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Alternative ABA Careers: Is there life outside of autism therapy?

Welcome to the first article in the series, “Alternative ABA Career”. 89% of BCBA’s work with individuals with disabilities[1], most often autism, but providing therapy for kids and adults with autism is not the only thing we can do. Skinner introduced us to the topic of “saving the world” with ABA in 1987[2] and since then our field has grown immensely, but the growth is mostly in one area. We’re not yet thinking big enough to effect change on a global scale. The scope of practice for a behavior analyst is to assess and evaluate behavior and implement an intervention to reduce unwanted behavior and increase desired behaviors. This can be applied to almost anything that involves living organisms, so why are we limiting ourselves to such a narrow field?

One of the things that drew me to this field was the possibility of applying my skills as a BCBA in any field related to behavior. However, once you’re out of school and start searching for jobs, the only positions you’ll find are as supervising BCBA’s providing therapy to kids with autism. I’ve worked with kids with learning and developmental disorders for almost 10 years and I love it. But we should remember that we have the option to pursue other interests in the fields of technology, health and fitness, counseling, and many more.

While we have the ability to work in a variety of careers, there are some things to keep in mind before taking the leap. Regardless of where you work, you are still a BCBA and still need to abide by our professional and ethical guidelines. This means you cannot enter into a dual relationship, accept gifts from clients, or use testimonials, even if your co-workers are able to. If you are entering a field where you have no experience, like moving from providing pediatric ABA therapy for autism to providing Acceptance and Commitment Therapy to adults with depression, you need to make sure that you are competent in that area before going off on your own, preferably by receiving direct supervision from others in that field. And no matter what your title is, if you are claiming to use behavior analytic interventions, you must still work and act like a BCBA. That means taking data on behavior, graphing and analyzing that data, and making decisions based on data, not hypothetical constructs or explanatory fictions.

Our profession is still fairly new and we will need to pave the way for BCBA’s in some of these career fields we explore. Skinner said that almost all of the problems facing our society are problems with human behavior, so let’s starting using our skills as behavior analysts to improve our world.

Before exploring other careers, let’s look at a brief overview of the typical career of a BCBA:

Job Description: Conduct language (verbal behavior), skill, and behavioral assessments. Write reports for insurance every 3-6 months based on assessment. Create treatment plans for skill deficits and behavioral concerns. Graph and analyze data and make decisions based on the client’s progress. Train parents on the principles of ABA and their child’s individual treatment plans. Supervise and train behavior technicians.

Employment Settings: Clinics, Home Health, Schools

Salary[3]: BCBA’s- $41-$75k/ Clinical Directors- $56-$92K

Education Requirement: Master’s degree in ABA or related field

Check out other ABA careers:


[1] Gadke, D. L., Stratton, K. K., Kazmerski, J. S., Rossen, E. (2016). Understanding the Board Certified Behavior Analyst Credential. Communiqué, 45.1

[2] Normand, M. P., & Kohn, C. S. (2013). Don't wag the dog: Extending the reach of behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst, 36, 109–122

[3] Average Salary for Certification: Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).. Retrieved January 23, 2017, from

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