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What is the Job Outlook for Applied Behavior Analysis?

A picture of a behavior therapist and young patient for our article on the job outlook for applied behavior analystsJob Outlook for Applied Behavior Analysts

The number of people diagnosed with psychological and related conditions, such as autism, has increased tenfold in the last 40 years. Today, over three million people in the U.S. are living with autism-related disorders. A wide range of therapies are available to help these individuals reach their maximum potential. Applied Behavior Analysis, commonly called ABA, is a type of therapy that concentrates on the improvement of certain behaviors, including communication, social abilities, and reading. It also helps enhance adaptive learning abilities, like domestic skills, personal hygiene, and fine motor dexterity. This usefulness has resulted in a highly favorable BCBA job outlook. ABA is successful for those with psychological issues in a range of settings, including schools, homes, medical facilities, and workplaces. Research has shown that ABA can result in significant improvement in behavior and abilities and decrease the demand for special services. ABA has gained recognition and endorsement from various national organizations, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, National Institute of Mental Health, and American Academy of Neurology. Those interested in pursuing a career in this field often inquire about the applied behavior analysis job outlook.

Job Duties of Applied Behavior Analysts

Applied Behavior Analysts examine issues in individuals or populations, develop and employ interventions intended to address these issues, and examine and record the effectiveness of the treatment. They apply objective research and therapies that prompt socially important behaviors. They specialize in counseling patients with a focus on prevention and behavior modification. They work with individuals with many different conditions and help develop treatment plans that often include behavior modification, counseling, and medication. They help individuals maintain positive behaviors, learn new abilities, and improve social interactions. Analysts also help transfer behavior and skills between different situations to minimize negative interactions. Applied behavior analysts perform behavioral evaluations, composing and revising behavior-analytic treatment plans, supervising the implementation of treatment plans, and educating others on how to employ parts of treatment plans. Applied behavior analysts work in a wide range of organizations, including early childhood education settings, hospitals, clinics, residential treatment centers, and service organizations.

Applied behavior analysis uses several different methods and strategies, and there are different approaches to changing behavior. 

What is the path to becoming an applied behavior analyst? 

While researching applied behavior analysis job outlook or BCBA employment outlook, you might have come across several different career paths that behavior analysts can take. Here are the most common, listed in order of least to most required education. 

  • RBT
  • BCaBA
  • BCBA
  • BCBA-D

RBT (Registered Behavior Technician)

  • 40-hour training

Someone who wants to become a registered behavioral technician, or RBT, must be at least 18 years old, pass a background check, and complete a 40-hour RBT training course. After this, they must take and pass the RBT examination. Once they have passed the exam, they are considered an RBT. However, they must undergo ongoing supervision, adhere to BACB ethics, and renew each year. RBTs work under the supervision of a BCaBA. They may collect data, interact with clients or clients’ caregivers, practice behavior intervention, work to find jobs for those on the autism spectrum, or perform other duties. Being an RBT has the advantage of a relatively short training time, which means that less time and less money must be spent on education and preparation for the job. 

BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst)

  • Bachelor’s-level certification

Board certified assistant behavior analyst, or BCaBA, is a bachelor’s-level certification for behavior analysts. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree, coursework in behavior analysis, and supervised experience. Once these requirements are satisfied, the aspiring BCaBA must take and pass the exam. A BCaBA must meet continuing education requirements, meet ethics requirements, be supervised, and recertify every two years. A BCaBA works under the supervision of a BCBA, but they may supervise an RBT. 

BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)

  • Master’s-level certification 

There are three options to meet eligibility requirements to become a board certified behavior analyst, or BCBA. One option is to complete master’s-level behavior analytic coursework. A second option is faculty teaching and coursework. A third option is post-doctoral experience. Once someone has taken and passed the exam to become a BCBA, he or she must meet continuing education requirements, adhere to ethics requirements, and recertify every two years. BCBAs are often in a supervisory role; they may be supervising BCaBAs or RBTs. Either way, they will need to fill many roles. They often perform the applied behavior analysis themselves, which involves working directly with patients and their families. “BCBA” is the certification that most people think of when it comes to behavior analysis, which is why many ask about BCBA career outlook.

BCBA-D (Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral)

  • Doctoral-level designation

BCBA-D is a designation that someone can add to their BCBA certification. It does not grant privileges beyond the BCBA certification, and the BCBA-D functions in the same capacity as a BCBA. However, if a BCBA and BCBA-D work together in the same workplace, the BCBA-D may assume a more supervisory role. 

Where do behavior analysts work? 

Behavior analysts have a range of settings that they are expected to work in. They may work in settings where the patient or client comes to them at a regular time. This has the advantage of separating the behavioral therapy session from everyday life, which might lead to more focus. For children, having a new setting might be exciting for them, as well as providing a more structured environment. For adults, a new setting might be calming, since they can leave their other problems at home.

