Whats so Great About Being an ABA Practtioner??

Happy Labor Day everyone! I thought it would be very fitting and appropriate on this holiday to blog a little bit about what I think is so great about the career field of ABA. 

The whole point of this blog is my love and passion for ABA, but I also hope that someone who has never heard of ABA before might consider joining the field as a result of stumbling across my blog. So consider this a recruitment ad for becoming an ABA practitioner.

ABA wants you!

Do you love your job? Or is it just a means to a paycheck?

ABA isn't just some job to me, its something I am passionate about. 

Here are the main reasons why I think being an ABA practitioner is pretty great:
    1. It’s a job that combines psychology, counseling, social work, education, and organizational business management all in one. If you have an interest in one or more of those areas, you will love this job.
    2. What you do as an ABA practitioner is important. Can you say that about your current job?? What you do every day at your job impacts not only the life of the client, but their family, neighbors, community, etc.
    3. For the most part, you set your own hours and determine your own salary (opportunities for advancement abound as long as your education and experience grow). You can work as little or as much as you would like, and the demand for ABA therapy is sky high in most areas, and in many countries.
    4. It’s incredibly rewarding work. Imagine working with a client for weeks to teach them to say a specific syllable, and then eventually reaching a point where they are just chatting away with you, sharing their thoughts and ideas. It makes you feel like you just won the lottery.
    5. Creativity, free thinking, and flexibility of mind are encouraged with this type of work. Outside talents such as playing an instrument or being an amazing painter can be incorporated into an ABA therapy session. Teach the client to play an instrument or paint a portrait, have a therapy session at the park or beach, etc. You can embed your interests and strengths into the way you work with your clients.
    6. Job security. When you look at the demand for practitioners both locally and internationally, you can easily see that this is a field that will need qualified professionals for a long, long time. What is also exciting is that as ABA grows, our ability to move into new areas and help more diverse populations also grows.
    7. If you already have an interest in a particular group of people, you can choose to work with minority groups within the Autism population. Minority groups can mean individuals who are blind and have Autism, individuals who are African- American and have Autism, even working with Autistic females can be a bit rare in this field! Also, if you have a specific disability or disorder you might be able to bring a very unique life perspective to the job.
    8. You teach skills that these individuals may use for the rest of their lives. Pretty heavy, huh? That 4 -year- old who you teach to wash her hands will be washing her hands for the rest of her life.....and you had a small part in that.
    9. Unique reinforcement. I can only speak for myself, but the biggest reinforcement I get from my career has nothing to do with a paycheck. My biggest reinforcement is seeing lives change for the better, seeing parents learn to help their children, and seeing my clients reach the point where they no longer need therapy services.
    10. No two days have to be the same. There are some practitioners who like routine and sameness and want their sessions to be the same from day to day. That's definitely not me! I prefer a more varied schedule, because I tend to get bored easily so I am always trying new activities and strategies to help my clients learn. "Let's switch it up" is one of my favorite statements to say during a therapy session.
    11. You get to help people, in real time. With some professions, yes you are helping people but you don't always get to "see" the results of that. If you work as a customer service representative and you help someone fix their problem over the phone that's a very removed kind of help. However, if you are an ABA practitioner and working with a family who you see everyday you really get to see the immediate consequences of your effort. Family interactions improve, stress levels go down, and parents feel more successful as they learn ABA strategies and techniques.
    12. You get to be a "mini- scientist". If you are into developing theories, Pavlov & Skinner, statistics, data analysis, standard deviation, and the like, then ABA is a very satisfying career field. Every time I am contacted about a behavior that a family wants to change in some way, I must observe and define the behavior, measure the behavior, create a hypothesis/theory to explain the behavior, identify confounding variables, implement the intervention, and evaluate the success of the intervention. Much more exciting than what my friends do at work, that's for sure.
    13. I work with some of the most ADORABLE, smart, creative, curious, interesting, and diverse group of children and adolescents you could think of. Autism is a spectrum disorder that can bring different strengths and gifts, and the more individuals I work with each year the more I get to see that.
    14. Once you learn the science of Behavior Analysis you are then equipped with the tools to modify any behavior. Yes, that means you can get your spouse to load the dishwasher or teach sign language to your toddler. Or, finally drop that 15 lbs you’ve been trying to lose forever. 😊
    15. There are so many different things you can do within this field, that you don’t need to get bored. Beyond in-home Autism services, you can work in school settings, group homes or adult facilities, in hospitals, you could teach college level coursework, consult locally or internationally, provide specialized tutoring services, etc. If you are feeling stagnant in your career, there are usually options to switch up the work setting, population, etc.
    16. The greatest thing about what I do is telling people what I do. In a social setting, very quickly people tend to ask the "So what do you do?" question. It’s amusing and interesting to see people react to my explanation. Just saying “I’m a BCBA” is NEVER enough information, as few people know the term.  It’s a hard job to explain in a nutshell, but people usually react with something close to "Wow, what a cool job”. 

