How to start and grow an applied behavior analysis career

July 16, 2019

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) careers can start with a variety of entry-level positions, with job settings that range from individual and family services and hospitals to K-12 schools.

While some roles require more advanced degrees (a Board Certified Behavior Analyst requires a minimum of a master’s degree, and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctorate requires a doctoral degree), there are entry-level positions that require only a high school degree and certification or a bachelor’s degree.

Capella University Applied Behavior Analysis Assistant Program Director, Dana Reinecke, PhD, BCBA-D, discusses careers in ABA and the education and/or certification each career requires. She notes that it’s a field that’s growing as more insurance companies pay for coverage, especially in (but not limited to) the field of autism support.

Entry-Level and Bachelor’s Degree Options

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)

Registered Behavior Technicians work under the close supervision of a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) or Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA or BCBA-D).

Responsibilities may include: Directly implementing behavior analytic services, including intervention or assessment plans, that were developed by the BCaBA, BCBA, or BCBA-D. The supervisor determines exactly which part of the services the technician is trained and able to deliver. The RBT does not design intervention or assessment plans.

Degree and prerequisites: High school diploma or national equivalent, 40 hours of training, successfully passing the RBT Competency Assessment.

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA)

Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts study principles of behavior in a variety of disciplines, including autism, education, special education, aging, and health, among others. They work under the supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in a supporting role, often gathering data or handling record maintenance.

Responsibilities may include: Working with individuals with autism, learning disabilities, developmental disorders, or brain injuries in a wide array of venues, including schools, homes, health care settings, and private practices. This is a role that requires supervision from a BCBA or BCBA-D. However, BCaBAs can supervise RBTs.

Degree and prerequisites: Bachelor’s degree from an accredited university, completion of a defined period of supervised practical experience, and successful completion of the BCaBA exam.


Graduate-Level Options

Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) and Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D)

BCBAs and BCBA-Ds are practitioners who are qualified to work independently in providing behavior-analysis services. The two designations are separate credentials with separate responsibilities.

Responsibilities may include: Supervising RBTs and BCaBAs in carrying out intervention and assessment plans. These behavior analysts are also involved in conducting interventions directly and developing assessment and treatment plans. They also assess how those plans work and modify them as necessary. BCBA/BCBA-Ds can be involved in research in the various areas of ABA. With graduate degrees, they can also be eligible to teach in advanced education positions.

Degree and prerequisites: For the BCBA, a master’s degree in Psychology, Education, or Behavior Analytics; for the BCBA-D, a doctoral degree in Behavior Analysis; for both, 750-1,500 hours of experience (increasing to a minimum of 2,000 hours in 2020); successful completion of the BCBA exam; completion of supervisory training (if the applicant wishes to supervise); and successful maintenance of certification .

Learn more about Capella’s online bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees in Applied Behavior Analysis.

Multiple factors, including prior experience, geography, and degree field, affect career outcomes, and Capella does not guarantee a job, promotion, salary increase, or other career growth.

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