Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) is a behavioural and emotional strategy usually used to improve the social skills of children with autism. An ABA therapist promotes play activities, communication and academic abilities to modify behaviour. An ABA therapist often works as part of a skilled team including family members and other specialists. An ABA therapist is usually required to hold a bachelor’s degree in a subject such as psychology or childhood education. The average salary of an ABA therapist as of July 2010 is £18,558 to £26,255, according to PayScale.
A bachelor’s degree in psychology with a focus on ABA or a Bachelor of Science degree in behavioural analysis provide useful knowledge and training for candidates wishing to enter the field of ABA. Students in these courses learn strategies to help people adapt their behaviours to particular settings.
Applicants to ABA-related bachelor’s degree programs require high school experience in areas including social sciences and English. Degree coursework focuses on developing assessment skills, behavioural intervention strategies, data analysis, organizational behaviour management and psychology statistics, as stated on the Education-Portal website.
Master’s programs in the area of ABA concentrate on research-based analysis. Students study behavioural analysis techniques in conjunction with clinical learning and learn practical methods of treating autism and related disorders. The master’s program teaches students applications of ABA therapy in rehabilitative, educational and mental health settings. Typical study areas include cognitive psychology, functional assessment and stimulus control.
Master’s degree applicants require a bachelor’s degree in a relevant subject, such as psychology or sociology. Some programs also require applicants to have an undergraduate grade point average (GPA) of between 2.75 and 3.00.
In addition to education and relevant training, employers often look for candidates who have ABA certification. The Behavioral Analyst Certification Board (BACB) offers the Board Certified Assistant Behavioral Analyst (BCaBA) examination to candidates who hold a bachelor’s degree. Applicants must have completed relevant coursework and at least 135 credit hours in areas such as ethical considerations, behavioural data interpretation and behavioural change procedures. Applicants also must meet minimum requirements for supervised experience in working with clients with autism.
The BACB offers the Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA) certification examination to students who hold a master’s degree. Those wishing to take the exam should be aware of the principles of ABA and how to apply them to address the needs of clients. Relevant subject areas include ethical considerations, behavioural assessment, intervention techniques and behavioural change procedures.
To be eligible to take the BCBA exam, a candidate must have completed at least 225 credit hours of graduate level coursework and supervised work experience, as stated on the BACB website. Alternatively, candidates can qualify for the exam through teaching and work experience in areas of behavioural analysis and ethics.
If neither of these requirements are met, candidates who have held a doctoral degree for at least 10 years are also eligible. The doctoral degree must be in psychology, behavioural analysis or a relevant field. Candidates must also have 10 years of postdoctoral work experience. Work experience typically needs to be verified by three qualified BCBAs.