Behavior Analyst

Behavior analysts provide a therapeutic environment for individuals struggling to control their behavior. They also train parents, teachers, and other professionals on how to implement support plans for challenging behavior. Geography and career duration are the two biggest factors determining salary in the field, but the average annual wage for behavior analysts is approximately $56,000, according to PayScale.

Now is a great time to pursue a professional career as a behavior analyst. Jobs in psychology are projected to grow 14% in the next 10 years, which is faster than the economy is projected to grow as a whole, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Behavior analysts are important right now as the need for a better understanding of mental health and behavioral patterns grows. Behavior analysts typically work with individuals with autism through direct contact or by gathering data concerning better methods of therapy.

What Is a Behavior Analyst?

Behavior analysts study how human behavior affects motivation and then, how best to create environments that maintain the proper social behavior in the given setting. Behavior analysts can work in schools with children, at home for outpatient care, or in hospitals with their clients. They develop personalized methods for individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, behavioral disorders, or emotional disturbances. Though behavior analysts report high level of personal fulfillment, working in the field can be demanding as well.

Most behavior analysts work during regular business hours, but there are times when analysts may need to be on call for emergencies or work overtime, depending on the needs of their clients. Whether in the field or as an observer, behavior analysts are constantly researching. They must keep themselves aware of new teaching or training techniques and the best ways to implement them. They often look into motivational methods of children with autism, or ways to best mediate behavioral issues among school children.

What's the Difference Between a Social Worker and a Behavior Analyst?

One of the key factors that separates behavior analysts from social workers is their clientele. Behavior analysts work specifically with individuals with developmental or behavioral issues, whereas social workers can work with a wider variety of clients.

The primary commonality between these two careers is the overarching theme of helping clients maintain a high quality of life. Whether by helping someone overcome a learning disability or helping remove a vulnerable child from an abusive environment, both work to benefit their client's mental, emotional, and behavioral well-being.

For a behavior analyst, a master's in psychology or a related field is required. For social workers, a bachelor's degree is sufficient, although a master's will offer more career opportunities.

How to Become a Behavior Analyst

Step 1: Get an Education

Becoming a certified behavior analyst is the objective for most individuals interested in working in this field. According to the standards of the Behavior Certification Board, behavior analysts must hold a master's degree in applied behavior analysis, education, or psychology to be certified.

In addition to a master's degree, an approved university-supervised practicum or hours of supervised work experience is required. There are several options to earn supervised fieldwork. The supervised practicum varies in required hours based on the intensity of supervision, but the minimum required hours is 750 for intense supervision, and 1,000 hours for a typical practicum.

Intense supervision requires two supervisors and 10% of the hours be supervised, whereas the typical practicum requires only one supervisor and 7.5% of the hours supervised. Students may also choose to conduct supervised independent fieldwork, which requires 1,500 hours of work with only one supervisor and only five percent of the hours supervised.

Though a master's degree is the standard, there are some jobs individuals with a bachelor's can hold as they continue their education to earn a master's. These jobs include technicians or applied behavior analyst assistants.

  • Bachelor's Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis: A bachelor's degree in applied behavior analysis prepares individuals to work in a variety of environments by giving them a broad overview of the minimum educational requirements needed to excel in the field. This degree can help individuals earn jobs as applied behavior assistants and can function as a stepping stone to the next degree.
  • Master's Degree in Applied Behavioral Analysis: A master's in applied behavior analysis expands opportunities for professionals to work as independent practitioners in developmental services, mental health, or special education in schools. This degree provides an understanding of research-based theories and how to apply recent research to fieldwork. Having a master's increases flexibility when it comes to preferred work environments.

Step 2: Earn a License

To become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, licensing departments establish requirements for behavior analysis licenses on a state-by-state basis. For most states, there are three options required when applying for certifications. The first option includes a graduate degree from an accredited university, completion of the required amount of supervised practical hours, and passing the licensure exam. For the second option, individuals have the opportunity to hold a full-time faculty teaching position as a behavior analyst in lieu of the supervised practical hours. The third option is restricted to individuals who hold a doctoral degree for at least 10 years before applying for a licensure. A doctoral degree, as well as 10 years of practical experience, are both required, along with a passing score on the licensure exam. One must apply to take the test, which will cost $245 as of September 1, 2018. Not all states require licensure, but in nearly every state, a master's degree is required for a license. Individuals must apply to take the exam, and licenses are renewed every two years. Additionally, continuing education is required upon renewal, which will cost $215 as of September 1, 2018.

Behavior Analysis Licensure by State

Requirements for earning and maintaining licenses vary from state to state. Most states require licenses to be renewed every two years, and continuing education is also required. 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 in order for the license to carry over. 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. It is important to examine which states require licensure, which do not, and which states are in the process of proposing licensure requirements as well.

States That Require Licensure Alabama, Hawaii, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Missouri, Nevada, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Virginia, Wisconsin
States With Optional Licensure Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Washington
States With Proposed Legislation to Create Licensure Requirements California, Connecticut, Illinois, South Dakota, Texas
States With No Licensure Requirements Colorado, Delaware, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Maine, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, West Virginia, Wyoming

Behavior Analyst Job and Salary Outlook

For those looking to work as a behavior analyst, job environments can vary from outpatient and in-home care to schools to hospitals and inpatient care. Behavior analysts can specialize in a particular focus. Common focuses include becoming an instructor, a therapist, a residential analyst in schools or hospitals, a developmental analyst in larger organizations or government positions, or even forensic analysts who work with law enforcement to study the psychology of offenders and victims.

Job Title Overall Median Salary Median Salary for Entry-Level Employees (0-5 years) Median Salary for Mid-Career Employees (5-10 years) Median Salary for Late-Career Employees (>20 years)
Behavior Analyst $55,712 $50,000 $60,000 $71,000
Clinical Director $72,944 $64,000 $72,000 $81,000
Behavior Specialist $40,312 $37,000 $40,000 $50,000
Applied Behavior Analysis Therapist $15.81/hour $32,000 $39,000 $57,000
Board Certified Behavior Analyst $57,644 $55,000 $62,000 $87,000

How Do You Find a Job as a Behavior Analyst?

Building a thorough resume can push recent graduates ahead of their less prepared peers. Adding any continuing education, such as trainings or resources provided by national associations, is a great way to bulk up a resume as it shows a desire to improve and grow as a behavior analyst. Certifications can also help set an applicant apart. For example, individuals can earn an Autism Certificate if they are interested in pursuing work and research within this particular field.

Social work organizations that offer networking opportunities include the National Association of Social Workers, School Social Work Association, and National Association of School Psychologists. To engage in similar resources through social media, Behavior Analyst Certification Board's Twitter helps keep people up to date on certification requirements and research updates in the field. Another helpful Twitter account to follow is the Association of Behavior Analysts International.

Behavior Analysis Resources

  • Association of Professional Behavior Analysts: The APBA is a national nonprofit that 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 career.
  • Behavior Analyst Certification Board: The BACA is a nonprofit corporation that strives to meet the needs of professional behavior analysts. It provides information on credentials, exams, and requirements needed to meet examination content for certifications.
  • Association for Science in Autism Treatment: The ASAT strives to ensure effective, research-based treatments for patients with autism by maintaining the most up-to-date research surrounding autism treatment. This helps ensure the highest quality services and helps combat false information surrounding autism.
  • Four Corners Association for Behavior Analysis: This professional organization is affiliated with the Association of 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: The 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.
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