ABA vs Clinical Psychology: Career ROI

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Updated: March 7, 2024, Reading time: 8 minutes

ABA vs Clinical Psychology - featured image

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Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and Clinical Psychology share several similarities. It has overlapping focus, objectives, and techniques, which is why many people confuse these two fields.

ABA and Clinical Psychology are fields of study emphasizing treating mental disorders and modifying behavior. ABA specialists use principles of behavior to address behavioral challenges and promote skill development in individuals. On the other hand, clinical psychologists diagnose and treat mental disorders.

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A Quick Look at Their Differences

ABAClinical Psychology
Average Salaries$73,532$109,894
Job Growth (2022 to 2032)6% or 12,000 openings annually (for Psychologists in general)6% or 12,000 openings annually (for Psychologists in general)
Key Features* Understand and modify behavior through applied techniques
* Primarily focused on individuals with ASD
Assess, diagnose, treat, and rehabilitate various psychological conditions, such as mood disorders, anxiety, and personality disorders
License/s RequiredTake the Board-certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA & BCBA-D)Pass the EPPP or Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.
Education RequiredMaster’s DegreePh.D. or Psy.D.

What is Applied Behavior Analysis?

What is Applied Behavior Analysis - Image

ABA is a behavioral therapy approach that can be used on persons of all ages but mainly on the growing mind. It is grounded in the science of behavior and learning, primarily targeting children or young adults. 

ABA therapists study learning patterns and determine the right treatment for learning disorders.

The main targets of ABA therapy are those with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). In addition to ASD patients, ABA therapy is also employed by people who want to:

Applied Behavior Analysis: Education and Career Path

ABA degrees are specialized Psychology programs commonly pursued at the graduate level. However, several institutions offer a Bachelor of Arts/Bachelor of Science in ABA. However, obtaining only an undergraduate degree may limit your career opportunities.

ABA degrees combine analysis and practice into one cohesive skill set. The coursework typically covers core ideas of behavior analysis, research methods, ethics, and practical applications of behavior analysis in various settings.

Hands-on experiences, such as practicum and internships, are required for ABA students to engage with persons of varied needs and apply the principles of the discipline to clinical, educational, or community settings.

To work in the ABA industry, you need to be Board-certified. There are three types of ABA certifications:

With an ABA degree, you can pursue other professions in the psychology field, such as:

Applied Behavior Analysis ROI: Education Cost and Salaries

You need to dedicate at least six years to education to become an ABA therapist! While an undergraduate program in related fields like Psychology and Sociology gives you solid ABA knowledge, ABA practitioners must earn at least a master’s degree and get certified.

Finding the exact cost of an ABA degree is complex since tuition and other educational-related costs vary. Graduate school tuition averages $19,749, according to the NCES, but you can find low-cost Master’s in ABA programs online.

Are you pursuing an ABA doctorate program? This terminal degree qualifies you for the BCBA-D designation. Doctors of ABA can apply for management and leadership roles in Special Education settings as educators or healthcare experts.

According to ZipRecruiter, the average salary of ABA specialists is $73,532, but it can vary depending on where you work. Professionals in government organizations have lower wages than those working in private/commercial sectors. 

The rising prevalence of ASD reported by the CDC underscores the increasing demand for ABA therapy. As more individuals are diagnosed with ASD, there’s a growing need for experts who can provide effective ABA interventions.

Overall, a degree in ABA will give you significant personal and professional ROI.

A career in ABA is for you if:

A career in ABA is NOT A great fit if:

What is Clinical Psychology?

What is Clinical Psychology - Image

Clinical Psychology is among the most popular branches of Psychology. It focuses on problems that cause discomfort or suffering for patients and affect their mental health. These problems include assessment, diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, and rehabilitation. Restoring your psychological equilibrium and well-being is the goal of clinical psychology.

Clinical Psychology can treat a wide range of psychological conditions. Behavioral disorders, mental disorders, and somatic disorders are among them. 

The following are some of the primary mental health issues that clinical psychologists address:

Clinical Psychology: Education and Career Path

The first step for aspiring clinical psychologists is to pursue a bachelor’s degree in the Humanities or Psychology. Although there are also clinical psychology bachelor’s degrees, they are very rare. Clinical Psychology degrees are started at the master’s level. 

The majority of Master’s in Clinical Psychology put a strong emphasis on theory, research, and practice, while they all vary in structure and scope. Developmental Psychology, evidence-based therapy, and community psychology are a few possible subjects studied.

The coursework found in Clinical Psychology programs is designed to train students in diagnosing and treating mental health conditions like depression, depression, and addiction.

Most US states also require aspiring clinical psychologists to pursue a doctorate to obtain a license and be able to practice independently. There are two options for a doctorate:

Either way, you must pursue a doctorate in a school/program accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). Upon completion of a doctorate, applicants must also be passers of the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology.

Psychologists must also complete Continuing Education (CE) courses to keep their licenses active after receiving them.

Licensed clinical psychologists can pursue various specialties and work as:

Clinical Psychology ROI: Education Cost and Salaries

Pursuing a clinical psychology career is lengthy and expensive. Clinical psychologists require eight to thirteen years of schooling, including undergraduate programs and graduate school, for a master’s and doctorate in Clinical Psychology. According to the Education Data Initiative, the average cost of a doctorate is $106,860

Although the amount you’ll spend studying is hefty, you can expect a great ROI. According to ZipRecruiter, clinical psychologists earn an average of $109,894 per year. Due to the increasing number of the American population suffering from mental and emotional problems, such as depression, the demand for qualified clinical psychologists is projected to grow significantly in the coming years.

After completing their studies, clinical psychologists can expect a stable income, job security, and a sense of fulfillment in impacting people’s lives.

A career in Clinical Psychology is for you if:

A career in Clinical Psychology is NOT a great fit if:

ABA vs Clinical Psychology - fact

While they differ in educational requirements, ABA and Clinical Psychology are both rooted in the individual’s mind and behavior. Both disciplines are also committed to helping others. Professionals in both fields must demonstrate excellent observation, analysis, listening, and communication skills!

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