Hey Simply Special Community! Oh, how I have missed you! I have been off the blog for the past two months because I was working on something very exciting; finishing my BCBA coursework! Now, I am back and ready to tell you all about the process I went through and maybe you’ll want to do it too!
What is a BCBA?
BCBA stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst. A Board Certified Behavior Analyst is an individual who is certified to implement Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) procedures and protocols. Note that I did not say “teach” or “teachers”; you do not have to be a teacher to be a BCBA! Psychologists, SLPs, OTs and other related service professionals can also become BCBAs.
For the purpose of this post, I will be speaking about the process of becoming a BCBA as a teacher but know that if being a BCBA speaks to you, there are many pathways to become one!
Board Certified Behavior Analysts are certified by the international organization called the Behavior Analyst Certification Board or the BACB. The BACB is the organization that writes the Code of Ethics as well as the Task List that the certification exam is based on. As a BCBA, it is crucial that you are proficient in both the task list and the Code of Ethics.
How Do You Become A BCBA?
There are three major steps that you will need to go through in order to become a BCBA.
First, you must do the necessary coursework.
There are two routes you can take for coursework. Depending on the state you live in, it is possible that you became a special education teacher without a Masters degree.
If you do not have a Masters degree, a Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis is a great way to both pursue a higher degree as well as fulfilling the course work. There are many different colleges and universities that offer both in person or online course options.
If you already have a Masters, there is also an option to receive an Advanced Certification in Applied Behavior Analysis. This degree is typically fewer credits but does not give you any kind of higher education degree. The Advanced Certification programs cover what is required by the BACB and the task list.
Personally, I did an online Advanced Certification program. I teach full time and I already have a Masters degree, so I decided an online Advanced Certification was right for me.
While you are doing your coursework, you will also need to obtain supervision.
In order to become a BCBA, you must complete supervision hours. Starting in January 2022, the 5th Edition Task List will be implemented. Any of the higher education programs that are started between now and January 2022 will also follow the 5th Edition Task List. According to the 5th Edition Task List, BCBA candidates must have 2,000 hours of supervision by an already certified BCBA. Yes, you read that correctly… 2,000 hours. These hours are collected through a mix of direct observation and indirect activities determined by your supervisor and coursework requirements.
There are lots of nuances of what counts and what does not count for observation. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) provides an explanation of eligibility requirements, linked here! What is worth highlighting though, you must have 5% of your hours be direct supervision (either individual or group). If you do not meet that 5%, the whole month’s hours do not count.
Last but certainly not least…
Once you enroll in a BCBA program, you will start to hear about the certification exam. Written by the BACB and Pearson, the “big test” is 160 multiple choice questions. You have 4 hours to take the exam. Similarly to the BAR exam or the MCAT, the test assesses your knowledge of the content as well as your ability to choose the best response. There is definitely a strategy when it comes to answering the questions so definitely practice.
In order to be eligible to take the exam, you must submit your proof of your 2,000 supervised hours as well as your course transcript to the BACB. Once they have received these documents, you will be able to register. You have to take it at a testing center, but luckily, you find out whether or not you passed right away.
Study, Study, Study
I have not sat for the exam yet so I cannot speak from personal experience, but from what I have heard, this is not an easy test. But as long as you study and take mock exams, you should be able to pass. The market is saturated with BCBA prep materials, so explore which options you like best! The ones that I am using are listed below.
This is my personal favorite study source. Liat and Casey (the founders of SNABA) provide real life, easily applied examples of behavior analytic strategies and theories. I have used a lot of their materials and find them to be the least aversive study material out there.
Try out their collectives (live or recorded), their mock test questions or even their coloring and activity book (full of behavior analysis notes!) They also have a podcast called “Behavior Bitches” which can be found where ever you stream your podcasts!
My supervisor recommended this book to me. I haven’t used it yet, but this is what she used to study. I linked the 5th edition book here.
This podcast reviews different behavior analytic strategies through the context of research. While I haven’t discussed it much in this article, behavior analytic research is a huge part of the field. This podcast makes the articles published in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis (JABA) more accessible.
Once you pass the exam, you have fulfilled all of the requirements in order to be a BCBA! One important note: check the requirements for practice in your state. In most states, you can practice as a behavior analyst with just a BCBA degree. In others, (like my state) you also need to have a Licensed Behavior Analyst (LBA) certification. Fortunately it isn’t another test, but you do need to have an additional 1,500 hours of supervision. Be sure to look up what your state requires!
Behavior Analysis is everywhere!
Once you start your program and begin to learn behavior analytic concepts, you will begin to see naturally occurring contingencies happening all around you. Start naming them, it’s great practice!
I’ll keep you all updated as I approach my test date, but in the meantime, drop any questions about becoming a BCBA below!