FAQ: What is the Difference between an Applied Behavior Analyst and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)?
Answer: An Applied Behavior Analyst is a graduate of an applied behavior analysis (ABA) master’s or doctoral program. To practice as a behavior analyst, an ABA graduate must earn board certification as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) or a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA). State licensure may also be required once board certification has been earned.
Terms in the field of applied behavior analysis can be confusing as the acronyms and vocabulary are very similar. Additionally, in order to practice professionally as an applied behavior analyst, graduates of applied behavior analysis programs must complete a significant amount of fieldwork post-graduation. To help prospective students learn more about the field of ABA, this FAQ explores the definitions and differences between various acronyms in the field of applied behavior analysis, and how each plays into practicing as an applied behavior analyst.
The following acronyms will be explored in more detail in the sections below.
- ABA – Applied Behavior Analysis
- ABAI – Association for Behavior Analysis International
- BACB – Behavior Analyst Certification Board
- BCaBA – Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst
- BCBA – Board Certified Behavior Analyst
- RBT – Registered Behavior Technician
Applied Behavior Analysis Program Accreditation
Before explaining how to enter the field of ABA, it is important for prospective students to understand how programs in the field are accredited. The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Accreditation Board manages accreditation and course sequence verification for applied behavior analysis programs at the bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral levels. The ABAI Accreditation Board ensures programs meet the standards leading to board certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
There are two main ways higher education programs can meet the standards of the BACB. First, a program can apply for and earn ABAI accreditation. A second route involves having a program’s applied behavior analysis courses approved by the ABAI Certification Board as a Verified Course Sequence (VCS). Both ABAI-accredited programs and programs with a VCS allow graduates to pursue board certification as behavior analysts with the BACB.
How to Enter the Field of Applied Behavior Analysis
There are three board certifications available to enter the field of applied behavior analysis, with certification requirements published by the BACB. The BACB also approves applications for examination and administers the certification exams. These certifications include:
- Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)
- Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA)
- Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)
Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs) deliver behavior analysis services under the direct supervision of a qualified supervisor such as an RBT Supervisor, RBT Requirements Coordinator, or a BCBA. RBT applicants must be at least 18 years old, have a high school diploma or GED, obtain 40 hours of qualified training in ABA, and successfully complete a competency assessment. RBTs do not need to have a higher education degree, and applicants must pass an RBT certification exam to earn their certification.
Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs) deliver behavior-analytic services under the supervision of a BCBA. Those interested in this credential must have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher from an ABAI-accredited program or a bachelor’s program with a Verified Course Sequence. Both types of programs include practical fieldwork in ABA, and students must complete 1,300 supervised fieldwork hours or 1,000 concentrated supervised fieldwork hours either during or after the completion of the program. Once applicants meet the BACB requirements, they can apply for and take the BCaBA certification exam.
Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) may practice independently, and supervise BCBA applicants, BCaBAs, and RBTs. There are four pathways that students can follow to become eligible to apply for Board Certified Behavior Analyst certification. These include:
- Master’s degree or higher from an ABAI-accredited or ABAI-recognized applied behavior analysis program
- Graduate degree with ABAI-verified behavior-analytic coursework (VCS)
- Graduate degree with behavior-analytic faculty teaching and research
- Doctoral degree with a postdoctoral experience in applied behavior analysis
Once completed, students may apply for BCBA certification and complete the required fieldwork in ABA, which includes completing at least 2,000 supervised field hours under the supervision of a BCBA with certain populations of clients, in specified settings, while conducting specific behavior analysis services.
Applied behavior analysis courses cover concepts such as an understanding of ABA as a whole, ABA theories and applications, the development and application of behavioral assessments, behavioral consultation, intervention procedures, applied research, professional issues and ethics in ABA, treatment methodologies used to meet the specific needs of challenged students, and supervisory training.
Summary of Applied Behavior Analysis Terms
Following is a summary of the different terms used in the field of ABA for ease of understanding.
|ABA||Applied Behavior Analysis||A scientific approach to understanding behavior and behavioral change||A sequence of courses offered in bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral programs that can lead to board certification as an applied behavior analyst. Can also be found in the 40-hour training program required to apply for Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification.|
|ABAI||Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Accreditation Board||An accreditation board for applied behavior analysis programs||Approves course sequences for ABA programs, giving them a designation as having a Verified Course Sequence. It also accredits master’s and doctoral programs in ABA.|
|BACB||Behavior Analyst Certification Board||A certification board that certifies behavior analysts||Approves applications for certification as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA), and Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Administers certification examinations and confers certification to successful applicants.|
|RBT||Registered Behavior Technician||A high school graduate who has completed BACB requirements, including 40 hours of approved ABA training and the RBT certification exam||Able to deliver behavior analysis services under the direct supervision of a qualified supervisor such as an RBT Supervisor, RBT Requirements Coordinator, or a BCBA.|
|BCaBA||Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst||A graduate from a bachelor’s degree or higher in ABA that has met the BACB certification requirements and passed the BCaBA certification exam.||May deliver behavior-analytic services under the supervision of a BCBA.|
|BCBA||Board Certified Behavior Analyst||A graduate from a master’s or doctoral ABA program who has successfully met the qualification requirements of the BACB and passed the BCBA exam.||Able to work independently as well as supervise BCBA applicants, RBTs, and BCaBAs.|
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