If you’re seeking a career that combines studies in science and research with the clinical treatment of behavioral issues – and requires only an undergraduate degree – assistant behavior analyst is an excellent choice. Like other roles in this field of behavior analysis, a subfield of psychology, assistant behavior analysts play a part in helping to improve clients’ behavior and, in turn, the quality of their lives. This support role is a professional position that requires training both in the classroom and in the field to attain, but supervision by a behavior analyst is required.
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A Field That Emphasizes the Science Behind Behavior Change
We often explain behavior in less than scientific ways, but the field of behavior analysis looks at the scientific principles that prompt people to act the way they do. It treats everyday behavior as a phenomenon that results from different combinations of environmental variables and consequences. Often, professionals who work in the field of behavioral analysis develop intervention plans based on their understanding of causal relationships in behavior, or what events lead to, rather than just happening along with, behaviors and of reinforcement, or the effect of consequences on continuing behavior patterns, the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts reported.
To develop the data-driven practices used in the study of scientific fields like behavior analysis, research is important and necessary. However, much of the field is focused instead on changing problematic behaviors, or maladaptive behaviors, through interventions that address these patterns and the factors that influence them. Through their involvement in this intervention process, assistant behavior analysts help to change people’s lives.
The best behavior analysis professionals have strong qualities of empathy and compassion and the skills to build relationships in addition to their scientific mindset and critical thinking and analytical skills.
Supervised Support Roles in Behavior Analysis
Within this field of behavior analysis, there are different roles. Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) is a support role that aids in the efforts of the more highly educated Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Practitioners at the assistant level must work under the supervision of BCBAs, who possess a master’s degree, or BCBA-Ds, who hold a doctorate degree. You can become an assistant behavior analysis with only a bachelor’s degree, although you need to complete certain coursework to do so.
Many of the job duties of an assistant behavior analyst are similar to those of a behavior analyst but in the more limited capacity of a support role. For example, assistant behavior analysts might help their supervising behavior analyst colleagues with conducting behavior assessments and developing intervention programs to fit an individual client’s needs, but unlike a BCBA, they would not be authorized to do this work without supervision. They also perform other job duties, such as gathering, interpreting and graphing data to show the effectiveness of interventions. Based on this evidence, a client’s program may be adjusted to help it achieve better results. Assistant behavior analysts also may be involved in training the direct service staff, like therapists and technicians, on how to implement interventions in general and individualized treatment plans in particular.
While BCaBAs need to be supervised by BCBAs, they are qualified to oversee Registered Behavior Technicians, or RBTs, according to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
Transitioning From Assistant to Full Analyst Roles
You can have a fulfilling career in this assistant-level role in behavior analysis. However, many BCaBAs ultimately find that they want more from their career. If you want the opportunity to work independently, a greater depth of knowledge that requires a graduate degree to attain or simply a better salary, it might make sense to acquire the extra education and experience needed to become a BCBA. It’s common for behavior analysts to use the assistant level of certification to help them begin gaining experience in the field while they work toward achieving BCBA certification.
The requirements to become a BCBA are just as strict for candidates who are already certified as assistant behavior analysts as they are for those who have no current certification. However, one benefit of this route is that, if the behavioral analysis coursework you took to achieve your BCaBA certification was offered at the graduate level, you can apply these hours of study toward the BCBA requirements, which are more demanding. You won’t be starting from scratch and can complete the requirements for this new credential faster.
Although the coursework needed to become an assistant behavior analyst doesn’t have to be graduate-level, the coursework required for certified behavior analysts does. You might not be able to apply these hours to the BCBA certification if they are undergraduate-level.