5 Trending Applied Behavior Analysis Careers

9 minute read

The principles and techniques developed within the past few decades by behavior analysts are being more frequently included in other disciplines outside of the field. The most notable of these include: special education teacher, speech pathologist, and special education coordinator. Notably, the demand for Board Certified Behavior Analysts has been increasing and to cater to this increased demand there are more degree programs than ever before.

University of Cincinnati faculty member, assistant professor and BACB liaison Dacia McCoy says, “As recognition of the field increases, there are additional leadership opportunities within the field and education. The demand has also increased the need for service providers, and many have started their own businesses (e.g., consulting, clinics, in home), but there is a unique skill set required to be a small business owner.”

Many who choose to pursue an education in behavior analysis do so to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a special education teacher. However, there are other career paths available. Below are five potential careers in applied behavior analysis for graduates to consider.

Board Certified Behavior Analyst

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) divides the tasks of BCBAs into two distinct sections: Basic Behavior-Analytic Skills and Client-Centered Responsibilities. The first section relates to work involving measurement, experimental design and behavior change considerations, as well as knowledge of the fundamental elements of behavior change, specific behavior change procedures and behavior change systems. Example tasks may include designing, plotting and interpreting data, and using interventions and self-management strategies to change behavior.

The second section of tasks covers the BCBA’s Client-Centered Responsibilities. A professional BCBA must know how to identify, measure and assess a client’s problem; select intervention strategies; and implement, manage and supervise behavior skills training. Example tasks may include reviewing records and available data, selecting a measurement system to obtain data, defining environmental variables and arranging instructional procedures to promote generative learning.

BCBAs may work at home, in school and in clinical settings. PayScale salary data shows the average salary of a BCBA is $57,828 per year.

To excel in this position, individuals must have the following skills:

  • Data Analysis. BCBAs must be skilled in analyzing data relative to the identified problem so that proper intervention can be designed.
  • Intervention Design. In order to select the most effective intervention, behavior analysts must align the intervention to the data.
  • Behavioral Skills Training. To meet behavior change goals, BCBAs must be skilled in creating strategies and adapting techniques to teach clients new behavior skills.
  • Supervision. BCBAs may be required to supervise BCBAs-in-training so that they get high-quality field experience and mentoring.
  • Problem Solving. There are obstacles and challenges that may come up during behavior-change procedures that BCBAs are uniquely trained to address.
    To apply for certification from the BACB, individuals must meet one of three eligibility options:
  • A graduate degree from an accredited university and supervised practical experience
  • A graduate degree, experience researching and teaching behavior analysis as a full-time faculty member and supervised practical experience
  • A doctorate degree that was conferred at least 10 years ago and a minimum of 10 years’ supervised postdoctoral practical experience

School District Behavior Specialist

The school district behavior specialist is responsible for developing, supporting and providing training and coaching opportunities to school staff, district staff and families, as well as delivering intervention supports to students. Training involves classroom management, functional behavior assessment, behavior support plans, schoolwide positive behavior support, alternatives to suspension, and cultural and linguistic considerations in discipline and behavior. This position requires collaboration and the training to direct, implement and supervise change on an individual, classroom and school level.
To excel in this position, individuals must have the following skills:

  • Collaboration. This skill is critical to effectively communicating and implementing behavior support plans.
    Systems Level Change. School district behavior specialists must be skilled in implementing change across organizational and individual levels.
  • Training. To successfully implement initiatives, school district behavior specialists must have the skills necessary to train others.
  • Supervision. School district behavior specialists will need to supervise school staff, district staff and students.
    Problem Solving. To overcome obstacles and challenges that may come up during training and coaching initiatives, school district behavior specialists must have the skills to solve problems at both the individual and at the classroom group level.

To become a school district behavior specialist, individuals must successfully complete the BCBA exam (depending on their district), have experience teaching students with disabilities and possess a valid Special Education Teaching Credential. In addition, they must have knowledge of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) as well as state and district special education policies and procedures. PayScale reports the average annual salary of a behavior specialist at $40,412.

