Child Behavior Specialist Careers: Job Description & Salary Info

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Behavioral specialists earn a median salary of about $40,000. Is this worth the education and training requirements? Learn the truth about this position by reading job postings from real employers to decide if becoming a child behavior specialist is right for you.
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Pros and Cons of Being a Child Behavior Specialist

Working as a child behavior specialist can be a challenging yet rewarding position where you may work with children who display very aggressive or destructive behaviors and must exercise patience to allow progress. Following is a list of more pros and cons that can help you decide whether this occupation is suitable for you.

Pros of Being a Child Behavior Specialist
Can work in multiple settings (home, school, etc.)*
Opportunity to help parents and caregivers deal with behavioral problems*
Good job growth for the field (faster-than-average growth projected from 2014-2024)**

Cons of Being a Child Behavior Specialist
May require traveling to see clients*
Some positions may require a master's degree*
Some positions may require a license in a mental health field*
Low base salary (lowest-paid 10% earned about $29,000, as of January 2016)***

Sources: *Job Postings for Dec. 2012, **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, ***PayScale.com

Career Information

Child behavior specialists typically work with children and their families to provide intervention and behavior modification counseling for a variety of issues such as aggressive behavior, disruptive classroom actions, impulsiveness and difficulty working in groups. In some instances, you may also work with children who have developmental disabilities, such as autism. According to the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB), the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) focuses on methods used to modify behavior and services provided to address a variety of behavioral needs.

Professionals, such as child behavior specialists apply ABA techniques in a variety of settings such as homes, schools and daycare facilities. According to job postings, some child behavior specialists may be more involved with providing direct care, while some may focus primarily on the administration aspects of developing and implementing treatment plans. Some other job duties you may have in this position include assessing children to determine causes of behavior, analyzing behavioral trends, evaluating behavioral programs, helping children learn coping techniques and supervising support staff members.

Job Outlook and Salary

Employment statistics specifically for child behavior specialists were not available from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, some of the job duties for this occupation are similar to the responsibilities for child, family and school social workers as described by the BLS. For these professionals, employment was projected to increase as fast-as-average at the rate of 19% from 2014-2024. According to PayScale.com, behavior specialists in general in the lowest 10th percentile earned about $29,000 and those in the highest 10th percentile earned approximately $57,000, as of January 2016.

What Do Employers Look For?

To work as a child behavior specialist, you must have at least a bachelor's degree. However, some job postings revealed that employers are looking for candidates with a master's degree. Some common majors for this position include behavior analysis, clinical social work, counseling and psychology. In some instances, employers may also request that you have a mental health or behavioral specialist consultant (BSC) license to practice. To be suitable for this position, employers will most likely require you to pass a child abuse and criminal history screening.

Job Postings from Real Employers

Most postings showed that 1-2 years of experience working on treatment programs for children is usually required. Some postings also showed that child behavior specialists must have experience providing mental healthcare. Following is a list of job postings from real employers that can give you some insight into what real employers were looking for during December 2012.

  • A behavioral health services company in Lancaster, PA, is looking for behavioral specialist consultants to provide assessments, monitor and design programs for children, adolescents and families. Candidates must have a master's degree and at least one year of clinical post-graduate experience supervising treatment for children. This employer prefers to hire candidates with experience working with autistic children and operating ABA programs. Job duties include developing behavioral interventions and treatment plans.
  • A social services company in Hollywood, FL, is seeking a candidate with a bachelor's degree in behavior analysis, mental health or another related field and at least two years of experience working with children with behavioral problems and developmental disabilities. Job functions include coordinating treatment behavioral program reviews, evaluating behavior programs, monitoring behavioral trends and supervising direct care staff.
  • A Philadelphia, PA, social services company seeks an applicant with a minimum of one year of training in behavior analysis and at least two years of post-graduate experience in providing mental health treatment to children. The candidate will responsible for designing and coordinating the implementation of behavior modification intervention plans for children, providing assessments and supervising therapeutic staff members. The applicant is required to have a master's degree in a clinical mental health discipline. The applicant can also have a current state license as a psychologist.
  • A children's mental health and welfare agency in California is looking for bilingual behavior specialists to work with children and their caregivers. Job duties involve teaching coping skills to deal with negative behavior and traveling to homes, schools and residential facilities to provide intensive behavioral treatment. The position involves about 60% field work. The employer is looking for candidates with a bachelor's degree and two years of experience working with children.

How to Stand Out in the Field

You may stand out as a more favorable job candidate by obtaining a relevant certification. The standard certification available for this field is the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) credential offered by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). Requirements for the BCBA certification exam include completion of a master's degree program in behavior analysis, human services or other related discipline that's approved by the BACB. You must also complete a minimum of 225 hours of graduate coursework related to behavior analysis. To substitute for the 225 classroom hours, you must have at least one year of full-time teaching experience in behavior analysis at a college or university, or a related doctorate degree that was earned at least ten years prior to applying for certification. To maintain your certification, you must complete 36 hours of continuing education training every three years.

Other Careers to Consider

Behavioral Disorder Counselor

For a career working with adults who have behavioral problems, consider becoming a behavioral disorder counselor. In this role, you would primarily work with clients who have addictions to substances. You would also work with clients' families by helping them understand how to deal with addictions to foster recovery. Other duties you would have include assisting clients with creating treatment plans, identifying destructive patterns of behavior and finding external support groups.

According to the BLS, the education required to work in this field varies. Some positions may accept a high school diploma, while others may require a degree. Typically, you would be able to provide more services with less supervision if you have advanced education. If you plan on working in the private practice arena, you are required to become licensed. To take the licensure exam, you must complete 2,000-3,000 hours of supervised clinical training and a master's degree program in a related field. The BLS also reported that behavioral disorder counselors earned a median salary of approximately $39,000 as of May 2014. In the decade of 2012-2022, behavioral disorder counselors were projected to have 31% employment growth, according to the BLS.

School Counselor

If working with students peaks your interest, then consider becoming an elementary, middle or high school counselor. In this position, you may also counsel students who show signs of behavioral problems, such as being disruptive in classrooms or bullying other students. You would also help students in other areas, such as developing good social, study habit and time-management skills. Other important aspects of your job would include observing and reporting any signs of abuse or neglect, evaluating student abilities through aptitude tests and working with teachers and parents on ways to help students overcome challenges.

According to the BLS, most states require that you have a master's degree in counseling or another related discipline to work as a school counselor. Additionally, you must have a state license or certification to practice. As of May 2014, the median wage for school counselors was about $54,000. The BLS also noted that these professionals were expected to have a 12% increase in jobs from 2012-2022.

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