Tips on how to become a behavior analyst

August 13, 2018

Demand for behavior analyst positions, as measured by an increase in publicly available job postings, more than doubled between 2012 and 2014.*

What are the reasons behind this rapid rise?

Julianne Lasley, EdD, Faculty Chair of Applied Behavior Analysis in Capella University’s Harold Abel School of Social and Behavioral Sciences Department of Psychology, provides some insights into the field and what behavior analysts can expect.

Q. What does a behavior analyst do?
A. In the field of psychology, Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) focuses on ways to produce measurable change in the behavior of any living organism, human, or animal.

Behavior analysts study problem behaviors and how to prevent them. They also teach positive behaviors and work on behaviors of social significance, such as aggression or crying too much. Behavioral deficits, such as lack of age-appropriate social skills, can be a focus of study as well.

Q. Why has the field grown so much?
A. There are many reasons. In the mid-2000s, health insurance companies began recognizing ABA as a valid treatment for individuals diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and started covering these services in most states.

There’s also been increased demand for services for people with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as autism insurance reform laws have been legislated, it has allowed more people and organizations to seek out this kind of analysis.

Q. What environments do behavior analysts work in?
A. Behavior analysts work in a variety of work settings.

Today, the primary audience is children and adults with ASD. But even with that specialization, analysts can be found working in clinics, in-home environments, schools, and group homes. Some analysts are employed by businesses that are looking to change employee behaviors to improve workplace productivity.

Analysts who work with animals might do so at animal shelters or zoos, or become animal trainers in kennels, pet stores, or in private homes.

Q. What job titles are held by people with an ABA degree?
A. There are many job titles associated with an ABA degree.

Some of the most common are:

  • Behavior analyst
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
  • Clinical supervisor
  • Clinical manager
  • Program director

Q. What are the requirements/steps to becoming a behavior analyst?
A. The first thing to know is that individuals cannot practice ABA until they have either become certified or they are being overseen by someone who is certified.

It’s also important to note that licensure is required by many states (but not all), so individuals should research what their particular state requires.

Beyond the required bachelor’s degree, there are different levels of certification and academic degrees:

  • Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA): This undergraduate certification was developed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). It allows individuals with a bachelor’s degree, a specific period of supervised practical experience, and who have passed the BCaBA exam to work under the supervision of someone who is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or who has a doctoral designation.
  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA): This is a graduate-level certification that requires a graduate degree, advanced behavior analysis training, and passing the BCBA exam. BCBAs can work independently, and they can oversee the work of BCaBAs.
  • Master of Science in Psychology, ABA Specialization: Capella’s master’s in psychology, applied behavior analysis degree is a verified course sequence from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and is taught by BCBA-certified practitioners. In order to obtain the national credential, BCBA, students must also complete a certain number of hours gaining experience in the field as well as pass an exam.

Q. How is the job of a behavior analyst different from an ABA therapist?
A. A therapist practices mostly on a one-on-one therapy level, while a behavior analyst is more focused on analysis of behaviors, assessments and development of treatment plans, and training of others to implement therapeutic plans.

Learn more about Capella’s MS in Psychology, Applied Behavior Analysis.

*Source: Burning Glass US Behavior Analyst Workforce Report, 2015 []. Multiple factors lead to job placement, including age, geography, and specialization. Capella does not promise any particular career outcome.


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