Behavior consulting has applications in the treatment of autism, in animal care, in child and juvenile intervention and in business productivity. Master's degree programs teach students the basic principles of behavior consulting and allow them to gain experience through clinical work. Graduates of master's programs can test to become board certified in the field.
In a doctoral program, students engage in data collection and analysis to better understand and modify behavior. They choose an area of focus for their own research and complete a dissertation.
Admission to either of these programs usually entails an undergraduate background in psychology or a closely related field. Some doctoral programs may only admit applicants who hold master's degrees. Some programs offer part of their curriculum online.
Master's Degree in Behavior Analysis
A two-year master's degree program in behavior analysis examines the theory of behaviorism as originally formulated by B.F. Skinner, and the subsequent evolution of the field. Students learn concepts of behavior analysis, the design of behavior intervention programs, and procedures that facilitate behavior change. Clinical internships provide opportunities to measure behavior, interpret experimental data, and assess the effectiveness of behavioral interventions.
Core courses, elective courses and thesis research are common organizational components of a master's degree program. The following courses may be among those found in a behavioral analysis program:
- Fundamentals of behavior analysis theory
- Verbalism and behavior
- Behavioral intervention programs
- Behavioral research design
- Behavioral medicine and therapy
- Behavior analysis ethical and legal concerns
Doctoral Degree in Behavior Analysis
A four- to five-year doctorate in behavior analysis incorporates and augments content learned in a master's degree program with advanced coursework, research and clinical training. Course work has students continue their engagement with current behavioral science theoretical models, apply quantitative analysis techniques to clinical data, and describe procedures for promoting behavior change. Students also choose a research direction that contributes to the behavioral science literature.
Doctoral programs may be organized into core, specialization and practicum courses. The final two to three years of a program are devoted to researching and writing a dissertation. Possible courses in a behavior analysis program might include:
- Statistics and research methods
- Biology and behavior
- Behavior analysis and psychopharmacology
- Behavioral assessment
- Behaviorism and developmental psychology
- Behavioral analysis and education
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), psychologists are expected to have 19% employment growth for the years 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported in 2015 that clinical, school, and counseling psychologists earned $70,580 as a median annual salary.
Popular Career Options
Positions for people with a master's degree in behavior analysis are available in healthcare, mental health, education and business. Career possibilities for behavior consultants include:
- Autism and mental retardation behavior specialist
- Public school behavior specialist
- Employee performance specialist
- Juvenile delinquency behavioral program designer
- Hospital work team coordinator
Continuing Education Information
Master's degree holders may go on to earn a doctorate in behavior analysis if they want to pursue postsecondary teaching or academic research careers. Those who want to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) must pass the certification exam offered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.
A master's or doctorate in behavior analysis may prepare students for BCBA certification and a number of behavior consulting careers. This educational path is often chosen by students who have a bachelor's degree in psychology and are interested in behavior analysis.