10 Things You Can Do with an ABA Degree Other Than Work with Kids with ASD

“Why are we not acting to save the world?”
– B. F. Skinner, behaviorist and father of operant conditioning

In a field where 89% of graduates go on to work with adults and children with cognitive and developmental disorders – most commonly those that fall on the spectrum of autistic disorders – you might find it hard to imagine applying behavior analysis therapies to bring about positive behavioral change in any other population.

You would have good reason to feel that there are few other things as compelling as using ABA as a therapeutic method and educational intervention designed to help kids with ASD develop social skills, learn alongside neurotypical students in the classroom and become happy, successful, functional members of society. Really, what could be more rewarding than that?

But perhaps you’re just not familiar with the full body of work that ABAs do.

In studying psychology and human behavior at the graduate level, ABAs come away with a broad set of skills that have proven to be effective in promoting and reinforcing desired behaviors in a wide range of areas. This has created countless ways that behavior analysis can be applied to encourage positive behavioral change and improve the quality of life for both individuals and broader segments of the populace – from individuals struggling with behavioral addictions like online gaming, gambling and risky sexual behavior… to at-risk populations with health problems related to obesity and a sedentary lifestyle… to corporate and industrial workers looking to achieve peak productivity… among many others.

There is more freedom and flexibility in the ABA field than you may have ever imagined. You’ve chosen a versatile field in which the level of growth and opportunity is almost unheard of, with the demand for ABAs nearly doubling every two years for the past several years.

In putting this list together, we looked at the availability of diverse opportunities in different industry sectors, income potential, and, of course, job satisfaction.

Presented here in no particular order is our pick for just ten of the many careers that would allow you to put your ABA degree to use to save the world …

  1. Health Coaches and Personal Health and Wellness Trainers Make Physical Fitness Fun

    Maybe you haven’t pictured yourself as the next Jillian Michaels or Bob Harper, but that’s exactly what you could achieve with your ABA degree.Many of the world’s most successful trainers and health coaches studied nutrition or exercise science and have a degree in one of these disciplines. However, with a background in ABA, you’ll be able to take your clients to the next level by going beyond teaching exercise and nutrition to actually applying tried and tested techniques for bringing about the kind of behavioral change required to achieve and maintain peak fitness.

    Fitness is a mental game above all else, and ABAs are trained to help people break unhealthy habits, while teaching and reinforcing the healthy ones.

    Also, individuals who choose to study ABA often do so out of a deep desire to help others. What better way to help others improve their lives than to help them achieve both physical and mental health?

    Imagine the wide variety of directions you could take this career—you could work in a corporate fitness center or top health club, contract with a physical therapy office, or work independently with wealthy clients in their home gyms.

  1. Help People Achieve Independence as an Occupational Therapy Assistant

    While you’ll need an associate’s degree in occupational therapy to qualify to take the Certified Occupational Therapist Assistant exam and earn an OTA license in your state, just imagine what you could bring to this profession if you also had some formal training in ABA.Occupational therapy exists to help habilitate and rehabilitate individuals suffering from a variety of physical and mental disabilities that get in the way of being able to effectively perform the activities of daily living. It’s all about helping people achieve a basic level of freedom and independence so that they can lead happy, healthy, productive lives. Sounds pretty similar to the goals of ABA, doesn’t it?

    Formal training in ABA and OTA is the one-two punch that could prepare you to become the most effective occupational therapy assistant the world has ever known!

  1. Help Save the World Working in the Nonprofit Sector

    The non-profit sector thrives because dedicated individuals from diverse backgrounds bring their passion to bear on solving problems and improving lives. This means there aren’t strict and specific education requirements for getting into this line of work so much as there is a need for people who are compelled and personally driven to bring about positive change. Kind of sounds like the perfect field for an applied behavior analyst, doesn’t it?You don’t have to hold a degree in nonprofit administration to be an excellent director, case manager, or program administrator for a nonprofit organization. The knowledge you gain in studying ABA would be put to good use encouraging behavioral change that can help make the world a safer, healthier more equitable place for everybody…

    From designing programs to improve the health of at-risk populations where smoking, poor diet, and alcohol and drug addiction are more likely to be a destructive force in peoples’ lives, to helping people achieve the freedom and dignity that comes with developing employable skills… applied behavior analysis in the nonprofit sector is all about helping others, and helping others help themselves.

