How to Become a BCBA: A Comprehensive Guide
BCBAs play an essential role in applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy, providing customized interventions to improve social, communication, and adaptive skills for people with autism and other developmental disorders. The role is highly rewarding but requires a significant commitment to education and training.
If you are interested in becoming a BCBA, we’ve outlined key educational requirements below, as well as what you can expect after completing your degree.
The first step to becoming a BCBA is earning your master’s degree in behavior analysis, psychology, or a related field. Your chosen program must be accredited by a recognized body to ensure it meets the standards of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).
You'll also need to complete graduate-level coursework in ABA. This coursework is often included as part of a master’s program but can also be completed separately.
Next, you'll need to complete a specific number of supervised experience hours, as outlined by the BACB. Requirements vary depending on the type of supervision received but generally range between 1,500 and 2,000 hours.
Certifications and Qualifications
After fulfilling the education and experience requirements, you must pass the BCBA examination, a challenging test that evaluates your understanding of ABA principles, methods, and applications.
Some states also require licensure in addition to certification. Be sure to check your jurisdiction's requirements for practice.
Maintaining Your BCBA Certification
In order to maintain certification on an ongoing basis, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) requires that all BCBAs:
Complete continuing education in order to stay up-to-date on the most current research and best practices in the field
Adhere to ethical standards and self-report any violations
Submit a recertification application every two years
Complete 32 continuing education units (CEUs) within each two-year period following certification. BCBAs in supervision roles must also complete 3 CEUs in supervision.
Most BCBAs start their careers working directly with clients in healthcare settings, ABA companies, schools, or private practices.
As you gain experience, you may take on supervisory roles, overseeing registered behavior technicians (RBTs) and board-certified assistant behavior analysts (BCaBAs). You might also consult organizations or even start your own practice.
With extensive experience, you could become a subject-matter expert, specializing in areas like pediatric ABA therapy, adult services, or consultancy. You may also decide to pursue a doctoral designation (BCBA-D).
The salary for BCBAs varies significantly based on geographic location, experience, and area of specialization. However, it generally ranges from $60,000 to over $100,000 per year.
Daily Responsibilities As a BCBA, you can expect to complete the following types of tasks on a day-to-day basis:
Assessments: Conduct behavioral assessments to identify specific needs and challenges
Treatment plans: Develop individualized treatment plans for clients based on assessments and ongoing observations. You may also work closely with clinicians from other disciplines including speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, or pediatric neurologists.
Supervision: Train, supervise, and manage RBTs and BCaBAs who work directly with clients
Data analysis: Monitor and analyze data to gauge the effectiveness of treatment plans and make necessary adjustments
Consultations: Work with parents, teachers, and other professionals involved in the client's life to ensure that their input is incorporated into the treatment plan, and that they understand how to support the treatment plan
The following skills will allow you to more effectively support clients and advance your career:
Analytical skills: You'll be interpreting a significant amount of data to inform treatment decisions
Communication skills: You'll need to communicate clearly and effectively with clients, caregivers, families, and team members
Management skills: You’ll be overseeing other professionals and directing the course of treatment
Empathy: You’ll need to be able to understand the emotional and psychological needs of clients and their families to design and implement a treatment plan
Whether you're starting from scratch or transitioning from a related field, becoming a BCBA is a fulfilling journey that requires compassion, academic rigor, and a lifelong commitment to learning and professional growth. The rewards as a BCBA are immense, as you’ll make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who can greatly benefit from your expertise.
Cortica is actively hiring Behavior Interventionists and BCBA’s across the country. Please head to our careers page to see a list of open roles near you: https://www.corticacare.com/careers