When you think of going to college, it’s likely the bachelor’s degree, sometimes called a four-year degree, that you envision. Bachelor’s degrees are the minimum formal education requirement for many careers, and a step toward a master’s degree or doctoral degree for even more highly educated roles. A bachelor’s degree in behavior analysis can qualify you for board certification as an assistant behavior analyst, although it doesn’t authorize you to be an independent practitioner in this field. You can also leverage your undergraduate degree in behavior analysis to work in other fields, including business, education, social services and even law enforcement.
Assistant Behavior Analyst Roles
Within the field of behavior analysis, a bachelor’s degree fulfills the degree requirements needed to become a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). If you’re wondering why a four-year degree still only puts you on the level of an assistant practitioner role, it’s because the field of behavior analysis is so complex that a graduate education is needed to practice independently as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).
Assistant behavior analysts work under the supervision of BCBAs, but the work they do incorporates many of the same tasks and responsibilities as BCBAs. They conduct behavioral assessments through questionnaires, interviews and other formats and craft individualized behavior interventions plans – but they do so under the oversight of a BCBA. Although they can’t be in clinical practice independently, BCaBAs can supervise lower-level personnel, including the behavior technicians that provide direct one-on-one service to clients.
Aside from the graduate degree, many of the requirements to work as a BCaBA are similar to those of a BCBA, including coursework in designated content areas, experience and an exam. BCBAs need more coursework hours and more experience, and their exam is longer.
Life in the Field of Behavior Analysis
If you choose to use your bachelor’s degree to work in the field of behavior analysis, you have plenty of options to consider. Behavior analysis professionals work with many different client populations, in diverse specializations and employment settings. While the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) is best-known for its evidenced-based interventions for children with autism, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board recognizes 12 different subspecialties and areas of practice.
BCBAs and BCaBAs can work with elderly patients in nursing homes and long-term care facilities, provide services in early intervention for kids as young as two diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder or other developmental disorders and help individuals of all ages reduce unhealthy lifestyle behaviors. In the role of BCaBA, you may work in a school, hospital, agency or any number of other possible environments.
PayScale reported an average salary of $43,364 for Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts. Although that wage is more than the $38,640 figure that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported for all occupations in the United States, it’s somewhat low for a job that requires a bachelor’s degree. The BLS reported that that median income for American workers with a bachelor’s degree is $1,173 per week, or $60,996 in a year.
Although opportunities in behavior analysis have grown a great deal in recent years, assistant behavior analysts aren’t seeing quite as much growth as BCBAs. In the same timeframe that jobs for BCaBAs grew by 76 percent, BCBA job postings rose 116 percent.
Beyond Behavior Analysis Career Functions
If you find the science of how environmental variables affect behavior fascinating and yet aren’t interested in working in research or clinical practice, there are plenty of other career paths in which a background in behavior analysis is beneficial. Some college graduates put their behavior analysis background to work in the field of business, in roles like human resources specialist or market research analyst. Either path involves assessing and seeking to change the behavior of someone – whether that means motivating company employees or figuring out how to appeal to the right potential buyers.
In the field of education, school counselors can utilize some of the same intervention concepts and strategies they learned in ABA as they work to help students with learning disorders improve their academic performance. If you would prefer to work in the classroom, you might find that your knowledge translates well into the skills needed to work as a special education teacher.
Other jobs for behavioral analysis students include FBI profiler and social worker. Careers outside of behavior analysis won’t expressly look for candidates with this background, but understanding why people act in certain ways and how to alter behavior is valuable in many fields.