7 Unknown Perks to Becoming an Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist
If you are like most people who are considering a career as an applied behavior analysis therapist, the perks that come along with it are the last thing on your mind. You get into applied behavior analysis therapy because you want to help people. You know it’s a job that will give you a chance to help children with autism or elderly adults undergoing post-stroke therapy. Applied behavior analysis therapist jobs can give you a shot at delivering a better life to people who don’t have any other options.
But applied behavior analysis therapist jobs are still jobs. You get up, you go to the office, you work, you go home at the end of the day. Even though you are making a difference, at some point it will become a routine for you. The job description of an ABA therapist includes real job satisfaction, but there’s a lot of work involved in getting to that point.
You will find, however, that the job does come with a few perks that you won’t find listed in any applied behavior analysis therapist job description. Most ABA therapists have to actually get certified and get on the job to discover all the upside for themselves.
But today, you’re in luck! We’re going to lay out 7 secret perks of becoming an applied behavior analysis therapist for you.
Are there more than 7? We’re not telling… but read on to get an idea what is waiting for you on the job.
1. Unreal Levels of Job Security for Life
Well, okay, you might find this one in a few applied behavior analysis therapist job descriptions. But that’s because it’s true! Not only is applied behavior analysis therapy becoming a more and more common kind of treatment for all kinds of conditions and disorders, but the number of patients experiencing those conditions keeps increasing as well.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, for instance, shows steady trend line increases in substance misuse in school-age children through 2020. The prevalence of autism spectrum disorder in children between 3 and 17 years of age increased from 6.7 per 1,000 in 2000 to 18.5 per 1,000 in 2016 (the most recent year with available data) according to the Centers for Disease Control. The number of Americans over the age of 65, a key demographic for many healthcare services, increased by a third between 2010 and 2020, and that age group is on track to outnumber children by 2034 according to the Census Bureau.
That all comes together in what the Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts to be an astounding 25 percent jump in jobs between 2019 and 2029. Applied behavior analysis therapist jobs are going to be plentiful for your entire career horizon. Whether you are applying with hospitals, outpatient therapy centers, or schools, demand will be high. And there will be plenty of clients in the market for your services if you decide to hang out your own shingle and start your own ABA business.
2. Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy Can Be Performed Online
Until 2020 and COVID-19 came along, you might never have thought about this as a perk, or even an option. But the pandemic definitely gave everyone a fresh perspective on the ability to do their job remotely.
Some kinds of therapies had trouble making that transition. But applied behavior analysis therapy came through with flying colors, keeping a lot of therapists employed even as thousands of other Americans found themselves out of work. Telebehavioral therapy was a life-saver for many thousands of clients with behavioral needs and a job-saver for ABA therapists.
It’s true, there were definitely some growing pains when everyone got shut down in early 2020. But technologies like Zoom stepped up their game quickly for telehealth practitioners. And many health care providers and insurers rushed through approvals for telehealth services.
That capability isn’t going away just because the virus does. You can expect a more flexible, more accessible work environment through remote delivery of applied behavior analysis therapy for the rest of your career in the field.
3. Applied Behavior Analysis Therapists Can Make a Difference in Patient’s Lives
Okay, this one wasn’t much of a secret either. You probably picked this field exactly because you could make a difference. Whether you light up from seeing a child with autism learn to communicate effectively for the first time, or celebrate three months sober with an addict who you helped through a hard course of discrete trial training, personal satisfaction is a perk you just can’t overlook in this job.
It’s a gift that keeps on giving. Therapists see improvement during sessions all the time. But the really gratifying experiences come years later, long after you’ve stopped working with a particular patient. You run into them on the street, and in place of that uncommunicative, closed-off ASD patient, you find a productive, happy person with a place in the world and a normal future unfolding. You’ll always know you were a big part of that.
No one is going to tell you that the job description of ABA therapists doesn’t include some tough times and crushing moments. Applied behavior analysis therapy is work that requires a lot of heart, a lot of repetition, and a lot of getting it wrong on the first try. But all of that comes together in the end, when you get that breakthrough that makes your patient’s face glow and your heart swell. You can make a difference every day as an applied behavior analysis therapist, and there’s no need to keep it a secret!
4. Control Your Schedule By Delivering ABA Therapy Your Way
Applied behavior analysis therapy is a field that is very open to flexible scheduling. Many applied behavior analysis therapist jobs are available outside the 9-to-5 grind simply because that’s when the patients can make it. If you’re working with kids with ASD, for example, you’ll often find that the only time parents can make appointments is after their own workday is done. That can leave you with your own day free!
