So, you want to become a BCBA?

UPDATE 9/23/21: BCBA Task List 5 exam prep products are now live!


So, you want to become a BCBA?

By Kristen Rollman, MA, BCBA

Congratulations! What an exciting time to join the field, we are happy to have you on board and we hope you will let AATBS accompany you on your journey.

Here are the most common steps to take towards becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst:

1. Earn a bachelor’s degree

The very first step towards earning your BCBA certification is to complete a bachelor’s degree. Individuals who are pursuing their BCBA certification may earn their bachelor’s degree in any field, however pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology, social work, or education may better prepare students for graduate coursework down the road. Some institutions and universities even offer undergraduate coursework concentrated in Behavior Analysis. It is important to choose a program that is suitable for your own interests and to consider what you plan to use your BCBA credential for in the future.

2. Earn a master’s degree

The next step in the process is to earn a master’s degree. There are many options when it comes to completing a master’s degree in pursuit of a BCBA certification. Some programs are offered online, some are part-time, some are “hybrid” programs, while other programs are full-time programs delivered on a university campus.

The area of the field you desire to work in should influence the master’s program you choose. Different graduate programs may focus more intently on different areas of application. Individuals who complete their graduate coursework in special education with a focus in Applied Behavior Analysis may spend more time focusing on the application of ABA principles in a classroom setting. In a similar vein, individuals who complete their coursework in experimental or applied psychology, with a concentration in Applied Behavior Analysis may spend more time focusing on research, experimental design, and applications in clinical settings. There are many options, and it is important to choose the best fit for your personal goals.

Whether you are looking to join the field as an educator, a therapist, or a researcher, it is required that individuals who are pursuing their BCBA certification complete master’s programs that are accredited by the ABAI Accreditation Board or meet the BACB’s Verified Course Sequence (VCS) standards.

Check out these resources to find out if a program you are interested in meets these standards:

3. Complete your BACB approved experience

Another piece of this process is the completion of a BACB approved experience. This experience may be in the form of supervised independent fieldwork, practicum, or intensive practicum. This experience is designed to provide students with the opportunity to practice ABA under supervision of an approved BCBA supervisor.

Some graduate programs will provide their students with the opportunity to complete their BACB approved experience alongside their coursework, others do not. For individuals that are completing their graduate coursework with institutions or universities that provide this experience, there may be the opportunity for paid or unpaid assistantships. Some universities may provide some support to complete this experience, buy may require that students find and contract their own BCBA approved supervisors to supervise their experience. Other universities may leave this piece of the process entirely up to their students to arrange on their own.

Often times, graduate students may work as full-time or part-time entry level technicians for ABA companies while they complete their graduate coursework. Individuals who do this are often able to complete their experience requirements through these part-time or full-time work opportunities, while completing their master’s coursework.

Check out these resources to find out the specific details and requirements for BACB approved experiences. Also, keep in mind that the BACB will be changing their experience requirements in 2022.

4. Pass your exam

Passing the BCBA exam is the final step in the process towards becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. In order to sit for the BCBA exam, you must have completed steps 1-3 and submit all required documentation to the BACB.

Preparing for the big exam can seem like a daunting task, but we are here to help!

Many students will spend several months studying and preparing for the BCBA exam and it is important to choose a study method and schedule that work more effectively for you. AATBS continues to develop and launch new study material and study supports for BCBA candidates.

For more information regarding the BCBA exam, visit the BACB website.

For more information regarding AATBS BCBA exam prep products, check us out here

5. Maintain your behavior analyst certification

You worked hard, used our awesome study products, and passed the big exam. Hooray!

After certification, BCBA holders who plan on supervising other upcoming BCBA and BCaBA candidates are required to complete an 8-hour supervisor training. Stay tuned as AATBS will release our ACE accredited 8-hour supervisor training!

In addition to completion of supervisor training, BCBA holders will need to complete ongoing continuing education on a 2-year recertification cycle in order to maintain their BCBA certification. This means that every 2 years, a BCBA holder will be asked to submit their continuing education certificates, along with any other required documentation, to the BACB for review to renew and maintain their BCBA certification.

Within each 2-year cycle, BCBA holders must complete 32 hours of continuing education units (CEU’s). The BACB upholds high standards for BCBA holders to ensure the highest quality of behavior analytic practice. The BACB’s continuing education requirements are a standard to ensure that BCBA certificants continue to participate in activities and educational opportunities that will help them develop better behavior analytic skills beyond the requirements for initial certification.

Professional development is a major piece of obtaining and maintaining a BCBA credential. Stick with us, as AATBS continues to develop and launch CE products for BCBA holders.

Check out the BACB website for more information on supervision requirements and supervision continuing education.

For more information regarding our BCBA CE opportunities, visit