How to Become a Behavior Analyst
By Rachel Schneider
This page explains how to become a behavior analyst, including education and licensing information and resources to help professionals enter the field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects an above-average job growth of 22% for behavior analysts between 2018 and 2028.
These professionals help clients with behavioral or developmental issues. The need for behavior analysts continues to grow as the demand for professionals who understand mental health and behavioral patterns increases. Behavior analysts often work with their clients through direct contact or by gathering data to understand better therapy methods.
Individuals who want to explore behavior analyst education requirements and understand the process of becoming a behavior analyst can use this guide as a resource. This page also features job and salary outlook and the best ways to find a job as a behavior analyst.
What Is a Behavior Analyst?
Focused on teaching others how to collect data to create a therapeutic environment, behavior analysts write reports and implement plans to improve support programs. They teach support professionals, parents, and teachers different ways to implement behavior support plans, procedures, and skills.
Behavior analysts typically work normal business hours. However, sometimes they work overtime or remain on call in case of emergencies. These professionals need strong communication and organization skills. They should also excel at problem-solving and possess solid interpersonal skills.
Frequently Asked Questions About Behavior Analysts
- What's the difference between a social worker and a behavior analyst?
Behavior analysts work specifically with individuals with behavioral or developmental issues while social workers focus on serving a wider variety of clients. Both behavior analysts and social workers focus on helping their clients maintain a high quality of life.
- How much do behavior analysts make?
According to PayScale, behavior analysts earn an average annual salary of $59,974. Entry-level professionals experience annual average salaries of $51,000 while those with more experience earn average annual salaries of $66,000.
- What degree level do I need to become a behavior analyst?
Aspiring behavior analysts need a master's degree in special education, psychology, or a related field. Depending on the state in which they practice, professionals might also need to meet licensing requirements.
- Is a behavior analyst a good career?
This career path allows professionals to focus on helping clients with different developmental or behavioral issues. Depending on their experience level, behavior analysts can earn average annual salary amounts between $50,000 and nearly $70,000.
Behavior Analyst Job and Salary Outlook
The section below highlights career opportunities in the field. Behavior analyst jobs can differ in a variety of ways, including setting, specialization, and patient population.
How to Become a Behavior Analyst
Get an Education
Before launching a career as a certified behavior analyst, individuals must earn a master's degree in psychology, applied behavior analysis, or education. Students must complete an approved university-supervised practicum or supervised work experience.
Supervised practicum experiences can vary in terms of the required amount of hours and the intensity of supervision. The minimum required hours for these requirements is typically 750 for intense supervision and 1,000 hours for a standard practicum.
Intense supervision requires two supervisors and around 10% of the hours supervised while standard practicums require only one supervisor and about 7.5% of the hours supervised.
Although a master's degree is the standard requirement to become a behavior analyst, certain jobs, such as technicians or applied behavior analyst assistants, allow professionals to hold a bachelor's degree in applied behavior analysis.
- Bachelor's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis: Students who earn a bachelor's degree in applied behavior analysis develop the skills and knowledge needed to pursue careers as applied behavior assistants, cultivating a solid foundation in the field.
- Master's Degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis: Master's programs allow students to expand their postgraduate opportunities. At the master's level, learners focus on understanding research-based theories. These programs prepare students to work as behavior analysts.
Earn a License
The requirements to become a board certified behavior analyst vary by state. Most states offer three options for professionals applying for certification. The first pathway requires earning a master's degree from an accredited college or university, completing the necessary amount of supervised practical hours, and passing a licensing exam.
Certification candidates can also hold a full-time faculty teaching position as a behavior analyst instead of completing the supervised practical hours. Individuals can also hold a doctoral degree for at least 10 years along with practical experience and a passing score on the licensing exam.
Since not all states require professionals to hold licensure in behavior analysis, graduates should review which states require licensure and which do not, reviewing any associated licensing requirements to ensure they meet criteria.
Behavior Analysis Licensure by State
Licensure requirements vary by state. Most states require professionals to complete continuing education and renew licenses every two years. When transferring from one state to another, most states require individuals to submit the application, fee, and proof that the current license from another state is in good standing. Some states also require individuals to hold a current certification by a behavior analyst certifying entity, such as the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Not all states require licensure in behavior analysis.
States That Require Licensure
States With Optional Licensure
✓ New York
✓ North Carolina
✓ North Dakota
✓ Rhode Island
States With No Licensure Requirements
✓ District of Columbia
✓ New Hampshire
✓ New Jersey
✓ New Mexico
✓ South Carolina
✓ West Virginia
How Do I Find a Job as a Behavior Analyst?
Graduates who earn their behavior analyst degree can consider joining a professional organization in the field. These organizations enable members to explore professional development opportunities, network with other professionals, and expand their skills and knowledge.
National Association of Social Workers
The world's largest membership organization for professional social workers, NASW serves more than 120,000 members. The organization aims to improve the professional development and growth of members, while maintaining professional standards.
School Social Work Association of America
Focusing on connecting, equipping, and empowering school social workers to provide evidence-informed services, SSWAA ensures every school has a social worker.
National Association of School Psychologists
Dedicated to promoting the school psychologist profession, NASP allows members to take advantage of a variety of resources, publications, and professional development opportunities.
Resources for Behavior Analysts
- Association of Professional Behavior Analysts A national nonprofit, APBA works to promote the advancement of behavior analysis by informing the public in policies, supporting resources for practitioners, and helping practitioners network and advance their careers.
- Behavior Analyst Certification Board A nonprofit corporation, BACB strives to meet the needs of professional behavior analysts. The group provides information on credentials, exams, and requirements needed to meet examination content for certifications.
- Association for Science in Autism Treatment ASAT strives to ensure effective, research-based treatments for patients with autism by maintaining the most current research surrounding autism treatment.
- Four Corners Association for Behavior Analysis This professional organization is affiliated with the Association for Behavior Analysis International and promotes applied and theoretical research methods to maintain the highest quality of practice in behavior analysts.
- Association for Behavior Analysis International ABAI offers services to members including events to refine research skills, continued education, job placement services, collaboration with affiliated chapters, and scholarly journals in the field.