Child Behavior Specialist Degree Program Overviews

Read up on degree programs available for aspiring child behavior specialists. Get program overviews detailing prerequisites, required coursework and possible career options in the field.

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Essential Information

Child behavior specialists analyze behavior to detect emotional, physical or mental problems in children and adolescents. Students interested in this field can pursue a bachelor's degree in child development or a master's degree in behavior analysis. Both programs cover psychological and counseling techniques, though master's programs are often more focused on research and hands-on practice in the field than bachelor's programs. Students in bachelor's programs in child development spend more time on the fundamental principles of psychology and behavior analysis; master's programs are often tailored to students with an undergraduate background in a related field.


Bachelor's Degree in Child Development

Bachelor's degree programs in child development train prospective behavior specialists in the foundations of child development and child assessment. Students explore methods for assessing child growth and behavior, as well as implement plans for developing a child's strengths. They assess how outside influences, such as ethnicity, social status and peers, affect a child's mental and physical well-being. Some major concentrations in this degree program focus on early childhood and school-age children and adolescents. Eligible students must have gained his or her GED or high school diploma in order to enter this degree program.

Program Coursework

The coursework focuses on child development including physical, cognitive and emotional development. Students develop strategies for improving learning and family relationships, as well as research current issues and trends found in children. Topics covered throughout the program include:

  • Educational psychology
  • Essentials of sociology
  • Guidance and discipline
  • Language development
  • Methods of inquiry in child development

Popular Career Options

In addition to child behavior specialists, various job positions exist in the field of child behavior. Educational facilities and mental health clinics seek out the services of those who have gained their degree in this topic. Some popular career options are:

  • Child life specialist
  • Center directors
  • Therapeutic behavior specialist

Master's Degree in Behavior Analysis

The practices and methods taught to students in a master's degree will help students become familiar with the mental aliases and dysfunctional behavior of children and adults. Students investigate how to analyze and diagnose behavior problems, as well as how social and biological differences affect behavior. This degree program places a heavy emphasis on understanding all facets of behavior and mental health issues within children and adolescents.

Education Prerequisites

In addition to a bachelor's degree, prospective students must submit a statement of interest and letters of recommendation. Depending on the school, the master's degree program may also require a personal interview.

Program Coursework

Master's degree programs explore the principles of behavior analysis and modification through psychological and counseling techniques. In addition to classroom lectures, students complete field training and a thesis. Topics found in the program include:

  • Research methods
  • Lifespan development
  • Applied analysis of behavior
  • Child behavior disorders
  • Behavior analysis in schools

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimated that the employment of substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors will increase by 27% from 2010-2020 (www.bls.gov). In May 2012, the BLS reported that the median annual wages for substance abuse and behavioral disorder counselors were $38,520.

Continuing Education

Doctoral programs exist for those looking to further their education in behavior counseling or psychology. These programs further educate students in the areas of child mental health development and care. Clinical training and classroom instruction on psychology topics provide students with advanced practical training in mental health and behavior disorders and may lead to licensure as a psychologist.

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