Behavioral consultants are specialists in applied behavior analysis who provide support, education and training to people with mental retardation or developmental disabilities, also referred to as MR/DD. They work with people who have MR/DD and their families to help them achieve specific behavioral goals, learn new skills and live as independently as possible. Becoming a qualified and effective behavioral consultant requires specialized education, training and experience.

Undergraduate Education

Behavioral consultants are similar to psychologists, so people who know that they want to follow this career path often choose majors like psychology or a related field of study, like social work or education. In some cases, behavioral consultants can find work as an assistant applied behavior analyst with just a bachelor's degree, provided that they have met specific training requirements in behavior analysis. But to work independently, in private practice or in most clinical settings, you will need a graduate education and specialized training in applied behavior analysis.

Graduate Education

Board certified behavior analysts have a minimum of a master's degree, although some also have doctorates. They must have earned a degree in a field approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Acceptable fields of study include behavior analysis; counseling; education; social work; clinical, counseling or school psychology; occupational therapy; engineering; medicine and speech/language therapy. The Council for Higher Education in the United States, or the Association of Canadian Community Colleges or Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada must accredit your school.

Training in Applied Behavior Analysis

In addition to earning a graduate degree, aspiring behavioral consultants must also complete rigorous training in applied behavior analysis. For the Board Certified Behavior Analyst credential, which is the minimum level of certification for independent practice, you must complete at least 270 classroom hours of specific coursework. Required coursework includes ethics, characteristics and principles of applied behavior analysis, research and experimental evaluation of outcomes, applied behavior analysis techniques and interventions, and discretionary coursework in behavior analysis. If these courses were not a part of your graduate program, you must complete these courses as continuing education or through a certificate program. Many universities and colleges offer certificate programs in applied behavior analysis to applicants who already have a background in education, psychology or related fields.

Certification

Aspiring behavioral consultants who want to apply for board certification must complete one of three options to fulfill the experience requirement. You may complete 1,500 hours of supervised experience providing behavioral consultation services, 1,000 hours of practicum in behavior analysis through an approved university program, or complete 750 hours of an intensive practicum in behavior analysis through an approved university program. It is also possible to divide this training among the three categories to fulfill the experience requirement.