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) projects that overall employment in the psychology field will increase 19% nationwide from 2014-24, which is significantly faster than the average growth rate (7%) for all occupations. Employment opportunities will vary based on specific area of focus. For example, jobs for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will jump by 22% during that same decade as more people secure access to mental health services.
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 intervention 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 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 vital, so record keeping and report writing are common duties.
Behavior Analyst Potential Salary
As with employment opportunities, potential salary ranges are determined by multiple factors, including a candidate’s educational qualifications and work history, as well as the specific discipline or field.
According to the BLS, behavioral disorder counselors earned an average annual wage of $44,160 as of May 2016. The top 10% of earners in that job classification had salaries exceeding $65,080 a year. By comparison, the average annual salary for clinical, counseling and school psychologists nationwide was $78,690.
Salary ranges generally are higher for professionals with extensive experience, certifications and specialized training.
Education and Training
Education and training requirements in the behavior analysis field vary according to the employer and state licensing regulations. While some positions require advanced certifications, entry-level positions may be attainable with a bachelor’s degree, such as a degree in applied psychology.
The path to a behavior analyst career 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.
Graduates of an applied psychology program should be prepared 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
- Appreciate the value of socio-cultural diversity, including key concepts
Employees who attained an entry-level position with a bachelor’s degree may be eligible to use employer-provided tuition assistance or reimbursement programs to pursue a master’s degree while continuing to work full time.
Is a Behavior Analyst Career in Your Future?
If you have a desire to help others reach their full potential, and possess strong observational and communication skills, the diverse field of behavior analysis could provide a challenging and rewarding career path with the relevant experience and educational qualifications.