What Can I Do With a Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis?

The principles and techniques of behavior analysis have been studied and developed over many decades. Historically, behavior analysts have practiced in the area of developmental disabilities, such as autism. But today, the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) is making an impact on a wide range of industries, such as education, business management, health and fitness, child care and animal behavior training.

In education, for example, behavior analysis impacts the way special education teachers prepare lessons, manage classrooms and support students’ academic success. Teachers’ ability to apply the principles and techniques of behavior analysis influences not only students’ academic progress but also their behavior and success later in life.

In business management, human resource (HR) specialists oversee an organization’s recruiting efforts, performance management and training, and offer policy suggestions. HR specialists trained in behavior analysis are equipped with the skills and techniques necessary to effectively motivate employees, assess behavior and design strategic interventions.

As the field of applied behavior analysis expands its influence on other areas, graduates of master’s degree programs in applied behavior analysis will likely have many career options to choose from.

4 Unique Occupations for Applied Behavior Analysts

For those asking, “What can I do with a master’s in applied behavior analysis?” the answer may be found in one of the following vocations or industries.

Business/Human Resource Management. The expertise of behavior analysts can be very valuable in the context of human resources and business management. For example, interviewing candidates requires insight into verbal and nonverbal cues that may be missed by those untrained in applied behavior analysis. As a subfield of ABA, Organizational Behavior Management (OBM) is used across a variety of settings to solve problems ranging from poor employee performance and high turnover to pursuing organizational goals. OBM can be defined as the science of behavior analysis in the workplace and is closely related to organizational and leadership work.

In the areas of human resources and business management, graduates can pursue careers as HR specialists, management consultants, or recruiters. With a strong grasp of ABA and a keen understanding of how employees are influenced by their environment, practitioners of OBM can contribute to the success of an entire organization.

FBI Profilers. The FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) is composed of agents experienced with tracking and analyzing the behavior of serial killers and white collar criminals. These agents, or profilers, collaborate with forensic psychologists, psychiatrists, and academic experts to connect the dots between crimes committed across the country, and even across the globe. BAU agents communicate their findings to local law enforcement personnel and assist in solving cases by providing a clinical perspective. Attention to detail and experience with behavior analysis can be the difference between a solved case and a cold case.

Occupational Safety. Behavior analysis has also been used to increase occupational safety and prevent accidents and injury at work. Individuals trained in ABA observe behavior to identify potential dangers, and then create strategies and tactics in order to motivate safer behavior. To design a successful behavior-based safety (BBS) programs, behavior analysts consider the attitudes and feelings of employees. The successful application of behavior analysis in the field of occupational safety has helped significantly reduce workplace fatalities and injuries.

BCBA. A career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is the typical outcome for graduates of a master’s degree program in applied behavior analysis. BCBAs work in a variety of settings: schools, homes and health care facilities. They are responsible for conducting functional behavior assessments (FBAs), observing behavior, outlining behavior goals, developing and implementing treatment plans, and making adjustments to those plans as necessary to meet client goals.

BCBA Certification Requirements

For graduates interested in pursuing a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), certification is required. To be eligible for BCBA certification, applicants must possess one of the following sets of qualifications presented by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB):

  1. A graduate degree, graduate coursework in behavior analysis and practical experience in the field of behavior analysis.
  2. A graduate degree, experience in a full-time faculty position that includes researching and teaching behavior analysis, and practical experience in behavior analysis.
  3. A doctoral degree awarded at least 10 years ago and a minimum of 10 years of practical experience.

A Step Up from BCaBA

For Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs), a master’s degree is the next step in higher education and qualifying for the BCBA credential. Though BCaBAs may supervise Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), they are not qualified to practice independently. A master’s degree in applied behavior analysis will bring BCaBAs one step closer to attaining the BCBA credential, enjoying greater autonomy and advancing their careers.

Why You Should Pursue a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis

For students interested in exploring new and developing career opportunities in the field of behavior analysis, the answer to the question “What can I do with a master’s in applied behavior analysis?” highlights many possibilities. Some may choose to pursue a career as a BCBA, while others may consider the following positions: occupational therapy assistant certified alcohol and drug counselor, animal trainer, human resources manager or child care center, director. Regardless of which direction graduates choose, a master’s in applied behavior analysis may open doors to a variety of rewarding career options.

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