The state of Maryland began licensing applied behavior analysts (ABAs) in 2015 after the state legislature passed a law in 2014 adding the profession to the purview of the existing Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists. As part of the state Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, the board also acts as the licensing authority for related professions such as professional counselors and licensed marriage therapists.
The legislature cited three major reasons for establishing licensing requirements for ABAs in Maryland:
- Consumer protection
- Provider protections
- Recognition of the discipline for professional and billing purposes
The Maryland Health Occupations code, provides very few explicit requirements for potential licensees, leaving it up to the Board to make decisions about license terms, fees and qualifications.
The only specific requirements outlined by the legislature for an ABA license are that the applicant:
- Be of good moral character
- At least 18 years of age
- Have a current certification (BCBA® or BCBA®-D) issued by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) or a successor organization
- Have received a master’s degree or higher from a behavior analysis program accredited by the BACB or a successor organization
- Demonstrate oral and written competency in English
To assist the Board in establishing more specific standards and regulations, the law created a new advisory committee within the Board: the Behavior Analyst Advisory Committee. The committee is responsible for developing draft rules and regulations to govern the process and mechanisms of administering the behavior analysis licensing program and any disciplinary procedures that may be necessary.
Maryland does not currently offer licenses to assistant applied behavior analysts.
Steps To Becoming a Licensed ABA in Maryland
|Earn a Master’s or Higher Degree in Behavior Analysi|
|Complete a Period of Supervised Practice|
|Pass the BCBA® Certification Exam|
|Apply for Licensure with the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists|
Step 1. Earn at Least a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis
The base requirement for ABA licensure in Maryland is certification through the BACB. There are two certification options to choose from based on the degree you earn, both of which grant the exact same level of practice privileges:
- BCBA® (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) (for master’s-prepared ABAs)
- BCBA®-D (Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctorate)
Note: The BCBA®-D is only available after first earning the BCBA® and then going on to demonstrate additional requirements for the doctoral-level credential.
One of the most explicit qualifications established by Title 17 is the requirement that license applicants possess a master’s degree or higher from a behavior analysis program approved by the BACB.
The BACB recognizes all online and campus-based master’s and doctorate programs in behavior analysis or in related fields with a focus or minor concentration in behavior analysis that have been accredited by the Association of Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) as including the curriculum required to take national certification exams.
Additionally, degrees in psychology and education that meet the BACB’s Acceptable Degree Definitions and include the approved Course Content Allocation or programs otherwise pre-approved with a Verified Course Sequence (VCS) would also meet certification requirements.
Programs that are not ABAI accredited or that do not offer a Verified Course Sequence must be evaluated by BACB and found to meet Course Content Allocation requirements. Note: All non-ABAI-accredited programs must still be accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to qualify.
Many students today opt for ABAI-accredited online master’s programs. Online degree programs allow you to choose from a greater variety of options. The flexibility of online courses also makes earning a graduate degree easier for students who are still working and unable to attend classes during the day.
Step 2. Complete a Period of Supervised Practice
Supervised experience completed as part of your graduate program, as an independent post-gradaute field experince such as an internship, or a combination of the two is required before you would be allowed to take the BACB exam and obtain the national certification (BCBA® or BCBA®-D) required to become licensed in Maryland.
Total experience requirements must align exactly with these standards or found to be equivalent:
- 1500 hours of supervised independent fieldwork (separate from graduate program)
Supervised independent fieldwork is conducted outside the scope of your master’s program, usually in a working clinic or practice, where you may conduct assessments, design behavior analysis programs, or oversee implementation of such programs while under the supervision of a licensed ABA.
- 1000 hours of practicum (part of graduate program)
Practicum is conducted as a part of your master’s program, usually as an enrolled course for which you will receive credit hours. You must achieve at least a C grade in such courses for the experience to be counted by the BACB.
- 750 hours of intensive practicum (part of graduate program)
Intensive practicum has the same standards, but with a higher ratio of time spent with supervisory oversight and in contact with patients.
A current BCBA®-holder must provide the supervision and evaluation for each of these categories. The supervisor will both attest to the completion of the required hours and evaluate your performance in a number of different aspects of care, including:
- Sensitivity to non-behavioral professionals
Step 3. Pass the BCBA® Certification Exam
After attaining your master’s degree and fulfilling all the necessary experience requirements, you will be eligible to take the National Behavior Analyst Exam from the BACB as the final step to becoming nationally certified and licensed in Maryland.
The exam is administered by Pearson VUE and offered in exam centers around the nation. There are four sites available for test-takers in Maryland:
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 take the exam.
The exam is a 150 question, multiple-choice test covering:
- Behavior analytic skills
- Fundamental elements of behavior change – 26 questions
- Measurement – 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)
- 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 the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists
The official license application form can be downloaded from the Maryland Board of Professional Counselors and Therapists website here.
Application processing can take between 60 and 90 days to complete. The application fee is $200; if your application is accepted, you will also have to pay an additional $150 licensing fee.
You will have to include verification of your current BCBA® certification as well as official transcripts from your qualifying master’s degree program.
Although there is a technical requirement in Title 17 for applicants to demonstrate their English language competency, there is no corresponding qualifying step in the actual application process today.
To vouch for your character, you will have to provide at least three professional references. These may include:
- Colleagues with a professional license or certification
At least one reference should be a current BCBA®.
You are also required to submit to a criminal background check, but this step will not be taken unless your application is accepted. The board will send you the required forms for the records check after reviewing your application.
Currently, Maryland does not have any provision for the issuance of temporary or reciprocal licenses for ABAs who have already acquired a license in another jurisdiction. However, proof of any out-of-state credentials held should be submitted with your license application and will be taken into account by the board when evaluating your qualifications.
License Renewal for Behavior Analysts in Maryland
Since licensing only began at the beginning of 2016 and licenses are good for a two-year term, no ABA licenses have expired and the board has not yet set the standards or process for license renewal.
In general, the law allows the board to set renewal fees, standards for filing for renewal, and continuing education standards. The board is required to send a renewal notice to your address of record at least one month before expiration.
The board has broad latitude to reinstate expired licenses and to allow licenses to be set to inactive status upon request, but again, no regulations have been published to set standards for these functions.