Becoming a Behavior Analyst: Job Description & Salary info

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Learn about a behavior analyst's job description, salary and education requirements. Get straight talk about the pros and cons of becoming a behavior analyst.
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Pros and Cons of a Behavior Analyst Career

Behavior analysts are concerned with understanding human behavior and how it's affected by environmental and biological factors. There are many pros and cons to this career; keep reading to discover if being a behavior analyst would be right for you.

Pros of Being a Behavior Analyst
Potential for a high salary ($37,000-$95,000)*
A variety of work settings (schools, governments, hospitals, non-profits, etc.)*
Make a living helping those with behavioral issues**
Opportunities to supervise associate-level employees***

Cons of Being a Behavior Analyst
About six years of post-secondary education**
Jobs usually require 2-5 years of related work experience**
Employers typically require analysts with board certification**
Some jobs may require you to be on-call or available 24 hours per day**

Sources: *Payscale.com, **Job advertisements from CareerBuilder.com, ***Florida Association for Behavior Analysis.

Essential Career Information

Job Description and Duties

Behavior analysts work for government institutions, hospitals, schools, nonprofits and private practices where they treat people with problematic behaviors caused by mental health issues. These issues may include developmental disorders, brain injuries, autism and psychiatric illnesses. Behavior analysts can also perform research on changes in behavior or on behavior theories and generally work as part of a team. As a behavior analyst, your duties will include performing behavioral assessments to determine environmental factors affecting a patient's behavior and developing a behavioral intervention plan, which provides treatment options. Often, analysts offer training and support to other staff members to make sure intervention plans are executed properly.

Salary Info

The salary range (including bonuses and profit sharing) for most behavior analysts was about $37,000-$95,000 in July 2015, according to PayScale.com. Annual salaries vary depending on several factors such, as education. For example, behavior analysts with master's degrees earned more than those with bachelor's degrees. The salary range for board-certified analysts during the same time period was about the same for non-certified analysts at $39,000-$91,000, according to salary data from PayScale.com.

What Are the Requirements?

The majority of employers advertising for behavior analyst positions require applicants to have at least master's degrees in related fields, such as psychology or special education. Employers also typically request candidates who have many years of experience working with children or adults suffering from developmental disorders. Based on job postings on CareerBuilder.com, qualifications to be a behavior analyst include:

  • Attention to detail
  • Ability to work in a fast-paced work setting
  • Strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Experience writing Functional Behavioral Assessments
  • Ability to form positive relationships with clients

Certification

Many employers only hire behavior analysts certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). To receive the credential, you must attend an accredited university and earn a master's degree in behavior analysis or a related field, such as education, medicine, psychology, engineering, social work or speech therapy. You're also required to have specific training and experience, which can be obtained by completing the appropriate coursework, teaching at a college level or performing fieldwork. Candidates who meet all the requirements receive certification after passing the BACB's 150-question exam.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Job listings for behavior analysts generally request applicants with master's degrees and several years of work experience. They also list the specialized skills and knowledge applicants are expected to posses. Some specific job postings open during June 2012 have shown the following:

  • A Boston, MA, healthcare facility is looking for a behavior analyst to assess the needs of individuals with disabilities and provide training to staff members. The employer requires candidates to have master's degrees in related fields, such as psychology, and two years of experience working with people who have psychiatric and developmental disorders. Board certification is preferred.
  • A New York organization that provides education to children with disabilities seeks candidates with five years of related work experience and master's degrees in psychology or education. Candidates must be board certified or have a master's degree or coursework in applied behavior analysis and have knowledge of educational technology.
  • A charity foundation in New Jersey is advertising for candidates with strong communication, interpersonal and analytical skills to supervise staff members and treat disabled patients. The position requires a bachelor's or master's degree in a related field and two years of experience working with disabled children. The employer prefers candidates that have or are eligible for board certification.
  • A South Dakota children's hospital wants candidates with three years of experience working as board certified behavior analysts. The position requires performing physical activities, including standing, kneeling and reaching when working with patients, lifting patients and making repetitive movements with the hands and wrists. Other qualifications include the ability to work a rotating on-call schedule and the ability to work independently and with a team.

How Can I Stand Out?

Behavior analysts can set themselves apart from other candidates by familiarizing themselves with the newest treatments and research about behavioral disorders. By becoming a member of professional organizations, such as the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts or the Association for Behavior Analysis International, you can share research, educational strategies and treatment methods with other analysts. Additionally, you'll receive newsletters containing current information on behavior analysis and invitations to workshops and annual conventions.

Because this career requires strong communication and interpersonal skills, you might consider acquiring additional knowledge in these areas. You can find professional development courses at colleges and schools that provide training in communication or interpersonal relationship skills. Professional behavior analysis organizations may also offer short-term training at workshops or online.

Related Career Paths

Direct-Service Social Worker

If you want to help those with behavioral problems, but becoming a behavior analyst doesn't interest you, there are other career options. As a social worker, you can help children, families or healthcare patients deal with problems, such as divorce, unemployment, child abuse, illnesses, disabilities and poverty. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement for most positions, although social workers in healthcare facilities and schools may need master's degrees. The salaries for social workers varied slightly depending on their field, according to May 2011 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Healthcare social workers make the highest median annual salaries of about $49,000 and mental health and substance abuse social workers make the lowest at around $39,000, according to the BLS.

Sociologist

Sociologists do not treat people directly, instead they perform the research on social behavior that social workers and other professionals use to help those with behavioral problems. Sociologists conduct surveys and interviews to understand the social activities of different groups and individuals. Sociologists also use data collected through research to advise lawmakers on forming public policies concerning education, health, racial relations and gender. To become a sociologist, you'll need a master's degree or doctoral degree in sociology. According to the BLS, the median annual salary for sociologists in 2011 was about 74,000.

Behavioral Disorder Counselor

Alternatively, you can offer support and treatment options to those with behavioral problems by becoming a behavior disorder counselor. As a counselor, your duties can include developing programs that teach the public how to avoid destructive behaviors, referring patients to support groups and helping patients find jobs. Several factors, such as state laws and work settings, determine the education requirements for counselors, which can range from a high school diploma to a master's degree. For example, private practices require counselors to have master's degrees, clinical experience and state licenses. The BLS reports the median annual salary for behavior disorder counselors was approximately $39,000 in 2011.

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Colorado Technical University

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Sacred Heart University

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