How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Ohio

The state of Ohio requires applied behavioral analysts (ABAs) in the state to hold a state-issued certificate called the Certified Ohio Behavioral Analyst (COBA).

The COBA was instituted in 2013 as part of Ohio Revised Code Title 47, Chapter 4783 and is administered by the Ohio Board of Psychology. The board further established a set of rules and legal requirements in the form of the Ohio Administrative Code Chapter 4783.

The Ohio laws and regulations align closely with the recommendations of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), a national non-profit organized specifically to assist in developing professional standards and certifications for behavior analysts. The BACB’s standard certification for master’s-prepared full-authority ABAs is the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®).

The Ohio Board of Psychology accepts the BCBA® as one path to qualifying for the COBA certificate. If you hold a BCBA® and provide written verification from the BACB, you are considered to have provided adequate proof of having met Ohio’s requirements:

  • A master’s or higher level degree in a related field
  • Supervised practice
  • Passage of a psychometrically-valid written examination in behavior analysis

However, applicants can be certified as a COBA without possessing a BCBA® if they provide proof of having achieved roughly equivalent requirements outside of that program.

The state does not recognize Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts or Behavior Technicians under their certification system.

Steps To Becoming a Licensed ABA in Ohio 

Earn at Least a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis
Complete a Period of Supervised Practice
Pass a National Certification Exam
Apply for Certification with the Board of Psychology
Attend a Pre-Certification Workshop and Exam on Ohio ABA Regulations

Step 1. Earn at Least a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis

Ohio requires all COBAs to have earned a master’s or doctoral degree from a nationally or regionally accredited institution. The degree must be in one of the following fields:

  • Behavior Analysis
  • Education
  • Psychology
  • Counseling
  • Social Work
  • Human services
  • Any other board-approved degree

If the institution awarding the degree is not in the United States, several other factors apply. For Canadian universities, the school must be a member of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada or the Association of Canadian Community Colleges. For schools in other countries, the board requires that transcripts and course description materials be provided, in English, for submission to the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES). NACES will judge whether or not the degree is suitably similar to those offered by U.S. institutions.

Regardless of institution or specific degree, you will need to have undergone a minimum of 270 hours of instruction in the following subjects:

  • Ethical and professional conduct – 45 hours
  • Concepts and principles of behavior analysis – 45 hours
  • Research and data analysis – 25 hours
  • Experimental design – 20 hours
  • Specific elements of behavior change and behavior change procedures – 45 hours
  • Problem identification and assessment – 30 hours
  • Intervention and behavior change considerations – 10 hours
  • Implementation management – 10 hours
  • Discretionary behavior analysis courses – 30 hours

Holders of a BCBA® certificate are not required to provide additional documentation of course content allocation, since the BCBA® requirements meet the Ohio standards in all respects.

Click here for step-by-step instructions on the BCBA® credentialing process.

Many students today are choosing accredited online master’s degree programs in applied behavior analysis. In Internet-based programs, you can perform coursework when it is convenient for you, making it easy to earn a degree while balancing work and family obligations. Online programs provide an affordable alternative to having to undergo the expense and disruption of moving to be close to the right school.

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Step 2. Complete a Period of Supervised Practice

Ohio’s standards for supervised practice are relatively straightforward. You must accumulate a minimum of 1500 hours of relevant supervised experience in applied behavior analysis in a setting that is acceptable to the board.

This leaves open a large number of options for satisfying the requirement, including supervised fieldwork done independent of your graduate program, or a practicum/intensive practicum that is part of your graduate program’s curriculum.

Supervised independent fieldwork is conducted outside the scope of your master’s program, usually in a working clinic or with a private ABA practice. This would allow you the opportunity to conduct assessments, design behavior analysis programs, or oversee implementation of such programs while under the supervision of a licensed ABA.

Practicum is conducted as a part of your master’s program, usually as an enrolled course for which you will receive credit hours.

Although the BACB has slightly different standards, including lower ratios for hours required of practicum or intensive practicum, the supervised practice requirements will be considered as having been met as long as you hold a BCBA®.

Step 3. Pass a National Certification Exam

Ohio will recognize the results from any psychometrically valid test covering applied behavior analysis administered by a nationally accredited credentialing organization.

