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Careers with Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Certification

September 16, 2020

ABA Careers imageWhile many earning Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Certification work with individuals with autism, this group of careers represents one of several paths. In fact, due to the popularity and effectiveness of techniques learned through applied behavior analysis (ABA) programs, more and more careers require interested candidates to obtain a strong working knowledge, backed by certification.  

According to a 2015 study Burning Glass Technologies did with the BACB, researchers found that the number of job postings listing ABA credentials increased from 2012 to 2014. Demand from employers, in fact, doubled over this period, with the greatest shift occurring in health care, education, and social assistance. Postings were often for counseling, teaching, administration, and management roles.

Employers seek applicants with BACB certification for a number of reasons. Across these and other fields, individuals who have gone through applied behavior analysis training have developed strong observational skills, both in terms of examining the subject themselves but also thinking about their actions within the context of a particular environment. From here, professionals with Board certification look past the “why?” of certain traits and implement a tailored strategy to correct these behaviors through various reinforcement methods. For this reason, knowledge of ABA principles is integral to:

  • helping individuals with autism and other developmental disorders;
  • assisting individuals recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI);
  • planning treatments and therapy, gathering relevant data, and managing special education cases in schools;
  • improving organizational efficiency and productivity; and
  • identifying the source of and developing strategies to address poverty and crime.

With these factors in mind, several career paths require, if not recommend, BACB certification:

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

The BACB requires all candidates seeking a career as a BCBA to have a master’s degree and obtain Board certification. Individuals who have a doctorate earn a BCBA-D distinction, while those who have a bachelor’s degree are a BCaBA.

Strictly speaking about the BCBA and BCBA-D, professionals in this field frequently work with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities, conducting observations, developing unique treatment plans, monitoring progress, and overseeing other professionals who assist with treatment, including BCaBAs, Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), and other ABA coordinators and therapists. BCBAs have the option of opening their own private practice to provide ABA therapy or may operate in an educational setting.

The skills you acquire through an applied behavior analysis program prove to be essential toward:

  • behavior reduction, or identifying, targeting, and reducing maladaptive behaviors;
  • introducing and working on functional, everyday skills, such as dressing, grooming, communication, speech, cooking, and learning in an academic environment;
  • conducting functional behavior assessments (FBAs) and developing plans to address maladaptive behaviors, such as aggression, property damage, and self-harm; and
  • helping create individual behavior plans (IEPs) for special education students, including working with teachers, administrators, and other special education professionals after conducting an FBA.

In a school setting, these professionals provide ABA therapy while collaborating with teachers to carry out support plans, meeting with or observing students, and speaking with parents to discuss the child’s progress.  

A BCBA’s services aren’t always strictly for students with autism and other developmental disabilities. Instead, these professionals frequently employ the Precision Teaching (PT) system along with traditional ABA principles to help all students better absorb information in the classroom and assist teachers with improving their instructional methods and curriculum delivery.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA)

Individuals are qualified to become a BCaBA after completing an undergraduate degree and all ABA courses and obtaining Board certification. Although BCaBAs cannot start their own practice, they can work under the direction of a BCBA or BCBA-D in a clinical or educational setting and have the experience to monitor RBTs. Although BCaBA professionals do not develop treatment plans, they may assist the BCBA during the FBA and help carry out recommendations under their direction.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Therapists and Coordinators

Similar to the BCaBA, ABA therapists and coordinators work in clinical and educational environments under the supervision and direction of a BCBA. These professionals may directly provide or assist with ABA therapy and treatments, following the plan the BCBA put together. Especially for individuals with autism or another developmental disability, ABA therapists are key for positively reinforcing certain behaviors and discouraging maladaptive ones. In turn, an ABA therapist may spend a significant amount of time directly working with a child or adult undergoing a treatment plan. Their observations further assist the BCBA in revising the plan according to the patient’s progress and needs.

Certified Autism Specialist (CAS)

Becoming a Certified Autism Specialist (CAS) is a possible path for a BCBA, and in fact, the two careers require similar skill sets and experience levels. As the most significant difference, BCBA professionals work with a wider range of conditions, while a CAS specifically assists individuals with autism.

For this role, candidates should have earned a master’s degree, obtained BACB certification, and worked with patients or students with autism for at least two years and need to stay up to date on their continuing education (CEU) hours.

Like a BCBA, a CAS can work in a private practice, clinical, or educational setting as a speech language pathologist, physical or occupational therapist, behavior therapist, or counselor who assists and monitors the progress of individuals with autism.

Special Education Assistant

As schools see more students with autism, job descriptions for special education assistants have started requiring BACB certification. These professionals help ensure that all teachers follow IEPs and the plan continues to meet a student’s abilities and progress. Along with receiving certification, aspiring special education assistants need to have completed a bachelor’s, finished a teacher preparation program, and received a state license.  

Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) Professional

Outside of education and therapy, the corporate and industrial world has experienced a greater need for organizational behavior management (OBM) professionals who apply ABA principles to improve workplace efficiency and company productivity and streamline processes. Although education requirements vary, OBM professionals act as consultants, observing a business, its employees in group settings, and its processes over a series of days or weeks. These observations then materialize into a comprehensive plan delivered to management and then implemented to overhaul training plans, update workplace safety procedures, revise company processes, and rework its supply chain without causing the business to lose money.

Counselor

According to Burning Glass Technologies’ report, Board certification requirements listed in postings for counselor positions increased from 337 in 2012 to 844 in 2014. Although not every counselor requires an understanding of ABA principles, these concepts can be broadly applied across conditions and demographics to address and reduce maladaptive behaviors, improve communication skills, and analyze individual or group behaviors relative to their respective environments. Outside of educational settings, knowledge of ABA principles is an asset in assisting individuals with mental health and substance abuse disorders.

Social Workers

Pursuing BACB certification may be advantageous to clinical behavior analysts (CBAs) and clinical social workers (CSWs). While it’s not a uniform requirement, evidence-based behavior management and intervention techniques benefit from an understanding of ABA principles. Social work professionals seeking positions in schools or in assisting individuals with developmental disabilities may be required to complete an ABA program and receive certification.

Learn Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Techniques at Marian University

Whether you’re a social worker or educator wanting to learn ABA or seek to become a BCBA or BCaBA, become familiar with the foundation of applied behavior analysis and complete all required certification courses at Marian University. For more information about our program, contact Lisa Drumb, Ph.D., BCBA by email or by phone at (317) 955-6223, or request additional information today.

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