How to Earn the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) Certification

Those holding the BCBA® credential are independent, graduate-level practitioners who provide behavior-analytic services and supervise the work of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBA®), Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT®), and other professionals who implement behavior-analytic interventions.

The BACB developed the BCBA® certification in 1998 in an effort to provide consumers with a basic credential that identified qualified behavior analysis practitioners.

Today, the BCBA® remains not only a distinguished credential but a requirement for licensure in many states, and many more have established autism insurance mandates that require behavior analysts to hold the BCBA® designation for insurance reimbursement purposes.

Even in states with no national certification requirements, the BCBA® remains a highly sought after credential for applied behavior analysts and a common requirement among employers.

The BACB recognizes three acceptable pathways to qualify to take the BCBA® exam and earn BCBA® certification:

  1. 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 experience
  2. 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
  3. 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

These step-by-step instructions reflect Pathway 1. More information on qualifying to take the BCBA® exam through Pathways 2 and 3 can be found here.

Earn an Acceptable Graduate Degree
Complete Experience Requirements
Pass the BCBA® Examination
Maintain BCBA® Certification

Step 1. Earn an Acceptable Graduate Degree

You must earn a master’s or higher degree in an acceptable field of study from a qualifying institution.

Acceptable Fields of Study

The BACB recognizes three acceptable fields of study:

  • Behavior Analysis: Degree or program must include the term “behavior analysis”
  • Education: The degree or program must include the words “education” or “educational”
  • Psychology: This degree or program must include the word “psychology” or “psychological”

All master’s and doctoral degree programs accredited by the Association for Behavior Analysis International’s (ABAI) meet this requirement, as do programs that include a BACB-Verified Course Sequence (VCS).

Note: All ABAI-accredited programs include the VCS.

Acceptable Graduate Degrees

Acceptable graduate programs include master’s and doctoral degrees accredited by the BAAB or master’s and doctoral degrees and post-master’s certificate programs with a BACB-VCS. You must earn a C or better in your graduate-level courses to qualify for BCBA® certification.

You may also meet degree requirements by completing a BACB-VCS independent of your graduate program, provided the VCS is offered by the department in which your graduate program was housed and was included in the degree program’s official plan of study.

You may be able to satisfy the BACB’s educational requirements if the program you complete is not ABAI-accredited and does not include a BACB-VCS, provided you meet BACB course content allocation requirements and receive approval from the BACB. If you are unsure whether your program meets BACB requirements, you can request a Preliminary Review by completing an application for coursework evaluation.

The review process requires submitting the coursework at least 90 days before you submit your exam application. The cost of this evaluation is $100. All coursework used to qualify for BCBA® certification must be taken for academic credit.

If you don’t seek a preliminary review, your program will be reviewed by the BACB at the time of application.

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Step 2. Complete Experience Requirements

The BACB recognizes three categories of acceptable experience:

  • Practicum (part of a graduate program)
  • Intensive Practicum (part of a graduate program)
  • Independent Fieldwork (separate from graduate program)

A combination of different experience types is acceptable.

Practicum/Intensive Practicum

Practicums/intensive practicums require explicit oversight and involvement by a VCS. These may only be offered through a VCS.

Both the practicum and intensive practicum require a passing grade (C or better) in all experience courses.

  • A practicum requires the completion of 1,000 hours of experience, with a one-month supervisory period during which you must have at least 4 contacts/observations with your supervisor.
  • An intensive practicum requires the completion of 750 hours of experience, with a one-month supervisory period during which you must have at least 8 contacts/observations with your supervisor.

Supervised Independent Fieldwork

If you complete a program that does not offer a practicum, or if you choose to complete an experience independent of your program, you must meet the requirements for supervised independent fieldwork.

  • A supervised independent fieldwork experience requires the completion of 1,500 hours of experience, with a one-month supervisory period during which you must have 2 contacts/observations with your supervisor.
  • In a supervised independent fieldwork experience, you are responsible for securing an appropriate experience and obtaining the necessary supervision.

