Board Certified Behavior Analyst: Behavior Analysts have an instrumental role and wear many hats
Applied behavioral analysis is enjoying growing recognition as a profession. ABA has come to the forefront largely due to its successes in helping children with autism develop behaviors that are more adaptive to their environment. The therapy is not solely about autism, however, as many children have behaviors that are not a good match for their environment and their needs. And, while early intervention often yields the most success, ABA can be applied throughout the lifespan. Some applied behavior analysts focus on elderly or brain-injured populations.
Highly educated and credentialed behavior analysts have an instrumental role in delivering ABA: analyzing behaviors and environmental influences, designing and modifying treatment plans, and making sure that interventions are carried out in a professional and ethical manner. They wear many hats, among them, case manager and consultant. They may be employed or self-employed. The Florida Association of Behavior Analysts notes that residential programs and child welfare agencies are among the organizations that may require consultation services (http://www.fabaworld.org/careers-in-behavior-analysis/).
A growing number of states license the profession. Behavior analysts around the Nation have the option of being Board-certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (http://bacb.com). The foundation is graduate level education. A Board-Certified professional will also complete a supervised practice requirement and pass an examination. He or she will adhere to the BACB code of ethics (http://bacb.com/ethics-code). By meeting board certification standards a person will also, in most cases, be well on his or her way to meeting licensing standards in those states that do license.
Payscale has reported an average salary of just over $55,000 for Board-Certified behavior analysts.
A Board Certified Behavior Analysist will need education at the master's level. Prospective behavior analysts may complete degrees specifically in behavioral analysis or may qualify on the basis of degrees in education or psychology provided that they also have the required course content. Many schools offer the Approved Course Sequence (ACS). However, other coursework may be accepted. A candidate who wants non-ACS coursework to be considered must submit an application for coursework evaluation.
The pathway may be different for someone who already has a degree at the graduate level. However, those who are just beginning the journey will be glad to know that there are now a number of schools offering master's degrees specifically in applied behavior analysis. The Association of Professional Behavior Analysists (APBA) reports that about 80% of people with the credential complete programs with the approved course sequence (http://www.apbahome.net/page/About).
A BCBA will have, at minimum, 270 hours of instruction in Board-mandated areas. Among the requirements are the following:
- Principles of behavior analysis: 45 hours
- Ethical and professional conduct: 45 hours
- Elements and procedures of behavior change: 45 hours
- Problem identification and assessment: 30 hours
Required content is typically taught as six three-semester hour courses. Ultimately, the student will need preparation to perform the tasks listed in the BACB Fourth Edition Task List (http://bacb.com/fourth-edition-task-list/).
The following are among the many tools of the trade:
- Modeling and imitation training
- Shaping and chaining
- Prompts and prompt fading
- Positive and negative reinforcement
- Augmentative communication
- Token economies
- Self-management strategies
- Incidental teaching
The Behavior Analysis Certification Board can accept 1,000 hours of practicum or 750 hours of intensive practicum. The key to acceptance of practicum experience is approval by the BACB. Prospective who do not complete practicum experiences through their schools can qualify on the basis of a supervised work experience. However, they will need fully 1,500 hours. The BACB maintains a certificant registry to help candidates find suitable professionals to supervise their practice.
The Association of Professional Behavior Analysts has provided a link to state licensing boards and professional organizations (http://www.apbahome.net/general/recommended_links.asp). Many states have their own APBA chapters.