How to Become an Applied Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a professional who is qualified to practice behavior analysis independently. BCBAs are certified by the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB). The BCBA credential is required in many states in order to obtain the license needed to practice behavior analysis and requires graduate education, field experience, and other requirements. In most states, the BCBA credential is required in order to practice behavior analysis independently. Additionally, states may have their own different or additional requirements for state licensure.

Licensure is not required (or even an available credential) in all states to practice independently. There are four pathways for applying for BCBA certification. Students should do their own due diligence and determine the appropriate pathway and license type for themselves.  The steps below outline the pathway related to behavior-analytic coursework.

  1. Earn a Bachelor’s Degree
  2. Earn a master’s or doctoral degree 
  3. Complete your Applied Behavior Analysis Practicum or Fieldwork
  4. Apply for BCBA certification and pass the BCBA Exam
  5. Obtain licensure in your state (if applicable)
  6. Become qualified to supervise (if desired)
  7. Maintain license and certification

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

In order to become a BCBA, you will need to earn a master’s degree. In order to apply to master’s programs, you will need to first enroll in and complete an undergraduate program.

Step 2: Earn a Master’s or Doctoral Degree 

Complete the required degree and coursework in order to be eligible to sit for BCBA examination. Look for programs that offer a verified course sequence (VCS), which has been approved by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI), which indicates students have completed all required coursework. If students complete a program that does not offer a VCS, they may have to take additional steps to have their coursework evaluated. 

Applying to Applied Behavior Analysis Master’s Programs

Earning your master’s in applied behavior analysis degree starts with the application process. Though application requirements and minimum GPAs will vary from program to program, here are some application requirements that you can expect to see:

  • Bachelor’s Degree
  • Resume
  • Personal Essay
  • Letters of Recommendation
  • Transcripts
  • Test scores, such as the GRE, are sometimes required

Applied Behavior Analysis Master’s Curriculum

Once enrolled in a program, you will begin taking classes. Coursework will focus on a variety of aspects of the behavior analysis field, some programs may include:

  • Ethical and professional conduct
  • Behavior analysis concepts
  • Research methods
  • Behavior change procedures
  • Intervention
  • Behavior change systems
  • Implementation of behavior change plans
  • Supervision

Oftentimes, master’s programs include a practicum, where you complete some or all of the field experience you need for certification. This experience will be described in step 3.

Step 3: Complete your Applied Behavior Analysis Practicum or Fieldwork

The experience requirement for becoming an ABA can start after you have begun your coursework. Many hours of fieldwork are required for your BCBA certification, and sometimes states have their own requirements as well. Before beginning your fieldwork, make sure it meets the requirements of both the BACB and the state(s) you wish to practice in. Students can either complete Supervised Fieldwork or Concentrated Supervised Fieldwork – a comparison of what each of these are and what is required is outlined in the table below:

Option Hours Required Supervisory Period Hour Worked per Period Contacts with Supervisor per Period Observations with Client per Period Supervision per Period
Supervised Fieldwork 2000 1 month 20-130 4 1 5%
Concentrated Supervised Fieldwork 1500 1 month 20-130 6 1 10%

For each kind of fieldwork, at least 50% of the supervised hours must be individual supervision, and 60% of all supervised fieldwork must be spent doing unrestricted activities. Trainees may combine types of fieldwork, with 1 hour of concentrated fieldwork being weighted as 1.33 hours of non-concentrated fieldwork. Consult the latest BCBA handbook for specifics.

Hours cannot be accumulated until the student has begun coursework (just 1 class meeting suffices) and secured a qualified supervisor. The experience cannot last longer than 5 years from start to finish. The candidate must work with multiple clients over the period and must work to acquire skills. Candidates are encouraged to work in multiple locations with multiple populations. Information on who qualifies as a supervisor, what the task list entails, how to track hours, and more can be found in the handbook.

Oftentimes, some or all of the required fieldwork is integrated into the master’s program as a practicum or experience requirement. Check with the programs you are enrolled in/programs you are interested in to see what they require and determine if you will need to do any additional fieldwork in order to meet BCBA and state licensure requirements.

Step 4: Apply for BCBA Certification and Pass the BCBA Exam

Once you meet the education and fieldwork eligibility requirements, you can log into your BACB account and apply for certification. The application will require you to make attestations, report physical and mental disorders, and report legal investigations or disciplinary actions against you. Once you submit this application, you will submit a $245 payment and then supplemental documents. For Pathway 1 (earning an ABAI verified master’s) documentation includes transcripts and fieldwork verification forms. Those following other pathways to certification should consult the BCBA handbook.

If you are approved to take the exam, you will receive instructions for scheduling. If you are not approved, you will receive guidance on how to move forward. The exam is offered continuously and your score will be delivered to you on site immediately following the exam. The exam costs $125.

The BCBA exam is a four hour, 175 multiple choice question test with 10 additional pilot questions that do not count towards your score. More in depth information on the exam can be found here

Once you pass the exam, your BCBA certification number will be available to you within 24 hours! Your certificate should arrive in the mail in about 4-6 weeks.

