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Applied behavioral analysis (ABA) refers to the scientific and systematic process to influence a patient’s behavior. If you are interested in pursuing an ABA career, you must become certified. Once you complete a certification program, you are known as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). There are varying levels of certification. A BCaBA represents an undergraduate-level certification, while a BCBA-D shows you have a doctoral-level certification. To become board certified, there are four requirements you must meet.
Firstly, you must earn a graduate degree in the relevant field, which is either education, psychology, or behavior analysis. You must also complete all relevant coursework to becoming a BCBA, which is done by taking an ABA program from an accredited university. Next, you must obtain at least 1,500 supervised independent fieldwork. Additionally, you can get 1,000 hours of supervised practicum or 750 hours of supervised intensive practicum. The last step is to complete a final BCBA exam.
Courses to Become a BCBA
The two most common types of courses to become a BCBA focus on either psychology or special education. Psychology is usually the more common field, with students taking classes about developmental disorders. These courses focus on many areas, such as behavioral assessment and observation, ethics in psychology, and general principles of behavior analysis. Students may also take additional social science classes, either focused on sociology or social work. These classes provide additional training to help you interact with patients. While many BCBAs have a master's or a doctorate, you only need a bachelor's to get started. It is not uncommon for students to graduate with a bachelor's, find work after becoming certified, then go back to school for additional training.
Becoming a BCBA
Calculating the cost of becoming a BCBA is difficult because the bulk of the expenses come from college courses. The price of these courses greatly varies depending on what college you attend. You must also factor in what finances are available, such as scholarships, grants, or student loans. As of writing, most students pay around $10,000 to $20,000 if they attend a public college. Private colleges are more expensive, costing around $30,000 to $40,000. Prestigious colleges may even cost as much as $50,000.
There are also a few costs associated with applying for BCBA certification. As of writing, the basic certification application is $245. Taking the exam costs $125. If you need to retake the exam, you must complete an additional application, which costs $140. Once you are certified, you must complete a recertification application every two years. The recertification application costs $215 if you are a BCBA, or $290 if you are a BCBA-D. If you file past the two-year deadline, you must pay an additional $50 in late fees.
Top Colleges with ABA Programs
There are many colleges that excel at ABA programs.
- Central Washington University is often recommended because of the affordable price, with most students paying around $11,000 for their degree. Many students have an easy time finding internships in the Washington area as well.
- The University of Michigan is another popular school because of the lower tuition costs. In addition to psychology classes, the University of Michigan also offers classes studying the science of human behavior, as well as assistive technologies.
- If you are in a rush to get your degree, you can enroll at the University of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph offers an expedited program, with classes running through fall and summer. Because it is a private school, the application process is stricter than state colleges. You must have two letters of recommendation and complete a personal essay as part of the application.
- The University of Massachusetts also offers an expedited program. Their program also places a larger focus on taking the BCBA examination.
- If you do not mind taking classes online, you can enroll in the ABA program at the California University of Pennsylvania. The university has several ABA courses to choose from, each with a different specialty. The first is a special education program focused on autistic patients. The second course is a general special education course, while the third is a generalized BCBA program without an educational focus.
Once you complete your ABA program, there are many job opportunities. Around 2012, the number of positions for ABAs nearly doubled from previous years. Many ABAs work in schools, either as a counselor or a special education assistant. Counselors can work in any school, though they are most commonly found in public schools or colleges. Some counselors also work in hospitals or clinics. These jobs typically pay more than schools, but are not in as high of demand, leading to a more competitive application process.
If you are not interested in education, you can work as a psychological assistant. Some ABAs continue their education and certification so they can open their own practice. You can also work as an assistant to clinical social workers. As an assistant, you are expecting to help with research and clinical tasks, as well as general counseling.