How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Alabama

2014 marked the year when Alabama incorporated laws specifically defining the practice of behavior analysis. New state legislation recognized the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) as the official national certifying agency for professionals in this field. Professionals who have been certified through this national body are eligible for licensure in Alabama.

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The new Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board has been established under the Alabama Department of Mental Health’s Division of Developmental Disabilities. The Alabama Board offers licenses that correspond with each level of BACB certification (note: with the following designations, “Board” refers to the BACB and all certification options named here are granted through the BACB):

To work in any of these roles you need to gain and maintain the corresponding national certification from the BACB and be licensed by the Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board.

This process is explained in detail specifically for licensed behavior analysts in these steps (processes and requirements for assistants and technicians are included at the end of each step):

Earn at Least a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis
Complete a Period of Supervised Practice
Pass the BCBA® Certification Exam
Apply for Licensure with the Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board


Step 1. Earn at Least a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis

To be eligible for national certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) you need an advanced degree.

The minimum degree requirements for BCBA® certification (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) is a master’s degree in one of three fields:

  • Applied Behavior Analysis (the most relevant BACB-approved master’s degree major)
  • Psychology
  • Education

Qualifying programs must meet BACB’s Acceptable Degree Definitions and meet specific ABA curriculum requirements:

Some schools also offer post-graduate ACS courses separate from graduate program curriculum specifically designed to meet the ABA course requirements necessary to qualify to take the BCBA® Exam.

Or

 

  • If your graduate program does not include a BACB pre-approved course sequence, confirm that it includes the proper course content allocation. Programs without a pre-approved course sequence would be evaluated by BACB when applying to sit for the BCBA® Exam to verify curriculum requirements were met.

Master’s Prerequisites

Enrolling in a master’s program in behavior analysis means you’ll need to meet degree and course prerequisite requirements. Some master’s ABA programs admit students who have a bachelor’s degree in any field. Programs with more stringent admission standards may prefer or require you to have an undergraduate degree in fields like:

  • Education
  • Counselling
  • Psychology
  • Special education
  • Social work

Examples of undergraduate course prerequisites:

  • Research methods
  • General psychology
  • Applied behavior analysis
  • Conditioning and learning
  • Developmental psychology

Master’s Program in Behavior Analysis

A competitive master’s degree program in behavior analysis has several key elements:

In-depth Advanced CoursesExamples of these types of courses include those that cover:

  • Applied behavior analysis introduction
  • Single subject research designs
  • Behavioral assessments
  • Behavior change methodologies
  • Ethical issues
  • Legal issues
  • Advanced behavior analysis
  • Skinner’s writings: theoretical and applied

Master’s Thesis – This is a capstone paper that is based on research you conduct throughout the program and should contribute to the field of behavior analysis as an in-depth exploration of a single topic.

Mentoring and Supervision – This is the chance for you to apply what you’ve learned in the classroom. Details are provided in Step 2.

Education Requirements for Assistants and Technicians


Step 2. Complete a Period of Supervised Practice

By earning a master’s or other qualifying graduate degree, there are three types of supervised practice programs that you can use to qualify for the BCBA® certification exam required for licensure in Alabama, each with their own time requirements:

  • Supervised independent fieldwork – requires 1,500 hours including two weeks of supervision (done independent of your master’s program)
  • Practicum – requires 1,000 hours including one week of supervision (part of master’s programs with a BACB-approved practicum)
  • Intensive practicum – requires 750 hours including one week of supervision (part of master’s programs with a BACB-approved intensive practicum)

To qualify via supervised practice for the BCBA® certification exam your supervised practice must be with an acceptable supervisor and it must meet specific requirements that include:

  • Development of performance expectations
  • Behavioral skills training, observation, and delivery of performance feedback
  • Modeling of ethical, professional, and technical behavior
  • Guidance of behavioral case decision making, conceptualization, and problem solving
  • Review of written materials like reports, behavior programs, and data sheets
  • Evaluation and oversight regarding the effects of the behavioral service delivery and supervision
  • Up to half of the supervision can be conducted in small groups
  • It must be conducted according to a written contract pre-established between you and your supervisor
  • It must be well documented, including hours and activities

Alternately, experience requirements can be satisfied by:

Supervision Requirements for Assistants and Technicians

  • Licensed assistant behavior analysts – must be supervised by an approved licensed behavior analyst for two percent of all behavior-analytic service hours the assistant performs each month throughout their career, and five percent for the assistant’s first 1,000 hours of post-certification practice
  • Applied behavior analyst direct contact technicians – must be supervised by an approved licensed assistant behavior analyst or approved licensed behavior analyst for five percent of the technician’s behavior-analytic service hours per month throughout their career


Step 3. Pass the BCBA® Certification Exam

Regardless of how you qualify for the BCBA® examination, all BCBA® candidates must pass this test. You can find more information about applying for the BCBA® examination and exam dates on the BCBA® exam information section of the BACB’s website.

