July 17, 2020
If you're thinking about a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), you need to obtain applied behavior analysis (ABA) certification from the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). Established in 1998, the BACB is a nonprofit, independent credentialing organization that has developed standards and regulations for education requirements, clinical hours, and other qualifications for working in the field of applied behavior analysis.
Their guidelines are detailed in the BACB Model Act, which outlines all qualifications for becoming a BCBA and also forms the basis for state licensing laws and requirements. Individuals interested in becoming a BCBA are encouraged to additionally inquire about state licensing requirements.
The BACB further grants three types of ABA certifications:
As a science-based discipline, applied behavior analysis involves observing a patient in their environment to conduct an assessment, analyzing and evaluating the results, using the data to develop a treatment plan, and encouraging positive behaviors and actions through several reinforcement techniques. As a patient progresses, their plan, based on the BCBA’s observations, will be adjusted.
Many recognize ABA therapy as a treatment for individuals with autism. However, ABA methods are employed for treating mental health issues, for recovering from a traumatic brain injury, in organizational management, and in various counseling settings.
To obtain ABA certification as a BCBA or BCaBA, keep the following in mind:
On a general level, individuals considering BCBA certification are required to have a master’s degree, in behavior analysis or another field. They then need to complete the Verified Course Sequence (VCS) of related ABA coursework, and, through practicum and clinical hours, a certain amount of practical experience.
For a more specific breakdown of the BACB’s requirements for BCBA certification:
A candidate who has earned a master’s or doctoral degree, regardless of field, and completed the VCS and supervised experience can sit for the BCBA exam after January 1, 2022. The format—whether on-campus or online—is not taken into account.
Individuals interested in taking the exam before this deadline must follow existing BACB requirements.
To earn BCBA certification, the Verified Course Sequence does not always have to be directly part of the candidate’s master’s or doctoral program. Rather, individuals can take it independently from their degree, provided a qualified ABA program oversees and manages the curriculum.
However a student proceeds through the VCS-approved course sequence, the BACB requires a minimum of 315 hours in relevant ABA subjects. Review the breakdown of course content and hours.
Training for medical and behavioral health careers nearly always requires a number of hours in a clinical setting under the guidance and supervision of a certified professional. Requirements for earning BCBA certification are no different. Working with an experienced BCBA, the candidate must complete a minimum amount of standard or concentrated fieldwork experience, during which they:
Outside of a behavior analysis master’s or doctoral program, independent field experience helps with fulfilling these hours and clinical requirements. At the present, the candidate must complete a minimum of 1,500 hours of fieldwork, 1,000 hours of practicum, or 750 hours of intensive practicum supervised by a qualified BCBA professional; after January 1, 2022, these requirements will change to 2,000 supervised hours or 1,500 concentrated hours.
All candidates must take and pass the BCBA exam before meeting all certification requirements. Lasting four hours long, the exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions covering measuring behavior, designing experiments and observation, the elements and factors involved in behavior change, a client’s responsibilities, identifying and assessing maladaptive behaviors, interventional methods, implementing a behavior-modification plan, and managing and supervising ABA employees. Candidates must score at least 400 (out of 500) to pass.
The BACB considers additional scenarios when granting BCBA certification. Candidates may be able to become BCBA professionals if they have earned an accredited graduate degree, have secured a full-time teaching position in behavior analysis, and received a passing score on the BCBA exam. As another possibility, candidates who earned a doctoral degree 10 or more years ago, have at least a decade of practical experience, and can pass the BCBA exam are eligible for ABA certification.
Individuals considering a career as a BCaBA professional must have completed an undergraduate degree, a VCS-approved course sequence, and a certain amount of practicum experience. However, compared to the BCBA requirements:
All BCBA and BCaBA professionals must apply for recertification every two years. Between earning ABA certification and applying at the two-year deadline, candidates must satisfy all continuing education (CE) requirements:
Have you earned a bachelor’s degree and are thinking about earning ABA certification? Complete the VCS series of courses the BACB requires at Marian University. To learn about our fully online ABA program, contact Kurt Nelson, Ph.D., by email or by phone at (317) 955-6421, or request additional information today.
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