Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist Careers: Job & Salary Info

About this article
An applied behavior analysis therapist's total salary is typically between $25,000 and $51,000 annually. Is it worth the educational requirements? See real job descriptions and get the truth about the career prospects to find out if becoming an applied behavior analyst is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of an Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist Career

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists study behavior and often help people with disabilities, such as providing behavior-based therapy to adults and children with autism. Check out the chart below to weigh the pros and cons of this career.

Pros of an Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist Career
A bachelor's degree can be acceptable for entry-level jobs*
Jobs are available in a number of settings, including homes, mental health centers and schools. **
Helping people in need can be personally rewarding.**
Job growth of 12% expected for psychologists (which can include ABA therapists) between 2012 and 2022.*

Cons of an Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist Career
Must deal with stress related to treating autistic or otherwise disabled patients.**
Must accommodate patients' work and life schedules.**
Most states require licensing or certification.*
May require a graduate degree.*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **www.payscale.com

Essential Career Info

Job Description and Duties

Applied behavior analysis therapy typically involves research into behavior and application of the findings to correct behavior issues. Generally, ABA therapists work with other medical professionals to manage patient treatment, which could include behavior modification, medication and counseling. Many applied behavior analysis therapists use behavior therapy treatments to meet the needs of autistic children, teaching communication, logic and social skills.

Other ABA therapists apply this knowledge to businesses, implementing ways to improve job performance and employee satisfaction. You could also concentrate on the connection between learning and behavior, helping all students get more out of their education. For a more research-focused aspect of ABA, you could consider experimental behavior analysis.

Job Outlook and Salary

As of May 2014, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) did not report job outlook expectations for ABA therapists specifically. However, the BLS projected that employment of psychologists in general would grow by about 12% from 2012 to 2022. This rate is about average growth for all occupations. This increase is partly attributed to the growing population of people seeking psychological care. According to PayScale.com as of July 2015, applied behavior analysts in the 10th-90th percentile made wages between $24,692 and $50,780 annually. This salary includes up to a $1,500 bonus.

Requirements

Education and Certification

Requirements for ABA therapists vary depending upon the needs of the employer. The level of required education could range from a bachelor's degree to a doctorate. Your program might be in applied behavior analysis or in a related area with a focus on ABA therapy. For example, if you want to become a teacher, you might earn a special education degree and minor or concentrate in ABA therapy. If you want to work in a clinical setting, you mighty become a clinical psychologist specializing in applied behavior analysis.

In your program, you'll likely learn about how environmental factors, lifestyle and genetics affect behavior. Courses may cover techniques for altering and managing behavior, principles of psychology and research methods. Some programs may offer an emphasis in autism, since this is such a prevalent area of ABA therapy. Many programs provide the preparation necessary to become certified through the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB). Depending on your employer, certification may be required.

Skills and Characteristics

Your personality is another important aspect of your readiness to be an ABA therapist. According to O*Net, ABA education programs and online job postings, the following qualities and knowledge areas are necessary to possess: patience, compassion, reliability, communication skills, problem solving, behavior measurement, behavior evaluation and treatment program development.

What Do Employers Look For?

Employers are seeking caring therapists with the ability to oversee patients and provide behavioral support. ABA therapists who know how to work with autistic individuals have been in high-demand. To give you an idea of what employers might look for, check out some job posting summaries from May 2012 online job boards below.

  • An applied behavioral analysis agency in California advertised for an applied behavioral therapist to work one on one with autistic children under three years old. Qualifications included some training and experience in psychosocial therapy or pediatrics.
  • Another applied behavioral analysis agency in Wisconsin was looking for a senior applied behavior analysis therapist to home-visit autistic children. The position required a bachelor's or master's degree in psychology (or a related field) and at least 2,000 hours of experience working in applied behavior analysis.
  • A Massachusetts behavioral health service provider wanted an autism specialist with applied behavior analysis certification and a master's degree in psychology. Job duties included working with autistic patients, parents and caregivers helping to implement behavioral health plans.
  • In New Jersey, a healthcare organization advertised for an applied behavior analysis therapist to oversee habilitation and behavioral plans for autistic clients. The job's requirements included a bachelor's or a master's in psychology or special education and training, experience or certification in applied behavior analysis.

How to Stand Out in the Field

Graduate Education

While a lower level of education may be adequate for some positions, earning an advanced degree in applied behavioral analysis may give you an edge for job openings where a bachelor's or master's degree is acceptable. A wider range of jobs will also be open to you with graduate training.

Certification

Even if it's not a job requirement, certification will show your dedication to the field. The BACB offers two types of certification: one for behavior analysts who have earned their bachelor's degrees and another for those who have earned their master's. Qualifications include earning the necessary degree, passing the BACB examination and meeting BACB standards. BACB standards include specific college coursework such as classes on ethics, behavioral assessment and interpreting behavioral data.

Alternative Fields

If you're interested in aiding disabled adults and children, but you're not sure if applied behavior analysis is the right career for you, consider some of these similar fields.

Clinical Social Worker

If you know you'd like a career that involves treating patients, but you'd prefer to work with a wider range of patients and personal issues, consider becoming a clinical social worker. You might work with an autistic child (like an ABA therapist), but you could also help patients struggling emotionally through tough times, such as divorce or death in the family. To work as a clinical social worker, you'll need a master's degree in social work, clinical experience and a license. The BLS projects that demand for all social workers will increase by 25% from 2010 to 2020; this rate is faster than the average for all occupations. According to the BLS, social workers in general made a median annual salary of around $54,000 in 2011.

Special Education Teacher

If working closely with physically disabled and mentally delayed students is what inspires you, but teaching sparks more of an interest, special education teacher could be the career for you. Duties could involve helping students with milder disabilities understand school lessons or helping those with more severe impairments learn how to communicate or balance a checkbook. If you decide to follow this career path, you'll need at least a bachelor's degree (with a major or minor in special education) and a state-issued teaching license to teach in a public school. The BLS predicts that job growth for special education teachers will be average, with a 17% increase during the 2010 to 2020 decade. In 2011, special education teachers working at the preschool through elementary levels made a median annual wage of about $53,000, according to the BLS.

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Featured Schools

Keiser University

  • B.A. - Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Saint Joseph's University

  • MS Criminal Justice with Behavior Analysis Specialization

What is your highest level of education completed?

Colorado Technical University

  • B.S. - Psychology
  • B.S. - Psychology - Organizational Behavior
  • B.S. - Psychology - Consumer Behavior

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Penn Foster High School

  • Penn Foster High School with Early College Courses
  • HS Diploma

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Northcentral University

  • PhD in Psychology - Health Psychology
  • PhD in Psychology - Gender Studies
  • M.A. in Psychology - General Psychology
  • M.A. in Psychology - Gender Studies

What is your highest level of education?

Grand Canyon University

  • Ph.D. in General Psychology - Cognition and Instruction
  • M.S. Psychology with an Emphasis in Gerontology
  • Bachelor of Science in Behavioral Health Science with an Emphasis in Trauma
  • Graduate Certificate of Completion in Industrial and Organizational Psychology

What is your highest level of education?

Sacred Heart University

  • MSAP - Community Psychology
  • MSAP - General Track
  • MSAP - Industrial/Organizational Technology

What is your highest level of education completed?

Indiana Wesleyan University

  • M.S. Nursing - Psychiatric Mental Health

What is your highest level of education?