If you’re interested in the field of behavior analysis but not quite sure that a life as a behavioral analyst is right for you, there are plenty of similar occupations that might be the right fit. Within the field of behavior analysis are support roles such as assistant behavior analysis and registered behavior technician. You can work in mental health fields using other approaches besides applied behavior analysis (ABA) if you become a psychologist, counselor or clinical social worker. In the field of education, special education teachers often work with the same populations that ABA interventions are so popular with – children with autism spectrum disorder and other developmental disorders – but in a setting more like a traditional classroom, with more emphasis on academic performance. Any of these roles can be a fulfilling career choice.
Assistant Behavior Analyst
If your main hesitation about becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is the need for a graduate education, your best option may be the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) credential. Although assistant behavior analysts can’t practice independently in the same way that behavior analysts can, they complete many of the same tasks, such as carrying out behavior assessments and using that data to formulate treatment plans.
BCaBAs must work under the supervision of BCBAs, but the amount of supervision required isn’t extensive. During their first 1,000 hours of practice, at least five percent of a BCaBA’s service hours each month must be supervised, while after that introductory period, the minimum supervision amount drops to 2 percent of service hours monthly. A bachelor’s degree in any subject may satisfy the degree requirements for this credential, although specialized coursework in behavior analysis, at either the undergraduate or graduate level, is required.
Registered Behavior Technician
If you don’t have the drive or the means to go to college, a career as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) may meet your needs. A high school diploma is the only formal degree you need to work in this position, which involves direct client service through one-on-one and small group interventions.
The subject area-specific knowledge you need for this paraprofessional credential and practice is packaged into a non-degree 40-hour training program that is available from colleges and universities, through external agencies or on-the-job once you are hired for this role. Completing your training is fast and relatively inexpensive, and the helping nature of the occupation makes for satisfying work. For Registered Behavior Technicians, PayScale reports an average wage of $33,507.
RBT training programs also help candidates prepare for the direct-observation competency assessment and written multiple-choice exam you must pass to earn the credential.
There’s some overlap in the fields of behavior analysis and psychology – in fact, famous figures in behavior analysis, like B.F. Skinner and Ivar Lovaas, were psychologists – but there are also distinctions. Generally, only professionals who hold a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) or Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree can be licensed as psychologists and be considered qualified to use that job title, while you can become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with only a master’s degree.
With their more expansive scope of study that includes the mind and thinking as well as behaviors, psychologists generally address a broader array of topics, particularly in the field of mental health care. They can draw from other therapeutic approaches and methods besides those that fall under the umbrella of applied behavior analysis (ABA), but they may have less specialized knowledge of ABA interventions and procedures.
Psychologists tend to earn more than behavior analysts, with the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting a median wage of $79,010.
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Another option for working in mental health in some capacity is becoming a counselor. Different types of counselors work with different populations. For example, marriage and family therapists most often work with couples and family units, while substance abuse counselors may work with people who are trying to recover from addiction and their families. Generally, professional counselor roles require candidates to earn a master’s degree, although some areas of counseling offer limited opportunities for candidates who have only a bachelor’s degree.
Income for counselors varies considerably from one specialization to the next. Rehabilitation counselors earn a median wage of just $35,630, while school and career counselors make a median salary of $56,310 per year, the BLS reported.
Clinical Social Worker
A Master of Social Work (MSW) degree, combined with the experience to qualify as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW), can put you in a counseling and mental health role that takes a different approach. Like behavior analysts, clinical social workers look at clients as individuals within an environment. The difference in perspective is that behavior analysts are looking at the scientific principles of altering variables in the environment, while LCSWs focus on the impact of the social environment on the client’s mental health.
LCSWs earn more than a social worker in a non-clinical function with only a bachelor’s degree. PayScale reports an average wage of $56,767 for LCSWs.
Special Education Teacher
Roles in behavior analysis specifically aren’t the only positions that allow you to work with, and improve the lives of, children with developmental disorders. Special education teachers work in traditional classrooms or in resource rooms with smaller classes, helping students who have learning or developmental disorders as well as physical, mental or emotional disabilities to reach their potential. Special education teachers may collaborate with behavior analysts in implementing intervention plans in the classroom. In fact, some special education teachers choose to earn a degree in applied behavior analysis.
The BLS reports a median wage of $59,780 for special education teachers.