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How to Get Started in Behavioral Therapy in Pennsylvania

As a Pennsylvania resident interested in pursuing a career in behavioral therapy, you probably have a lot of questions about how to start making those career dreams a reality. Not surprisingly, the first step that you will need to take toward becoming a behavioral therapist is to enroll in an accredited college or university to get started on an academic program that will lead the way to your chosen career. Of course, before you can do this, you’ll need to have a general idea of what you wish to do in the field and the educational requirements that go along with that career. That way, there will be no surprises when it comes time to enter the workforce.

In Pennsylvania, there are many smaller community colleges and several online colleges that offer you the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree that is very generally related to behavioral therapy. While many of these associate’s degree programs will make you big promises about what you can do upon graduation, the truth of the matter is that associate’s degrees are basically useless in the behavioral therapy field until you transfer them to an accredited undergraduate degree program. While earning an associate’s degree can save you money on your education in the long term, you must only pursue one if you know this information going in.

The true educational starting point for all behavioral therapy professionals is the bachelor’s degree. This degree, which is more in depth and more related to behavioral therapy than an associate’s degree program, can be earned in four years or even less by taking online classes or extended numbers of credit hours. While the degree alone will only qualify you to work as a behavioral therapy assistant or in some other entry level position, it is a jumping off point to other and better degrees. So, a bachelor’s degree should be viewed as a beginning, not an end.

It is important to note here than many people come into the behavioral therapy field later in life, after they have already pursued an undergraduate degree that is often in a completely unrelated field to behavioral therapy. When this is the case, there is absolutely no reason to start over from scratch. Many master’s level programs are more than willing to accept students from diverse academic backgrounds into their programs, so keep this in mind if this sounds like your situation.

Most successful behavioral therapists in the state will hold at least a master’s degree. This is a must for license to practice therapy and to obtain any of the well paid positions that most people dream of when they plan on entering the field. A master’s degree can be completed in as little as one to two years, and can sometimes even be done entirely online for busy adults. In fact, almost all graduate degree programs are designed with working adults in mind, so it’s completely possible to balance your education and your personal or professional life at the same time.

The height of success for a behavioral therapist is obtaining a PhD. The doctorate degree is not an easy or quick one to earn. In fact, on average, it takes about five years for the average person to obtain a PhD. However, it will qualify you for virtually any position within the behavioral therapy field and for the highest possible pay. Behavioral therapists with PhDs own their own therapy practices, manage and supervise other behavioral therapists, conduct research studies, or spend their days writing scholarly articles or working on their latest books. Generally, a PhD is earned while one is already working in the field so that there is no loss of experience during the time the degree is being pursued.

In addition to getting an education, it’s also important to take on an internship at some point during your academic career. Most colleges and universities employ career center counselors who can help you to find out about internships that closely match the job you would eventually like to have. If you do not go to one of these institutions of higher learning, you can seek out internships yourself by searching online or by contacting places of interest to you directly.