In 2015, the Texas state legislature introduced a new bill, HB 2703, which will mandate licensing for applied behavior analysts (ABAs). The bill is approximately halfway through the process of becoming a state law, so licensing requirements could be in place as early as 2017.
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The bill enjoys overwhelming bipartisan support in the state legislature and is expected to pass after review by the Health and Human Services Committee.
As of late 2016, however, Texas does not regulate applied behavior analysts through licensing.
Aligning with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board Model Act
When the law is fully implemented, it will require that any person practicing as an ABA in the state possess a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA®) certification from the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB).
The BACB is a national non-profit founded in 1998 to provide a consistent set of certification requirements for behavior analysts in the rapidly expanding field. The BACB also works with state legislatures, through its BACB Model Act, to help outline and implement effective, comprehensive legislation for the licensure of behavior analysts.
Establishing the Texas Board of Behavior Analyst Examiners
The legislation proposed in Texas will establish a Board of Behavior Analyst Examiners, which will consist of nine members, at least four of which must be board-certified behavior analysts who hold the BCBA® credential. The members of the board will be responsible for establishing any additional details of the licensing process that is not specified by HB 2703, and will evaluate license applicants to ensure they are qualified under the terms of the legislation to receive a license.
HB 2703 also requires a criminal background check for license applicants and mandates certain ethical requirements, including that the applicant not be under investigation by the BACB.
Temporary licenses may be issued on a reciprocal basis for candidates who are currently license holders in states with similar qualifications.
Acquiring a BCBA® Certification for ABA Practice in Texas
The BCBA® has strong educational and testing requirements, which is why so many states accept or require it for ABA licensure or practice privileges.
In Texas, holding a BCBA® will be the only route to licensure once HB 2703 is implemented, but most employers in the state that hire behavior analysts already require the certification.
The BCBA® recognizes three options for candidates applying for the certificate:
- An acceptable graduate degree from an accredited university, including coursework in behavior analysis
- A defined period of supervised practical experience
- Passing the BCBA® exam
- An acceptable graduate degree from an accredited university
- A full-time faculty position teaching behavior analysis
- Passing the BCBA® exam
- An acceptable doctoral degree conferred at least ten years ago
- Ten years of practical experience
- Passing the BCBA® exam
Because the BCBA® remains the most commonly accepted credential for behavior analysts that both employers and clients in Texas recognize, and because it will soon be mandated under state licensing laws, candidates for ABA positions will want to examine the credentialing process in detail.
Earning a Master’s Degree in Behavior Analysis Online
Since holding a master’s degree at minimum is one of the absolute requirements for obtaining BCBA® certification, having an advanced degree will in turn be a requirement to becoming licensed as an ABA in Texas.
Many students today are opting to obtain master’s degrees through online programs rather than traditional, on-site schooling. Online degree programs can be much more convenient for students, since much of the coursework can be performed at times and in places that fit around their schedule. Particularly for working students, this convenience can be a determining factor in whether or not they are able to attend a graduate program at all.
Online programs serve as the go-to option for students who do not happen to live near a university offering a conventional campus-based master’s degree program. In a state as large as Texas, this can be a significant factor and is often the difference between having to relocate or being forced to forego the degree.
Practicing Applied Behavior Analysis in Texas
Some of the many employment avenues for applied behavior analysts in Texas include:
- Working in elder care for the state Department of Aging and Disability Services
- Working for private clinics with adult and child clients, such as at Action Behavior Centers of Austin
- Working at a private autism care provider such as The Shape of Behavior in Houston or the Autism Treatment Center in Fort Worth
- Working as independent contractors
- Working in the public school system
Applied behavior analysts in these jobs perform the same types of tasks as ABAs anywhere, working to develop behavioral intervention plans (BIPs), monitoring client progress, performing data collection and diagnosis, and implementing behavior modification strategies.
Most Texas ABAs work for private employers. These employers have a slightly different focus than those working for schools or in the public sector in that they primarily perform services for private clients. This can include working in the client’s home, or acting as a specialist representative for the family when dealing with Individual Education Plans (IEPs) that schools design for special needs students.
ABAs working for private clinics or learning centers are more likely to engage in one-on-one therapy with clients. They are also expected to work with family members or other caregivers to help them follow through on BIPs and other management strategies that rely on consistent approaches during the patient’s daily life.
Professional Resources for Texas ABAs
The Texas Association for Behavior Analysis (TxABA) is the state affiliate of the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), a major industry professional association and trade group representing behavior analysts. TxABA has been a major advocate for state licensure legislation and other state laws making it easier to practice and receive compensation as a behavior analyst.
Members of the association enjoy access to a variety of professional journals, up-to-date information on lobbying efforts, and the ability to join their fellows at annual state and national conferences.
TxABA also established a special interest group (SIG) specifically to work on advising and supporting behavior analysis services in public education. The SIG is particularly focused on improving the use of functional behavior assessments (FBA) and BIPs in public agencies.
Finding Employment in Texas
Although most Texas employers require a BCBA® certification for their ABA hires, today many of them are willing to hire candidates who do not currently have a BCBA®, but who will obtain it within a few years of being hired. This includes the state of Texas, where the Department of Health and Human Services advertises openings for behavioral health specialists, specifying that candidates must be eligible to receive a BCBA® within three years of being hired.
When HB 2703 comes into effect, however, this practice will not be able to continue, and all candidates will need to possess a BCBA® when applying for an ABA position.
Even jobs that do not require a BCBA® today frequently do require a master’s degree, however.
TxABA posts jobs on their website. Members of TxABA also have access to the ABAI’s online job board.
Master’s-educated applied behavior analysts can expect a strong job market in Texas both today and after the passage of the HB 2703 licensing law.
Serving Clients with Autism Spectrum Disorder
As with other states, the explosion of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses has dramatically reshaped the field of behavior analysis. The demand for autism-specialist services has created huge growth in ABA employment, and most ABAs hired in Texas will end up working with ASD patients.
Skills that are in demand for this population include:
- Functional behavior analysis
- Observation and shadowing
- Risk and crisis management
- Social facilitation skills such as Zones and Net
- Behavior reduction strategies