Be a Behavior Specialist: How to Choose a School and Training Program

Behavior specialists work in education, business and social work as teachers, counselors and consultants. They may work with students who need special education or as consultants for large corporations. Programs are offered at the undergraduate, graduate and certificate levels.

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How to Select a School and Training Program for Behavior Specialists

Behavior specialists can work in a variety of careers, such as special education teachers, consultants for businesses, psychologists, legislators or researchers. Undergraduate programs are usually geared toward education professionals, while graduate and certificate programs provide training for other specialties.

Summary of Important Considerations

  • Career preparation
  • Faculty expertise
  • Hands-on experience
  • School certification

Career Preparation

Some schools provide career counseling and other services to help students choose the program that best fits their goals and to make sure they succeed in reaching them. Therefore, students may want to seek out programs that provide this counseling, if they are seeking a specific career.

Faculty Expertise

Schools with graduate programs for behavior specialists often have faculty who are experts in the field and who conduct their own research studies in behavior analysis. To ensure they are involved with cutting edge research and real-world experience, students can look for a program that offers the opportunity to work alongside their instructors.

Hands-on Experience

Students can also gain work experience through programs that include internships or practicum courses in their curriculum. Practical work experience may be necessary for students to meet requirements for board certification as teachers or counselors.

School Certification

An important consideration for aspiring behavior specialists as they select a school is whether or not the school's special education program meets the standards of the professional organization that will administer the certification exam for the student's chosen career.

For example, if a student is pursuing a career as a behavior analyst, their program needs to align with the requirements of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, while a student pursuing a career as a special education teacher might look for a program approved by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Most employers of behavior specialists will prefer, if not require, applicants to be certified.

Behavior Specialist Program Overviews

Bachelor's Degree in Education

Undergraduate degrees for behavior specialists are usually education degrees, such as a Bachelor of Science in Education or Bachelor of Science in Special Education. Many bachelor's degrees in special education include preparation for teacher certification as part of the program. Typical courses cover topics like:

  • Human development
  • Computer software
  • Behavior management
  • Teaching methods

Master's Degree in Special Education

Graduate degrees for behavior specialists include a Master's Degree in Special Education - Learning Behavior Specialist II, and a Master of Science in Education in Special Education - Behavior Intervention Specialist. Acceptance into a master's program requires a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and previous teaching experience. Courses typically cover subjects like:

  • Disability issues
  • Educational psychology
  • Positive behavior management

Graduate Certificates

Students who want to supplement prior education can earn a graduate certificate such as a Learning Behavior Specialist II graduate certificate or a Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis. Students are usually required to have a master's degree and prior work experience, but a bachelor's degree is sometimes sufficient. Typical courses cover subjects such as:

  • Learning assessment
  • Behavioral consultation
  • Behavior analysis
  • Professional collaboration
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