Although behavior analysts have in common their focus on the scientific principles that shape behaviors – and, often, on applying their assessments to helping people in real-world situations – the fields in which they can choose to work are diverse. In this career path, your area of practice will determine not only the patient population you can expect to work with but also your potential work settings and the types of research and interventions you may take part in as a practitioner. Although many of the fields that utilize behavior analysts revolve around treating behaviors related to health issues and medical disorders, fields such as business and environmental sustainability also have a need for professionals with this skill set.
Treatment Through Behavior Analysis
Applied behavior analysis often focuses on changing the problematic behaviors associated with medical disorders. Yet within this broad area of application, behavior analysts can work in several different specialized areas of practice. Often, behavior analysts work with clients – typically children – with developmental disorders such as autism. This work may take place in outpatient care centers or in clients’ homes and often focuses on the interventions that help reduce aggressive and other maladaptive behaviors as well as the process of reinforcing progress toward developing desired skills in communication.
Outside of the treatment of developmental disorders, behavior analysis works in several other fields that affect health and wellbeing in physical and mental ways. A behavior analyst might work in the field of substance abuse, developing interventions that help users of legal and illegal drugs to stop using or abusing substances. Behavioral gerontologists work with aging clients whose behaviors that are in need of change often result from medical issues like dementia.
Behavior analysts may work in the field of health and fitness, promoting choices and behavior patterns that have a positive effect on current and future wellness. Often, these roles fall somewhat outside the scope of medical practice.
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Business Applications for Behavior Analysis
Although many roles in behavior analysis focus on behavior that relates in some way to mental, physical or developmental health and wellness, not all of them do. In fact, there are numerous roles in the field of business that apply the principles and practices of behavior analysis. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s name for this area of practice is organizational behavior management, and it encompasses everything from employee retention to workplace safety and culture.
Behavior analysts who are organizational behavior management practitioners often work in consultant roles in which they work with clients to improve the workplace environment in ways that lead to the desired behavior changes. Objectives and outcomes of organizational behavior management interventions can include improved employee performance, decreased rates of accidents and other incidents and more efficient processes that improve productivity and company performance.
Some of the business roles that incorporate the principles of applied behavior analysis go by more traditional business job titles, but they are still strong career options for candidates with a background in behavior analysis. For example, a behavior analysis education can be valuable for professionals in roles like human resources specialist and human resources manager, which would require you to train and motivate employees and evaluate performance. If that analysis side, rather than the intervention side, of the field is what most interests you, business roles such as market research analyst and consumer behavior analyst might be fitting career choices. These data-heavy roles involve analyzing information about consumer behavior and preferences that companies use to make business decisions.
The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports a median wage of $60,880 for human resources specialists and $113,300 for human resources managers, while the median salary for market research analysts is $63,120.
The Role of Behavior Analysis in Environmental Sustainability
Behavior analysts who practice in the field of sustainability focus on the human behaviors that affect the environment. They strive to understand why people engage in behaviors that harm the environment so that they can more effectively promote sustainable practices and decisions regarding pollution, food and energy consumption, waste and recycling. Unlike behavior analysts who treat individuals’ problem behaviors through intervention plans, the behavior analysts who work in sustainability often work with policymakers and environmental experts to develop policies that promote environmentally conscious behaviors.
Within the specialty of sustainability, behavior analysts can work in research, teaching and organizational roles.