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  1. I am applying to graduate school for an MA in ABA. I am happy I stumbled upon this website because this solidified that this is exactly what I want to do.

    Thank you :)

  2. You are very welcome :-)

    Good luck in grad school!

  3. Thank you so much for this post! I have been considering becoming an ABA therapist for a while now and you have made me very excited to enter this field :)

    1. Thanks for your kind comment, and I'm glad the post was helpful! :-)

  4. Thank you so much for your list of what you love about being an ABA therapist. I've been wrestling over my options for a Master's degree program and the information you provided has helped me make an informed decision about going down the ABA path. Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Heidi,

      I am glad I could be of assistance to you, and this field has a great need for passionate people. Good luck with your studies!

  5. I really love ABA therapy. I am currently pursuing my bachelor in psychology and am really thinking on going through with ABA therapy. I am just worried on the salary. I want to make sure it is a good move financially. I plan on having a big family and to be sure I am secure.

    1. Hi there,

      Hi there,

      It can be a bit difficult getting a good idea of salary, because many companies keep salaries confidential and wont discuss salary until the interview process. See if you can connect with ABA professionals in your area and ask them what their starting salary was (don't ask what they make now, they likely have increased their salary with experience). I can say that on average, a brand new ABA therapist usually makes about $13 an hour. The more experience you have, the better able you are to negotiate higher salary.

  6. Hello,
    I accidently stumbled upon this site and am glad I did. I recently changed my goal direction from social work to ABA and am trying to find out as much as I can. Hope to chat and learn more with everyone here.

  7. I have an interview for a aba line therapist on Monday. I have no experience other than being a MRTT at a home for children with autism. Are there any tips you can give me, i really want this job.

    1. Hi,

      Good luck on your interview. I do have a post about interviewing for ABA positions, I hope its helpful.

      Here is a link: http://www.iloveaba.com/2012/03/interview-other-side.html

  8. Hi. I recently completed a bachelor's degree in Psychology. I am a first year teacher now and I absolutely love my job. I'm not very confident about working with special children, which is why I began teaching instead of pursuing psychology. But I loved ABA during my bachelor's program. I have worked with a physically disabled child for a while as part of the course requirement.

    So, I love ABA but I can't work with mental disabilities. If I now go for a master's in ABA, what would my options be if I don't want to work with mental disabilities (so autism would be out of the question). Anything I can do in schools, maybe?

    Your input on the matter would be very helpful :)

    1. Hello,

      Have you viewed the varying certification levels on the BACB website? That is your best source of information to understand what one can do within the field of behavior analysis, at various education levels. ABA in general is much broader than Autism/special needs, however many individuals who pursue certification do so in order to work with the special needs population.

      A degree in ABA is similar to a degree in Psychology, in that without certification/licensure your job options could be very limited. Is it possible to work in some ABA manner without being certified or licensed? Completely depends on the laws/regulations and funding sources where you live. The job opportunities available would also vary depending on your local job market. If you aren't interested in serving special needs kids or adults, it may take much more research and diligence to find other types of positions. If you just go a quick Google search of companies seeking ABA professionals you will see what I mean.

      Working with a school system would typically limit you to serving a special needs population. If a school has the interest and funding to hire someone to provide ABA services, then it will probably be to serve their special education department.

