According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), the largest authorization body for analytics specialists, behavior analysis "focuses on assessing the environmental influences on behavior, assessment-based intervention, and data-based decision making." The technique started out as a way to treat autism, which explains why this method is so prevalent in special needs education. Today, the BACB recognizes 12 specialty areas of behavior analytics:
As a behavior specialist, you might work in a school setting helping students complete Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). Alternately, you might find work with a sports team, helping analyze player behavior and technique to optimize performance. As you'll see by reading further, you'll have quite a few options.
Wondering how to become a behavior specialist? In this article, we'll discuss:
Whether you earn a bachelor's degree, master's degree, or just a high school diploma, there are many career options for behavior specialists, including:
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median income for all substance abuse, behavioral disorder, and mental health counselors is $44,360. However, you can earn more or less depending on employer, job title, education, and experience.
Many behavior analysts are special needs teachers who help children with autism. However, they may work in any of a number of disciplines, including:
Across the field, behavioral specialists help people with behavioral issues adjust to society. Job titles and specialization disciplines open to behavior specialists include:
The job you qualify for will depend significantly on your education level. Applicants with a master's degree will have more opportunities than those with a bachelor's.
You can perform a lot of behavior specialist jobs with just a bachelor's degree and proper certification, but many require additional certification and/or a master's degree. School psychologists, for example, must earn a master's degree. Requirements for special education teachers vary from state to state; in some, a bachelor's degree, proper teaching licensure, and BACB certification are sufficient.
In addition to a (potentially) extensive educational commitment, a capable behavior specialist must have diverse skills. Depending on their specialty field, behavior analysts might require knowledge of any or all of the following:
Many behavior specialists choose to earn a bachelor's in behavioral science during undergraduate study. According to the Florida Institute of Technology, "degrees in behavioral science typically encompass the science of psychology, performance management and education"—all skills a behavior specialist needs.
If your college does not offer a behavioral science degree, you might want to look into undergraduate programs in:
Earning a master's degree can be helpful (read: required) for behavior specialists looking to expand their career options, but be aware that it takes two additional years of (full-time) study. Earning a bachelor's, working for a while, and then returning to school is a common trajectory for those who eventually proceed to the master's level.
Because so many behavioral specialists work in special education, many programs are geared towards teachers. These schools offer programs that prepare students for a BACB exam, which allows them to work in many behavioral analytics specialties.
Well-known universities with behavior-focused graduate programs include:
Most behavior analysis professionals hold some form of certification. Even registered behavior technicians, who's minimum education requirement is a high school diploma, are required to take a 40-hour paraprofessional course.
Board-certified assistant behavior analysts need to complete a bachelor's degree and must also meet certification requirements. Board Certified Behavior Analysts, who can supervise BCaBAs, need a graduate degree plus fieldwork in order to qualify for the exam. The highest BCAB certification level is Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral, though that's really in degree and name only. In fact, the BACB says straight up that the BCBA-D "is not a separate certification and it does not grant any privileges above or beyond the BCBA certification." Even the recertification requirements are exactly the same.
30 states currently use BACB certification.
You can find financial resources for becoming a behavior specialist from the US Department of Education. The government offers loans and grants as well as loan forgiveness for certain service employees; special education teachers and social workers who specialize in behavioral disorders are eligible for loan forgiveness under specific conditions.
Other resources include:
If you're accredited through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, you'll need to complete continuing education requirements every two years (unless you are a registered behavior technician, in which case you must renew annually).
While the techniques for behavior analysis that you learned 20 years ago might be effective, there are always new things to learn. Professional development and recertification will keep you up to date on developments and research in spectrum disorders.
Aside from BACB requirements, continuing education is largely left up to your state or field.
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