A. Prepare for the Experience

You cannot begin accumulating your experience hours until:

  • You begin your qualifying coursework
  • Review BACB Experience Standards with your supervisor
  • You secure a qualifying supervisor (independent fieldwork only)

Begin your qualifying coursework

You can begin your practicum/independent field experience as soon as your graduate program commences and you attend your first class.

Review the BACB Experience Standards and Pass the Experience Standards Training Module

You must complete experience that aligns with the BACB’s Experience Standards. It is best to review experience standards with your supervisor before beginning your experience. This document includes the Experience Supervision Form, which must be completed at least once during each supervision period, and the Experience Verification Form, which must be completed after the experience is complete.

Secure a Qualifying Supervisor (Independent fieldwork only)

When completing an independent fieldwork experience, you must ensure that your supervisor meets at least one of the following requirements:

You can view the Certificant Registry to locate BCBA®s under whom you can complete your experience requirements.

B. Complete the Experience

You must accrue no less than 20 but no more than 130 hours (including supervisory hours) each month. You can complete the required hours in one or more categories to meet the experience requirements.

The BACB strongly encourages BCBA® candidates to have multiple experiences, with different populations and in different settings. Activities should include:

  • Conducting assessments related to behavioral interventions (functional assessments, staff performance assessments, stimulus preference assessments, etc.)
  • Designing, implementing, and monitoring behavior-reduction and skill-acquisition programs
  • Overseeing the implementation of behavior-analytic programs
  • Training and designing behavioral systems and performance management

Step 3. Pass the BCBA® Examination

All candidates for BCBA® certification must take and pass the national BCBA® examination.

A. Apply to Take the BCBA® Exam

To qualify to take the BCBA® exam, you must submit a completed application to the BACB, along with all necessary documentation that demonstrates you have met the necessary criteria.

You must complete the BCBA® exam application through the BACB Gateway. After completing the online application, you must mail the required documents to BACB. These include:

  • Your official transcripts verifying the completion of an acceptable degree, along with a course syllabi if you did not complete the required coursework from a verified course sequence
  • Completed Experience Verification Forms with your supervisor’s original signature

You can pay the application fee ($245) online or send it in a check with your documentation. If you have not done so already, you must send an additional $100 for a coursework evaluation if you didn’t complete a VCS.

B. Schedule to Take the Exam Through Pearson VUE

Once your application is approved, the BACB will send authorization to Pearson VUE, the exam administrator. BACB will then notify you that are eligible to take the exam.

You must set up a Pearson VUE account before you can begin the scheduling process. The scheduling process will allow you to view local test centers where you can take the exam. You must pay for the cost of the exam ($125) at the time of scheduling.

BCBA® exams are administered during four, month-long testing administration windows. You can choose the exact date and time based on available appointments. Appointments are made on a first-come, first-served basis.

C. Take the BCBA® Exam

The BCBA® exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions that are based on the BACB’s Fourth Edition Task List and the following content areas:

  • Basic Behavior Analytic Skills
    • Measurement
    • Experimental Design
    • Behavior Change Considerations
    • Fundamental Elements of Behavior Change
    • Specific Behavior Change Procedures
    • Behavior Change Systems
  • Client-Centered Responsibilities
    • Identification of the Problem
    • Measurement
    • Assessment
    • Intervention
    • Implementation, Management, and Supervision

The exam also includes up to 10 ungraded pilot questions. You will have four hours to complete the exam.

Note: All questions are equally weighted. There is no penalty for guessing, so it is to your advantage to answer every question on the exam, even if you are unsure of the answer.

