Behavior Analyst: Job Description and Education Requirements

Dec 27, 2019

A behavior analyst works to help clients identify and replace negative and destructive behaviors with positive and appropriate behaviors. Learn more about applied behavior analysis and how to begin your career in the field.

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Behavior Analyst Job Description

Those wondering 'what is behavior analysis?' and 'what does a behavior analyst do?' should know that behavior analysis is an area of psychology that focuses on the science of behavior. Professionals in this concentration are trained in applied behavior analysis (ABA) and are referred to as behavior analysts or applied behavior analysts. These professionals can work in a wide range of settings, including schools, hospitals, treatment centers, and community agencies.

Behavior analysts work with individuals of all ages to help improve their lives and their ability to interact with those around them. This is typically done by observing the individual's interactions with various environments to identify social and behavioral issues, such as self-injury or aggression. These analysts then develop a plan to help people foster appropriate behaviors. Behavior analysts often use reward systems to reinforce positive behavior.

Behavior Analyst Job and Education Requirements

Students interested in pursuing a career as a behavior analyst usually need at least a master's degree and certification in the field is typically required. Here we break down each step to becoming a certified behavior analyst in more detail.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students trying to become a behavior analyst must first earn a bachelor's degree. Although this degree can be in any field, a degree in psychology, health science, or another related field will be most beneficial. There are Bachelor of Arts (BA) and Bachelor of Science (BS) degree programs available in applied behavior analysis or psychology with a concentration in ABA and these programs usually include hands-on learning experiences working with individuals. Some of these programs are available in online formats and may include coursework in topics like:

  • Clinical psychology
  • Personality development
  • Autism spectrum disorders

Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis

A Master of Science (MS) in ABA or in psychology with a concentration in ABA is usually required for becoming a behavior analyst, as well as other specialties within the field, such as a child behavior specialist. Some of these programs are available in online formats and may be completed in as little as 1 to 1.5 years. Programs may be available in full- and part-time formats and typically include multiple hours of fieldwork to prepare students for certification in the field. Coursework may cover topics like:

  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Research methods
  • Interventions
  • Ethics
  • Management in ABA

Step 3: Earn Certification in Behavior Analysis

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) offers board certification for aspiring behavior analysts. The BACB offers certification for each level of education, including a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) certification in behavior analysis for those with a bachelor's degree and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA-D) for those with a doctorate. At the master's level, students can apply for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification after earning their degree and completing 750 to 1,500 hours of supervised practicum or fieldwork experiences.

Behavior Analyst Salary

According to PayScale.com, the median annual salary for a behavior analyst in 2019 was $59,034. This was slightly lower than the average annual salary of $63,000 for a BACB Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) in the same year, per PayScale.com. The website did note that salaries may vary due to differences in employer, skills, work experience, and location.

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