Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a branch of the wider psychology discipline known as behavior analysis, which is the scientific study of behavior. ABA involves scientifically applying principles of behavior analysis to improve behavior. A practitioner analyzes a maladaptive behavior in relation to its context in order to gain an understanding of what consequences (rewards) the behavior provides. They can then find ways to replace it with healthier actions. A simple example of applied behavior analysis is training a child to not throw tantrums. If the tantrums are normally rewarded with attention from the parent, then the tantrums might cease if the parent ignores the child whenever he or she is screaming inappropriately. Whereas other branches of psychology are interested in mental states and thought processes, applied behavioral analysis is chiefly concerned with consequences of behaviors. Applied behavior analysis is researched and applied in a range of areas such as:
- Addictive behavior
- Animal management
- Autism therapy
- AIDS prevention
- Environmental conservation
- Industrial safety
- Juvenile delinquency
- Medical training
- Organizational structures
- Sports performance
- Work environments
What training is required for a career? Although many bachelor, master and doctoral programs are devoted to applied behavior analysis, it is also possible to find employment with a bachelor’s degree in general psychology, education, or a related social science. This route requires additional training that can be earned through a relatively brief certificate program or on-the-job training. Graduate programs endorsed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) prepare students for board certification, which opens up many more career possibilities. Different levels of behavior analysts include Board Certified Behavior Analysts, Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts, and Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral. The BACB describes career possibilities for each level and provides detailed information about becoming board certified. Which schools offer training? A degree in applied behavior analysis can be earned online or through distance learning. A sampling of programs is presented below, and more can be found on the BACB website.
- Teachers College at Columbia University offers: the M.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis – Initial Dual Certification (Birth to Grade 6); the Ed.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis; and the Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis.
- The University of Massachusetts at Boston offers an award-winning distance learning certificate program in applied behavior analysis. Students must be able to view video lectures at certain sites in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania. Successful completion of the five-course program makes students eligible for the national Behavior Analyst Certification Board licensing examination.
- St. Cloud State University awards the M.S. in applied behavior analysis on campus and through distance learning. The distance learning program requires one campus visit.
- Western Michigan University offers the M.A. and the Ph.D. in behavior analysis. Its primary specialty areas are developmental disabilities, basic operant research with humans and nonhumans, organizational behavior management, behavioral pharmacology, behavioral gerontology, and behavioral medicine.
- Auburn University offers a three-semester master’s concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis in Developmental Disabilities. A practicum is included.