An applied behavioral analyst therapist works with autistic children to help them communicate more effectively and decrease destructive or unwanted behaviors. The intervention essentially involves connecting a request with a correct behavior through the use of reinforcement, such as positive responses to right behaviors and minimal responses to wrong behaviors. Agencies that hire out ABA therapists have a variety of requirements, ranging from an associate degree to previous training in ABA therapies.
Educational requirements to become an ABA therapist vary from job to job. One set of uniform requirements doesn't exist. At the minimum, you may need an associate degree or bachelor's degree in psychology or special education. The more closely your degree relates to childhood autistic therapy, the better. Some companies will provide on-the-job training, while others will require that you have at least some previous ABA experience.
Personal Qualifications Needed
Being an ABA therapist is a demanding job, both physically and emotionally. You'll want to evaluate yourself and make sure you have the right personality for this type of work. Because the job is so demanding, you should be passionate about helping special needs children. Autistic children can be happy to see you one day and hurtful the next, so you should be flexible and patient, while able to also be firm in your instructions.
Although no nationally recognized ABA certification exists, behavioral analyst certifications include ABA training. Administered by the Behavioral Analysis Certification Board, these come in three levels: a board certified behavioral analyst - doctorate, a BCBA that only requires a master's degree and a board certified assistant behavior analyst, which requires a bachelor's degree. Any BCBA can work as an independent consultant, and a BCaBA must work under a BCBA. All three levels require training, mentoring and passing an international exam.
Finding the Job
You can find a job as an ABA either by applying with families through online job boards or by going directly to therapy agencies. Families may have less strict requirements, such as only wanting you to have a bachelor's degree or some specialized experience. Agencies may require more, such as a graduate degree and state certification.