Facebook Page

10 Important Things to Know About a Career as a Pediatric BCBA

photo of a child on a swing with a pediatric aba therapist at Westside in Illinois

Westside Children’s Therapy Pediatric BCBA team members give tips and advice to students and those wanting to pursue a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is an individual that is certified at a graduate level in behavior analysis. Those who certify as a BCBA deliver analytical behavior services. They may supervise the work of Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) and other professionals who are responsible for the implementation of behavior-analytic interventions.

Below, you will learn a little more about the pediatric BCBA career, the challenges that are faced, but why the career is rewarding, what you may learn along the way in the career, and more.

Many Westside Children’s Therapists were asked what the career is like and what they’d want students like you to know! The pediatric BCBA therapists that contributed to this blog have experience ranging from 4 months as a BCBA to more than 8 years as a BCBA.

The special part about being a BCBA at Westside is the multi-discipline approach in the clinics. Working side by side with other OTs, PTs, STs, you will be able to become a better therapist and always be learning. Someone is there when you need them.

  1. The need for ABA services may be bigger than you think.
    • There are many families out there that are seeking ABA services, on a waitlist for services, or currently receiving services. With that many children and families in need, even more pediatric BCBA therapists are needed to provide them with the help they are seeking.
  2. Confidence is important.
    • You will not always know what to do, but be confident in your knowledge and skills and try something! There is not one “right answer,” but rather lots of “right” ways to approach a situation.
  3. Empathy and sensitivity trump all else.
    • Empathy toward parents, families and clients is absolutely necessary for a pediatric BCBA to have. If a family knows you are doing your best to understand where they are coming from and to do the best for their child, they will believe in you. 
  4. Being a pediatric BCBA is like “speaking another language.”
    • You are able to understand why people do what they do. You can better understand yourself too. Behavior analysis is used everywhere, not just with Autism and ABA. Anywhere humans are, behavior analysis exists. 
  5. You will wear many hats as a pediatric BCBA.
    • It is a very rewarding, very challenging career, but all of the little wins make every single day worth it. There is a nice mix of working with people, supervising therapists, looking at graphs, talking to families and collaborating with other disciplines.
  6. There is more to learn outside of the textbook.
    • School and the textbooks are incredibly important, but you will realize that you need to learn from experience and “feet on the ground”, as opposed to what you learned in school and your textbooks. 
  7. Parent Training
    • A significant portion of the job is working with parents. They know their child best, so they are your most important resource. They are also your sidekick in implementing programming, because they spend a significantly larger portion of time with their child. So as much as you are teaching the child, you are teaching the parents as well. 
  8. Every day is an adventure: Each client is different.
    • You never know what each day will bring as a pediatric BCBA. Every client has a unique personality, learns in their own way, exhibits different behavior, has good and bad days, etc. We have to recognize and account for that in our approach to therapy. Each treatment plan is individualized and fitted for the particular child, and can be modified quickly based on what is happening. You encounter a lot of never-seen-before situations, especially early on in your career. 
  9. Some days are going to be very tough (make sure you read No. 10).
    • The most challenging part of the pediatric BCBA career is seeing your clients have a rough day. For some kids, this may be engaging in aggression,  self-injurious behavior, or just crying. And sometimes the problem behaviors may be directed at you. Days can feel like a tornado is pulling you in a lot of directions. It can be tough to leave work at work. 
  10. The good days make everything worth it! It is even more rewarding! 
    • You’re going to see your clients reach their goals, and nothing beats that. “I love seeing parent’s faces light up during the parent training when I get to report that their child has met this goal, or they said hi to their friend for the first time independently.”
    • “When I talk with my families of all the changes they have seen in such short periods of time, it is all worth it.”
    • “Seeing a child learn to communicate who was not able to previously.” 
    • “Hearing success stories from the parents.”
photo of a pediatric BCBA therapist with a child during an aba therapy session at Westside

Just as the pediatric BCBA therapists see positive changes in their clients, this career also allows them to grow and see changes in themselves. Whether that be work-related or in their day-to-day personal lives. 

Here are just a few of the comments our therapists have said about things that have changed in them positively since becoming a pediatric BCBA. 

  • “One thing that has changed in me positively since becoming a pediatric BCBA is my patience. I am able to sit and be patient and seek to understand what is going on with my clients when they are having a rough day. I feel like this patience has also transferred to my daily life and I notice more patience with my family and friends.”
  • “I am able to practice ABA in every aspect of my life and which is why I absolutely LOVE this field!”
  • “Understanding. I have worked with families from all different backgrounds: race, religion, socio-economic status. They all – want the same thing. For their kiddo to make progress. I do not see their differences. I see their love for their kiddos. We are not that different from each other.”
  • “I’ve learned to point out my own problem behaviors and deal with them. Also, I’ve developed a deeper understanding for all living beings.”
  • “I have become more effective in my ability to truly help people in need. My confidence has grown, and I see my positive impact in the world.”

Westside Children’s Therapy is currently hiring BCBAs to work at some of its 18+ clinics in the Chicagoland area

To take a look at what BCBA listings we currently have available, please click on the link below.

“Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA).” Behavior Analyst Certification Board, 12 Jan. 2022, https://www.bacb.com/bcba/.