Master’s in Behavior Analysis

Behavioral analysis is a growing field that seeks to understand behavior as a primary means for changing it. From the primitive aspects of learning, professionals in this field seek to provide guidance to individuals that exhibit problematic or inappropriate behaviors. One of the most important aspects of changing behavior is understanding how people learn and then using these methods to aid in the change process.

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Simmons College | Accredited

What is Behavior Analysis?

Observation can take place in schools, homes, workplaces, or anywhere in which the behavior is expressed. Professionals in this field believe that the environment can have both positive and negative effects on human behavior, making it important to always consider the environment when working to increase good behaviors or decrease bad behaviors. Behavior analysis uses the environment to analyze, influence, and change behavior through various theories and concepts such as reinforcement, punishment, and extinction.

Over the years, behavior analysis has become increasingly associated with the treatment of autism. Although this is a popular field for autism treatment, the application of behavior analysis is useful in schools, businesses, and even individual therapy. There is no specific field that behavior analysis seeks to treat. Where there is behavior, behavior analysis can be a useful tool.

What Does a Behavior Analyst Do and Why Are They Needed?

At the forefront, the behavior analyst is called upon when a behavior is in need of changing. The analyst will first observe the client in a relative setting and perform a functional assessment on the client’s behavior. A functional assessment works to assist the analyst in determining what is causing the behavior, whether it is a negative stimulation from the environment or a reinforcer such as praise or reward. After completing the assessment, the analyst will determine a proper treatment method for changing the behavior.

This can be through the use of substitute behaviors, which is teaching the person to act in a different way rather than the current behavior, reinforcement, which can involve praise when an appropriate behavior is exhibited or the removal of a reinforcer such as television or games, and punishment. The behavior analyst may use reinforcement methods such as positive or negative reinforcement to help guide people to engaging in more appropriate behaviors. For example, a child that refuses to go to bed when told may receive reinforcement therapy through the use of incentives.

The behavior analyst can create a plan that allows for the child to receive a reward on days that he goes to bed when told or, on the other hand, removal of reinforcements, such as video games, when he does not comply. Since therapy such as this does not typically occur during normal business hours, the behavior analyst may also be responsible for training the parent on how to maintain consistent, even through rough times during the intervention process. This type of treatment can be applied to a variety of behaviors, with reinforcement incentives changing depending on the age, maturity, and preference of the client.

Behavior analysts are helpful in that they provide assistance to individuals that need guidance in behavior. Whether it is a child that is not responding to a parent or a business that cannot understand why their employees are not working to their full potential, the behavior analyst may have the skills to assess and intervene with the situation.

What are the Educational Requirements to Become a Behavior Analyst?

According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, applicants to become a board certified behavior analyst must complete, at minimum, a master’s degree in psychology, behavior analysis, or related discipline from an accredited university (BACB; 2017). Students that have obtained a master’s degree in a discipline other than behavior analysis are required to complete the recommended coursework specific to behavior analysis prior to being approved. After the degree requirements are met, students are expected to complete a 1 year supervised work experience requirement, which must be under the supervision of a licensed board certified behavior analyst.

The Master’s in Behavior Analysis Online Degree Program and Common Coursework

The Master’s in Behavior Analysis program includes important theories and methods for appropriately changing behavior. In recent years, the trend towards online education has allowed for programs such as this one to be maintained in an online setting. This has been great for the growth of the relatively new field of behavior analysis, since a lot of people are able to obtain their degree through convenient online degree programs.

Most online programs are taught by the same professors as standard educational programs and allow students more time for work or family. Take a look below at one of the most innovative online degree programs for behavior analysis.

Capella University

Capella University currently offers a completely online MS in Applied Behavior Analysis. The curriculum for this degree program includes 4 core classes, 6 classes suited for specializations, and an integrated project requirement. Most students enrolled in this degree program can complete it within 1-2 years at full-time enrollment. Students that are interested in learning about the basic fundamental principles of learning and behavior may find this degree program exceptionally helpful on their journey to career success.

Some of the coursework in this program provides a more applied insight into the rationalization of reinforcement, punishment, and extinction as a means of changing behavior. Students may be expected to create their own research problems, functional assessments, and intervention programs as part of the curriculum. If you are involved in this degree program, you may be expected to take part in virtual weekly meetings, individual projects, and group discussions. Some of the classes for this program will be listed below.

Applied Behavior Analysis for the Treatment of Autism

Students taking this course will be introduced to the decision-making process associated with treating individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Students may learn the different techniques, such as behavior modification, reinforcement, and punishment that are associated with successful and cost-efficiency throughout the therapeutic process. This course also outlines the ethics associated with the treatment of people with Autism Spectrum Disorders as well as health related concerns and problems.

Techniques in Applied Behavior Analysis

This course outlines the different methods available for the assessment, treatment, and follow-up of patients in a treatment setting. Students may learn how to properly conduct a functional assessment of behavior and learn how to effectively develop an intervention plan. Properly protocol for behavior bursts and non-compliance may also be discussed in detail.

Issues in Assessment and Intervention Support

Student involved in this course may be subjected to research and studies regarding the developmental issues associated with Autism Spectrum Disorder. This course may also involve a look into the dynamics of interventions and assessments, as well as some of the problematic issues that may become present during the treatment process. Students may be instructed to promote cultural and social identity throughout the treatment process, as well as involve the family unit in an appropriate and helpful way.

Salary and Career Outlook

As you consider your options for a degree program, it is important to consider how much you could make within each of your prospective fields. The field of behavior analysis is a relatively new field in psychology, which can be puzzling as you do your research online. In order to become a behavior analyst, students must complete a master’s program, take part in supervised experience, and become licensed within their state. With this being said, the requirements are quite similar to other clinical fields in psychology as are the benefits.

The average salary for psychologists in the United States is $75,230 per year (BLS; 2016). These figures include estimates for psychologists within every realm of psychological practice, so it is safe to assume that the average pay for behavior analyst will fall within the normal average for all professionals.

Depending on the field in which you specialize, you could see a change from the average in your yearly pay. A lot of the behavior analysts that are in practice today are working in a private setting. Some specialists even have their own practice, in which they perform interventions within controlled, office environments. Psychological fields such as this one are on the rise. The BLS reports that the psychological field could see as much as a 19% increase over the next ten years, making this a great place to call home for degree-earners (BLS; 2016).

Final Thoughts

Psychology has always been a truly innovative field. It has changed the way that people view themselves, their relationships, and their interaction with the environment. Behavior analysis has drawn out what is known about behavior and changed the way that people confront problematic actions and behaviors in many different settings. Practitioners of psychology that are looking for an applied field to express their knowledge of human behavior may find this field to be an exceptionally satisfying field that can help children and adults lead more productive lives.

As the years go by, it is likely that this field will grow and change into a more diverse application of behavior theory, which will require more expertise from those working in it. If you are looking for a psychology field that is a little different from the rest, behavior analysis is definitely a specialty to consider.

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