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What Can You Do With a PhD in Applied Behavior Analysis?

Applied Behavioral Analysis is a popular college major, and people graduating with a doctorate in the discipline can certainly pursue lucrative and fascinating careers. Many of the careers require that the professional become licensed and certified as a therapist or other practitioner after spending the time, effort and money required to earn the degree along with its specializations. While not all careers in ABA are as thrilling as some portrayed in television dramas, doctors in ABA have the opportunity to establish private practices and to consult as well as the satisfaction of helping clients live lives that are fuller and happier.


Of course, no discussion of ABA careers can occur without understanding what the term means. The simplest definition addresses the function of the discipline. Applied Behavioral Analysis uses the principles of learning, along with psychological tenets, to alter destructive behavior. One of the tools used in this process is reinforcement, both positive and negative.

Careers Working with Autism

According to an article in Psychology Today, the number of autism cases that are diagnosed is rising. Therapists are addressing the condition in earlier interventions and researchers are seeking answers about the causes and types of autism. People with doctoral degrees in ABA can pursue careers in research, as a therapist or even as an educator dealing with autism. They may also elect to work with children or adult clients, assisting them to modify behaviors that can allow them to interact more successfully in social and work situations.

Addiction and Correction

Many people with doctor’s degrees in ABA work in institutional settings such as rehabilitation centers or institutes of correction like jails or prisons. They provide therapy to alter negative behaviors and to help individuals adopt healthier lifestyles and make better choices. Professionals may work with single clients, in group sessions or even in a supervisory position designing programs and policies for the facility.

Organizational Behavior Management

This branch of Applied Behavioral Analysis addresses broad-scale performance improvements. Professionals working within this specialty are either employed by an organization or are hired as a consultant to help the company improve morale and increase productivity by identifying destructive behaviors and attitudes and designing interventions to change them.

Closely aligned with OBM is the concept of Behavioral Economics. ABA professionals in this arena research consumer behavior and use it to predict market trends. They may be employed by an organization as an in-house consultant or work in a private practice. They might also choose to work in Behavioral Economics research. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for professionals in these areas was $83,610, which is similar to the earnings of other psychology professionals at this level.

Law Enforcement

While the image of a psychology professional traipsing into crime scenes armed with guns and badges is not true-to-life, professionals in profiling and in forensics are certainly at the forefront of the battle against crime. People with doctorates in ABA research behavior and process evidence to assist law enforcement in finding and convicting criminals.

Related Resource: 10 Best ABA Master’s Degree Programs in the East

These careers are only some of those available to people with doctorates in this exciting field. Others include working in human services administration and community planning, in nursing homes and in elder communities and even in animal training. Getting a PhD in Applied Behavioral Analysis can open the door to many opportunities.