Interested in pursuing a career as an applied behavioral analyst? Read on to find out more information about what this job looks like!
As an applied behavioral analyst, your primary patients will be children, especially those with Autism Spectrum Disorder or other neurological and developmental disabilities or disorders. This position often requires conducting an initial interview to assess the child, as well as setting short- and long-term goals with the child and their parents/caregivers and tracking growth and/or behavioral shifts. Tracking may include identifying improvements in addition to conditioning harmful or maladaptive behaviors. Much of the work involves leading applied behavioral analysis therapy sessions, in addition to communicating with parents/caregivers regarding the child’s progress. Applied behavioral analysts often work 1:1, although group work is relatively common, typically through a school or other community organization. Finally, an applied behavioral analyst may additionally provide training — both to ABA interns and lower-level employees who may interact with the child, and to the child’s parents/caregivers.
Where They Work
Applied behavioral analysts often work through organizations dedicated to working with autistic children — for example, the Wisconsin Early Autism Project is a major hub for applied behavioral analysts in Wisconsin — as well as having opportunities to work through schools or even children’s hospitals.
A general requirement is that as an applied behavioral analyst will be working with children — they will need to be able to work alongside them, and within the typical environments they occupy, including the home, school, etc. This is very varied to each child’s needs, but typically requires a great degree of movement that would not be found at a typical desk job — for example, you may be expected to spend most of the day transitioning between kneeling, sitting, squatting, standing, even carrying the child. Local travel is often necessary, although the degree to which you will need to travel varies. Many applied behavioral analysts work within a patients home environment, others work from a home-base clinic where the patients come to you. Permanent employment within an organization is likely and many applied behavioral analysts work full or mostly-full time — however, children/families may cycle according to their needs. Additionally, many organizations offer part-time employment in addition to full-time; this most notably includes offers to those still currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree.
Who They Work With
Applied behavioral analysts work primarily with children with ASD and their families and/or caregivers. Most frequently, an applied behavioral analyst will work by themselves with the child, although they may be expected to communicate with other members of a treatment team (the child’s pediatrician, other members of the clinic, etc.). Some applied behavioral analysts additionally work in a group setting, with multiple children.
Education and Training
Education really varies by state, and there are a couple of very similar positions to applied behavioral analyst. For example, an applied behavioral analysis technician (or assistant) typically only requires a high school degree — however these positions are almost always part-time. Typically an applied behavioral analyst either has a degree in a related field (commonly psychology, behavioral analysis, etc.) or is currently in pursuit of that degree — although some positions will prefer a candidate with a master’s (of psychology or behavioral analysis). As applied behavioral analysis as a therapeutic technique is quite specific, most organizations will provide extensive training as the initial job duties after first being hired — this will then transition into the typical job duties described above.
Pay and Job Outlook
As with many therapy positions, pay varies between states. As such, a general range of estimated yearly salary is between $35k per year and $62k per year — with the lower end pulling from more rural areas and the higher end reflecting potions in large cities. Pay is also significantly dependent on education and experience on the job — applied behavioral analysts will typically experience a peak in their salary after about 5 years of experience. Additionally, demand for applied behavioral analysts is very high. Employment growth over the next ten years, as reported by the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, is expected to be 18-20%, which is much faster growth than the average across all positions and fields.