Working as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a challenging but rewarding profession. Individuals who achieve this certification can work at the highest level to create programming for ABA therapy. While the path to becoming a BCBA is not easy, per se, it is straightforward and achievable for most people who put their minds to it.
If you are looking to help people with autism improve their lives in a clinical setting, this guide on the steps to becoming a BCBA is a great place to start. We hope it’s the perfect catalyst for the next step in your career.
What is a BCBA?
A Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA, is a healthcare professional who is an expert in the behavior of children and adults (often as it applies to autism and ABA therapy). Their job is typically to create plans to improve and change behavioral impediments. It’s common for them to work with patients with developmental disabilities, specifically autism spectrum disorder.
Some days a BCBA may supervise the work of therapists, and other times they will be directly providing the therapy they plan. Similarly, while working in an ABA therapy context, it is often a BCBA’s job to do reporting, review data, and update programs for the clinic they are employed at.
Requirements to Become a BCBA
To receive BCBA certification in ABA therapy, you must meet the requirements of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB – just to be confusing):
- Undergrad in a related field
- Earning a Master’s degree, equivalent graduate-level coursework (225 hours), or a position teaching and researching behavioral analysis
- Meet supervised experience requirements (varies by year)
- Pass the BCBA exam
There are many education and work options to fulfill these requirements at each step, including our Ally University program and many great resources online to help guide you.
Here is an example plan to achieve BCBA certification.
Steps to Becoming a BCBA
The requirements laid out by the BACB do an excellent job of creating a broad outline, but we’ve taken it one step further. Here is a linear, detailed pathway on the certification steps to becoming a BCBA.
1. Graduate from one of the related undergrad degree programs:
Whether you have an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, this step is essential to get you into a qualified graduate program. Fields like psychology, education, and human studies are just a few options.
2. Earn an acceptable graduate degree:
This is where BACB verification and accreditation are more stringent. Your graduate degree or program must include ‘Behavior Analysis,’ ‘Education,’ or ‘Psychology’ in most cases. Similarly, any master’s or doctoral programs must be verified by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI).
As part of our Ally University program, we have a relationship with Purdue University to offer discounted tuition to complete this degree.
3. Complete Your BCBA Experience Requirements:
The BACB lists three acceptable forms of experience:
- Practicum: This is part of a graduate program and requires oversight and facilitation from a VCS. You must pass with a C grade or better in all experience courses, a minimum of 1,000 hours of experience, and four separate contacts/observations with your supervisor within one month.
- Intensive Practicum: An intensive practicum is also mandated within a graduate program and requires 750 hours of experience for completion. This program requires a one-month supervisory period with eight contacts/observations from a supervisor.
- Supervised Independent Fieldwork: The non-practicum route is separate from a graduate program and is slightly more hours intensive. You must complete 1,500 hours of experience in supervised independent fieldwork. In the one-month supervisory period, you must have two contacts/observations with a superior you are responsible for finding (unlike in a graduate program where they assign one to you).
You may begin qualified experience hours once you are enrolled in appropriate coursework and have reviewed the BACB experience standards with your supervisor. At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we pride ourselves on allowing future BCBAs to receive their supervision hours to get them one step closer to their certification.
4. Pass the BCBA Examination
This is a national requirement for all BCBA candidates and is standardized by the BACB. You must submit your application to the BACB through their authorized gateway to qualify and apply.
Your application must include official transcripts from accredited degrees or a course syllabus from a non-verified program. Your supervisor must sign these forms to verify the course sequence and your experience hours. The application also has a $245 fee with an additional $100 if you still need to complete a VCS.
Once your application is approved, you must take and pass the BCBA exam through Pearson VUE. The BACB will send its authorization to the organization, and in turn, they will contact you to set up a Pearson VUE account and schedule the exam. The exam will cost $125 at the time you schedule it.
5. Apply for a position using your BCBA license
One reason you go through such a rigorous education and licensing process is so you can be qualified for the positions that require BCBA certification.
The BACB provides employment opportunity listings, and it is highly recommended that you search for local clinics that need accredited BCBAs. After all, giving back to your local community plus the greater autism and ABA community at the same time is a win/win. Some clinics, like Ally Pediatric Therapy, will also offer relocation packages if you find a job opportunity further away from home.
You are required to maintain your BCBA certification on a two-year renewal cycle. This includes continuing education requirements, renewal forms, and adherence to the BACB’s Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts. Luckily, these policies are well-laid out, and quality clinics will work with you to provide the proper time and resources to meet these requirements.
Join the Team at Ally Pediatric Therapy
At Ally Pediatric Therapy, we are looking for enthusiastic licensed BCBAs to grow our team. We have decades of experience providing help for children with autism and their families, which is all made possible by our outstanding clinicians. Please apply today if you want to make a positive impact while pursuing your dream career. We’d love to change the world for the better together.