    The perk of nonprofit work is that there are countless niche organizations doing essential work in their communities. If you really want to save the world, this may be a great place to start.

  1. Provide Behavioral and Financial Counseling to Give People the Power of Self-Determination

    Counseling and ABA goes hand in hand when it involves working with kids on the autism spectrum. However, you’re not limited to working with any one type of client or patient population…Are you fascinated by the concept of behavioral addiction to things like online gaming or sex? … Maybe your life has been touched by chemical addiction in some way and you want a chance to help other people slay their demons? … How about financial counseling where you help people learn the habits necessary to get out from under crippling debt and achieve financial freedom? … Ever thought about teaching people the techniques for controlling self-destructive and sometimes dangerous emotions like anger?

    These are all incredibly rewarding areas in which to apply the principals of behavior analysis, and areas with no shortage of opportunities.

  1. Become a Life Coach to the Rich and Famous

    Recently, the field of life coaching has really caught on as even very successful people look to maintain their edge, achieve even higher heights and develop healthy coping mechanisms so that stress and personal difficulties don’t become a barrier to realizing their full potential.Admit it – at some point in your life you’ve lingered for a minute while changing channels enthralled by a Tony Robbins infomercial… and before flipping the channel something in the back of your head said, ‘yeah, maybe there’s something to this.’

    Life coaches are like counselors, advocates, advisors, and a personal cheer squad all rolled into one. Sure, they counsel their clients, but it doesn’t always involve having them lie on a leather couch.

    Life coaching is a much more active, personally involved and somewhat less formal way of helping people overcome barriers to success and get them to the top of their game. Like a counselor, you’ll help your clients set personal and professional goals, arm them with the tools that will help them get there, monitor and evaluate their progress along the way, and ultimately be invited to the party when it’s time to celebrate their success!

  1. Gain First Hand Exposure to the World of Psychology– Before Earning a Psychologist License

    In all but a few states, applied behavior analysts are licensed and defined as a professional classification separate from psychologists. In fact, most states that have a licensing process in place for ABAs have an independent licensing board separate from the state board of psychology, or at least, a separate division within the board of psychology dedicated solely to behavior analyst licensing and regulation.Both in practice, and in the eyes of most licensing authorities, these fields are considered distinct, while at the same time the concepts and methods used in each are inextricably linked. By definition, ABAs aren’t psychologists, but they do use a heck of a lot of the same principals. After all, B.F. Skinner, one of the fathers of behavioral psychology and the man credited with developing concepts like operant conditioning routinely used in ABA therapy to this day, is as much a mainstay in psychological literature as he is in the body of literature that describes and defines applied behavior analysis.

    Even if you aren’t ready to commit to earning a doctorate degree and becoming a licensed psychologist, with a master’s degree you can begin working as a psychologist assistant and start gaining a lot of invaluable experience in clinical or counseling psychology.

    This could be your last stop as you settle into a rewarding career, or just one way to gain experience while you work toward earning a doctorate in psychology with a focus in applied behavior analysis on your way to qualifying for a psychology license of your own. For the ABA who is fascinated with psychology, this is perhaps the best place to start.

  1. Animal Behavior Consultants Keep Furry Friends Safe and Content

    Animal lovers, you’re in luck—your ABA degree could prepare you for a career in animal behavior consulting, a field recently made famous by the likes of Temple Grandin (notably, a high-functioning autistic herself) and even celebrity pet trainers like Cesar Millan.Domesticated animals, livestock, and animals living around people in captivity, can cause serious and costly injuries to themselves, other animals, and even their human caregivers if certain behaviors aren’t addressed and put in check. A mouthy dog can be trouble enough for an owner with kids or nervous neighbors, but just imagine the kind of damage a stampede of livestock can do at a cattle ranch, or how an agitated stallion could ruin a day at the races, or what could happen when an elephant at the zoo starts throwing its weight around.

