Steps to Become a BCBA
1. Earn a bachelor’s degree in a relevant field or another field
Since a master’s degree is required to pursue a career as a BCBA, individuals must first earn a bachelor’s degree. Undergraduate studies in psychology and human behavior may be useful but are not a necessary requirement to apply for a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis.
2. Enroll in a graduate degree in applied behavior analysis
All professionals seeking a BCBA career must have a graduate degree. For individuals following Option 1, this is typically a master’s in applied behavior analysis. Students may earn these graduate degrees on traditional college campuses or online. The program length varies depending on the school.
That said, coursework must be completed at a qualifying institution, and meet the requirements designated in the BACB’s Task List and Course Content Allocation list. Additional coursework may also come from the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) Verified Course Sequence (VCS).
All students must earn passing grades (“C” or better) to receive appropriate credit, as is the case with most graduate programs.
3. Complete required coursework
The BACB outlines that qualified candidates must complete designated coursework from an eligible institution. Applicants must successfully complete 270 classroom hours of graduate level classes in specified concentrations. Such coursework includes the following core concepts:
- Ethical and professional conduct
- Concepts and principles of behavior analysis
- Research methods in behavior analysis
- Applied behavior analysis
4. Complete experience hours
All applicants must complete relevant, supervised experience as part of their education and training.
Supervisors must have a BCBA/BCBA-D in good standing, work as a licensed or registered psychologist, or work as an authorized Verified Course Sequence (VCS) Instructor.
Trainees can start accruing experience hours after they start qualifying coursework and obtain a qualified supervisor. The BCBA can engage in three different experience types during training.
Supervised Independent Fieldwork: This option mandates that trainees receive relevant experience placement with appropriate supervision. Candidates need a minimum of 1,500 hours.
Practicum: Practicum allows professionals to complete their experience in fewer hours but with more supervision than those participating in supervised independent fieldwork. Experience is only available within a VCS. Candidates need a minimum of 1,000 hours.
Intensive Practicum: Intensive practicum provides fewer hours of coursework with the highest level of supervision. Like practicum, the experience is only available within a VCS. Candidates need a minimum of 750 hours.
Trainees can accrue hours in a single category, or they can combine any of the types to meet the baseline requirements. The trainee is responsible for documenting and saving records for all experience hours. In the event of an audit, trainees must be able to provide proof of such experience.
5. Take the BCBA exam
The BCBA exam evaluates knowledge of the BCBA/BCaBA task list. The test consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and 10 ungraded, pilot questions. All candidates have four hours to complete the exam.
The exam focuses on the significant disciplines associated with BCBA including:
- Basic behavior analytic skills
- Specific behavior-change procedures
- Experimental design
Like most tests, there are several third-party materials and study guides available for BCBA exam prep. Using these tools can familiarize candidates with content material and reduce test anxiety. Some companies also provide mock exams to resemble the real exam.
6. Apply for licensure
Once you obtain your BCBA certificate, some states may require you to apply for licensure to practice independently.
It is important to consult your state board for more information as licensure requirements are subject to change and may differ based on individual student backgrounds, including coursework taken outside the scope of the program.