So You Want to be a Superhero...






First you will need some lycra tights…

Oops, wrong post.


So you want to be an ABA Therapist! It’s almost like being a superhero, except we have better hours, better super- powers, and cape wearing is optional.

I’ve been getting a ton of emails recently from people interested in entering the field of ABA, but not sure exactly how to do so. I’m excited to be waving the flag for ABA, and hopefully motivating people to enter the field.  The main reason I started this blog was to reveal to people what ABA really is (because there are many grossly inaccurate myths out there) and if that causes people to want to enter the field, I think that’s great!

I talked briefly in my FAQ post about how to get started in this field, but this post will go a bit more in depth.

I can’t give a specific and outlined "How To" guide, because much of this information will vary from state to state. Also, for my international readers: unfortunately, I don’t have much information about how to enter the field of ABA in Germany, Italy, Africa, etc. I just simply don't know enough about how ABA looks in your neck of the woods to promise this information will be helpful no matter where you live.

To anyone with an interest in pursuing ABA as a career I recommend doing research for your particular area and networking with people currently in the field.



How do I become an ABA Therapist?


-     What exactly is an ABA Therapist?:
      It's important to distinguish between an ABA Therapist and a Behavior Analyst. BA’s supervise, manage,  and run ABA programs as Consultants. ABA Therapists are the lifeblood of the ABA program, as they are the ones who work with the consumer day after day to teach skills. As an ABA Therapist you are usually responsible for teaching very specific skills and implementing a behavior plan.  ABA therapists can also work with a variety of clients, not just young kids with Autism (myth alert).  There’s a growing demand from schools who want ABA services for typically developing children, as well as ABA professionals working with adult populations and animals. So ABA Therapists really can have a solid career outside of Autism, if that is what they prefer.
-    What’s it like being an ABA Therapist:
      The clients you work with will take you from sheer joy to the pit of frustration in 0.2 seconds. On Monday your client could be excited to see you and give you a huge hug, and then on Thursday they might try to bite you. Even if you only work with one client, every day won't be the same. That's whats so great about this job: if you have a bad session you get to hit "reset" and start over again the next day. If you are a person who loves sameness, routine, and predictability, you might not enjoy this type of work. The field changes all of the time, parent expectations can change, the behavior plan can change, the programs change....did I mention you must like change??
-    What kind of person would be a good fit for this job?:
      Anyone who is PASSIONATE about special needs or human differences, detail oriented, energetic, and loves to learn. Parents often feed off of the enthusiasm of the ABA Therapist, and feel encouraged by it. It’s important that as an ABA professional you enjoy learning, because you never stop learning when this is your job. Research and technology advance the field regularly. You have to be open to receiving supervision and correction, even if you have been doing this for years. If you aren’t a person who can take constructive criticism then this likely isn’t the job for you!
-    I’ve heard some horror stories; do ABA Therapists really get beat up at work?:
      Short answer? Yes. :-) Here's the scoop: as an ABA professional you usually have say over who you work with. You could choose to only work with cognitively impaired adults, or only work with high functioning teens. The majority of my work experience has been in-home skill acquisition with very young children. So I haven't been in situations where big, strong teens or adults have attacked me, thrown desks at me, groped me, shoved me against a wall, bent my fingers back, etc. Do all of those things actually happen? YES. That would be called a severe behavior client.  The good news is you shouldn't be thrown into situations like that unprepared. Your employer should provide physical management training, there should be a behavior plan in place, and if applicable a crisis plan to follow. So I suppose my answer is, it is possible you could really get injured depending on the clientele you work with and the training you are given by your employer.
-     What are the hours like? :
      There’s a lot of variability as far as scheduling, and of course depending on your work setting. If you work inside of homes with young children  then you'll probably have early morning hours (as most young children still nap). If you work at a school, then most likely you will have a 8-3 schedule. If you work for an agency, you will likely have a jam packed schedule of varying days and times, sometimes with really unpleasant huge gaps in your schedule. Example: Monday sessions at 9-12 and 4-7. Working weekends should not be mandatory. If you burn yourself out with a hectic caseload then what do you have left to give to your clients, or to yourself and your own family?
-     Do I HAVE to be a RBT? : The Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) credential is fairly new in the field, and is a means to establish a minimum education and training requirement for direct staff. Is it necessary to enter the field? No. But... employers may require it, funding sources may require it, and it is a great way to learn more about the science of behavior analysis. Keep in mind the RBT professional is not intended as a standalone position. Meaning, you cannot work independently as a RBT--you will need a supervising BCBA. 
-     Where can I find ABA jobs? :
      This can be a bit tricky. It’s always easier to find an ABA job when you already have one, because families will refer you to other families. If you are looking to break into the field I’d recommend working for an agency first. You will get more clients and supervision than you would with an individual family. Research the ABA providers in your area, and contact them to see if they need ABA Therapists. If they don’t hire inexperienced therapists, see if they have volunteer positions so you can gain experience. You can also try your local or state organizations for ABA, as they often allow members to post job openings on their website.  If you are currently a college student, often the heads of the Education or Psychology departments will have leads on ABA jobs/practicum sites.



