Are you thinking about majoring in psychology, applied behavior analysis, or a related field? Do you already have your bachelor’s degree and are trying to figure out what it takes to become a board certified behavior analyst? If you want to learn more about how to treat people with behavior challenges, you’ve come to the right place.
In this article, we’ll cover:
As a Board-certified behavior analysts (BCBA) or applied behavior analyst, you will have the opportunity to work in a variety of different settings. Many behavior analysts work with patients or students who have a problem behavior. Others engage in research.
Like all occupations, behavior analyst has its pros and cons:
There are a couple of significant practical considerations:
- A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in social work
- A license to practice or required social work certification
Credentials vary among careers, states, and territories. Licenses include:
- Certified Social Worker (CSW)
- Clinical Social Work Associate (CSWA)
- Licensed Advanced Practice Social Worker (LAPSW)
- Licensed Advanced Social Worker (LASW)
- Licensed Baccalaureate Social Worker (LBSW)
- Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
- Licensed Graduate Social Worker (LGSW)
- Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker (LICSW)
- Licensed Mental Health Professional (LMHP)
- Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW)
Most of these licenses require a Master’s or Doctorate, along with additional coursework or clinical internships. ( )
A survey of 2017 social work graduates by the National Social Work Workforce Study found that social workers with Master’s degrees and Doctorates made substantially more than those with no advanced degree. ( )
- People with MSW degrees made $13,000-plus more than those with only BSW degrees
- MSWs make more in large cities or urban clusters
- People with doctorates earned $20,000 to $25,000 more than people with only MSW degrees
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Applied behavior analysis operates on the principle that behavior can be taught and changed. As a behavior analyst, you’ll work with individuals to help improve problem behaviors.
Much of the work of a licensed behavior analyst is focused on developing and implementing treatment plans. You might help build an inclusive environment in a school or help a client improve her verbal behavior, for example. Many behavior analysts work closely with autistic children, especially the very young.
If you become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, you could become a psychologist or counselor for people with developmental disabilities. Potential work settings include:
There are also some unique ways you can work with behavior analysis, such as working with traumatic brain injuries. There’s even a branch of behavior analysis that focuses on animal behavior, leading some applied behavior analysts into careers training pets, livestock, and zoo animals.
Those seeking certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board must complete one of three tracks.
All candidates must:
Plus at least one of the following:
Most behavior analysts train for six years: four for a bachelor’s degree and two for a master’s degree. To maintain your certification, you must follow a two-year timeline that includes 32 units of acceptable continuing education. An example of an acceptable course would be a behavior management course from an accredited university.
There is no uniform licensure requirement in the U.S; eEach state sets its own <a href=”” target=”_blank”>accreditation and licensure standards.
The following states require BCBA certification for licensure:
The following states accept BCBA certification but will consider other qualifications in awarding licensure:
The remaining states either have optional or no licensing requirements.
Applied behavior analysts who don’t have a master’s degree but want to begin to work with those with mental health issues can seek certification as a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst. Registered Behavior Technicians are paraprofessionals who have at least a high school diploma and are supervised by a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Schools, hospitals, and other institutions might have other requirements for employees, such as background checks and immunizations.
If behavior analysis is your passion, you can easily stay in this field until retirement. The job market for behavior analysts is expected to grow, so there should be plenty of opportunities going forward
If you become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst with a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, it’s likely your terminal position will be as a clinical director or supervisor. You should have a number of options. For example, you might choose to use evidence-based practice to work with children with autism spectrum disorders.
Behavior analyst certification through BCBA is the most common accreditation. If you want to work in special education, you will also need to follow education certification requirements for your state.
There is always new research developing in behavior analysis, so it’s important to stay up to date or you might miss the latest research on, say, spectrum disorders that could help your clients.
The Behavior Analysis Certification Board offers multiple certification levels as you continue your education and learn more:
Certified behavior analysts must continue their education in order to keep their certification. Accreditation is required in some states, and is optional in others. In addition to state requirements, it’s also an ethical imperative to stay current so you are always offering the best care to your clients.
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