Applied behavioral science specialists (ABSS) provide counseling and developmental assistance to adults and children, based on observations of their behavior. They may work in group homes, mental health clinics, or with human or social services agencies. Embarking on a career as an applied behavioral science specialist often begins with a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that social service, human service and counselor employment is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations in the coming years. Job growth will occur as an increasing number of people seek counseling and mental health services. While job openings are expected to grow, candidates with advanced education will have the best prospects.
Applied behavioral science specialists develop and implement treatment plans to meet behavioral goals of individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. They may work with children or specialize in a specific area, such as autism. Some bachelor’s degree holders may start their career as an assistant applied behavioral science specialist. Their duties typically include training other residential staff and performing assessments under the supervision of a senior ABSS.
Professionals employed as applied behavioral science specialists often oversee clinic or residential home programs. They may counsel individuals in group or one-on-one settings. Some positions include extensive work with a client’s family.
Applied behavioral science specialists may work in offices, group homes or hospitals. They are often required to work flexible hours, and may travel to client homes for monitoring visits.
National salary data on PayScale.com indicated that annual earnings for applied behavioral science specialists ranged between $29,747 and $46,997 in July 2010. While recent graduates with a bachelor’s degree will generally have an income at the lower end of that salary range, they can improve their marketability and attain substantially higher earnings with additional education.
Entry-level applied behavioral science specialist jobs generally require a bachelor’s degree. While a master’s degree may qualify applicants for senior-level ABSS jobs, many positions are open to applicants with an undergraduate degree. Bachelor’s degree holders may start out in an assistant ABSS role and receive employer assistance to complete a master’s degree and achieve subsequent career advancement.
The first step for individuals interested in applied behavioral science specialist careers can be a bachelor’s degree in applied psychology. Coursework typically includes lifespan development and psychology, multicultural issues, learning and motivation, social psychology and abnormal psychology.
An applied psychology education prepares graduates to:
Many agencies offer opportunities for continuing education. It’s possible to gain an entry-level job with a bachelor’s degree and use an employer’s tuition assistance program to pay for a master’s degree.
If you have excellent communication skills, an interest in human behavior and a strong desire to help people, you could be a great candidate for an applied behavioral science specialist career.