Step 5: Obtain Licensure in your State

These days, more states require a license to practice behavior analysis than don’t. Each state will have its own requirements for licensure, and the department regulating licensure differs in every state. While you should always check with your state to see if requirements have changed, here is a table of what each state requires as of June 2022:

State Certification and Licensure Requirements
Alabama BCBA Required and Licensure through Alabama Department of Mental Health
Alaska BCBA Required and Licensure through Alaska Department of Commerce, Community, and Economic Development
Arkansas No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Arizona BCBA Required and Licensure through Arizona Board of Psychologist Examiners
California No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Colorado No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Connecticut BCBA Required and Licensure through Connecticut Department of Public Health
Delaware No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Florida The original FL-CBA license can be maintained through the BACB, but there are no new Licensure Requirements
Georgia No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Hawaii BCBA Required and Licensure through Hawaii Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs
Idaho No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Illinois No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Indiana BCBA Required and Licensure through Behavioral Health and Human Services Licensing Board
Iowa BCBA Required and Licensure through Iowa Board of Behavioral Science
Kansas BCBA Required and Licensure through Kansas Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board
Kentucky BCBA Required and Licensure through Kentucky Applied Behavior Analyst Licensing Board
Louisiana BCBA Required and Licensure through Louisiana Behavior Analyst Board
Maine No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Maryland BCBA Required and Licensure through Maryland Department of Health
Massachusetts BCBA Required and Licensure through Massachusetts Board of Allied Mental Health and Human Services Professions.
Michigan BCBA Required and Licensure through Michigan Board of Behavior Analysts
Minnesota No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Mississippi BCBA Required and Licensure through Mississippi Autism Board
Missouri BCBA Required and Licensure through Missouri Behavior Analyst Advisory Board
Montana BCBA Required and Licensure through Montana Board of Psychologists. Montana licensure requires 100 more hours of supervised clinical experience than is required for BCBA certification.
Nebraska No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Nevada BCBA Required and Licensure through Nevada Board of Applied Behavior Analysis
New Hampshire No Certification or Licensure Requirements
New Jersey Requirements are in Progress – BCBA will be Required and Licensure through the New Jersey State Board of Applied Behavior Analysis Examiners.
New Mexico No Certification or Licensure Requirements
New York Licensure required through the New York State Education Department. BCBA is not required, but those who pass the BCBA exam are exempt from taking the otherwise required NYLBA Exam. All applicants must also pass the Autism Exam.  An approved masters degree, a 1500 hr one year supervised experience including 150 hrs of graduate degree supervised internship or practicum, and child abuse training are all required. 
North Carolina North Carolina is currently working on regulating Applied Behavior Analysts
North Dakota BCBA Required and Licensure through North Dakota Board of Integrative Health Care
Ohio BCBA Required and Licensure through Ohio Board of Psychology
Oklahoma BCBA Required and Licensure through Oklahoma Licensed Behavior Analyst Board
Oregon BCBA Required and Licensure through Oregon Health Licensing Office
Pennsylvania BCBA is not required but can be used to verify that you have fulfilled requirements to become a Behavior Specialist. Licensure through Pennsylvania State Board of Medicine. Education requirements are broader than BCBA requirements and field requirements are less
Rhode Island BCBA Required and Licensure through Rhode Island Department of Health
South Carolina No Certification or Licensure Requirements
South Dakota BCBA Required and Licensure through South Dakota Department of Social Services
Tennessee BCBA Required and Licensure through Tennessee Department of Health
Texas BCBA Required and Licensure through Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation
Utah BCBA Required and Licensure through Utah Division of Occupational and Professional Licensing
Vermont BCBA Required and Licensure through Vermont Secretary of State
Virginia BCBA Required and Licensure through Virginia Board of Medicine
Washington BCBA Required and Licensure through Washington State Department of Health.
West Virginia No Certification or Licensure Requirements
Wisconsin BCBA Required and Licensure through Wisconsin Department of Safety and Professional Serrvices
Wyoming Requirements are in Progress – BCBA will be Required and Licensure through Wyoming Board of Psychology

Step 6: Become Qualified to Supervise (if desired)

Some BCBAs will want to become supervisors to current or aspiring BCBAs, Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs), or Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs). Becoming a supervisor requires the following:

  • Passing an 8 hour training on Supervising Training Curriculum Outline
  • Repeating 3 continuing education hours that are supervision related,  each certification cycle

Once these requirements are met, the certificant registry will be updated to state that the BCBA is qualified to supervise.

Step 7: Maintain License and Certification

BCBA certification must be renewed every 2 years. In order to renew, the BCBA must complete the following:

  • 32 hours of continuing education, including 4 hours for ethics
  • Complete recertification application ($215)
  • Meet supervision training/CE requirements if supervising others (3 of the 32 CE hours)

License maintenance is dependent on the state(s) you practice in. If applicable, go to the websites listed in the licensure table to learn about renewal requirements for those states.