How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ Board of Registration of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions (BRAMHHSP) is responsible for licensing applied behavior analysts and assistant applied behavior analysts as described in this guide.

The BRAMHHSP has adopted the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s (BACB) BCBA® (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) exam and BCaBA® (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst) exam as a requirement for the respective licenses.

The BRAMHHSP does not require you to earn or maintain certification as part of the licensing process; you just need to pass the exam, though it would be natural to become certified in keeping with widely recognized professional standards.

By satisfying requirements to sit for the BACB exams, you can expect that minimum state licensing requirements have been met.

Follow these steps to learn more about qualifying for the certification exams and becoming licensed in Massachusetts:

Earn a Qualifying Graduate Degree
Complete Qualifying Supervised Experience
Pass the BACB’s BCBA® Examination
Apply for a License with Massachusetts’ BRAMHHSP

Step 1. Earn a Qualifying Graduate Degree

Meeting the qualifications to sit for the BCBA® exam requires you to hold a master’s degree at minimum in Applied Behavior Analysis, Education or Psychology that meets the BACB’s curriculum requirements.

The following credits must be earned entirely at the master’s or doctoral level to meet minimum requirements (These minimum requirements do not conflict with the BCBA® exam qualification requirements, but are specified in Massachusetts state law):

  • 3 credits related to ethical and professional conduct
  • 3 credits regarding the concepts and principles of behavior analysis
  • 3 credits regarding behavior analysis research methods
  • 3 credits regarding fundamental elements of behavior change and specific behavior change procedures, within the greater field of behavior analysis
  • 2 credits regarding behavior analysis problem identification and assessment, within the greater field of behavior analysis
  • 2 credits regarding intervention, behavior change considerations, supervision, management, implementation, and behavior change systems, within the greater field of behavior analysis
  • You also must complete graduate credits of discretionary coursework related to behavior analysis that are approved by the board – 14 credits for master’s students and 44 for doctoral students.

In lieu of the above credits, the BRAMHHSP accepts completion of a master’s or doctoral degree in a field of human services that includes completion of a BRAMHHSP-approved certificate program in behavior analysis. You can also qualify by having an advanced degree like an Ed.S. or doctorate degree in ABA, Eduction or Psychology.

Comprehensive behavior analysis master’s programs include a thesis and a supervised field experience. The thesis is a research 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.

Note: The BRAMHHSP requirements above are for doctorate and master’s degrees that were received after January 1, 2015. If you received your graduate degree prior to this date you can find a list of slightly different degree requirements here.

Prerequisites for Master’s Programs

Master’s ABA programs may require that you hold an undergraduate degree in behavioral science or applied behavior analysis. In other instances a BA or BS degree in one of the following majors would meet undergraduate degree requirements:

  • Education
  • Counseling
  • Psychology
  • Special education
  • Social work

Examples of undergraduate course prerequisites you may encounter include:

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

Education Requirements for Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts

Similar to the applied behavior analyst license, to become an assistant in this field you must meet the requirements of the BRAMHHSP and the BACB, the latter of which sponsors the required Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®) examination. Earning an undergraduate degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or teaching meets the BRAMHHSP’s education requirement.

You can find detailed course information in the Massachusetts law covering this profession (262 CMR 10:04) and with the BACB’s coursework requirements.

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Step 2. Complete Qualifying Supervised Experience

The BRAMHHSP requires you to complete a period of supervised practice to be eligible for state licensure, and supervised practice is also an acceptable way to qualify for the BCBA® examination. The BRAMHHSP and BACB have the same supervised practice experience requirements.

The criteria of qualifying supervision includes:

  • 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 approved practica – In some instances you can complete a practicum / intensive practicum that meets the BACB and BRAMHHSP’s supervised experience requirements, which is also included as part of the curriculum in a master’s programs in applied behavior analysis.

  • Practicum – Requires 1,000 hours (automatically included in master’s programs with a BACB-approved practicum)
  • Intensive practicum – Requires 750 hours (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 can get credit for supervised experience by documenting 1,500 hours of independent fieldwork to be eligible to sit for the exam.

Combining experience to fulfill the BRAMHHSP requirement – The BRAMHHSP allows you to fulfill its supervised experience requirement by combining practica, intensive practica, and/or independent fieldwork at a rate of:

  • Practica having 1.5 times the temporal value of supervised independent fieldwork
  • Intensive practica having twice the temporal value of supervised independent fieldwork

Alternatives to BACB supervised practice – You can substitute either of the following situations to qualify for the BCBA® examination:

  • You have a qualifying graduate degree and a full-time research/teaching faculty position in behavior analysis
  • You’ve had a doctoral degree for 10 years and have 10 years of practical experience in behavior analysis

Supervision Requirements for Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts

Like prospective applied behavior analysts, assistants in this field must meet the experience requirements of the BRAMHHSP and the BACB. Fortunately these overlap. Acceptable experience includes any one of the following in the field of behavior analysis:

  • Independent field work – 1,000 hours with at least 50 supervised
  • Practicum – 670 hours with at least 50 supervised
  • Intensive practicum – 500 hours with at least 50 supervised

Your supervised experience must meet the BACB’s experience standards and the detailed experience requirements in Massachusetts law 262 CMR 10:04.

Step 3. Pass the BACB’s BCBA® Examination

When you have an appropriate graduate degree and have met the BACB’s 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 then need to register with Pearson VUE, select an exam date, and choose a testing location. There are currently four testing centers in Massachusetts:

  • Boston – 31 Saint James Avenue, Suite 725
  • Boston – 295 Devonshire Street, 2nd floor
  • Wellesley – 20 William Street, Suite 210
  • Worcester – 255 Park Avenue, Suite 300

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

Examination Requirements for Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts

Applying for, scheduling, and taking the Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®) exam is similar to the BCBA® exam. You’re eligible to apply once you’ve completed the BACB’s education and supervised experience requirements.

Step 4. Apply for a License with Massachusetts’ BRAMHHSP

At this point you are ready to fill out the BRAMHHSP’s Applied Behavior Analyst License Application. Return this to:

The Commonwealth of Massachusetts
Division of Professional Licensure
Board of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions
1000 Washington Street, Suite 710
Boston MA 02118-6100

On this application you will need to show you have a good moral background by answering questions about any criminal history. You also must request official transcripts be sent to the BRAMHHSP by schools where you completed qualifying education.

To become licensed by the BRAMHHSP you must show proof that you’ve passed the BCBA® exam. However you are not required to earn or maintain certification from the BACB.

Reciprocal recognition – You can use the application above to apply for a license based on reciprocal recognition if all of the following apply:

  • You are a licensed applied behavior analyst or equivalent in another state or jurisdiction
  • You are of good moral character
  • The requirements to work as an applied behavior analyst in your jurisdiction are similar or identical to those in Massachusetts
  • You hold a current license in good standing issued by the licensing authority from your state or jurisdiction

Renewing your license – Your license expires every December 31st of odd-numbered years. You’ll receive a renewal application in the mail 90 days prior to this expiration date. To renew you must fill out this renewal application, pay a renewal fee, and complete 30 continuing education units per cycle. Continuing education should be directly related to your practice as a behavior analyst.

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Licensure Requirements for Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts

You can apply for this by submitting an Assistant Applied Behavior Analyst Licensure Application to the BRAMHHSP address listed above. You must show proof of passing the BCaBA® exam, however you are not required to gain or maintain national certification from the BACB.

Renewal information for this license is identical to that for the applied behavior analyst license.

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