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What is the Difference Between an ABA and an LBA?

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What is the Difference Between an Applied Behavior Analyst and a Licensed Behavior Analyst?

Applied behavior analysis has become a popular field that offers various different professional positions, and many wonder what the difference is between an applied behavior analyst (ABA) and a licensed behavior analyst (LBA). Both of these professionals must have extensive training and education, and both have the potential to earn excellent wages and good career opportunities. Despite how similar these two professionals are in work, education and training, there are a couple of differences between the ABA and the LBA.

What is an Applied Behavior Analyst?

An ABA is a trained professional who uses applied behavior analysis to treat patients with autism. Applied behavior analysis is not used exclusively with autistic patients, but is also used to treat patients with bipolar depression and antisocial personality disorder as well as clients suffering from emotional disorders and complications. Their treatment uses positive reinforcement to improve behavior. They work with clients of all ages. Although an ABA therapist can have a bachelor’s degree, they must have a master’s degree if they want to become certified through the Behavior Analysis Certification Board and earn the credential of Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Unless the ABA therapist is BACB-certified, he or she must work under the supervision of a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst).

What is a Licensed Behavior Analyst?

Like the ABA, an LBA is a professional trained in the area of applied behavior analysis. LBAs work with patients suffering from autism, autism spectrum disorders and similar disorders. They use behavioral stimuli and consequences to modify behavior and encourage improved behavior. Unlike counselors who try to determine what is making a person behave in a certain matter, LBAs and ABAs focus more on getting the patient to change the undesirable behavior into desirable behavior. LBAs must also have a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis, education or a related field and be licensed by the state. Both the LBA and the ABA must also pass a code of ethics set by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board.

Where They Differ

As similar as ABAs and LBAs are in terms of careers and education, there are a couple of areas in which they differ. An LBA is certified and licensed and can oversee the work of an ABA unless the ABA is also certified. Certification is different than licensure. They can both become certified by meeting the certification requirements and passing certification exams. Both are required to complete at least 1,500 hours of experience, but the difference between the two is how they get their experience. The LBA must meet educational requirements before he or she can gain experience working with patients, which must be under the supervision of a licensed therapist. The ABA must also meet educational and clinical education requirements. However, some of the experience must be working one-on-one with patients and some must be working with a group setting.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that psychologists, a category in which ABA therapists are included, are expected to see a job growth of 14 percent between 2016 and 2026. The bureau also predicted that behavioral disorder and mental health counselors would see a 23 percent growth of employment. PayScale states that an ABA with a Master’s degree earned an average annual wage of $56,000 as of January 2019 while a BCBA or LBA earned about $61,000.

Applied behavior analysis has proven to be a successful method of treatment for not just autistic patients but also patients in need of behavior modification and help with developmental, behavior or emotional disabilities. Each of these positions offer challenging and extremely rewarding work. Knowing the difference between licensed behavior analyst and an applied behavior analyst can help aspiring therapists customize their own educational and professional trajectory.

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