How Do I Become an Applied Behavior Analyst?

Becoming an applied behavior analyst involves academic training, work experience and a desire to help others. Applied behavior analysts help both adults and children improve performances at work or school and decrease the effects caused by disabilities. Applied behavior analysts may work in clinics, schools or even at a client’s workplace or school. Here is an overview of an applied behavior analyst, including how to become one and what the career entails.

What the Applied Behavior Analyst Does

Applied behavior analysts help children or adults improve their behavior in school or on the job by determining what behaviors the individual is exhibiting and what behaviors might be more helpful. The applied behavior analyst observes and studies the patient or client, records the individual’s behavior and develops a plan to help the individual use different behavior.

The plan involves conditioning and reinforcing the idea that the individual needs to attempt new behavior habits rather than automatically using the same responses. Applied behavior analysts may work independently or for a medical facility. Depending on the severity of the patient’s mental issues, this line of work does have the potential to be risky at times. Although applied behavior analysis is a form of psychology, it is also a scientific discipline.

Related resource: 10 Best Online ABA Degree Programs (Bachelor’s)

How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst

To become an applied behavior analyst, the candidate must earn at least a master’s degree in behavior analysis, psychology or a related field. Some students choose to even pursue a doctoral degree in those fields. In addition to the academic requirements needed for the degree, the candidate must also complete a supervised practicum or complete a designated number of hours of fieldwork. Upon successful completion of the program, the candidate may obtain national certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.

To be eligible for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) credential, the applicant must meet the eligibility requirements set by the BACB. These include the degree and real-world experience set by their standards. The BACB is very explicit as to the type and amount of experience the applicant must have to be eligible for certification. Licensing requirements vary from state to state, so candidates should check with their state’s licensing board to determine if they need to be licensed to work in that state.

Career Outlook for Applied Behavior Analyst

With the increasing number of children being diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), the demand for applied behavior analysts with continue to grow. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that approximately one in 68 children today have ASD. Since applied behavior analysts provide a lot of the treatment for ASD patients, the applied behavior analyst should be very much in demand.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics categorizes applied behavior analysts as psychologists, and they predicted that psychologists should see a job growth of 14 percent 2016 and 2026. According to an April 2018 wage report by PayScale, applied behavior analysts earned an annual median wage of $41,422. Factors like experience, degree level, employer and geographic location all play a role in determining the applied behavior analyst’s wages.

Working as an applied behavior analyst can be challenging at times but can also be very rewarding. There are few things that are more satisfying and rewarding than helping others, particularly when they have difficulty helping themselves. The applied behavior analyst is an individual who has the potential to make a positive and lasting impression on a client in trouble.