For those with the selfless drive to make a positive impact on the lives of others, a career in behavioral health may be the perfect calling. One way to get started down that path is to become a registered behavior technician (RBT).
Behavioral health technicians are paraprofessionals who implement applied behavior analysis (ABA) treatment plans under the direction of board-certified ABAs.
So, what is the difference between an ABA technician and other types of behavioral health professionals? Learn more about a career as an RBT and the requirements you’ll need to meet to get started in the field.
What It’s Like to Become a Registered Behavior Technician?
A registered behavior technician (often referred to as an ABA technician) is a paraprofessional or assistant in the field of behavioral health.
Unlike board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs), behavioral health technicians are not the client’s primary counselor or diagnostic professional, and they do not provide their own behavioral assessments or create their own treatment plans. Rather, they are responsible for executing the interventions developed by their applied behavior analyst and may only practice under that analyst’s close supervision.
Most RBTs work one-on-one with an individual client at any given time. They are responsible for following the programs that BCBAs design and conducting the intensive teaching sessions and interventions outlined in those plans.
RBTs also have significant data-collection duties. They may spend a lot of their time observing client behavior and documenting each response to different stimuli, creating valuable data for BCBAs to work with. They also have a duty to communicate clearly both routine data collection and any noteworthy behavioral outliers they might encounter.
Working closely with BCBAs can also mean assisting them with developing those behavioral routines or coming up with the materials used in training. In interventions that require more than one person, the RBT will have a role acting directly with the ABA to provide that treatment.
RBTs work under the direction of board-certified behavior analysts (BCBAs) to implement behavioral training with clients. That can take many different forms, depending on the type of therapy being used, the condition being treated, and the setting they are working in. In general, an RBT is expected to establish a rapport with the client and work directly with them to reinforce positive behaviors or extinguish negative ones in line with the behavioral modification plan created by the BCBA.
Who Can Benefit from Becoming an RBT?
Professionals in several other disciplines benefit from learning how to become a registered behavior technician, and you’ll often find other professionals acquiring an RBT credential. These include:
- Hospital administrators and staff
- Nursing supervisors or specials needs staff
- Home health aides
- Case managers
- Emergency response teams
- Hospice staff and supervisors
- Substitute teachers
- Daycare supervisors and staff
Becoming a Registered Behavior Technician
So, what do you need to do to get started? To begin your RBT requirements, you must first:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Hold a high school diploma or the equivalent
- Pass a criminal background check
Once you’ve met the above eligibility criteria, you’ll need to dedicate at least 40 hours of training to learn how to become a registered behavior technician, as well as pass an assessment and a final exam. Those 40 hours aren’t just crammed into one week, though. In most cases it’s stretched out over a couple of months.
Let’s dive into the details.
1. Complete Your RBT Training Course
Since an ABA technician is a paraprofessional, rather than a board-certified analyst, you may be wondering: do you need a degree to be an RBT?
The answer: no. Instead, the standard credential for behavior health technicians is the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT®) credential, a professional designation offered through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
To meet your RBT requirements, you must complete a 40-hour course of training that mirrors the curriculum requirements of the RBT® Task List. Training must include at least three hours in ethics and professional conduct, which can be conducted in-person or online, and can be didactic (lecture-based) or experiential. The training may be conducted by a BCBA or BCaBA.
Though the BACB doesn’t offer or approve specific programs, you must ensure the course you choose is based on the most recent RBT® Task List.
Earning your initial RBT credential while you continue to work toward a more advanced role as an ABA or BCBA-certified behavior analyst is a great option for anybody looking to establish themselves in the profession. It’s entirely possible to meet RBT requirements, become registered and work as an RBT as a way to prepare yourself to eventually go on to a behavioral analysis master’s program. These programs include a curriculum specifically designed for a long-term career in behavioral health.