Speech Pathologist & lt

Speech pathologists — also known as speech therapists — evaluate, diagnose, treat and help to prevent swallowing and communication disorders in children and adults. These disorders may be caused by a number of factors and conditions including stroke, hearing loss, developmental delay, brain injury, Parkinson’s disease, autism or a cleft palate. Some clients may be unable to speak at all, while others may have rhythm, fluency or voice disorders that can include stuttering, harsh voice or inappropriate pitch. The responsibilities of a speech pathologist include evaluating the level of difficulty in speech, language or swallowing; identifying treatment options; and designing and implementing an individualized treatment plan.

To excel in this position, individuals must have the following skills:

  • Assessment. Speech pathologists are responsible for assessing speech problems or disorders.
    Verbal behavior training techniques. To treat communications deficits, speech pathologists must have a firm grasp of systematic procedures to increasing language productivity and accuracy.
  • Collaboration. They need to work with many other professionals to create the most effective and comprehensive plans that can be implemented by multiple parties.
  • The minimum education requirement for a speech pathologist is a master’s degree from an institution accredited by the Council on Academic Accreditation (CAA), which is part of the American Speech-Language Hearing Association.
  • Speech pathologists must also meet their state’s licensing or registration requirements. Typical state requirements include earning the Certificate of Clinical Competence in Speech-Language Pathology (CCC-SLP) and completing a fellowship under the supervision of a certified speech-language pathologist.

Certified speech pathologists may be employed by schools or medical facilities and take home an annual average salary of $60,428, according to PayScale. Speech pathologists may choose to specialize in child language and fluency. Specialty certification exams are administered by the American Board of Child Language and Language Disorders, the American Board of Fluency and Fluency Disorders, and the American Board of Swallowing and Swallowing Disorders.

Special Education Teacher

Special education teachers are responsible for adapting general education lessons to the needs of students with learning, emotional, mental and/or physical disabilities. Lessons may include reading, writing, and math and assist in developing basic literacy and communication skills. Special education teachers must assess each student’s skills to determine their level and type of need, develop an Individualized Education Program (IEP), and implement and update the IEP throughout the school year. To excel, special education teachers must exhibit skills in the following areas:

  • Assessment. To create accurate and effective IEPs, special education teachers must be able to accurately and fully assess the student’s learning needs and disabilities.
  • Data Collection and Analysis. To measure the results of the IEP, special education teachers must collect relevant data and analyze the student’s progress.
  • Curriculum and Intervention Design and Implementation. Special education teachers must understand intervention design and how to implement curriculum changes to continually update and adapt programs to individual student needs.
  • Classroom Management. Special education teachers must possess a unique set of management skills to successfully address disruptive or challenging behavior that may occur in a classroom of students with disabilities.
  • Problem Solving. Flexibility and the ability to think and act quickly are essential to solve problems that may arise with a student one-on-one or with an entire classroom.

The requirements to become a special education teacher include a bachelor’s degree, completion of a teacher preparation program and passage of a background check along with a general teaching certification test. Special education teachers may earn an annual salary of $48,174, as reported by PayScale. Special education teachers who are employed by private schools do not need to meet state requirements, but those in public or charter schools must have a general certification or license in special education.

Special Education Coordinator

Special education coordinators work at elementary, middle and high schools. They oversee and manage students’ IEP plans and facilitate IEP meetings using a family-centered approach. Special education coordinators must comply with school, local and federal laws and regulations and provide case management training to teachers, case managers and support service professionals.

To excel in this position, individuals must have the following skills:

  • Collaboration. Special education coordinators work with students, teachers, school administrators and parents to help students achieve the goals detailed in their IEP plans.
  • Coordination. To ensure all support personnel are contributing to the success of the student, the special education coordinator must coordinate with the special education team.
  • Legal Perspective. They need to be aware of the ever-changing ethical landscape, may be involved in allocating funding, and have an overall understanding of the different roles and services within the school system.

On average, special education coordinators can expect to earn $58,217 per year according to PayScale. Typical requirements to become a special education coordinator include a master’s degree in special education and certification in Administration. Depending on state requirements, a background check, classroom teaching experience and a completed practicum may also be necessary.

Learn More:

The online behavioral analysis program at the University of Cincinnati strives to prepare students to pursue careers in behavioral analysis. Learn more about UC’s online BA curriculum.

Recommended Reading:
A Look at Special Education Law in the United States

  • The Importance of Early Intervention for Children with Autism
  • Ethical Behavior in Applied Behavior Analysis
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