For students and career changers interested in human behavior, a career as a behavior analyst offers an opportunity to work in a variety of service settings while providing support to individuals and families attempting to understand and modify behavior for a more successful or enjoyable life. Whether you are interested in working with children or adults, here are some key points you need to know about the interesting field of behavior analysis.
Certified behavior analysts work one-on-one in an office or home setting, as well as in institutional settings such as hospitals, schools, drug and alcohol treatment facilities and outpatient clinics. Individual analysts generally specialize in a specific population such as autistic children, special education, or may work with a variety of everyday citizens seeking to change a behavior like nervousness when speaking in public, or habits like smoking. Behavior analysts may also work with other groups such as juvenile offenders, or those struggling with chemical dependency issues. Some professional behavior analysts may also offer ongoing educational assistance to community groups, parent support groups, and mental health treatment teams.
Some analysts can work independently and retain a higher degree of control over their schedules which is an advantage of this career path. The work is rewarding and challenging, requiring a great deal of patience, knowledge, and understanding, as well as a strong commitment to ongoing professional development to maintain credentials, including certification.
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB)© offers two pertinent certification levels for behavior analysts, the (BCaBA) for assistant behavior analysts who hold a bachelor's degree in a related area and have completed structured field work, and the (BCBA) for behavior analysts who have gone on to receive a master’s degree and completed more in-depth work experience and professional service. Both levels of certification include passing a standardized exam and committing to ongoing professional development. For more information on the certification process, see Behavior Analyst Certified Board.
Many online and traditional programs exist to help professionals interested in becoming a behavior analyst reach career goals. When comparing degree offerings, it is important to be sure to select a highly ranked competitive program which has achieved regional accreditation or accreditation from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) or the Behavior Analysts Certification Board (BACB). Building a strong reputation is vital for professional success, so you want to be sure your degree commands respect.
In addition to contributing to future competency, the most highly regarded degree programs maintain strong alumni relations and may offer other professional practical training opportunities such as mentoring with an expert in the field, or ongoing access to research databases.
Professional organizations also offer cost effective networking events, host conferences, provide webinars, and often post job boards and discussion groups. Two professional organizations offering additional resources are the Association for Professional Behavior Analysts and the Association for Behavior Analysis International.
Certified behavior analysts provide a wide variety of highly sought after skills in today’s complex society. Through a deep understanding of the theory of human behavior, analysts examine behaviors and motivators to help people from all walks of life modify behaviors and achieve related goals and positive outcomes. In addition, behavior analysts work with parents to better understand and address the needs of their children including the special needs of populations such as the autistic.
Through ongoing professional education, behavior analysts are continuously developing their research skills and practical techniques to best meet the needs of their clients. Many certified behavior analysts also act as community educators for parenting groups and addiction support groups, among others.
In order to stay professionally competitive, behavior analysts need to connect to other goal-minded professionals through career-related organizations and continuing education. Behavior analysis is one of the most interesting and personally rewarding fields in psychology. In addition, there is ample opportunity for career advancement, travel, and a high level of autonomy if you prepare yourself for success with a thoughtful long term plan. Including ongoing professional development from top ranked programs can help you stay ahead of the competition and on top of your professional goals for many years to come.