How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Hawaii

Hawaii began legally defining the practice of applied behavior analysis in July of 2015, and by the beginning of 2016 had enacted Hawaii Revised Statute (HRS) Chapter 465D requiring behavior analysts to be licensed through the Professional and Vocational Licensing Division of Hawaii’s Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs.

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The Professional and Vocational Licensing Division has based its licensing standards on the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) Model Act, requiring candidates to earn and maintain BACB’s Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) certification.

Eligibility for the BCBA® Exam requires a master’s degree at minimum and a period of practical experience gained either through a graduate-level practicum or supervised independent fieldwork.

Earn a Master’s Degree at Minimum
Complete a Period of Supervised Practice
Pass the BCBA® Certification Exam
Apply for Licensure with Hawaii’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division


Step 1. Earn a Master’s Degree at Minimum

To be eligible to sit for the BCBA® (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) Exam, the Behavioral Analyst Certification Board (BACB) requires you to have a qualifying master’s degree in Applied Behavior Analysis, Education or Psychology that meets acceptable degree definitions and curriculum requirements.

Programs that include a BACB-approved course sequence as part of the curriculum meet the BCBA®’s curriculum requirements. (All master’s or doctoral degree programs that hold accreditation from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) include a BCBA® pre-approved course sequence as part of the curriculum.)

Some schools also offer post-graduate ACS courses separate from graduate program curriculum specifically designed for those that already hold a graduate degree but just need to meet the ABA course requirements necessary to qualify to take the BCBA® Exam.

If your graduate program does not include a BACB pre-approved course sequence, you’ll need to confirm that it includes the proper course content allocation before being able to sit for the BCBA® certification exam. BACB would conduct a syllabus evaluation of programs that don’t include a pre-approved course sequence to verify curriculum requirements have been met.

Having an advanced post-master’s graduate degree such as an Ed.S. or doctoral degree in these fields would also qualify you to sit for the exam.

Prerequisites to Enroll in an ABA Master’s Program

Some master’s in ABA programs may require that you hold an undergraduate degree in behavioral science or applied behavior analysis, though a BA/BS in one of these majors would often meet undergraduate degree requirements:

  • Sociology
  • Psychology
  • Education
  • Special education
  • Social work

A master’s program may also identify specific prerequisite courses for prospective applicants, for example:

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

Master’s Program in Behavior Analysis

Once you’ve been admitted to a master’s in behavior analysis program you will study topics that include:

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

The most comprehensive behavior analysis master’s programs include thesis and supervised field experience components. The thesis is a research-focused paper that represents a culmination of what you’ve learned regarding the theory, practice, and implementation of behavior analysis. It is your unique contribution to this profession, and can incorporate practica, mentored, and supervised experience in the field.


Step 2. Complete a Period of Supervised Practice

To be eligible to sit for the BCBA® Exam you must meet BACB experience requirements, gained either as part of your master’s program or through a period of supervised independent fieldwork done concurrent with or after your master’s program.

Qualifying supervision would 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
  • The supervised experience must be conducted according to a written contract pre-established between you and your supervisor
  • The supervised experience must be well documented, including hours and activities

Master’s programs that incorporate BACB-approved practica – A BACB-approved practicum / intensive practicum that meets experience requirements is included as part of the curriculum in many master’s programs in applied behavior analysis:

  • Practicum – Requires 1,000 hours including one week of supervision (automatically included in master’s programs with a BACB-approved practicum)
  • Intensive practicum – Requires 750 hours including one week of supervision (automatically included in master’s programs with a BACB-approved intensive practicum)

Supervised Independent Fieldwork – If you attend a master’s program with a practicum that is not already pre-approved by the BACB, then you would document 1,500 hours of independent fieldwork, including two weeks of supervision to be eligible to sit for the exam.

Alternatives to supervised experience – You would also be eligible to take the BCBA® examination if you meet either of these conditions:


Step 3. Pass the BCBA® Certification Exam

When you have an appropriate graduate degree and have met the experience requirement you can apply online to take the BCBA® examination. Once your application has been approved they will notify their testing partner Pearson VUE that you are eligible to test.

You would then need to register with Pearson VUE, select an exam date, and choose a testing location. There is currently one testing center in Hawaii, located at 1441 Kapiolani Boulevard, Suite 204 in Honolulu.

Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA®) Exam Content

This exam is taken on a computer and consists of 150 graded multiple-choice questions. It has four choices per question and must be completed in four hours. Questions cover two main areas and are divided into these categories:

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


Step 4. Apply for Licensure with Hawaii’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division

Once you have passed the exam and earned BCBA® certification, you would be ready to apply for state licensure as a behavior analyst with Hawaii’s Professional and Vocational Licensing Division.

Providing the Licensing Division with Proof of BCBA® Certification

First you must provide the licensing division with proof that you have passed the exam and earned BCBA® certification. You can do this in one of two ways:

  • By Email – First look yourself up on the BACB’s find/contact certificants webpage. Print the certificant contact information and include this with your application below.
  • By Mail – Send the verification of certification form and a check for $25 to the BACB (8051 Shaffer Parkway; Littleton, CO 8012) and request they complete and return it to the Hawaii Behavior Analyst Program (Hawaii Behavior Analyst Program; DCCA-PVL Licensing Branch; P.O. Box 3469; Honolulu, HI 9680).

Next email BACB at verifications@bacb.com. Title the subject, “Hawaii Verification,” and specify your request for:

  • Current status of your certification
  • Date you passed the BCBA®
  • Any information regarding disciplinary action taken by the BACB

Once you get a response from the BACB print out the information and include it with your application for licensure below:

License Application

Fill out the Licensing Division’s Behavior Analyst License Application and return it to the appropriate address:

  • Mail: Behavior Analyst Program; DCCA-PVL Licensing Branch; P.O. Box 3469; Honolulu, HI 9680
  • Walk-in: 335 Merchant Street; Room 301; Honolulu, HI 96813

Behavior analyst license renewal – Your behavior analyst license with Hawaii’s Professional and Vocational Licensing division expires on December 31st of odd-numbered years. Approximately two months before this date the Licensing Division will send you a renewal notice, which you must complete and return with a renewal fee.

To maintain your behavior analyst license, you would need to maintain BCBA® certification.

BCBA® certification must be renewed every two years. This would involve completing at least 32 hours of approved continuing education within this period (at least four hours of education must be related to ethics). Continuing education can include:

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

Licensure by endorsement – If you have a current and unencumbered behavior analyst license in a different state then you can apply for licensure in Hawaii based on endorsement provided your out-of-state licensing requirements were identical to those of Hawaii’s.

Legislative Updates – Because the behavior analyst profession is so new, it’s important to stay current on any legislative updates that appear on the Licensing Division’s behavior analyst important announcements webpage, or through the Hawai’i Association for Behavior Analysis (HABA).

Under a July 2016 revision to HRS 465-D, all direct support workers (DSW) are required to hold the BACB’s Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) designation. An exemption to this rule is in place through the end of 2018 for paraprofessionals with the Department of Education and Personal Habilitation Workers (PABs) with the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH). Effective January 1st 2019, paraprofessionals with the DOE and PABs with the DOH will also be required to be RBTs.

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