How behavior analysts (and you) change the world.

“I want to make a difference,” you say. 


Great! Isn’t that what ABA is all about?  Bringing about socially significant changes.  Yes. Yes, it is. Can you do that? Yes, you can…BUT not yet.  


Listeningreading, and watching does not equate to doing

Conversely, you cannot practice ABA in isolation. You MUST listen, study, observe, AND PRACTICE to be any good at the analysis of behavior. And – get this – once you’re pretty good you must listen to, study, observe, and practice more.   

Passing an exam is only the beginning of the work and a credential alone does not make a behavior analyst good.

So, what makes a behavior analyst good? I’m sure there are a lot of opinions on this topic and here’s one more. Along with adherence to our ethics code, here are my top qualities list:

Knowledge – this one is obvious. If you don’t have the pre-requisite knowledge of the science of behavior you are not a behavior analyst. Part of your knowledge base should be hands-on experience with direct supervision and guidance. An ongoing desire to expand your knowledge and skillset is also a must in this field.  

Self-awareness – knowing why others do what they do isn’t enough. Do you know why you do what you do or don’t do? If not, you’re in good company. But you should spend some time reflecting on it. Like the other attributes, self-awareness doesn’t come all at once. I’m learning that even when you are very self-aware there are more, and more, and more layers to uncover. Be honest with yourself – why do you want to make a difference in someone’s life?

Humility – being able to recognize that you do not know it all is a great skill to have in the field of behavior analysis. Unfortunately, ‘humble’ is not an adjective often used to describe a behavior analyst. But in a field of constant feedback for improvement being humble will serve you well. 

Altruistically prepared – being able to put the needs of others before your own. As a (good) behavior analyst your decision-making should largely factor the ‘client,’ not just yourself. Now, I’m NOT saying you shouldn’t charge people for your services, earn a decent wage, or take a vacation. I’m saying that if and when the unexpected happens you or someone on your team should be in a position to reasonably put the client’s needs before your own. Search for the right team and this comes without really thinking about it.

Integrity – if anyone had to use one word to describe me I’d love for that word to be integrity. Are you the same person at home and on the job? Yes, to some degree you need to turn your behavior analyst self off but if you put on a different face to practice behavior analysis I’m asking lots of questions about you. The same goes for your supervisor – are they the same person no matter if clients are around? 

So, while you are honing your skillset in coursework and investing in study groups don’t forget to pay attention to your self-awareness, humility, and your altruistic nature. And most important always maintain your integrity. I would also advise you to consider a supervisor with these qualities. Best of luck in your endeavors to change the world, I’m rooting for you!