    This is where animal behavioral specialists come in.

    You’ll apply behavioral techniques to animals to assess the cause of dangerous and destructive behavior, mitigate aggravating factors, and help enforce good habits– in both the animals themselves and in the people who care for them.

    As society has made the collective decision to treat all animals in our care humanely, passing laws that make many animal handling practices illegal that were commonly used only a generation ago, there is a thriving and growing market for this kind of work.

    You might consider working out of a veterinarian’s office, working at a zoo or other animal care center, working for a kennel or pet shop, or even striking out on your own and starting an independent consulting practice.

  1. Social Workers are a Lifeline for the Underprivileged

    Social work is a huge field with countless opportunities to find the niche that makes you jump out of bed every morning and start downing coffee so you can hit the job with all the gusto you can muster. Work as a case manager and help foster children find permanent homes … help chemically dependent halfway house residents get back on their feet … act as a liaison between police, prosecutors and the delinquent kid that needs a goal to strive toward more than a criminal record.You’ve already decided the field of ABA is for you, so clearly you’ve got more patience and willingness to preserve despite setbacks than a Buddhist monk. You’ve likely already figured out that you’re the type that needs to live for others to feel fulfilled in your own life too. Well, if that’s the case, there is no profession that will test your resolve while at the same putting you on a course to personal fulfillment quite like social work.

    Social work involves the kind of clinical assessment and management skills that those with the heart and mind for ABA work were born to do. With a bachelor’s in social work and a master’s in psychology with an ABA focus or similar academic credentials, you’ll be more than qualified for a state license in either clinical or non-clinical social work, and beyond qualified to help the clients you work with learn to live happy, sober, productive lives.

  1. Clinical Research Contributes to the Body of ABA Knowledge and Helps Develop New Behavioral Technology

    Do you feel in your gut that the next big breakthrough in ABA is right around the corner? Are you compelled forward by your thirst for knowledge? Do you want to contribute to the growing body of knowledge used to improve therapeutic practices and develop more effective behavioral technology?Applied behavior analysis owes its very existence to the countless hours and years of tireless research that psychologists and other ABA practitioners have contributed to the field. It is only through careful research, and the experimental application of the hypotheses drawn from research, that conclusions can be found and discoveries made.

    It’s research that led to the now widely accepted discovery that ABA is the only effective method for treating autism spectrum disorder. This has helped improve the lives of countless children and families dealing with ASD, led to a massive shift in the psychological community as ABA became the universally recommended therapy for kids on the spectrum, and has had a very tangible effect on public policy as states move to implement autism insurance mandate laws that ensure private insurers cover the cost of ABA therapy. How’s that for effecting real change in the world?

    Universities and hospitals hire research coordinators and contract with research firms to do this important, behind-the-scenes work. Your research might focus on autism spectrum disorder or other areas where ABA is applied, but you can be sure the work you do will inform clinical practice and improve the existing model of ABA.

  1. ABAs in Organizational Behavior Management Help Oil the Wheels of Industry

    Complacency kills… even routine behaviors that are allowed to go on without careful analysis and management can lead to workplace injuries, fatalities, or at best, costly accidents and wasted time and resources.The solution? … Organizational behavior management (OBM).

    OBM is credited with saving lives through the careful analysis and correction of common practices in industrial settings and saving untold billions of dollars in lost productivity caused by inefficient systems and work processes.

    Whether at the point of production, within the supply chain, at distribution points or in the relative comfort and safety of the office, every corporation worth its salt makes a major investment in organizational behavior management– it’s an investment that always pays dividends in the long run.

    If you’re fascinated by the prospect of analyzing work systems and processes in any of these areas and discovering new ways to ensure worker safety while squeezing dollars out of breaking bad habits in the workplace and reinforcing good ones, then you’re definitely built for the field of OBM.