Applied behavior analysis (ABA) certification ensures that providers of behavior analysis services are qualified to provide ABA services to clients with a variety of skill deficits, needs, and problem behaviors. Certification from the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) is indicative of an advanced level of knowledge and experience and is now a requirement common among employers.
Many states have also adopted BACB’s credentials for the purpose of licensing ABA practitioners in three distinct roles:
- Applied Behavior Analysts – BCBA® or BCBA®-D Credential
- Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts – BCaBA® Credential
- Registered Behavior Technicians – RBT® Credential
Certification has also become a standard requirement for insurance reimbursement for ABA services provided for the treatment of autism spectrum disorder.
BACB Certifications for Providers of Applied Behavior Analysis Therapies
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) was created in 1998 to establish professional qualifications for professionals that ABA services. BACB credentials adhere to the international standards developed by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) and its Behavior Analysis Accreditation Board (BAAB), which accredits undergraduate and graduate programs in ABA.
The BACB offers credentials for three roles at four different levels:
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral (BCBA®-D) (Considered the same credential as the BCBA® and does NOT grant a higher level of authority; requires first earning the BCBA®)
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®)
- Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®)
- Registered Behavior Technician (RBT®)
BACB professional certifications are based on the Model Act for Licensing/Regulating Behavior Analysts. They were originally developed and operated by the State of Florida and were later transferred to the BACB under a special agreement.
As of November 2016, the number of behavior analyst professionals holding a BACB credential included:
- RBT®: 25,279
- BCaBA®: 2,439
- BCBA®: 20,274
- BCBA®-D: 2,000
The BACB offers four certification levels that reflect varying education and experience qualifications among professionals who practice applied behavior analysis:
Registered Behavior Technician (RBT®)
The Registered Behavior Technician (RBT®) credential is designed for paraprofessionals who practice under the close supervision of a BCBA®, BCaBA®, or BCBA®-D and implement behavior-analytic services. The job duties of RBT®s are based on individual training, experience, and competence qualifications, although the scope of their work is ultimately determined by a supervising BCBA®, BCaBA®, or BCBA®-D.
RBT®s must have at least one responsible certificant listed on the RBT® Registry supervising them. The chosen certificant must ensure that the RBT® always works under the supervision of a BABC certificant.
To become an RBT®, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Possess high school diploma or the equivalent
- Complete at least 40 hours of training
- Complete a criminal background check
- Pass the RBT® Competency Assessment
- Pass the RBT® exam
RBT®s must pass the RBT® Competency Assessment on an annual basis to qualify for renewal.
You can find more information about becoming an RBT® here.
Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®)
The Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®) is an undergraduate certification for professionals in behavior analysis. BCaBA®s cannot practice independently and must be supervised by at least one BCBA® or BCBA®-D.
They can, however, supervise the work of RBT®s and others who implement behavior-analytic interventions, provided they complete additional training and continuing education requirements for supervisors.
To become a BCaBA®, applicants must meet the following requirements:
- Complete a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university
- Complete approved coursework
- Complete a defined period of supervised practice
- Take and pass the BCaBA® exam
BCaBA®s must document ongoing supervision and complete specific continuing education requirements to qualify for renewal. BCaBA®s who provide supervision must complete additional training and continuing education requirements.
Note: BCaBA®s interested in becoming BCBA®s can apply to take the BCBA® exam once they have completed the required graduate-level degree, coursework and supervised experience.
You can find more information about becoming a BCABA here.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®)
BCBA® certification is a graduate-level certification in behavior analysis. BCBA®s are independent practitioners of behavior-analytic therapies and services. Certification also allows these professionals to supervise the work of BCaBA®s and RBT®s, provided they complete additional training and continuing education requirements.
To become a BCBA®, applicants must meet one of the following eligibility requirements and then take and pass the BCBA® exam:
- Coursework: Earn an acceptable graduate degree from an accredited university, complete acceptable graduate coursework in behavior analysis, and complete a defined period of supervised practical experienceAcceptable degree programs include those in behavior analysis, education, or psychology that are accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International’s (ABAI) Behavior Analysis Accreditation Board (BAAB), include a BACB-Verified Course Sequence (VCS), or meet BACB course content allocation requirements and receive approval from the BACB.The BACB requires between 750-1,500 hours of supervised practical experience in applied behavior analysis.
- Faculty Position and Research: Earn an acceptable graduate degree, hold a full-time faculty position in behavior analysis that includes research and teaching and complete a defined period of supervised practical experience
- Postdoctoral Work: Hold an acceptable doctoral degree that was conferred at least 10 years ago, and have at least 10 years of post-doctoral practical experience
BCBA®s must meet continuing education requirements to qualify for renewal.
BCBA®s may also apply for BCBA®-D certification if they complete a doctoral-level degree that meets qualifications.
Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctoral (BCBA®-D)
The BCBA®-D is a doctoral designation for BCBA®s who have completed doctoral-level training in behavior analysis. It is not a separate credential and does not grant any additional privileges beyond the BCBA®. In other words, BCBA®s and BCBA®-Ds function in the same capacity as independent practitioners of behavior-analytic therapies and services.
To qualify for the BCBA®-D credential, applicants must be an active BCBA® in good standing and meet one of the following requirements:
- Complete a doctoral degree program that is accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI)
- Complete a non-accredited doctoral degree from a qualifying institution where a behavior-analytic dissertation was completed and:
- Have passed at least four behavior-analytic courses as part of the doctoral program; OR
- Have been formally advised/supervised by a faculty member holding the BCBA® credential; OR
- Have authored two peer-reviewed journal articles that are behavior-analytic in nature
- Complete a doctoral degree from a qualifying institution and then engage in postdoctoral re-specialization by:
- Completing at least 1,800 hours of experience in applied behavior analysis through a postdoctoral employment experience or postdoctoral fellowship that was supervised by a BCBA®
- Authoring two peer-reviewed journals that are behavior-analytic in nature during a postdoctoral training experience
BCBA®-Ds must follow the same maintenance requirements as BCBA®s, which includes completing continuing education requirements. BCBA®-Ds who want to provide supervision must complete additional training and continuing education requirements.