  9. Hi Tameika, it is good to see that you love your job so much. I am from Hong Kong and I am fresh graduate in Psychology in July. I found my main interest is counseling with people with different kind of emotional problems (I am not sure how to explain this, but I do love the process in helping people through communication).

    Here comes to my question that, I have an interview today of ABA therapist and I do find that ABA is quite an interesting and inspirating job and somehow have similarity with what I love. But on the other hand, I am afraid that working as an ABA therapist will be difficult and this may not be what I am expected to do. Could you give me some guidance or advice for me.

    I hope I can get something or some emotional support from you. Again, your experience and this blog is amazing and it gives me some encouragement in entering into ABA therapist. :)

    Thank you and good luck:)

  10. amzaing sharing! keep going!

  11. Hi Tameika,
    I'm so happy to have found your blog. I'm currently doing the ABA program after completing my MA three months ago. I was wondering if I can finish with the four classes left then begin with my field experience or do I do them simultaneously? I'm currently overwhelmed with two classes and with my family to take care of, I would like to wait. Thanks,

  12. Hi!
    I'm happy I found your blog. I have been working part time in elementary education for several years. I was feeling frustrated about not getting even an interview for full time work (it's hard in my state!) when my friend suggested trying ABA as a career. I was just hired as a direct service provider. I really hope I find as much joy providing therapy for families as I do teaching because the field is growing like crazy here! I am encouraged by your recruitment post!

  13. Hello Tameika,

    I work as a fee for service ABA therapist in New York City. I love it. Do you know how I can do this work overseas. Im interested in Japan and Europe.

    Angela in Brooklyn

    1. I'm not sure about Japan, but I stumbled across Knopse ABA (http://knospe-aba.com/cms/us/) several years ago through an internet search. Today with international conferences, Facebook groups, Twitter, etc., I imagine it would be much easier to connect with ABA professionals all over the world.

  14. Hello, I am an former ECE, now a stay at home mom of two. When I was working, I also worked with children with special needs. Some of them had autism. I remember working with them was so rewarding and I felt really good helping the children and their family. I am thinking of going back to work in a few years. As a mom and a wife, flexibility of working hours is very important. I know you mentioned that you can decide hours and income level in your article. Would you think that this occupation will be a suitable job for a mom?

    1. Hi and welcome!

      That's a hard question to answer because there is no "one way" an ABA position will look. Are there moms who work as direct staff? Sure, but some of them work typical full time hours, and some of them do not.
      Your best bet would be to research local positions in your area and see what types of hours they tend to need, and compare that to your preferred schedule. It's pretty common that direct staff work a varied schedule of 2-3 hour shifts across multiple days, so putting together a caseload schedule can honestly be quite the headache at times. It's why some companies hire someone just to handle all of that (a "Scheduler").

      Good luck!

  15. Hi there,
    What do you recommend for someone with no experience and has a bachelor's degree in business?
    I see companies advertising that they will train you to become an ABA therapist. Can you really start like that? I'm beginning to wonder if those positions are real. Thank you

    1. Hi and thanks for reading the post,

      Do you have related experience? For example, teaching, nanny work with special needs children, case management, etc.? Often companies will hire newbies who have related experiences, and then continue their training.

      If you do not, my recommendation would be to first pursue your RBT credential. It's a good starting point to understand ABA foundationally. To finish the process you will need a BCBA to assess you, but for most companies RBT's are in demand so if you apply for a position explaining all you need is the assessment portion they will likely snatch you up.

      Even though some lower quality companies will hire people without experience and then help them obtain their RBT credential, I don't suggest you do that. This is a highly skilled job where you would be quickly placed on cases with clients, required to multitask, required to collect continuous data, and required to intervene on challenging behaviors (usually simultaneously), and your clients deserve someone who knows what they are doing. It is one thing to have foundational knowledge and then learn the applied side, but to walk in completely blind is a bit too steep of a learning curve, in my opinion. Especially if you have never worked with special needs children or individuals before.

    2. Thank you so much. You are absolutely right.


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