Shift work is also a feature in some applied behavior analysis therapist job descriptions. Working in rehabilitation centers or nursing homes, there are often openings for applied behavior analysis therapists at all hours, just like with nurses. Because demand in the industry is so high, you can usually find an opening on whatever shift you prefer. Or, you can mix and match, changing your scheduling around to however you need to from week to week.
Stack this on top of number 2 and it gets even better. With telebehavioral health options, commuting has turned into the ten steps between your bed and the computer desk. You free up big parts of your day and shuffle appointments in when and how you want to offer them.
And let’s not forget the fact that many applied behavior analysis therapists set up their own shops after getting a little bit of experience in the field. When you run your own business, you set your own schedule. If you want to take a week off and head to Hawaii, it’s all up to you! Work as much or as little as you like.
5. Never Run Out of Interesting Trivia or Conversation Starters
Impress your friends! Have fun at parties! Working as an applied behavior analysis therapist means you get to know all kinds of strange and exotic healthcare and behavioral conditions that no one has ever heard of, and explore interesting topics that few of your friends will ever think about. What is FG Syndrome (FGS)? What is Fragile X Syndrome (FXS)? Was Forrest Gump Autistic?
All of these oddities and more are at your finger-tips the next time your dinner party starts to fall a little flat! You probably never thought about this when you were studying for your degree, but all that essential knowledge that you picked up to get into the profession can be fascinating to the un-initiated.
Let’s face it, everyone loves an odd story or two. And with your training and experience, you can tell a few funny tales from the world of applied behavior analysis without seeming to be mean or insensitive. In fact, you can probably offer up a few heartwarming tales of recovery to top off your stories of the strange and unusual.
You will never run out of conversation starters with your background in applied behavior analysis therapy!
6. Become a Trained Observer of The Human Condition
Applied behavior analysis therapist jobs all rest on your ability to observe and analyze even the most subtle human behaviors. All your training revolves around carefully watching and interpreting the observable responses individuals have to certain stimuli. Direct observation is employed in over 70 percent of the major research articles published in behavioral journals. The technique has been called the hallmark of behavioral analysis.
Not only is close observation a critical skill found in the average job description of ABA therapists, but it can also just be a great life skill for you to pick up. Many of the little mysteries of human behavior that puzzle the average person will be completely explainable to you. Your entire career is based on the ability to make quick, accurate assessments just from watching how individuals behave. You don’t have to restrict that ability only to patients!
Everything from facial expressions to little tics in how someone sits in a chair will reveal details that you never even thought about before you became an applied behavior analysis therapist. The universal “anger face” of lowered brow, nose flared, and chin raised has been found to convince observers that the person making the face appears physically stronger,for instance.
Just make sure you use your new powers of observation for good and not evil!
7. You Can Get Started Today as an Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist!
The best part we saved for last. Demand in the field is so high, you can get started working in applied behavior analysis therapy almost immediately!
Oh, make no mistake, you’re still going to have to go out and get the right education and hands-on practice before you become a full-fledged applied behavior analysis therapist. There is no short-cut to becoming qualified as a professional in the field. You will still eventually need to earn a master’s degree or higher in education, psychology, or behavior analysis, and pass the rigorous BCBA exam if you want to progress in the field.
But almost no one starts out immediately as a board-certified therapist. There are many applied behavior analysis therapist jobs that are available on lower branches in the ABA career tree. You can easily become a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) if you have only a bachelor’s degree, for example. Or if you haven’t gone to college at all just yet, with only 40 hours of training and a little studying for the test, you can earn your Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certificate and get in on the ground floor of applied behavior analysis therapy.
Not only can those jobs get you into the field almost immediately, but they are also great steps to take to prepare you for your eventual role as a BCBA. You get a great paycheck and invaluable hands-on experience almost immediately. And you get some of the same level of satisfaction from working directly with people who need you, even if it is under the supervision of a BCBA.
With all the wonderful and totally not-secret benefits to becoming an applied behavior analysis therapist, these 7 bonus perks probably aren’t going to be the big reason you take the job. But it’s always nice to get something fun and unexpected as a benefit, even when your job started out awesome in the first place.
Becoming an applied behavior analysis therapist isn’t just awesome for you, though. The biggest benefit isn’t to you, it’s to your patients. You’ll also be improving lives for your clients and their families, people who might not have much hope without you.