The road to acquiring a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis (ABA) prepares you to make positive differences in the lives of people with behavioral and psychological disorders. People who specialize in ABA help individuals struggling with disorders and disabilities that hinder their ability to function in everyday life. The field of ABA addresses mental health issues such as:
- Cerebral Palsy
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Pervasive Development Disorder
Autism is the most common disorder that behavior analysts treat. ABA professionals study the problems and develop plans to help autistic people better function and dramatically improve their quality of life in areas such as communication, reading comprehension and social skills.
Behavior analysts, typically classified as mental health counselors, work in a variety of industries and settings. While many ABA professionals work with children, the age range for patients ranges from childhood to adulthood. ABA professionals work wherever there is a need, including schools, clinics and rehabilitation centers.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the top industries for mental health counselors such as Applied Behavior Analysis professionals are:
|Industry||Employment (May, 2016)||Hourly Wage|
|Individual and Family Services||30,170||$21.43|
|Outpatient Care Centers||29,890||$21.52|
|Residential Disability, Mental Health and Substance Abuse Facilities||16,160||$18.78|
|Offices of Other Health Practitioner||11,490||$24.34|
The different types of careers in applied behavior analysis are related to one another, but they also contain distinct differences that matter when choosing how you want to apply your degree after graduation. Here are some of the more popular careers in the field of applied behavior analysis.
Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist
Applied behavioral analysis therapists most commonly work directly with children struggling with autism. These therapists develop step-by-step programs to help autistic children grow out of problematic and dysfunctional behaviors and into healthy, productive behaviors. These programs may include speech therapy and behavior management.
ABA therapists work under the supervision and guidance of behavior analysts. Behavior analysts study the influences that external conditions have on people with behavioral problems. They compile extensive research on the factors that are influencing and exacerbating dysfunctional habits in people and propose solutions. Behavior analysts also propose long-term treatment plans and goals to help patients cope with their issues successfully well into the future.
In addition to a master’s degree, individuals are often required to have special certifications to be employed as behavior analysts. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) offers two kinds of certification:
- Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA)—This is an undergraduate-level certification in behavior analysis that lets professionals practice under the supervision of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA).
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst—This is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis that gives professionals the authority to practice independently and to supervise practicing BCaBAs.
According to Payscale, the average median annual salary for board certified behavior analysts range between $40,000 and $75,000 per year.
Special Education Teacher
Children with autism, dyslexia or ADHD are unable to learn under the same kinds of conditions as children who are not struggling with mental illnesses. Special education teachers help students learn and grow in ways that are not hindered by their issues, creating Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) that are customized to fit the needs of these students.
Special education teachers also keep counselors, school administrators and parents in the loop about how students are growing under their programs. IEPs are routinely updated to keep up with the progress of students and to reflect their changing needs for treatment.
According to the BLS, the 2016 median annual salary for special education teachers was $57,910. The number of jobs for special education teachers is expected to grow by 8% from 2016 to 2026.
ABA is a combination of in-depth research and hands-on work with patients. A master’s degree equips you with the skills necessary to not only break new ground in research on mental disabilities, but to apply it when working directly with patients. If you are passionate and inspired to help people live better lives, pursuing a master’s degree in ABA might help you find your life’s calling.
Online Mental Health Counseling
If you’re interested in ABA, you may also be interested in mental health counseling.