Community college programs are often much shorter than programs at four-year colleges, and they typically cost far less. By choosing a community college education over earning a bachelor’s degree, you spend less on your tuition and get out into the workforce sooner. However, many jobs – particularly higher-paying ones – require more than a community college certificate or an associate’s degree. There are community college programs that can help you prepare for a job in the field of behavior analysis. However, your scope of practice, job opportunities and earning potential are limited unless you pursue another degree at a four-year college or a graduate school.
Education Requirements for Behavior Analysis Careers
The interesting field of behavior analysis, which involves applying knowledge of the scientific principles and environmental variables that guide behavior to change how individuals behave, offers career opportunities for a wide range of candidates. Those with a master’s degree or doctoral degree can become credentialed as Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) or BCBA-Ds. A step below are Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs), who have a four-year undergraduate education and work under the supervision of BCBAs and BCBA-Ds. Without a bachelor’s degree, the highest level of credential you can attain in this field is Registered Behavior Technician (RBT).
A degree alone is not enough for any of these careers. At every level, personnel who work in the field of behavior analysis must complete coursework that meets the standards set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. BCBAs, BCBA-Ds and BCaBAs might complete these requirements as part of their degree programs or pursue a separate certificate program that meets these standards. For Registered Behavior Technicians, whose highest level of formal education required is a high school diploma, additional coursework is necessary.
Although RBTs don’t need an actual degree, some employers will give preference to behavior analysts who hold an associate’s degree as well as the RBT credential.
Curricula in Community College Behavior Analysis Programs
Whether you choose to complete your RBT training program through a community college, on the job or through another agency that offers training, it will cover the same basic curriculum. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board requires 40 hours of training in specified subjects. By the time you complete an RBT preparation program, you should be able to:
- Measure data relating to behavior and environments using a variety of procedures and graph that data for interpretation.
- Assess preferences and work alongside BCBAs and BCaBAs to support the assessment procedures used in evaluating clients’ function, developmental progress, social skills and other areas of interest.
- Contribute to client’s skill acquisition through direct service that involves using different types of teaching, training, shaping and reinforcement methods and procedures.
- Contribute to the reduction of clients’ problem behaviors by implementing reinforcement and other procedures as identified in a provided behavior reduction plan.
- Use appropriate documenting and reporting procedures to effectively communicate with supervisors and record notes on clients’ progress.
- Understand and abide by the requirements for professional conduct.
In an RBT training or applied behavior technician certificate program, you are likely to encounter modules or classes in understanding applied behavior analysis and working with client populations, such as children with special needs, whom often require clinical behavior analysis services.
Weighing the Options for Careers in Behavior Analysis
A community college RBT training program is an option for a career in behavior analysis, but whether this path is the best way into the field depends on what you’re looking for in your future. The benefits of choosing this route include low tuition and student debt rates and a much faster timeline to graduation. If your goal is to get started working in the field as quickly as possible or with as little cost as possible, RBT training programs fit the bill. However, if you want the best employment prospects and the best income potential, you may find that the behavior technician occupation simply doesn’t offer what a career as a BCaBA, a BCBA or a BCBA-D does. Financially, earning a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctorate in behavior analysis pay off with higher salaries.
In addition to education and training, RBTs must also pass a background check, a competency assessment and a professional exam. The RBT Examination is shorter than the BCBA and BCaBA Examinations.