One such organization is the BACB, whose test is also a part of the credentialing process for the BCBA®, and is explicitly accepted by the Ohio Board of Psychology. However, the board will also recognize other tests on a case by case basis.

Other options might include the EPPP, or Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology offered by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards, or similar exams offered in other countries. All such exams will cover similar subjects.

The BACB’s National Behavior Analyst 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

Most such exams are administered by Pearson VUE and offered in centers around the nation.

You will be unable to sit an exam unless you have received approval from the organization that sponsors the exam, in this case the BACB.

(For those that may be seeking the EPPP credential in Canada but plan to earn the COBA to practice in Ohio, the sponsoring organization would be the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards.)

See their websites for registration details.

Step 4. Apply for Certification with the Board of Psychology

Once you have met the education, experience, and exam requirements for the COBA, you can download an application form from the Ohio Board of Psychology website, here.

The certification fee is $135, payable at time of application.

If you hold a BCBA®, you will have a relatively straightforward application process. After filling out the required personal information and answering questions about ethical and professional conduct, you would simply furnish proof of having earned BCBA® certification in lieu of having to provide proof of schooling or experience. The board will verify the BCBA® certificate with the BACB; if it is current and in good standing, your credentials will be accepted.

Other applicants will have to provide details specific to their school attendance and degree, and notarized statements from supervisors attesting to their 1500 hours of experience.

All applicants must provide at least three letters of reference. These must be from:

  • A current COBA holder
  • A BCBA® holder
  • A licensed psychologist or school psychologist
  • A professional clinical counselor
  • An independent social worker
  • A licensed independent marriage and family therapist

You will also have to undergo a criminal background check as part of the application process. Although you must submit the necessary information for the background check at this point, it may take several weeks or more to complete. You are allowed to proceed with the certification process during this time rather than wait for the results to come in.

Step 5. Attend a Pre-Certification Workshop and Exam on Ohio ABA Regulations

Once you have filed your application and it has been approved, you are eligible to attend the board’s mandatory pre-certification workshop and exam on Ohio state behavior analysis regulations.

The workshop is a 2-hour overview on the laws and rules governing Certified Ohio Behavior Analysts. The contents of Chapter 4783 of the Ohio Revised Code and Ohio Administrative Code are all covered in the workshop, including subjects such as:

  • Certification and supervision requirements
  • Complaint and suspension procedures against certificate holders
  • Sexual misconduct sanctions
  • Continuing education requirements

The workshop is followed immediately by a 20-item closed book examination on the material. You will be expected to have studied the subjects ahead of time, devoting 8-10 hours of your own time to preparation before attending the workshop. You will be given the opportunity during the workshop to ask any questions you might have about the rules and regulations.

There are roughly three workshops scheduled each year. For more information, including the downloadable study guide, see the Board of Psychology website.

Reciprocal Licensing for Behavior Analysts in Ohio

If you already hold a professional ABA license in another jurisdiction, you may be awarded a COBA without having to undertake the regular application process.

In order to receive COBA certification by reciprocity, you must still submit copies of your graded transcripts from your graduate program and provide notarized statements from past supervisors of your work experience, together with attestations as to their own qualifications.

The fee for the COBA for reciprocal licensees is still $125.

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License Renewal for Behavior Analysts in Ohio

The COBA certification is good for two years before it expires and must be renewed. Expiration occurs for all COBA holders on August 31 of every even numbered year.

The biannual renewal fee for the certification is $150. There is no provision for partial terms, such as if you receive your license in an odd-numbered year and only have it for one year before it is due to be renewed. If the license is issued in an even number year, however, even if prior to August 31, it will not need to be renewed that same year.

You must file proof of at least 23 hours of continuing education that you have undergone during the past two years when submitting your renewal application. At least four hours of that training must be in one of these three categories:

  • Ethics
  • Professional conduct
  • Cultural competency

In order to be accepted, the continuing education program must have been approved by one of the following organizations:

  • Behavior Analyst Certification Board
  • American Psychological Association
  • Ohio School Psychologists Association
  • Association of Black Psychologists
  • Ohio Psychological Association
  • National Association of School Psychologists

The board reserves the right to disapprove of any particular programs offered from any of these sources, however. It also allows COBAs to propose other possible sources of continuing education hours, which may be approved on a case-by-case basis.

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