The exam is administered at Pearson VUE testing centers throughout the US and in Alabama:

  • Montgomery – 4001 Carmichael Road, Suite 440
  • Birmingham – 2 Chase Corporate Drive, Suite 20
  • Dothan – 2623 Montgomery Highway, Suite 4 Carmel Plaza
  • Mobile – 900 Western American Circle, Suite 212 Executive Center 1
  • Decatur – 401 Lee Street NE, Suite 602

BCBA® Examination Content

The exam is taken on a computer. It consists of 150 graded multiple-choice questions (four choices per question) and must be completed in four hours. Questions cover two broad areas and are divided into categories as follows:

Basic behavior analytic skills

  • Fundamental elements of behavior change – 26 questions
  • Measurement – 15 questions
  • Specific behavior change procedures – 15 questions
  • Experimental design – 11 questions
  • Behavior change systems – 8 questions
  • Behavior change considerations – 3 questions

Client centered responsibilities (includes at least two ethics questions per section):

  • Intervention – 23 questions
  • Problem identification – 14 questions
  • Management, implementation, and supervision – 14 questions
  • Assessment – 12 questions
  • Measurement – 9 questions

Examination Requirements for Assistants and Technicians

  • Licensed assistant behavior analyst – BCaBA® certification (Board Certified assistant Behavior Analyst) requires passing the BCaBA® exam
  • Applied behavior analyst direct contact technician – RBT® certification (Registered Behavior Technician) requires passing the RBT® Competency Assessment


Step 4. Apply for Licensure with the Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board

Once you earn your BACB certification you’re eligible to apply for licensure with the Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board. No matter what kind of behavior analyst position you’re applying for (licensed behavior analyst, assistant, technician) you need to show proof of the following on your application with the state:

  • Proof of following the BACB’s professional and ethical standards
  • Proof of good moral character, as evidenced through a state approved criminal background check
  • Proof of an active status in the appropriate BACB national certification (technician, assistant, or licensed behavior analyst) – this must be maintained throughout your period of licensure
  • For technicians and assistants – proof of meeting supervision requirements

Contact the Director of Psychological and Behavioral Services to request a licensed behavior analyst application (or any other behavioral analyst position application). You can reach this person through the Department of Mental Health’s Division of Mental Disabilities by:

  • Calling 1(800) 367-0955; toll-free within Alabama
  • Calling (334) 242-3454 if you are calling from outside Alabama
  • Emailing: Alabama.DMH@mh.alabama.gov

Maintaining State Licensure – You’ll need to renew your license with the Alabama Department of Mental Health every two years. To do this you must maintain your appropriate BACB national certification. You can renew by filling out a renewal form with the Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board and paying the renewal fee before your license expires.

Behavior analyst assistants and technicians must show they are meeting their supervision requirements per the BACB.

Maintaining Your BACB Certification – Maintaining national certification with the BACB means renewing every two years and completing these specified amounts of continuing education (including at least four hours of continuing education related to ethics):

  • Licensed behavior analysts (those holding the BCBA® certification) – 32 units of approved continuing education
  • Licensed assistant behavior analyst (those holding the BCaBA® certification) – 20 units of approved continuing education and maintenance of supervision requirements
  • Applied behavior analyst direct contact technician (those holding RBT® certification) – must pass the annual RBT® Competency Assessment and maintain supervision requirements

Approved continuing education for the BACB can include:

  • College and university coursework
  • Scholarly activities
  • Retaking and passing the certification exam
  • Education from approved providers
  • Teaching or instruction activities

Out-of-State Reciprocity License – If you already work in the behavior analysis field and your home state has the same requirements as Alabama then you can apply for a license based on reciprocity with the Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board. See the application contact information above.

Temporary License – If you hold certification from the BACB and you live outside Alabama you may be allowed to temporarily practice in Alabama for a defined amount of time. See the application contact information above.

Legislative Updates – Make sure to check with the Alabama Behavior Analyst Licensing Board via the Division of Developmental Disabilities and the Alabama Association for Behavior Analysts for any legislative updates in this field. As a newly regulated profession there has already been a proposed legislative modification for this field, however at the time of this writing in November 2016 this particular proposal has been indefinitely postponed.

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