How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Vermont

Vermont began to edge toward licensing for behavior analysts in 2012 with the passage of Act 158 by the state legislature, a bill mandating insurance coverage for a range of early childhood developmental disorders. Notably, the bill required coverage of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) patients, and specifically included applied behavior analysis as a course of acceptable treatment.

To meet insurance company demands that services be delivered by approved providers, Act 158 included language requiring that behavior analysis services be provided by a licensed or board-certified applied behavior analyst (ABA) or assistant applied behavior analyst (AABA).

At the time, certification through the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) – the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) – provided the only legal option for delivering services under the Act. Three years later, however, the legislature introduced and passed Act 38, an omnibus bill adjusting a number of laws regulating professions and occupations, including a provision specifically dealing with the licensing and regulation of ABAs (Title 26, Chapter 95).

Three Options for Becoming Licensed as an Applied Behavior Analyst in Vermont

The Office of Professional Regulation (OPR) has the exclusive authority to issue licenses to ABA practitioners in the state.

Although Act 38 was passed in 2015, licenses were not required until July of 2016. As of late 2016, the state is in a transitional phase that offers three paths to licensure:

  • Possess a current and valid BCBA® certification (BCaBA® for assistant applied behavior analyst (AABA)). Because many employers and insurers look for BCBA® certification even among license-holders, it is common to achieve the credential even if you are pursuing licensure by examination or experience. (Click here for step-by-step instructions on the BCBA® credentialing Process.)

OR

  • You may be licensed under state regulations by earning a master’s or higher degree from an approved program, accumulating mandated experience in the field, and passing a state examination

OR

  • Until July 2017, if you have a doctoral or master’s degree in behavior analysis or a related field and can demonstrate the requisite training and experience, you may be awarded a license without further examination

Earning a Master’s or Higher Degree with Substantial Coursework in Behavior Analysis

Vermont requires a doctoral or master’s degree from a program accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Accreditation Board, or from an institution approved by the Director. These alternative Director-approved institutions are not currently published, and you must petition the OPR for a review to determine if your program meets the eligibility standards. At a minimum, the program must substantially meet the same educational standards as used by the ABAI for accreditation.

If you are pursuing the BCBA® route to licensing, you have slightly more leeway in your program selection. The BACB accepts degrees from ABAI accredited programs, but also maintains a list of graduate programs with a curriculum that includes a pre-approved course sequence that meets their course content requirements.

Programs with qualifying course content may be a part of a behavior analysis, education, or psychology degree program. Some schools also offer approved course sequences as part of non-degree programs for those that already hold a graduate degree but that need to complete required ABA course content to be eligible for the certification exam.

You may also choose to have the BACB review your course curriculum prior to sitting for the BCBA® examination if it is not already on their list of schools offering programs with an approved course sequence.

Increasingly, students are choosing to attend ABAI-accredited online master’s programs in applied behavior analysis. Particularly in states like Vermont where there are relatively few nearby options, online programs are often the obvious choice. This avoids the disruption and costs associated with moving to a location where a traditional program is offered. Also, the ability to perform coursework on your own schedule can make attendance easier if you are still working or have other obligations.

Education Requirements for Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts

Those interested in becoming assistant applied behavior analysts can qualify for the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®) credential through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board by meeting similar requirements at the undergraduate level.

Qualifying for Licensure: Gaining Supervised Practice Experience and Passing the Exam

Vermont requires successful completion of approved hands-on practicum or supervised experience in applied behavior analysis totaling at least 1,500 hours over the course of at least one year. Seventy-five hours of that experience must involve direct one-on-one contact with your supervisor.

You will likely have to line up your own fieldwork experience, working in a clinical setting where you will perform duties such as:

  • Performing assessments of patients
  • Designing behavior analysis programs
  • Supervising the implementation and providing oversight for behavior modification programs

If you are obtaining a BCBA®, you also have the option of meeting the experience requirements through a period of practicum or intensive practicum arranged as part of your degree program. Because practicum is a graded course, the hour requirements are lower—1,000 hours for practicum or 750 for intensive practicum – but you must also pass with at least a C for the experience to qualify.

The BACB also accepts 1,500 hours of supervised fieldwork, although the supervision requirement differs slightly from the Vermont standard—your supervisor must be a BCBA®-holder and will have to fill out a specific evaluation form rating your performance. You must also accrue between 10 and 30 hours of supervised experience each week.

The same experience requirements must be met for the BCaBA® certification for AABAs.

Passing the National Exam

Regardless of which path to licensure you are following (of the options available after July 2017), you will have to take and pass a comprehensive test on applied behavior analysis. Vermont’s test is based on the exam offered by the BACB, so the content and format will be very similar whether you are obtaining a BCBA® certification or not.

The BCBA® exam is a 150 question, multiple-choice test covering:

  • Behavior analytic skills
    • Fundamental elements of behavior change
    • Measurement
    • Experimental design
    • Behavior change systems
    • Behavior change considerations
  • Client-centered responsibilities (includes at least two ethics questions)
    • Intervention
    • Problem identification
    • Management, implementation, and supervision
    • Assessment
    • Measurement

The BCBA® exam is administered by Pearson VUE and offered in exam centers around the nation. Burlington, however, is the only available location in Vermont.

To take the test, you must first register online with the BACB. You will have to provide the necessary paperwork to verify that you have completed the educational and experience requirements for the BCBA® before you will be allowed to sit the exam.

The BCaBA® Exam covers similar ground but with fewer and less in-depth questions.

Applying for Licensure with the OPR

Vermont has an online application process which you can find at the Vermont Secretary of State’s website here.

You will have to pay a $100, non-refundable application fee at time of filing.

The process will be a short one if you have already earned your BCBA®; you will only need to provide verification of that certification (via the BACB) as well as your personal contact and other pertinent information.

If you are not a BCBA® holder, you will have to supply your official transcripts from your master’s or doctoral program along with the application. You will also need to have documentation from your supervisor that you have completed the required 1,500 hours of supervised experience or practicum in applied behavior analysis. Finally, you will have to provide proof that you have passed the applied behavior analysis examination.

Until July, 2017, you may also have the option of receiving a license on the strength of education and experience alone. If you can provide official transcripts from a master’s or doctoral degree in behavior analysis or a related field, and a work portfolio of verifiable training and experience, the OPR may waive the testing and supervision requirements. The work portfolio must include:

  • A full professional resume including all professional experience over the past decade
  • A narrative explaining the nature and extent of your behavior analyst practice
  • Any other documentation supporting your competence in the field, such as continuing education certificates

There are no provisions for reciprocal licensing in the Vermont law, but you are required to disclose any out-of-state licenses or certifications you hold as part of the Vermont license application.

License Renewal for Behavior Analysts in Vermont

Because the license term for AABAs and ABAs in Vermont is for two years, and licenses were only required beginning in 2016, no renewals have yet been required, and OPR has not issued any rules regarding the renewal process or any associated fees.

By law, there are no continuing education requirements for license renewals, but the director of OPR has wide latitude to establish them as part of the process. You will want to check the OPR website regularly to keep up to date with any newly published rules, or become a member of the Vermont Association for Behavior Analysis to receive updates.

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