Assistant applied behavior analysts provide applied behavior analysis (ABA) services under the supervision of an applied behavior analyst. The job duties of assistant applied behavior analysts are generally supportive in nature, as they assist applied behavior analysts in the data gathering process, the maintenance of records, and the administration of specific assessments under the direction of the applied behavior analyst.
The assistant applied behavior analyst works closely under the supervision of an applied behavior analyst. Depending on the job duties and responsibilities assigned by the supervising behavior analyst, assistants may be required to:
- Assist the behavior analyst in completing assessments and developing ABA therapy
- Collect and analyze data and make interventions and changes as needed
- Administer ABA assessments
- Monitor and record patient progress
- Complete reports detailing the progress of an ABA program
- Monitor the need for patient reassessment or referral
- Discontinue any treatment procedure that appears harmful to the patient and immediately notify the supervising applied behavior analyst
Assistant ABAs work under the supervision of applied behavior analysts in a large variety of settings and with an equally large number of populations, such as schools, private practices, in-home care, and community clinics, and with adults and children with autism spectrum disorders and other pervasive developmental disorders or traumatic brain injuries.
Assistant ABAs may also be social workers, teachers’ aides/assistants, speech-language pathologists, or individuals working to become applied behavior analysts.
ABA Assistant Practice Limitations and Supervision Requirements
States that license applied behavior analysts and assistant applied behavior analysts have clear language regarding the scope of practice of assistant applied behavior analysts. Under the scope of state licensure, assistant ABAs are usually limited to practicing limited ABA and only under the supervision of a licensed applied behavior analyst.
Although supervision requirements may vary from state to the next, it usually means receiving initial direction and periodic on-site supervision by the supervising applied behavior analyst.
Ultimately, supervision is left to the discretion of the supervising applied behavior analyst, with these independent practitioners of ABA determining the amount and type of supervision in relation to the assistant ABAs experience and competence in ABA, as well as the complexity of the treatment program.
In most cases, assistant ABAs are not permitted to:
- Initiate a treatment program until the patient has been evaluated and the treatment
planned by the supervising licensed behavior analyst
- Perform a patient evaluation; however, they may administer specific assessments under the direction of the applied behavior analyst
- Analyze or interpret evaluation data; however, they may participate in the screening process by collecting data and communicating data to the applied behavior analyst
Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®) Supervision Requirements
If you become a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®), you must adhere to BACB’s supervision requirements. BCaBA®s must be supervised by a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) or BCBA®-D (doctoral).
The amount of supervision BCaBAs® are required to have is based on your number of service-delivery hours in a month and how long you have been certified. During you first 1,000 hours of post-certification work, you must be supervised at least 5 percent of the total number of hours you provide behavior-analytic services, with no less than one hour of supervision every two weeks.
After you have completed your initial 1,000 hours of post-certification work, you must continue to receive supervision at a rate of 2 percent of your total number of hours you provide behavior-analytic services each month.
You must also meet with your supervisor at least one time each month. In between meetings, your supervisor must be available for consultation. You don’t need to meet supervision requirements if you do not provide behavior-analytic services during a given month.
BCaBA® supervision requires the completion of three documents:
- The supervisor contract
- The BCaBA® Supervision Meeting Form
- A record detailing the number service-delivery hours and supervision hours
You must also enter into a Supervision Contract with your supervisor. Both you and your supervisor must sign it prior to beginning your supervisory relationship.
BCaBA® supervision requirements are detailed in the BACB’s Standards for Supervision of BCaBA®s.
How to Become an Assistant Applied Behavior Analyst
In 2012, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) revised its Model Act for Licensing/Regulating Behavior Analysts, which established universal qualifications for licensed behavior analysts, licensed assistant behavior analysts, and applied behavior analyst direct contact technicians.
The Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®) certification mirrors the BACB Model Act for the best practice and ethical standards of assistant applied behavior analysts and has become either a requirement for state licensure or a path to state licensure in most states that license assistant applied behavior analysts. It is also a respected credential throughout the ABA industry, and a requirement for insurance reimbursement in many states that cover ABA therapy through autism insurance mandates.
The BCaBA® is an undergraduate-level certification in behavior analysis. As a BCaBA®, you may not practice independently, but instead work under the supervision of a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) or BCBA®-D (doctoral). You may supervise the work of Registered Behavior Technicians and others who implement behavior-analytic interventions.