After you complete the 40-hour training, you’ll then need to submit your application for your RBT certification and undergo an RBT® Competency Assessment within 90 days of applying. This assessment involves direct observation of competencies based on the tasks described on the RBT® Task List. You’ll need to find a BCBA to evaluate you, as well as a client to perform your skills with, so that the certified behavior analyst can witness how proficiently you demonstrate your tasks. Alternatively, your BCBA assessor can role play as the client for you.
How much does it cost to become an RBT?
Becoming a registered behavior technician is surprisingly low-cost! You can find the required 40-hour training courses for the role available online for free, or at most a few hundred dollars. The application fee to the BACB is only $50, with a $45 fee for taking the required RBT exam. That means you can become an RBT for under $100 if you plan it right!
2. Pass the RBT® Exam
After meeting all other requirements and applying with the BACB for the RBT® credential, the last step in learning how to become a registered behavior technician is passing the RBT® exam.
So, what does the RBT exam consist of? You’ll encounter 75 multiple-choice questions administered by the Pearson VUE computer-based testing platform. Your exam will cover the following topics:
- Behavior Reduction
- Documentation and Reporting
- Professional Conduct and Scope of Practice
- Skill Acquisition
Once you’ve passed your test, you’ll be fully qualified to practice as an ABA technician under the supervision of a board-certified behavior analyst.
3. Maintain Your Supervision Requirements
Once you’ve earned your RBT credential, you’ll need to consistently perform work under the supervision of a board-certified behavior analyst. This applies to every RBT listed on the RBT® Registry. RBTs not performing ABA services do not need to meet supervision requirements to maintain the credential.
But how much supervision does an RBT need? RBT requirements state you must be supervised at least 5% of the time you are providing ABA services each month. This must include at least two, face-to-face contacts each month, during which the supervisor observes the RBT® performing ABA services. Supervision may also be provided via web cameras and videoconferencing if face-to-face supervision isn’t possible. At least one of the supervision sessions must be individual, but the other may be in a small group setting.
This supervision offers the benefit of considerable on-the-job training that you simply can’t learn from your 40-hour coursework. You’ll enhance your skills in areas like:
- Data collection procedures
- Implementation of skill acquisition and behavior reduction interventions
- Principles and procedures of behavior analysis
Registered Behavior Technician Cover Letter – Getting the Attention of Prospective Employers
Getting into those careers means getting a job after you actually qualify as an RBT, of course. Although having that RBT certification is a big leg up in the process, there are a few more hurdles you’ll have to jump to land a position delivering real behavioral therapy services.
RBTs are in-demand in the world of behavioral therapy services, but that doesn’t mean you aren’t facing any competition for jobs. In fact, the best positions with the highest salaries and most interesting work are probably going to be flooded with applicants.
The way to make sure you get that interview callback is to come in with a killer cover letter to your application.
The secret to all great cover letters is to figure out what is most important to the person doing the hiring and make sure you are highlighting how you are the best candidate to fill those needs. Think of the cover letter as your highlight reel. Showcase the parts of your work history and studies that best fit the job you are applying for.
You should also show that you have done your homework on the organization where you are applying. You want to show why you are excited about this particular RBT job, not just any old RBT job. The cover letter is your opportunity to tell a prospective employer that you know exactly what they need, and why you are the best person to deliver.
Because behavioral therapy is so intensely personal, you want to show some of your personality. Be smart, be compassionate, be you!
Registered Behavior Technician Resume – How To Get Employers to Notice Your Application
Once you have grabbed a potential employer’s attention with an awesome cover letter, you need to fulfill their expectations with a packed resume.
Resume writing for RBT jobs is similar to any other kind of job—you want to list every advantage you have, briefly but comprehensively, while demonstrating your reliability and experience through a solid work history.
Attention-grabbing resume-writing means putting the emphasis on the part of your background that is most likely to impress.
If you have an awesome work history, that should go right at the top. If you are a new graduate without a lot of history to show in RBT work, then you want to emphasize your learned skills instead.