RESOURCES:

If you are interested in becoming an ABA Therapist, here are some resources to locating work.
It's usually pretty easy to gain Autism experience due to the steadily increasing diagnosis rates. I'd recommend taking an intern or volunteer position first to make sure this is something you want to do before committing to a paid job. This field isn't for everyone, and that's okay. This is high energy, stressful work, often with frustrating or aggressive individuals....it may not be your cup of tea.


GA Parent to Parent Network -Georgia statewide agency for parent support, has a database of companies and providers.


Craigs List, Indeed, & Linked In often have ABA job listings

This article has some really creative suggestions for locating ABA work.

Behavior Analyst Associations - Look up the Behavior Analyst association in your state. These websites usually post career opportunities, or if not, you can contact members directly to see if they have job leads. For GA, the state association is GABA.


www.Google.com- Google “Autism treatment” or "ABA therapy" and the name of your city, and see what comes up.


AIBA- Association of International Behavior Analysts (has a job directory).



ABA Employment Training Video

18 comments

  1. This is such an helpful blog..and yes there is no routine in this job...i love how you described it:
    "It's awesome, frustrating, rewarding, tiring, stressful, fun, exciting... and unpredictable. In other words, it’s a very unique job with good days, bad days, and "ugh" days. The clients you work with will take you from pure joy to extremely frustrated in 0.2 seconds. On Monday your client could be excited to see you and give you a huge hug, and then on Thursday they might start screaming when you walk into their house and try to bite you. Even if you only work with one client, every day won't be the same"

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  2. This is so helpful for me thank you

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  3. Many many thanks to you for your blog! Great job you doing! THANK YOU Tameika!

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  4. I am officially inspired! Applying to colleges this year as a psychology major to work towards becoming a certified ABA therapist! Thanks!

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    1. You are very welcome, good luck in school!

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  5. I have been working in a group home of clients diagnosed with Autism, never is their a dull moment. I'm always prepared for the worse but love when it's at the best. Seeing them accomplish that tiny goal like sweeping, coloring in the lines, or plan writing their name, might seem like nothing to some people but to me that's a goal; an amazement. I never knew about ABA therapy and would love to continue my career in this, I hope to find something in my town. I've only Been doing this a year but a year doesn't seem like enough, I want to learn more and continue to grow with anyone with a disability.

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    1. You sound like you caught the ABA bug! Congrats :-)

      Good luck finding opportunities in your area, trust me the need is GREAT for passionate ABA professionals.

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  6. Thank you so much for this blog. I just started my Master's in Clinical Psychology and have wanted to work with kids from the start. I only recently learned of ABA and have been researching and this is exactly what I want! I have started looking and even had a phone interview this morning. The information here only confirmed that this is the path I want to take! Thank you again!

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    Replies
    1. Well congrats, on finding the path for you!

      I stumbled into this field as well, I knew nothing about ABA when I began college. For some of us, its just like getting hit with the love bug. You just know when this is for you :-)

      Thanks for visiting the blog!

      Tameika

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  7. For the past year and one half ive been searching for what id like to go back to school for. Earlier this year my son was diagnosed with ASD. After lots of research, seeing how his therapists have helped him and now this blog...I can not help but think ABA has to be it. So thank you!

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    Replies
    1. Yay, I love comments like these!
      The biggest compliment I can get is that someone has an interest in ABA/working in this field after reading something I wrote :-)

      Good luck to you and your son,

      Tameika

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  8. thank you so much I have a project on what I want be and I have know from the start this is what I wanted to be and after reading thing I know that this is the job for me

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  9. That is so great! Good luck in the field :-)

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  10. Hey Tameika. I am currently a Mental Health Technician of 4 years. I approached my manager with my interest in becoming an RBT. Shes on board, but has a concern about a possible increase in pay. In comparison, technically, the roles of an RBT and my current position, MHT, are very similar. In order to argue a salary increase, i have to argue that an RBT takes on more responsibilities. Differentiate between the two... I am having trouble doing that. Whats the differences i can present? Thanks, R. Harris

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for commenting!

      I have seen individuals obtain BCaBA or even BCBA positions that did not come with a pay increase, so no, this does not always happen. It depends on the decision of management, the funding source, and many other variables. You can present your case to your manager and outline the increase in clinical expertise and knowledge this credential will bring you, but if they still choose to deny you an increase in pay you may want to consider a different employer who has more appreciation for the credential. Good luck!

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