Behavior Specialist: Salary, Requirements and Duties

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a behavior specialist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about the training, job duties, and certifications to find out if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

A behavior specialist is a type of psychological counselor who helps those with disabilities or problems that impair learning or social functions. Behavior analysts can find employment in diverse workplaces, including schools, clinics, or government institutions. This job typically requires a bachelor's degree in human services, psychology, or social work; however some employers prefer candidates with a master's degree in social work or psychology. Additional voluntary certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board is recommended.

Required Education Bachelor's degree at minimum; master's degree sometimes preferred
Other Requirements Optional certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board
Median Salary (2015)* $39,376

Source: *PayScale.com

Salary Information

According to PayScale.com, the median salary for behavior specialists was $39,376 as of March 2015. However, salaries in this field have a wide range, depending on the specialist's place of employment. For example, those working in a private practice earned more than those working for hospitals, state and local governments, or non-profits.

Education Requirements

Training requirements for behavior specialists are less stringent than they are for general psychologists who typically must earn a doctoral degree. According to job postings found in April 2015 on Monster.com and CareerBuilder.com, some employers consider behavior specialists who have graduated from a four-year undergraduate program and earned a bachelor's degree in human services, social work, or psychology, or who have no degree but possess experience working with individuals with special needs.

Some employers, however, look for candidates with a graduate degree, typically a master's in social work or psychology, and demand is rising for BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analysts). Graduate programs usually take two years of full-time study to complete. Some master's degree programs offer courses or a specialty certificate program in applied behavioral analysis, which train students in behavioral therapy techniques.

Career Requirements

Some jobs require candidates to be licensed or certified. Behavior specialists who are clinical psychologists must obtain a state license before treating patients. State requirements vary, although formal education and clinical experience are necessary prerequisites to examination.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board offers two advanced certification exams, at either the bachelor's degree or the master's degree level (www.bacb.com). To be eligible for the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst credential, the candidate must have a bachelor's degree with 135 hours of relevant coursework, plus a total of 1,000 hours of supervised experience. For the Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification, applicants must hold a master's degree with 225 hours of relevant coursework, and have completed 1,500 hours of supervised experience.

Job Duties

Behavior specialists usually work in clinical environments. They observe, assess, and provide support to adults and children who have emotional or behavior issues. For example, some specialists work with those who are deaf or hard of hearing, developmentally disabled, or simply in need of behavioral therapy.

Analysts keep detailed records of patient behavior and may use their observations to help address behavioral needs and improve school or work performance. Advanced specialists may also be responsible for supervising other behavioral analysts.

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