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Who can provide ABA?

ABA is the science of behavior. As a science, it needs thorough study and experience to be able to understand its concepts and to utilize its principles effectively and ethically. So, how do you know if someone is qualified to provide services for your child?

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is the only organization that provides accredited credentials for top and mid-tier providers. From the BACB's website,

"The BCBA®, BCaBA®, and RBT® certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA), the accreditation body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. The NCCA’s Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs were the first standards developed for professional certification programs to help ensure the health, welfare, and safety of the public. NCCA Standards highlight the essential elements of a high-quality program." The top-tier provider is known as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). To become a BCBA, you must meet educational, experiential, and testing requirements. A BCBA is someone with at least a master's degree. There is a doctoral level BCBA-D, however that is more to designate a doctorate program in psychology or ABA with specific education. A BCBA is an independent practitioner and fully capable of running cases. In addition to the master's degree, a BCBA must meet specific educational requirements in ABA. These classes are known as the verified course sequence. This verified course sequence must also be accredited through the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) starting January 2022.

The experiential portion of the certification is comprised of 1500 hours across the content task list. In 2022, the requirements will increase to 2000 hours. Those hours require a minimum of 5% supervision from a BCBA to establish competency.

After the educational, experiential, and supervision requirements are met, the person is allowed to test for the credential. The test is 160 questions, and uses a modified Angoff method for establishing passing scores. According to the board, "the modified Angoff method is a criterion-referenced method that relies on the judgment of a panel of subject matter experts who hold BACB credentials and approval from the BACB Board of Directors."

The mid-level provider, Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), is similar in many ways to the BCBA credential except that it requires a minimum of a bachelor's degree and a verified course sequence, 1000 hours of experience, and the test is 140 questions. BCaBAs require 2% monthly supervision from a BCBA after they acquire the credential.

Finally, the Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) credential is the third-tier provider. The RBT credential requires a high school diploma or GED as well as 40 hours of classroom training on behavior analytic principles. The person must then pass a competency assessment provided by a BCBA or BCaBA. The test is 85 questions long. It also requires 5% supervision from a BCBA and/or BCaBA after acquiring the credential.

But certification is just the beginning of the journey, not the end. After certification, every two years, behavior analysts are required to get continuing education. BCBAs must get 32 hours every two years with 4 hours in ethics and 3 hours in supervision. BCaBAs must get 20 hours of continuing education with 4 hours in ethics.

What behavior analysts do requires a lot of training and experience. This is important because what we do when we're working with your child impacts him or her for a lifetime. Improper use of ABA can at best lead to little to no progress and at worst, cause lasting harm both physically and developmentally. That's why many states require a license to practice, and part of their license laws require someone to hold either a BCBA or BCaBA credential. The BACB really is the gold standard for ABA. So when someone comes to provide services, ask questions! Ask where they went to school and about the courses they took, ask about their training, their continuing education, and their credentials. A good behavior analyst is someone who is happy to tell you all about how they are qualified to provide services for your child!

Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2019). ABOUT THE BACB - Behavior Analyst Certification Board. [online] Available at: [Accessed 5 Dec. 2019].


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