LBA vs. BCBA – What’s the Difference?

Behavior analysts use scientific research to develop techniques and treatments to improve the behaviors in their clients, like social skills, communication and adaptive learning skills. This form of therapy is called applied behavior analysis (ABA).

Behavior analysts work with a variety of populations, such as clients with:

  • Autism spectrum disorders
  • Attention deficit disorder
  • Behavior disorders
  • Brain injuries and diseases
  • Dementia
  • Developmental and intellectual disabilities
  • Feeding disorders
  • Movement disorders
  • Substance abuse disorders

If you’re interested in exploring ABA as a career, you may have heard of the acronyms “BCBA” (board certified behavior analyst) and “LBA” (licensed behavior analyst). Learn what the difference is between an LBA and BCBA and how to become one or both.

What is an LBA?

An LBA is a behavior analyst credential specific to the state of New York. While a BCBA credential is not required to legally practice in New York, it also doesn’t make you eligible to practice as a behavior analyst in New York. To do so, you may obtain an LBA if you want to use the title of licensed behavior analyst in New York, unless you’re employed by an exempt setting.1

LBAs are limited in scope of practice to treating individuals with autism who have a prescription for ABA, unless they’re employed by an exempt setting.

The state of New York recommends getting both an LBA and a BCBA. If you want to practice as a behavior analyst in another state, state licensure requirements will vary.2

What is a BCBA?

A BCBA is a graduate-level behavior analysis certification appointed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). As a BCBA, behavior analysts typically:

  • Are professionally certified
  • May provide behavior analysis services as independent practitioners
  • May supervise Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) work
  • May supervise the work of Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs)
  • May oversee professionals who implement interventions for behavior

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board certification indicates the behavior analyst has met requirements that set the professional standard for independent and supervisory work in ABA. The BCBA credential may help behavior analysts advance their careers. It may be a requirement for certain positions and/or to obtain licensure in certain states.

What Does a Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) Do?

LBAs provide behavioral health treatments for clients with autism and autism spectrum disorders and related disorders. Related disorders may include Asperger’s Syndrome, Childhood Disintegrative Disorder, Pervasive Developmental Disorders or Rett Syndrome.

LBAs determine how to modify a client’s environment and use behavioral stimuli and consequences to help their clients adapt to social situations and improve their behaviors. LBAs do this by observing their clients in everyday situations, measuring their clients’ behaviors and determining the relationships between their clients’ behaviors and their environments.

How to Become a Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) in New York

The steps to becoming an LBA in New York are similar to those for becoming a BCBA. They require a certain level of education, a certain number of supervised hours and the passing of specific exams. Commons steps to become an LBA, according to the New York state Office of the Professions typically involve:

  • Earning a master’s or higher degree in ABA or a master’s or higher degree in a related field that’s acceptable to the New York State Education Department, such as psychology or education, that addresses learning and behavioral change, includes coursework in ABA and leads to an advanced certificate in ABA. The master’s degree may be from a program that’s registered by the New York State Education Department or from a program that’s determined to be substantially equivalent to such a program.
  • Completing 1,500 hours of post-master’s ABA experience with individuals with autism who have a prescription for ABA, even if the candidate is practicing in an exempt setting, under the supervision of an LBA or other authorized health provider.
  • Having two individual contacts with the supervisor twice a week, totaling two hours a week.
  • Passing the New York State Autism Exam.
  • Passing the New York LBA exam; exemption for the New York LBA exam is granted if the candidate has become a BCBA first.

There is a $300 fee for licensure and first registration as an LBA as of September 2019.

How to Become a BCBA

The process to become a behavior analyst (BCBA) is similar to steps to become an LBA. For applicants who are applying through January 2022, there are three common pathways.

One is coursework to complete a master’s degree that meets BCBA requirements. An ABA master’s will typically meet these requirements, but a master’s degree in a related field like psychology or education that has ABA coursework may also help you meet the requirements. This pathway also requires supervised practical experience.

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Another pathway is through faculty research. This requires a graduate degree in behavior analysis, education or psychology from a qualifying institution. Candidates often have held a full-time faculty position in behavior analysis that includes teaching and research. The candidate may also have completed ABA supervised experience meeting BCBA standards.

The third path is through post-doctoral experience, requiring an acceptable doctoral degree conferred at least 10 years ago. The candidate may also have at least 500 hours of supervised practical experience and at least 10 years of post-doctoral practical experience.

Once these requirements are met, the candidate may apply to take the BCBA exam. Upon passing the BCBA exam, candidates may apply for the BCBA certificate, which costs $245. To maintain BCBA certification, an ABA may complete continuing education and submit a recertification application and fees every two years prior to the recertification date.2

With a Behavior Analyst Certification Board certificate, the ABA may apply for licensure in the state where they want to practice. Licensure requirements will vary by state.

Learn More About Behavior Analysis

Behavior analysts can make a positive difference in the lives of their clients, which may lead to positive outcomes in client environments like family homes and schools. If you would like to learn more about human behavior and how certain conditions affect it, you might be interested in a career in applied behavior analysis.

Licenses and certifications like the BCBA and LBA ensure clients and their families know they’re getting treatment from a professional who has the education, supervised experience and knowledge to provide proper treatment. Completing the necessary steps for licensure and certification is required to work legally and to adhere to professional ethics and standards.

Learn more about online ABA programs and ABA certification that may put you on the path to becoming a professional ABA.

 

  1. New York State Education Department. “Applied Behavior Analysis: License/Certification Requirements,” accessed October 2020.
  2. Behavior Analysis Certification Board. “U.S. Licensure of Behavior Analysts,” accessed October 2020.
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Last updated: September 2020