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BCBA - Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Experience, stories, anything? None
Old 10-12-2009, 06:06 PM   #1
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My girlfriend is a therapist working for a local school district, and the other day she told me about BCBAs. Primarily (at least in her field), they form strategies to deal with "special" kids and affect their behavior. Or at least that's how I understand it - not much hands-on work, more like planning and strategizing. This field is relatively new - according to the intertubes, it all started around 2000, and there are only about 4,500 certified behavior analysts in the whole world. According to my g/f, school districts always need more of them - and some districts are so desperate that they'd even recruit somebody who is in the process of getting certified.
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The certification doesn't sound too hard to obtain, either: all one needs is a BA degree, nine college psych courses, and 500 hours of hands-on experience. Theoretically, it could all be done in a few months.

And then there are the perks: the starting salary is nothing stellar, probably around $30K, give or take, but if one works for a school district (I'm talking about schools in the U.S.), one needs to work only 175 days a year. In other words, you'd work less than half a year and still get a steady paycheck every month.
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This sounds very lucrative - if only because of the high demand (which is bound to get higher) and the cushy working conditions. Does anybody here work in this field, know somebody who does, or have anything to say on the topic?
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Old 11-12-2009, 03:29 PM   #2
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I don't know so much about this specific field, but I can speak a little about the teacher's schedule. It's nice, don't get me wrong, but those 175 days are 75% to 100% longer than regular business days. When school is in session you will work a full 8 1/2 hour day, and then you will go home and work an additional 2 to 4 hours. You will leave school on Friday, and work significant periods through Saturday and Sunday. You will have little room to schedule vacation (other than faking sick days) and you will constantly find your level of living improvement (raises and benefits) is reliant upon the bargaining power of your representative union.

Many members of my family are schoolteachers or speech therapists or behavioral therapists. Your workload will likely be similar to a teachers.

I hope that does not deter you though, the members of my family who work in schools still love the long vacations after busting their asses, but I hope you have the full picture pinning yourself down under 14 hour days.
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Old 11-12-2009, 03:42 PM   #3
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BCBAs use Applied Behavior Analysis based therapies to deal with children with behavior problems. Depending on the employment, these might be children with ADHD, or they may be children with severe behavioral issues.

The autism center where I work has many BCBAs on staff. They work directly with children in our severe behavior clinic and it is not a cushy job (they are often punched, kicked, spit on, shit on, bitten, and a whole bunch of other things).

In the school system, you will probably be working in special education environments and likely with children with autism. BCBAs are there to help deal with the behavioral issues so the teacher can actually teach.

Yes, the pay is good in most places; yes, they are in demand. But more than not, you will be working with children who have issues, often severe disabilities. This is will be physically taxing and emotionally taxing.
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Old 11-12-2009, 03:51 PM   #4
PunkinA
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  Originally Posted by paleoeco
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This is will be physically taxing and emotionally taxing.

... then even more emotionally taxing. Even people who enjoy helping other people have a hard time filling these positions. Hence the demand.

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Old 11-12-2009, 03:58 PM   #5
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Feedback at last!
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  Originally Posted by PunkinA
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I hope you have the full picture pinning yourself down under 14 hour days.

That's not too different from the 14-hour days I spend interpreting for visiting Russian delegations (on those rare occasions they get here, that is...).

  Originally Posted by paleoeco
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Yes, the pay is good in most places; yes, they are in demand. But more than not, you will be working with children who have issues, often severe disabilities. This is will be physically taxing and emotionally taxing.

I understand... Yet at the same time, there's the allure of making real difference. For me, it's more "emotionally taxing" to work with the so-called "normal" people, with all their intrigues and petty politics. Of course, if this field turns out to be an entirely wrong choice for me, I could always switch gears and try something else. (I like having options...
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