8 New Career Paths for BCBAs


By Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D

Founding Editor, bSci21.org

Working with children diagnosed with autism is the bread and butter of Applied Behavior Analysis.  This work provides a tremendous service to society, and the data-based successes of ABA have done much to expand the field.  But the field of behavior analysis is much more than “ABA Therapy.”  Matt Normand and Carolynn Kohn address the latter issue in their article published in the The Behavior Analystand suggest eight new career paths that, they believe, a behavior analyst could venture into with relative ease.  A summary of the eight paths are below:

Certified Personal Trainer – CPTs are in the business of assisting and motivating people towards their fitness goals. Behavior analysts are ideally suited to assist people towards such goals in data-based ways.  CPTs require CPR and Automated External Defibrillator certifications before sitting for the CPT exam.  The authors state “no additional educational training is required before taking the CPT exam” but they do recommend specific study materials.  The 2010 median salary for CPTs was $31,000, with pay as high as $59,000.

Occupational Therapy Assistant – OTAs help people with various debilitating conditions gain, or regain, mobility and independent living skills through exercise and other behavior change techniques.  OTAs work in a variety of settings, including hospitals, schools, and nursing homes.  Becoming an OTA requires an Associate’s degree in occupational therapy, which is required to sit for the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy exam.  The 2010 median salary for OTAs was $47,490, with pay as high as $70,000.

Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor – CADCs work with people to change addictive behaviors.  Work may be done on an individualized basis or in a group setting, and may occur in hospitals, prisons, residential treatment centers, and private practice, among other settings.  Becoming a CADC generally requires a year of coursework, along with supervised experience to sit for the certification exam.  Higher levels of certification require a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree with varying levels of supervised experience.  CADC salaries can range between $24,000-$50,000.

Director or Owner of a Child-Care Center – Directors or owners of child-care centers work with children in home-based or commercial settings to provide child care for periods less than 24 hours in duration.  Given that many behavior analysts already work extensively with children, opening a child-care center would be in familiar territory.  Requirements are generally governed by the Council for Professional Recognition’s Child Development Association Certification, which requires coursework in child development, along with business inspections and an exam.  The 2010 media salary of directors was $42,960 and as high as $85,110.

Special Education Teacher – Special ed. teachers work with children in school settings with a variety of disabilities.  Special ed. teachers develop individualized education plans to tailor curriculum to the child’s level of functioning.  BCBAs can bring in additional skills related to functional behavior assessment and intervention strategies targeting social and communication skills.  Special ed. teachers that work in public school settings must be licensed, possess a minimum of a Bachelor’s degree, and have completed a 1-2 year teacher preparation program, along with additional course work depending on the state.  The 2010 median salary of special ed. teachers was $53,220 and as high as $83,410.

Animal Behavior Consultation and Training – Animal trainers typically work with pets to improve the animal’s behavior, and to teach the owners how to maintain their pet’s behavior over time.  Particularly because trainers are often called upon in response to a pets aggressive behavior, behavior analysts’ expertise in contingency management make them ideal candidates for the role. According to the authors, animal trainers require no specific degree, though certifications do exist, and salaries can be as high as $52,000.

Human Resources – HR pertains to many different administrative functions within an organization, including hiring, firing, training, and performance management.  The latter two domains are particularly relevant to behavior analysts in that they benefit from precisely defined performance goals, an analysis of component skills required for a given job task, and ensuring motivation for carrying out one’s duties.  The authors state that no specific type of degree is required for HR, though one can obtain a Professional in Human Resources certification, which requires a Master’s degree and one year of experience before sitting for the exam.  The 2007 average salary varied widely depending on the position, with $36,000 for assistants, $55,000-$80,000 for midcareer managers, and $170,000 for senior-level managers or directors.

Master’s in Business Administration – The authors noted that the MBA varies widely in terms of program type and area of emphasis.  Programs range from 1-2 years, can be full- or part-time, and some may require a summer internship.  Some MBAs are more specialized than others, to focus on leadership, hospital administration, or management, among others.  Behavior analysts with an interest in Organizational Behavior Management would be particularly suited to the degree and the types of work with which it is associated, such as the design of incentive systems and performance evaluations.  The 2012 median salary of an MBA was $70,000 but varies considerably based on position.

Be sure to read the full article, including their discussion of the field as a whole and potential obstacles to the eight career paths mentioned above, and share your thoughts in the comments below!  Also be sure to subscribe to bSci21 via email to receive the latest articles directly to your inbox.

Todd A. Ward, PhD, BCBA-D is President of bSci21 Media, LLC, which owns bSci21.org and BAQuarterly.com.  Todd serves as an Associate Editor of the Journal of Organizational Behavior Management and as an editorial board member for Behavior and Social Issues.  He has worked as a behavior analyst in day centers, residential providers, homes, and schools, and served as the director of Behavior Analysis Online at the University of North Texas.  Todd’s areas of expertise include writing, entrepreneurship, Acceptance & Commitment Therapy, Instructional Design, Organizational Behavior Management, and ABA therapy. Todd can be reached at [email protected].

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2 Comments on "8 New Career Paths for BCBAs"

  1. All of the vocational areas above are interesting possibilities and I support your recommendation to read the entire article by Normand and Kohn (2013). I would add to the list a few “traditional” masters programs that would blend nicely with someone’s behavior analysis specialty – e.g., social work, school psychology, speech and language, and counseling psychology. All of these would be considered “terminal” degrees and are well-established, licensed professions in their own right. For someone holding BCaBA or RBT credentials, specialties such as gerontology and acquired brain injury might be worth looking into.

  2. I totally agree with you. Yet, BACB’s current degree requirement is very narrow, which shapes the industry to be focusing on education and intervention. Behaviour analysis application can be very broad, but our system is basically making it very narrow. I don’t think that is healthy for our field’s development.

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