A registered behavior technician skills resume should reflect the elements of the RBT Task List from the BACB. If you don’t have the luxury of already having had an RBT job, your best way to plump up your resume is through volunteering.
It’s fairly easy to get behavioral therapy exposure through volunteering in some of the industries where it is most used. That means healthcare and education. Many hospitals and school districts have ongoing volunteer opportunities with plenty of student and patient contact. Some of these roles can involve behavioral therapy exposure, even if you’re not actually providing services—and that looks great on a resume.
You can find registered behavior technician resume samples freely available on the internet for reference for formatting and structuring your own resume.
Nailing the RBT Interview Questions is Key to Becoming a Registered Behavior Technician
You’re probably wondering what you will be asked in the typical RBT job interview. Relax! Applying for an RBT position isn’t that different than the process for any other kind of job. You’re going to get questions about your work history, your training, and your experience delivering behavioral therapy services. Most employers are also going to throw in some personal questions to see how you fit with their staff.
In some cases, you might actually be asked to speak with or demonstrate your skills with the actual patient or patients you will be working with.
Most employers will be very interested in the specifics of your answers around RBT Task List activities and handling difficult clients. You can expect questions about:
- How you work to communicate with other caregivers and supervisors about patient needs and status
- How you handle patients who refuse to cooperate in their treatment plans
- What you do to address family concerns over patient treatments
- What your preferred methods are for managing group therapy sessions
Of course, every employer will tend to ask more questions about the types of patients and conditions they treat. You should make sure you know what those are before you show up.
Your best way to completely ace the interview is to be relaxed, be prepared, and be interested.
- Relax – Behavioral therapy can be stressful work, and employers want RBTs who are cool under pressure. So find ways to help yourself chill out before the interview; listen to music, take a brisk walk, think about hilarious TikTok videos.
- Prepare – One way to relax is to know that you have complete command of the knowledge and skills you are going to be asked about. You’ll draw confidence from your training and experience, so go through some practice questions or quizzes before the interview to show yourself you have got what it takes.
- Show interest – Some of the best interview questions are the ones that you That offers your interviewer a sign that you are genuinely interested in the position, and will apply yourself fully if you are hired. You should also do some background research before you show up for the interview. If you did a good job preparing your cover letter, you should be in good shape at this point.
Do I Have to Obtain a State License to Practice as an RBT?
Behavioral health technicians are not regulated or licensed in most states. However, a handful of states, such as Washington, Nevada, Oregon, and Louisiana, register/certify these professionals, with state practice privileges based on the RBT® certification requirements.
Even in states that do not regulate behavioral technicians, the RBT® certification is recognized as a respected professional credential and is a requirement among many employers when vetting an applicant to become a registered behavior technician.
It is important to always check with the appropriate state licensing board (usually the Board of Behavior Analysts or Board of Psychological Examiners) to learn more about the requirements (if any) necessary for practicing as an RBT.
Even though very few states currently require any kind of license or certification to work as a registered behavior technician. But that may change. After all, even applied behavioral analysts were able to work without licensing or certification until 1993. And many states still don’t have any specific license requirement.
As the BACB pushes for national standards in applied behavior analysis and more and more states consider legislation for ABA licensing, you can expect that additional states may adopt RBT certification, too. That makes becoming a registered behavior technician even more important for your job prospects in the future, since the BACB standard is one that states are most likely to adopt.
Turn Your Passion Into a Career
Is RBT a good career? If you’re looking for a rewarding role that helps others overcome deep struggles and achieve great strides in their mental, emotional, and behavioral skills, then yes—a career as an ABA technician would be the perfect fit. Yet many paths within the field of applied behavior analysis may call to you even more—perhaps even earning your full-fledged BCBA certification.
By exploring the many behavioral analysis careers open to you, you can turn your spark of passion into a meaningful, lifelong endeavor.
Explore Behavioral Analysis Careers.