ABA Therapist: Salary and Career Facts

Read how applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists use their knowledge of how environmental factors impact behavior to help patients overcome behavioral issues. Find out the education requirements, job duties and earnings potential for ABA therapists. Schools offering Applied Behavioral Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is an Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapists, more commonly referred to as behavioral health technicians, use their knowledge of how environmental factors impact behavior to help patients overcome behavioral issues and to improve the lives of individuals living with intellectual or developmental disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. They may work with children or adults, and they primarily focus on promoting the implementation of skills regarding hygiene, communication, and social cues. The following chart will provide you with the career expectations you may have as an ABA therapist.

Degree Required Associate's, bachelor's or master's preferred
Education Field of Study Psychology, special education or ABA-specific courses
Training Required Field experience, ABA-specific course-work
Licensure Required Behavior Analyst Certification Board certification, based on level of education and field experience
Key Responsibilities Writing behavior support plans, collecting data and conducting functional assessments, communicating with teachers, parents, family members and caregivers, working with clients one-on-one or in a group in a home or center setting
Median Salary (2016) $33,930*

Source: *PayScale

What Are the Job Responsibilities of an ABA Therapist?

As an ABA therapist, you'll provide behavior support to improve the lives of individuals living with intellectual or developmental disabilities, such as Autism Spectrum Disorder. Your daily responsibilities may include writing behavior support plans, collecting data and conducting functional assessments. You can work with patients one-on-one and in groups, providing instruction and conducting discrete trials. Documenting and reviewing progress through charting and staff communication are an important part of an ABA therapist's work.

You look for ways to incorporate behavior treatment into every aspect of the client's life. Communicating with teachers, parents, family members and caregivers is part of your responsibility, because getting their observations on the effectiveness of behavior treatment can help you figure out which approaches work best. Many ABA therapists train other staff members and caregivers to implement behavioral programs in the classroom and at home.

Where Could I Work?

Educational foundations, school systems and other programs serving patients with behavioral training and conditioning needs may employ ABA therapists. Individual families may also contract with an ABA therapist to work with their child or other family member at home.

What Education and Training Will I Need?

Entry-level positions as an ABA therapist can be obtained with an associate's degree in a field like psychology or special education. In order to advance or to become a supervisory therapist, you generally need a bachelor's degree or a master's degree. Master's degree programs specifically in ABA are available at some schools.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board offers national certification for ABA therapists. Certification is available at different levels for therapists with bachelor's, master's and doctoral degrees. You need to have completed your education at an approved school and have taken coursework specific to ABA. You also need some field experience for each level of certification.

How Much Could I Earn?

Entry payrate and pay increases are dependent on training, certification and level of education. As of October 2016, PayScale reported that the majority of ABA therapists earned an hourly pay rate starting at $11.92 up to $22.53, not including overtime. The median hourly rate was $15. Their annual total pay was between $24,798 and $48,790. ABA therapists may be eligible for bonuses up to $3,537.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Nearly every similar career choice requires a higher level of education than an associate's degree program, such as becoming a substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselor. These counselors are responsible for giving support to patients who are recovering from addictive behaviors, which is done by consistent evaluation, while helping the patients develop healthier habits to recover from their addiction. You could also become a registered nurse, which requires a bachelor's degree and entails giving care to patients, taking and observing their vitals, and being a means of communication to them and their family regarding the status of their health. Although the entry-level education is a high school diploma, becoming a social and human service assistant may be a viable alternative for you. These assistants usually give referrals to those in need of psychological help or rehabilitation.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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