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Are you considering ABA therapy as a career path? If so, you’re in the right place.

Keep reading this article to familiarize yourself with the requirements for becoming a professional ABA therapist, what your job duties may entail, how much you can expect to get paid, and more.

What is ABA therapy?

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy focuses on using rewards and reinforcements to positively change a person’s actions.

It is a particularly effective approach for treating autism spectrum disorder (ASD) symptoms. In fact, many ABA therapists mostly work with autistic patients.

What does an ABA therapist do?

In short, ABA therapists evaluate how a patient acts in different situations and environments through identifying behavioral tendencies and patterns.

More specifically, they utilize their research and analysis skills to understand how certain situational and environmental factors may influence an autistic kid. After that, they develop individualized therapeutic strategies for managing and regulating these behavioral patterns.

For example, a child with ASD might resort to screaming, shouting, or throwing objects when they’re exposed to bright lights. Upon discovering this, an ABA therapist would come up with a plan that would replace the negative habits with desirable traits and teach the child how to use their words to express discomfort.

Because of the complexities that pertain to treating ASD symptoms, a person must obtain several educational credentials and licenses before they can practice ABA therapy.

How does one become an ABA therapist?

If you are thinking of becoming an ABA therapist, here are the steps that you have to follow:

1. Earn an Undergraduate Degree

Firstly, you need to get a bachelor’s degree. Aspiring ABA therapists may want to consider majoring in psychology, education, or a similar field.

2. Earn a Graduate Degree

Secondly, after you complete your bachelor’s program, it would be advantageous for you to obtain a master’s degree. You could directly study applied behavior analysis or specialize in a related area (such as psychology).

3. Licensing and Certification

Thirdly, if you plan on starting your own ABA therapy practice, you have to become licensed and certified.

For that matter, most states require any ABA provider (and not just those who want to open their own practice) to undergo the licensing and certification processes. However, you should check your local requirements since the rules vary from one state to another.

Above all, your level of education and the certifications/licenses that you hold will directly impact your pay as an ABA practitioner.

ABA Therapist Salary

ABA therapists that have a bachelor’s degree typically make $47,000 per year. Meanwhile, their peers who hold a master’s earn an average annual salary of $55,000.

To clarify, that’s a difference of $8,000 per year or over $650 per month. This makes the cost of a master’s degree worthwhile for many students, even more so when they have the convenience of choosing between online and in-person classes.

ABA Programs Online

The following are four of the best online ABA therapy educational programs:

Online Psychology Master’s with ABA Focus at Walden University

The main advantage to enrolling in the ABA classes at Walden University is that the professors specialize in teaching students remotely, including those who are studying psychology and nursing.

Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Graduate Certificate at Brandman University

Located in Irvine, CA, Brandman University (now known as UMass Global) is one of the top 50 colleges in the United States.

They have an online ABA graduate certificate program that enables you to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). 

Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis at PennState World Campus

PennState also offers online applied behavior analysis graduate certificate courses. You need 21 credits to get a degree, and it costs $924 for each credit.

Once you graduate, you can take the board certification test in any state.

Online MA in Special Education (Applied Behavior Analysis) at ASU Online

Although this master’s degree program at Arizona State University revolves around special education and teaching, its principles are built around ABA methods.

Therefore, once you get this degree, all you have to do is fulfill a few more requirements in order to be eligible for the board certification exam.

In-Person ABA Programs

Meanwhile, here are some noteworthy offline/in-person ABA programs that you may want to consider:

  • Capella University: This one requires you to complete 60 credits by taking up to 3 courses every quarter. Capella University’s quarters are 10-weeks long.
  • Kent State University: Full-time students can graduate in 1 year once they finish 21 credits.
  • McNeese State University: You must take 58 credits within 2 years to get your degree. Moreover, to get accepted by McNeese, you need to pass the GRE examination.
  • Monmouth University: Monmouth’s courses typically last for 2 years. The requirement for graduating is 18 credits.
  • Northern Arizona University: Here, you only have to fulfill 12 credits, and you can get your degree within a year.
  • Purdue University Global – 2 years, not ABAI Verified Course Sequence (VCS): You conclude after you enroll in classes for two years and attain 30 credit hours. However, Purdue’s degree program isn’t an ABAI Verified Course Sequence (VCS), which means that you must meet additional prerequisites before you are eligible to take the BCBA exam.
  • University of North Dakota: You could acquire a degree and complete 12 credit hours within 1 year at the University of North Dakota.

To summarize the process of becoming an ABA therapist, you need to initially get the required educational degrees and, after that, obtain the appropriate certifications.

From there, you can start to assist autistic children with improving their behaviors, create custom treatment plans for patients, and earn a desirable salary while doing so.