Regardless of whether it is a requirement for practice, earning the BCaBA® credential will provide you with the necessary education and training to qualify for state licensure and/or BCaBA® certification.
To become a BCaBA®, you must:
Complete a Bachelor’s Degree and Approved Coursework
You must complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in any discipline, along with BACB-approved coursework.
You can accomplish the BACB’s degree requirements by completing one of the following:
- A bachelor’s degree accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International’s (ABAI).
- A bachelor’s degree or post-baccalaureate certificate that includes a Verified Course Sequence, or a BACB-verified course sequence independent of a bachelor’s degree.
Applicants for BCaBA® certification often complete their bachelor’s degree program in applied behavior analysis, psychology, special education, guidance and counseling, and social work, just to name a few.
You may also qualify for BCaBA® certification if you complete a program that meets BACB Course Content Allocation requirements and is approved by the BACB at the time of application.
Course content requirements for BCaBA® certification include:
- Ethical and Professional Conduct: 15 hours
- Concepts and Principles of Behavior Analysis: 45 hours
- Research Methods in Behavior Analysis
- Measurement (including data analysis): 10 hours
- Experimental Design: 5 hours
- Applied Behavior Analysis
- Fundamental Elements of Behavior Change and Specific Behavior Change Procedures: 45 hours
- Identification of the Problem and Assessment: 30 hours
- Intervention and Behavior Change Considerations: 5 hours
- Behavior Change Systems: 5 hours
- Implementation, Management, and Supervision: 5 hours
- Discretionary: 15 hours
The BACB recognizes both on-campus and online BCaBA® programs and stand-alone Verified Course Sequences. Online programs in ABA allow students not residing near an institution offering an accredited program or professionals with demanding schedules to complete the necessary coursework through interactive, web-based courses.
Meet Practical Experience Requirements
As part of your bachelor’s degree, you must complete BACB-recognized experiential hours. You can complete the required hours through a program-based practicum of 670 hours or an intensive practicum of 500 hours, or through a period of supervised independent fieldwork of 1,000 hours.
Practicums/independent fieldwork experiences should include the opportunity to earn experience in:
- Conducting assessments related to the need for behavior intervention
- Designing, implementing, and monitoring skills acquisition and behavior-reduction programs
- Overseeing the implementation of behavior-analytic programs by others
- Training and designing behavioral systems and performance management
Take and Pass the BCaBA® Certification Examination
The last step to becoming a BCaBA® requires taking and passing the BCaBA® examination. The examination consists of 130 multiple-choice questions and is administered by Pearson VUE.
It consists of the following content areas:
- Basic Behavior Analytic Skills
- Experimental Design
- Behavior Change Considerations
- Fundamental Elements of Behavior Change
- Specific Behavior Change Procedures
- Behavior Change Systems
- Client-Centered Responsibilities
- Identification of the Problem
- Implementation, Management, and Supervision
Meet State Licensing Requirements
It is important to check with the state board (this is usually the Board of Applied Behavior Analysts or the Board of Psychological Examiners) where you intend to practice as an assistant applied behavior analyst to ensure you adhere to state licensure requirements, if any.
The majority of states that license assistant ABAs either require BCaBA® certification for licensure or accept it as a path to licensure.
Just a few of the states that license assistant ABAs include:
Some states, such as Louisiana, New York, and Oklahoma, license applied behavior analysts but certify AABAs.
Still other states, such as Arizona, Hawaii, and Maryland, license applied behavior analysts but do not regulate assistant ABAs through certification or licensure.
How BCaBA®s Can Become Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA®s)
If you hold the BCaBA® designation and want to become a Board-Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®), an independent practitioner with full authority to implement ABA programs and provide ABA services, you must complete an acceptable graduate degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or education, along with required graduate-level coursework.
You can accomplish BCBA® educational requirements by completing a master’s or doctoral degree program accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International’s (ABAI) or by completing a program that includes a BACB-Verified Course Sequence (VCS), either as part of the program or independent of the program.
You may also complete a program that is not ABAI-accredited or includes a VCS, provided it includes BACB course content allocation requirements and is approved by the BACB at the time of application.
You must also complete at least 500 hours of experience that meets the BACB’s Experience Standards and take and pass the BCBA® examination.
You can learn more about earning BCBA® certification as a BCaBA® here.