Behavior analysts specialize in counseling individuals, with an emphasis on prevention and behavior modification. Launching a career as a behavior analyst may start with enrolling in a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology program.

Job Outlook for Behavior Analysts

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employment in the psychology field, including behavior analyst positions, should grow steadily in the coming years. An increased demand for psychology services will spur job growth in this field. Behavior analysts with advanced education and certifications should enjoy the best prospects.

Job Duties

Behavior analysts are employed by hospitals, residential treatment facilities, local and state governments, outpatient care centers and individual services organizations. They help individuals with a wide range of mental and emotional health problems, addictions, family or parenting problems, stress management and self-esteem concerns, and issues associated with aging.

Typically working as part of a team of professionals, behavior analysts provide expertise about a client’s problems so effective treatments can be developed. These professionals begin with extensive baseline assessments, and then use interventional plans to train others on implementing the treatment. Evaluation and follow-up are important aspects of a behavior analyst’s job.

They may consult with child welfare organizations, residential treatment programs or primary care health providers to optimize the client’s results. Behavior analysts use interviews with family members, teachers and therapists to help determine the best way to motivate a client to change their behavior.

Behavior analysts may specialize in a particular area, such as autism, substance abuse, geriatrics or head trauma. Regardless of specialty, keeping track of each client’s progress is important, so record keeping and report writing are common job duties. These professionals typically work a 40-hour week, but emergency after-hours calls sometimes occur.

Behavior Analyst Potential Salary

National salary data on PayScale.com indicated that behavior analysts typically had an annual income between $38,284 and $60,936 as of August 2010. Recent bachelor’s graduates will generally start out toward the lower end of the range. The top salaries generally go to behavior analysts with the most experience, certifications and specialized training.

Education and Training

Education and training for behavior analyst jobs vary according to the employer and state licensing requirements. While some positions may require advanced certifications, most entry-level positions require a bachelor’s degree. Previous experience is attractive to many employers, and can be obtained through summer jobs or internship programs while pursuing a degree in applied psychology.

Becoming a behavior analyst can begin with a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology with a concentration in clinical psychology. Coursework typically includes social psychology, multicultural issues, learning and motivation, crisis and conflict resolution, and physiological psychology.

Employers can be confident that graduates of an applied psychology program are able to:

  • Apply psychology concepts such as theory, trends and empirical findings.
  • Understand human physiology, including the nervous system and its effects on behavior.
  • Recognize the biology behind emotion, motivation and learning.
  • Realize the value of sociocultural diversity, including key concepts and complexity.
  • Leverage advanced skills and knowledge into a successful career as a behavior analyst.

Many employers offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree and use a tuition assistance program to pay for a master’s degree.

Is a Behavior Analyst Career in Your Future?

An essential quality for a successful career in behavior analysis is a desire to help others reach their full potential. Other important attributes are the ability to work in a variety of settings and to be comfortable around people with behavior disorders. Good observational skills, written and oral communication skills, and attention to detail are required. If you fit this description, then a career as a behavior analyst could be a great choice for you.

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