A Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) in Applied Behavior Analysis or Psychology with an applied behavior analysis track is required for entry into the field. A Master of Science (M.S.) in Applied Behavior Analysis prepares students to become board-certified analysts, and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) is typically required for those seeking advanced positions in university-level instruction or research.
Graduate programs may require a thesis, clinical practice or a doctoral dissertation. Master's programs may only admit candidates who have relevant professional experience and a bachelor's degree with psychology coursework, while doctoral program applicants are usually board-certified behavior analysts. Aspiring behavior analysts may obtain requisite certification by passing a national examination.
Bachelor of Arts in Applied Behavior Analysis
Students analyze human behavior by applying theoretical and scientific concepts, principles, and techniques. These approaches are leveraged to define and measure behavior as well as to devise behavior change strategies. A high school diploma or GED certificate is required prior to beginning study in a B.A. in Applied Behavior Analysis program.
Most programs consist of classes that examine how human behavior is affected by an individual's physical and social environment. Students develop skills in assessing a person's behavior and strategies intended to change behavior and improve the subject's life. Course topics may include:
- Human growth and development
- Applied behavior analysis and autism
- Data collection and analysis
- Identifying and understanding developmental disabilities
- Strategies for changing behavior
Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis
Master's degree candidates study advanced theoretical and practical skills in behavior analysis. They can pursue specializations in areas including autism spectrum disorders, developmental disabilities, and behavior therapy. Areas of focus include the application of behavior analysis and behavioral support in a variety of settings, including the home, school, work and community, and institutional environments.
Graduate degree programs feature classes that provide advanced education in principles of clinical psychology. These courses prepare students to work with a range of clients in clinical and organizational settings and understand the root causes of behavioral problems in order to develop effective interventions and determine outcomes. Course subjects include:
- Behavior therapy
- Ethics and professionalism
- Cognitive psychology
- Behavioral pharmacology
- Language and social skills
Ph.D. in Applied Behavior Analysis
Doctoral degree programs are generally designed to prepare candidates to assume senior- and executive-level leadership positions in a variety of academic, clinical, and research settings. Although program lengths vary, most require 45-60 hours of upper-tier coursework in addition to prior successful completion of master's degree credits in the field.
Candidates typically must hold a master's degree in behavior analysis, applied behavior analysis, or a related field from an accredited college or university. Most institutions require applicants to be board-certified behavior analysts.
Classes delve into developing behavioral interventions for children, teens, and adults suffering from behavioral disorders. Areas of focus include advanced principles and procedures of applied behavior analysis practice and research, supervision, and training of staff and integrating systematic methods in the delivery of clinical services. Course topics include:
- Advanced methods in single case research
- Stimulus control
- Scientific writing for behavior analysis
- Behavioral medicine
- Qualitative and quantitative research
Popular Career Options
Those holding a bachelor's degree in behavior analysis may find employment in the following fields:
- Consultant to businesses
- Associate behavior analyst in school settings
- Counselor in residential programs for those with disabilities
Graduates are generally equipped to seek certification as behavior analysts, subject to their particular state's regulations. Some career options include:
- Behavior therapist
- Senior behavior analyst
- Group home director
Continuing Education Information
Certificate programs are available for students who have completed a bachelor's degree in education, psychology, or a related field or a master's degree in applied behavior analysis. These programs typically meet coursework requirements and prepare students to take the national certification exam required to become board-certified behavior analysts. Topics of study include verbal behavior, assessments and interventions, and applications of therapy.
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov) reported that the employment of all substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors, including behavior analysts, was expected to increase by 22% from 2014-2024. Applicants holding a master's degree were generally considered to enjoy better employment prospects. The BLS published that the average annual salary among all types of substance abuse and behavior disorder counselors was $42,920 in May 2015; those working in association with colleges, universities, and professional schools earned an average of $54,710 a year.
Obtaining a degree in applied behavior analysis involves studies in human growth and development, cognitive psychology and behavioral pharmacology, usually culminating in a Ph.D. However, enrollees may still pursue careers as counselors and analyst associates after completing a bachelor's.