How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst in Virginia

The Virginia Board of Medicine is responsible for issuing licenses to applied behavior analysts practicing in the state.

The Board of Medicine recognizes the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) as the sponsor of the national credential you must earn to qualify for state licensure: the Board Certified Behavior Analyst – BCBA® credential.

To qualify for the credential you must pass the BCBA® certification exam. To be eligible to sit for the exam you need to:

  • Hold a master’s or higher degree that includes a specific series of ABA courses
  • Complete a period of pre-professional supervised experience, either as part of your graduate program curriculum or independently

Follow these steps to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst in preparation for becoming licensed in Virginia:

Earn a Master’s or Higher Degree
Complete a Qualifying Period of Supervised Experience
Pass the BCBA® Exam
Apply for State Licensure with the Virginia Board of Medicine

Step 1. Earn a Master’s or Higher Degree

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board recognizes graduate degrees in Behavior Analysis, Education, and Psychology that include significant coursework in applied behavior analysis. In most cases, education and psychology degrees that meet this requirement would offer ABA as a minor or degree concentration.

Programs that meet BACB curriculum requirements are those that:


Behavior analysis master’s programs cover all the important topics in this field:

  • Applied behavior analysis introduction
  • Advanced behavior analysis
  • Behavior change theories and methodologies
  • Single subject research designs
  • Ethical issues
  • Legal issues
  • Skinner’s writings on applied and theoretical behavior analysis
  • Conducting behavioral assessments

The most comprehensive ABA master’s programs include a thesis and qualifying supervised field experience as part of the curriculum. Your thesis is your opportunity to develop a unique contribution to this field, and incorporates what you learn in your field experience.

Prerequisites for Master’s ABA Programs

While some master’s programs accept a bachelor’s degree in any field, others expect incoming students to hold an undergraduate degree in a more relevant field like:

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

ABA programs may also require you to have completed certain undergraduate course prerequisites before you are admitted:

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

Education Requirements for Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts (AABA)

Applying for an AABA  license with the Virginia Board of Health requires the BACB’s Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA®) credential.

You earn this by passing the BCaBA® exam, which has its own education requirement: an undergraduate degree, typically in Behavior Analysis, Psychology, Teaching, or anther closely related field that meets specific coursework requirements.

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Step 2. Complete a Period of Supervised Practice

You must also meet the BACB’s supervised experience requirements to qualify for the BCBA® exam.

For supervised experience to qualify it must incorporate these elements:

  • 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 BACB-approved practica Practica and intensive practica are two options that would meet the BACB’s pre-professional experience requirements. These are included as part of the curriculum in many behavior analyst master’s programs, and must abide by the following minimum requirements:

  • Practicum – Must be at least 1,000 hours


  • Intensive practicum – Must be at least 750 hours

Supervised Independent Fieldwork – If your master’s program includes a practicum that is not already pre-approved by the BACB, you can still qualify for the BCBA® exam by documenting at least 1,500 hours of independent fieldwork or some combination of practica and independent fieldwork.

Alternatives to supervised experience – You can also become eligible to take the BCBA® examination if you meet either of these conditions:

  • 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

Supervised Experience Requirements for Assistant Applied Behavior Analysts (AABA)

To qualify for the BCaBA® exam you must meet the BACB’s supervised experience requirement, which means completing any one of the following:

  • Practicum – 670 hours of experience
  • Intensive practicum – 500 hours
  • Supervised independent fieldwork – 1,000 hours

These supervised experiences must meet the BACB’s experience standards, which are identical to those for the behavior analysts.

Step 3. Pass the BCBA® Certification Exam

At this point you are qualified to take the BCBA® exam. You can apply for this online with the BACB. The exam is proctored through BACB’s partner Pearson VUE, and you’ll also need to register with them. Then you can choose an examination date and testing location.

There are eight Pearson VUE testing centers in Virginia:

  • Lynchburg – 424 Graves Mill Road, Suite 200-A
  • Glen Allen – 5640 Cox Road, Suite 160
  • Richmond – 7202 Glen Forest Drive, Suite 303
  • Roanoke – 6701 Peters Creek Road, Suite 108
  • Newport News – 825 Diligence Drive, Suite 120
  • Alexandria – 1900 North Beauregard Street, Suite 12
  • Vienna – 8391 Old Courthouse Road, Suite 201
  • Chesapeake – 1403 Greenbrier Parkway, Suite 530

Board Certified Behavioral Analyst (BCBA®) Exam Content

The exam itself is computer-based and comprised of 150 graded multiple-choice questions with four possibilities each. 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 Behavior Analysts

The process of applying for, scheduling, and taking the BCaBA® exam is similar to that for the BCBA® exam. You can sign up for the exam once you fulfill the education and supervised experience requirements.