General Examination Rules

  • Arrive at the testing center about 30 minutes before your testing appointment.
  • The check-in process includes photographing, fingerprinting, and obtaining an electronic signature.
  • You must provide two forms of identification that exactly match your name on file with the BACB. The primary identification must include both your photo and signature. The secondary identification must include a signature.
  • No cameras, tape recorders, radios, telephones, or other electronic transmitting devices are now allowed in the testing area.
  • No notes, books, backpacks, purses, etc. are not allowed in the testing area. Personal items can be stored in lockers available in all testing centers.
  • A dry erase board is provided at each workstation.
  • No food or beverages are not permitted in the testing area.
  • Ear plugs are available upon request at all testing centers.
  • If you leave the testing area to use the restroom, you will be fingerprinted when you leave and then again when you re-enter the testing area.

You will be notified of your test results within 45 days of the administration window through the BACB Gateway. You will only receive notice that you have passed the exam – no score is provided.

D. Retake the BCBA® Exam

Authorization from the BCBA® to take the exam is valid for up to two years after your initial application. If you do not pass the BCBA® exam, you can complete an application to retake the exam through the BACB Gateway during this two-year period.

The BACB will send email approval within 24 hours of completing the application and paying the $140 re-take fee. The $125 exam fee must be paid to Pearson VUE each time the exam is taken.

If you do not pass the exam during this time frame, you must submit a new application with the BACB.

Step 4. Maintain BCBA® Certification

Your BCBA® credential is based on a two-year renewal cycle. To maintain your BCBA® certification, you must:

  • Meet continuing education requirements
  • Complete necessary renewal forms, submit renewal fees, and complete all attestations and reporting requirements through the BACB Gateway
  • Adhere to the BACB’s Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts, which outlines the professional and ethical requirements for all BACB applicants and certificants
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A. Meet Continuing Education Requirements

Biennial certification requires the completion of at least 32 units of acceptable continuing education units (CEUs), 4 hours of which must be in ethics content. The cost of biennial renewal is $215.

Acceptable continuing education can be satisfied through the following categories:

  1. College or university coursework (all CEUs can come from this type)
  2. CE issued by approved continuing education providers (all CEUs can come from this type)
  3. Non-approved events (25 percent of CEUs can come from this type)
  4. Instruction of Category 1 or 2 continuing education event (50 percent of CEUs can come from this type)
  5. BACB-issued CEU (25 percent of CEUs can come from this type)
  6. Pass the BACB exam again (satisfies 100% of CE requirements)*
  7. Scholarly activities (25 percent of CEUs can come from this type)

At least 25 percent of the total CEUs must come from Categories 1 and 2. A maximum of 75 percent of the total CEUs can come from Categories 3, 4 5, and 6.

*You may also take and pass the BCBA® exam in lieu of CEUs. Taking and passing the BCBA® exam meets all continuing education requirements. The cost of taking the exam for continuing education is $130. Note: If you fail the exam at the end of your certification cycle, you will no longer be BCBA® certified.

Descriptions of Acceptable Continuing Education

  1. College/university coursework: Includes the completion of graduate-level courses; course content must be entirely behavior analytic and come from a qualifying institution; 50 minutes of classroom instruction = 1 CEU
  2. Events offered by approved CE providers: Includes events sponsored by providers approved by the BACB; view CE opportunities here
  3. Non-approved events: Includes the completion or instruction of a presentation, conference event, seminar, workshop, etc. not approved by the BACB; must be directly related to the practice of behavior analysis
  4. Instruction: Includes teaching a Category 1 or 2 continuing education event
  5. BACB events: Includes credentialing events or activities initiated and pre-approved for continuing education by the BACB
  6. Scholarly activities: Includes publishing an ABA article in a peer-reviewed journal or serving as a review or action editor of an ABA article for a peer-reviewed journal; one publication = 1 CEU

B. Document Continuing Education and Apply for Recertification

At the end of each recertification cycle, you must enter the completion of 32 hours of acceptable continuing education, including at least 4 hours in ethics, along with all necessary renewal forms and the $215 renewal fee into your BACB Gateway account.

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