On the other hand, working with a client in their own home can have several advantages, too. One advantage is that the client will already be familiar with the space, so they may be less distracted. They may feel more comfortable in a place they already know, rather than in a new place where everything is unfamiliar. For children, it can be easy to be nervous or scared in a new place, while having the behavior therapy take place at home might calm their fears. Also, it might be easier to transfer new behaviors to everyday life if the behaviors are learned and practiced in the same setting. Where do behavior analysts work? In the end, where the behavior analyst works depends on the situation, the client, and a number of other factors. It is about finding out what works best for the client and for the behavior analyst. 

What is the best thing about being a behavior analyst? 

Verbalbeginnings.com lists several things that are wonderful about being an applied behavior analyst. One of these is job security. This is very practical, but it is an important part of the picture when someone is considering what career path to pursue. Many children and adults deal with autism, and applied behavior analysis has often been helpful for those with autism. In addition, behavior analysis can be life-changing for those with other disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Many individuals suffer from these disorders, which means that there is a demand for professionals that can alleviate that suffering, which means that the BCBA career outlook is good.

This also leads to the second reason that people love being a behavior analyst, and that is their passion for helping others. There are many, many people in the world for whom an action that seems simple, such as greeting someone on the street or washing their hands, is complex and anxiety-inducing. The behavior analyst can change that. In addition, behavior analysts, since they work with data, are able to see very precise and tangible results as they help change people’s behavior, which is a third reason that this is considered a good career path. Not only helping people, but being able to measure and document that helpfulness is a very attractive option for some. Other reasons to become a behavior analyst include salary and a flexible work schedule, as behavior analysts are often able to set their own schedules. Also, they may occasionally be able to determine their own salary. 

What is the hardest thing about being a behavior analyst? 

Centralreach.com describes “BCBA burnout.” This is what happens when a behavior analyst simply becomes too exhausted to continue their job. This may come in the form of a mental exhaustion, when all of the clients’ problems combined with the BCBA’s problems become too much to handle. It may also be a physical burnout, when the behavior analyst does not take care of him or herself and ends up burning out because of it. Behavior analysts are known for their passion for helping others, and this may lead them to neglect themselves. It is important that behavior analysts manage their time well so that they make sure they are taking time for themselves. Otherwise, it is easy for them to get too tired and burn out. After all, they are constantly helping other people with their problems. Some of these problems are more intense than others, depending on the client, but it is important for those who are considering becoming behavior analysts to consider the toll this career can sometimes take. Though it is considered a rewarding career, applied behavior analysis can sometimes be a difficult one. The BCBA employment outlook may partly be as high as it is because of how many people find the career difficult. 

Behavior Analyst Job OutlookAn image of a little boy and BCBA for our article on the job outlook for applied behavior analysis.

As stated by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of all professions in the field of counseling, including applied behavior analysis, is projected to rise 23 percent across the country by the year 2030. This rate is significantly higher than the average for all professions. The Bureau of Labor Statistics states that this employment growth is driven by the need for new counselors, as well as by the number of counselors who change careers or retire. Employment opportunities will depend on education, qualifications, work experience, and location. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the number of jobs in counseling for 2020 at 327,500 across the United States. This does include substance abuse and mental health counselors, not only applied behavior analysts; however, it can give an idea of the behavior analyst job outlook and BCBA job growth. 

The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides a map listing which states have the highest employment of substance abuse counselors, behavioral disorder counselors, and mental health counselors. California has the highest employment, with the number of jobs listed at 34,430. Next is Pennsylvania, which lists the number of jobs at 19,220. New York has 16,340 counselors employed. 15,370 counselors are employed in Florida. Finally, Massachusetts is listed as having 14,670 substance abuse counselors, behavioral disorder counselors, and mental health counselors. While this is not strictly addressing applied behavior analysts, it may give an idea of BCBA job growth and what parts of the country employ the most people in this field. 

Salary for Applied Behavior Analysts

The increasing rates of autism and related conditions have increased the need for applied behavior analysis therapies, which results in demand and rising salaries in the occupation and contributes to the favorable applied behavior analysis job outlook. According to Payscale, behavior analysts typically make an average of 49,576 per year, which works out to about $17.77 an hour. A small percentage of psychologists are listed as making more than $68,000 annually, or $25.99 an hour. Actual pay varies based on a variety of factors, including location, employer, education, experience, and professional certifications of applied behavior analysts. 

Applied behavior analysts are a vital part of the treatment team for those diagnosed with autism and related disorders, as well as a range of other conditions. They can implement therapies that can make a significant improvement in the lives of a wide range of individuals. These professionals are in high demand, which means that the BCBA job outlook is favorable. 

By ABADP Staff
October 2021

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This concludes our article on applied behavior analysis job outlook.