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Behavior analysts are a specialized type of psychologist that survey and study human or animal behavior. Typically, behavior analysts work at major universities, private business and federal or state government institutions.
A behavior analyst utilizes original research and experimentation to identify factors in the environment or biology that lead to patterns in behavior. Their work, once published, can help provide effective ways of diagnosing, treating and preventing behavioral problems. Analysts typically only observe and analyze behavior and do not themselves enact any forms of experimental punishment or reward that may be used as treatment by a physician to alleviate behavioral problems.
The spectrum of job environments for behavior analysts is wide. They can work in hospitals to provide psychological therapy for medical trauma victims, in schools or private institutions using developmental therapy to treat patients suffering from hereditary, mental or physical diseases, or as counselors for addiction and behavioral problems in individuals of all ages. Behavioral analysts also work with government agencies in criminology, which is the study of all facets of criminal behavior.
Behavior analysts must have excellent reasoning, analytical and communication skills. A strong attention to detail, patience and perseverance are paramount, but it is also important to be an empathetic, emotionally stable leader.
A bachelor's or master's degree in psychology is required for specialized psychologists looking for entry-level positions, while a doctorate is required for those desiring their own practice or to produce original research. Additionally, each state has specific laws regarding required psychological licensing; board certification by the American Board of Professional Psychology is also necessary for a behavioral analyst.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, specialized psychologists earned a median annual salary of $64,140 in 2008. Salaries of behavioral analysts will vary depending upon experience and the prestige of the institution where they are employed.
2016 Salary Information for Psychologists
Psychologists earned a median annual salary of $75,710 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, psychologists earned a 25th percentile salary of $56,390, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $97,780, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 166,600 people were employed in the U.S. as psychologists.
Jenna Gerlach has been writing since 2001 and teaching since 2011. She lives in Marietta, Ga., where she has been published numerous times in Kennesaw State University’s art and literary magazine, “Share.” Her expertise is in education and the humanities. Gerlach holds a minor in professional writing, a Bachelor of Arts in English, and a Master of Arts in Teaching English from Kennesaw State University.