or equivalent, pass a criminal background check, and complete 40 hours of training can take the RBT exam once they’ve passed the RBT competency exam. Passing the exam qualifies them to work as a Registered Behavior Technician™ under the supervision of a licensed ABA therapist.
• Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) – Applicants with a bachelor’s degree who have completed supervised practical experience in ABA therapy can take the BCaBA® certification exam. Once they pass the exam, they can work under the supervision of a licensed ABA therapist.
• Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) – Applicants with a master’s degree in behavior analysis who meet one of the three eligibility requirements mentioned above can take the BCBA certification exam and work as a licensed and Board Certified Behavior Analyst®.
• Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctoral (BCBA-D™) – Individuals with a doctoral degree in behavior analysis can take the BCBA-D certification exam. Upon becoming certified, this individual may teach applied behavior analysis and supervise the work of ABA technicians and assistants.
The various ABA test routes are all designed to thoroughly examine the test-taker’s aptitude and ensure that only those who are very well-versed in the field are able to work in it. As such, these tests are best taken with a high degree of preparation and study work done in advance. With this said, what are some of the best preparation methods and resources available to future ABA test participants?
There are numerous ABA testing prep websites and programs out there that can really ready the student for this test. Some of the most effective approaches here come by way of mobile apps. Some of the best options in the app market, as of this writing, are ABA Test Prep and ABA Wizard.
ABA Test Prep is a highly effective and well-reviewed test prep app specifically made for ABA test preparation. Some components of the app are free. Other add-on components within it do come with a subscription cost.
Within the app, preppers can expect:
- A battery of 150 test questions to test aptitude and subsequently give feedback therein
- Digital flashcards
- An array of video modules designed to teach material as well as handy methods for remembering that material
- Competition modes that enable competing against other app users and comparing scores
- A vast learning resource center
- A private group mode that enables the creation of a private group to study and compete with
The creators of this app are a group of ABA experts. Administration is also interactive and allows for contact regarding questions, special requests and suggestions, and more. The app is also highly encrypted to ensure safety and security with each use.
ABA Wizard is yet another popular ABA test prep tool that helps many to become ready for an ultimate pass on the real exam. This one is owned and managed by Test Prep Technologies, LLC and requires a one-time fee to use. The app and its many resources and questions are sourced from expert ABA sources and official texts from across the industry.
Within the ABA Wizard app, preppers can expect:
- Over 1,400 individual practice test questions
- Individual quizzes composed of 10 questions each
- Immediate feedback and error correction assistance
- Links to additional learning resourcesAside from mobile apps, many online test prep options also await the future ABA test-taker. Many websites offer ABA-specific test prep solutions with resources, practice tests, interactive supports, and more. These come from various educational organizations and ABA-related organizations. Before engaging in any of these, however, it’s best to research their efficacy and accuracy through outside review resources.
More About ABA Work
Sometimes, some of the best information for getting prepared for testing and becoming an ABA comes by way of simply knowing the ABA industry itself. According to Psychology Today, a leading open resource on the vast world of psychology and the jobs therein, ABA work is all about therapy work with individuals who are in specific need of help in areas of social skills, adaptive learning skills, and other aptitudes and behavior sets.
Also per the resources of Psychology Today, the process of ABA work always includes the following steps:
- Determining which behaviors require change.
- The setting of goals and expected outcomes.
- The establishment of ways to measure changes and improvements.
- Continued evaluation during progression through therapy and these steps.
- The learning of new skills and/or learning of how to avoid negative behaviors.
- Regular reviews of progress.
- Decision making on whether or not further behavior modification is necessary.By taking a look at how ABA therapy works and what it requires of the ABA professional, one can further understand what is required of them on a personal level and how to prep to become ready for the role. Strong personal qualities in adaptability, compassion, methodical approach, and keen observation are all required in this role. It’s also important to note that anytime an ABA professional lacks in any of these areas, quality of care is likely to be compromised, and the patients served by them are likely to subsequently suffer setbacks as well.
An excellent rundown of additional in-depth job statistics on the role of today’s applied behavioral analyst can be found courtesy of the ZipRecruiter website. ZipRecruiter is an online career resource and interactive job ad website. For accuracy, the data used by the site for ABA job statistics is compiled through a number of reliable resources including ADP payroll systems information resources.
According to the numbers, accurate as of November 2020, average salaries for those in an ABA position are marked at approximately $89,457 per year, or $43 per hour. On the high end of the salary spectrum, ABA professionals can earn as much as $172,000 per year, while on the lower end, these workers earn about $40,000 per year. The states with the highest salary rates for ABAs include Massachusetts, Alaska, Nevada, and Washington, while the states with the lowest average salary numbers for these professionals are Mississippi, Florida, and New Mexico. In addition, the data suggests that some of the highest demand right now for new ABAs comes from numerous cities in California including San Mateo, Berkeley, and Milpitas.
Many interested in working in the ABA field today also find some interest in the related jobs of other professionals close to the ABA field. Whether as additional career route options or simply for understanding which other professionals they may associate with while on the job, the desire to understand ABA-related fields is often a significant one. The following represent some of the most closely related occupations to the ABA field today.
School psychologists are uniquely-qualified school workers who work with students, teachers, and families alike to improve learning outcomes at their employing schools. School psychologists might work with parents and students at one moment to understand special needs and create learning plans going forward. They may also then work with teachers and school administration in the next moment to help facilitate a better learning atmosphere for specific students or the student body as a whole.
Special Education Teacher
Special education teachers are very important in the role they play as teachers to students with special educational needs. Such students can include those with autism, speech issues, hearing issues, various behavioral issues, and even gifted students at times. Specially trained for these types of students and their needs, these teachers provide an invaluable service that many of the other teachers in a school cannot.
As the name of this job suggests, a wellness coach is a professional who helps to coach and manage the wellness of someone in need of that particular service. Wellness coaches aid all kinds of people with a vast array of particular needs and of a wide array of age groups. These professionals are also likely to work in cooperation with many others including ABAs, school psychologists, and others in the effort to facilitate the health and wellbeing of their clients.
There are many types of case managers, but those relevant to the world of ABA work are typically mental health case managers. These professionals work alone or as part of larger organizations already working to treat those with certain behavioral health conditions. Their duties revolve around coordinating all treatment efforts to work together in tandem for the better good of the patient and their particular needed outcomes.
Social workers represent yet another role that is closely related to that of the modern ABA. These professionals often work for local governments and play a variety of roles including advocating for the best interests of individuals they know need help. The criminal justice system and various healthcare facilities also employ these special workers in order to aid in managing the needs of individuals in their facilities and systems.
Association for Behavior Analysis International
The Association for Behavior Analysis International is an international non-profit dedicated to the advancement of all kinds of behavior analysis work. This organization boasts over 7,000 members and was started in 1974. Plenty of resources can be found here along the subject of ABA work including many educational links, conference and event opportunities, ample points of contact for personal inquiries, and more.
Association of Professional Behavior Analysts
The Association of Professional Behavior Analysts is another excellent resource for those in ABA work or otherwise interested in learning about it. It is managed by a formidable team of experts in the field and is a leading figure in the industry. Resources found here include educational resources, a wide variety of event opportunities, practice guideline publications, legal and ethical news, and more.
Working as an ABA therapists can offer a lucrative career as well as one that’s extremely satisfying. Having the ability to work with and help patients suffering from various issues can be rewarding in many ways, and it can be made possible by passing an exam and becoming an ABA.
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