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Step 4. Apply for State Licensure with the Virginia Board of Medicine

This information applies to behavior analysts and assistant behavior analysts.

You’ll make your application with the Virginia Board of Medicine online. Making a full application requires the following:

  • Application fee
  • Employment Activity Questionnaire (Form B) – This needs to be completed by any and every site where you have been professionally employed since you completed your behavior analysis education (in the past five years), and returned by that site to the Virginia Board of Medicine; if you’ve engaged in work without affiliations then you must have another behavior analyst submit this form and attest to your practice
  • Experience Verification Form – If you’ve never been licensed anywhere else and your BACB-qualifying supervised experience was completed in-state, include copies of this form which you also submitted to the BACB to be eligible for your exam
  • Notification of Certification – If you’ve never been licensed anywhere else, provide a copy of this written notification you received from the BACB when you earned your credential (do not submit copies of your actual BCBA® or BCaBA® credential)
  • License verification or letter of good standing – To be submitted to the Virginia Board of Medicine if you’re licensed as – or ever have been – a behavior analyst/assistant BA in any other jurisdiction, by that jurisdiction
  • Request the BACB to send confirmation of your BACB credential to the Virginia Board of Medicine (detailed below)

All documents can be sent to:

Virginia Board of Medicine
9960 Maryland Drive, Suite 300
Henrico, VA 23233
Fax: (804) 527-4426
Email: [email protected]

Process to Request BACB Confirmation

To request confirmation of your BACB credential from the BACB you must follow these steps:

  • Email the BACB ([email protected]) and request they send confirmation of your BACB certification (BCBA® or BCaBA®) via email to the Virginia Board of Medicine
  • Include the Virginia Board of Medicine’s email address ([email protected]) with your message to the BACB
  • Your message to the BACB must have the subject heading, “Virginia State Verification”
  • Your message to the BACB must also ask them to include your credential’s issue date, expiration date, and any disciplinary action taken against you currently or in the past

License Renewal with the Virginia Board of Medicine – Behavior Analysts and Assistant BAs

You must renew your license biannually in odd-numbered years during your birth month. Doing this involves paying a renewal fee and attesting that you have met your continuing education requirements (you are exempt from these for your first license renewal):

  • 24 hours of continuing education for licensed behavior analysts
  • 16 hours of continuing education for licensed assistant behavior analysts

This continuing education must be from a sponsor that is approved by the BACB.

You are not required to maintain or renew your BCBA® or BCaBA® credential with the BACB.

Note on continuing education – As of November 2016 there is a proposed rule change to increase continuing education requirements to the following:

  • 32 hours of continuing education for licensed behavior analysts
  • 20 hours of continuing education for licensed assistant behavior analysts
  • Four hours must cover ethics in the behavior analysis field

You can find updates on the rules governing behavior analysts and assistant BAs by checking with the Virginia Board of Medicine, Laws and Regulations and the professional organization Virginia Association for Behavior Analysts (VABA).

Supervision Requirements for Assistant Behavior Analysts

Throughout your career as a licensed assistant behavior analyst you must work under the supervision of a licensed behavior analyst. The rules covering this supervision are established by the Virginia Board of Medicine.

To start you must establish a written supervisory agreement with your supervising behavior analyst that specifies:

  • The domains of competency within which your services may be provided
  • The nature and frequency of your supervision

Types of supervision include:

  • Direct real-time observation
  • One-to-one interactions to review and discuss issues regarding behavior analysis
  • Real-time interactions between a supervising behavior analyst and a group of supervisee assistant BAs to review and discuss issues regarding behavior analysis

Real-time is defined as being live and person-to-person. Informal review and discussion of behavior analysis topics on the phone, via email, and by other types of written communication do not constitute types of supervision, however these are also encouraged.

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At a minimum, you must be supervised at least twice every month. You can be supervised more depending on your clients’ individualized treatment plans and the discretion of your supervising behavior analyst.

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