A certificate in applied behavior analysis alone won't often prepare students to take on positions in counseling, psychology or social services, though it may prepare some individuals to work as assistants in those fields. Generally, certificate programs in applied behavior analysis are designed for working professionals, those who have already earned a degree or those who are currently working on a degree. Psychologists and counselors who have already earned a graduate degree, but who are interested in learning more about behavior analysis in one specific patient group, might consider enrolling in a graduate program in the subject.
Both undergraduate and graduate certificate programs are available, and online programs and courses can be found as well.
Undergraduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis
An undergraduate certificate program in applied behavior analysis teaches students how to clinically observe behavior in a patient or target group, such as school children. Though a degree isn't required for enrollment, most certificate programs are designed to aid professionals who are currently employed in business, education and psychology careers. Certificate programs generally consist of 12-19 credit hours and can be completed in two years or less, though some schools might require all coursework to be completed within four years.
Either students who are actively enrolled in a bachelor's degree program or those who don't have any academic experience can enroll in an undergraduate certificate program. However, applicants with no previous education might need to fulfill prerequisite coursework in psychology and English composition. A background check might be required to enroll in some courses or participate in field work, and all programs require applicants to have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
The coursework in an undergraduate certificate program is based on the program's intended audience. Courses might include the study of the ethical issues behind behavioral treatment options in a counseling setting or childhood social and emotional development for school teachers and counselors. In addition, students can learn how to effectively approach the behavioral needs of individuals seeking assistance. Some examples of course topics include learning and behavior analysis, emotional and social disabilities, and research and evaluation in addition to the following:
- Applied behavior analysis
- Human development and growth
- Behavioral medicine
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Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis
Students enrolled in a graduate certificate program in applied behavior analysis can learn how to use extensive research for designing and implementing treatment options for adults and children with behavioral problems or disorders. Graduates can work with individuals who have autism, social or emotional disabilities, Down syndrome or a variety of psychiatric disorders. Although the completion time for a graduate certificate program is often flexible, some programs might require a student to finish within six years. Students could gain field experience through observation and analysis in a variety of settings, including training centers and psychiatric hospitals.
Applicants typically need a bachelor's degree to enroll in a graduate-level program. In addition, some programs require students to complete prerequisite courses in general, abnormal or developmental psychology.
Typically, the core curriculum is designed to provide students with a strong grounding in human behavior. Through a variety of courses, students can learn how to assess, define, predict and change behavior. Some course topics might include:
- Assessment of functional behavior
- Procedures for changing behavior
- Developmental disabilities
- Applications of behavior analysis
- Research methods and design
- Verbal behavior
Popular Career Options
Graduates of an undergraduate certificate program without any other educational background can qualify for entry-level positions in a number of institutions, such as behavioral treatment facilities, schools and outpatient care centers. Professionals can work with individuals who are diagnosed with a mental illness or developmental disability as well as children in need of special education assistance. Professional opportunities might include:
- Behavioral therapy coordinator
- Behavior support specialist
- Social services assistant
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported outlook and salary figures for professionals in the field of applied behavior analysis (www.bls.gov). Psychologists, who both study and treat behavioral disorders, are expected to see a 19% increase in jobs from 2014-2024. Those who worked in clinical, counseling and school environments earned a median salary of $70,580 in 2015. Employment for special education teachers is anticipated to grow 6% during the same period. In 2015, those who worked in secondary schools took home a mean income of $62,180.
The BLS also predicts a 22% increase during the 2014-2024 time period in jobs for counselors who specialized in addictions and behavioral disorders. The shift from prison sentencing to treatment for offenders and the growing awareness of mental afflictions and diseases were expected to drive the need for specialists in these areas. In 2015, the median salary for these types of counselors was $39,980, with junior colleges offering the highest wages.
Continuing Education Information
Several schools offer bachelor's degree programs in applied behavioral studies that could broaden career opportunities and help meet eligibility requirements for board certification. Professionals with a bachelor's degree and specialized training through a certificate program could also pursue graduate studies in a master's degree or graduate certificate program.
Professionals seeking certification can become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (www.bacb.com). The minimum academic requirement is a bachelor's degree in behavior analysis or another acceptable major, such as medicine, biology or education. Additionally, candidates must have graduate-level training in several areas, including ethics, behavioral assessment and intervention, as well as significant experience in a supervised environment. Doctoral programs are also available in applied behavior analysis for those interested in furthering their career or teaching at the university level.
A certificate program in applied behavior analysis is typically for professionals and graduates of degree programs in related fields who want specific training in behavior analysis. Upon completion of a certificate program, graduates can seek board certification after meeting the academic requirements.