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What Education is Required to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst?

Applied Behavior Analysis is a type of therapy used as a treatment option for various disorders, and those working in this field use are an applied behavior analyst or an ABA therapist. Specialists will need to go to school and do some practical training and fieldwork. After going through some training with a professional, they can work with the clients on an individualized basis and under the supervision of a licensed therapist. Those interested in creating these programs and working closely with the families of these clients generally need to have more experience and meet some education requirements.

Bachelor’s Degree

Getting a bachelor’s degree is the first step in becoming an ABA therapist. Many students choose to major in psychology because they can take courses on developmental disorders that teach them more about mental conditions and emotional disorders. Other students major in one of the other social sciences like sociology or social work. College students can look for internships and gain some experience working under the guidance of an ABA therapist as they work with clients. Bachelor’s programs also teach students how to communicate in effective ways, which can help them when working with the families of clients.

Master’s Degree

Several colleges in the United States now offer behavioral analysis graduate programs for students who want to work in this field. These programs usually take two years to finish and have a thesis requirement. Students will need to investigate a topic relating to the ABA field before doing a thesis. They’ll spend the last year of the program doing research and writing the thesis, which they then present at the end of the year. Some of these programs also have a practicum requirement that takes students a third year to finish.


ABA and psychology programs with a practicum requirement are great for students who want to live and work in a state that requires therapists have a license. To get a license, therapists usually need to complete between 1,000 and 1,500 hours of supervised clinical work. This refers to the work that they do under the supervision of a therapist with a valid license. Most schools allow students to take all required classes and to their thesis work before beginning a practicum, which allows them to focus solely on that fieldwork. Other schools allow students to do some supervised fieldwork each year before doing a practicum.

Board Certification

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is the organization responsible for granting certification and credentials to ABA therapists. According to the BACB, those hoping to get certified to work as an applied behavior analyst must meet one of three requirements. They must have a graduate degree and be a faculty member at an accredited school, have a graduate degree and fieldwork experience or have a doctoral degree and at least 10 years of experience in the field. Therapists with certification from the BACB have the experience and authority necessary to train college students and others for working with clients who need help.

ABA therapists work with clients to help them better understand how to relate to others and to change their behaviors and actions. They also teach them life skills like how to dress, brush their teeth and tie their shoes. The educational requirements for an applied behavior analyst include having both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree.

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