How to Study Human Behavior

The study of human behavior has played an important role in improving the lives of people who have mental health and behavioral disorders. It has also facilitated advancements in areas such as early childhood education, organizational behavior management, and public health. Professionals who are interested in how to study human behavior are driven to know why people make decisions, with the goal of better understanding the decision-making process.


Applied behavior analysis (ABA) is a behavioral science discipline focused on the principles of behavior, learning, motivation, and methods of promoting behavior change. Behavior analysts may work in settings such as schools, private clinics, and community mental health centers. Their work involves using observation and data analysis to design and implement behavior change plans. Some behavior analysts also have specialties in counseling, psychology, or special education.


The following steps outline how a professional might pursue employment as a behavior analyst.


Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree


Many students begin their careers in behavior analysis by earning a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science or psychology. Through coursework, students examine different perspectives of biological, societal, and economic influences on human behavior.


Students can begin working after graduation in select fields such as substance abuse, behavioral disorders, or mental health counseling, depending on the state and employer. Professionals who hold a bachelor’s degree can also work towards the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA)® credential, gaining on-the-job experience under a certified analyst.


Step 2: Earn a Master’s Degree


After earning a bachelor’s degree, professionals who are interested in becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)® must obtain a masters degree in applied behavior analysis, psychology, or education. Coursework in a two-year ABA master’s program covers topics such as behavior assessment, treatment evaluation, and ethics. Students are taught how to apply behavioral theories to help clients individuals with psychological or medical disorders, autism spectrum disorders, or intellectual and/or developmental disabilities,.


As part of the master’s program, students are exposed to clinical experience in an applied behavior analysis clinical setting. For example, students may work on-site with providers of services for children who have autism. In this environment, students complete assessments, design behavior analytic programs, and collaborate on projects with other professionals. The type of clinical placement, minimum work hours, and supervisory requirements vary. In a standard clinical experience, ABA program faculty oversee student placement and supervision.



Step 3: Working as a Behavior Analyst


Demand for certified ABA professionals increased nearly 800 percent between 2010 and 2017, according to a recent study by workforce analytics firm Burning Glass Technologies. With indications that the market will continue to grow in the upcoming years, this is an excellent employment climate for professionals who want to learn how to study human behavior.


Upon completing a master’s in ABA program, some professionals seek certifications such as the BCBA credential. To qualify for examination, candidates must pass an exam and meet various educational and clinical experience requirements, which are set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) ®.


While compensation varies by state, employer, and work setting, the average national salary for a board-certified behavior analyst is about $58,000, according to PayScale. Professionals who are just beginning their careers may earn closer to $55,000, while analysts who have over 10 years of experience may average $68,000 per year.


To remain at the top of their profession, certified behavior analysts are required to maintain their certification by completing continuing education credits every 2-3 years. These credits can be earned in several ways: by completing additional post-secondary coursework, attending presentations at conferences, instructing classes, or writing for journal publications. Additionally, BCBA’s who have completed a doctoral degree may apply for the BCBA-D certification. While a BCBA-D does not exceed the BCBA credential, doctorate-level analysts may assume greater responsibilities such as overseeing the work of master’s-level analysts.


Learn More


Designed for students from a wide variety of health science backgrounds, the online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis program at Regis College is structured to prepare graduates for success in a variety of possible career fields. The program blends research and hands-on experience, and offers coursework in behavior assessment, treatment evaluation, ethical practices, and other related areas.


Individuals who are interested in developing a deeper understanding of human behavior and preparing for an exciting career are encouraged to learn more about the MS in ABA degree program offered by Regis College.


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Regis College, Online Master of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis