How to Become a BCBA: a Complete Guide

If you are a psychology graduate interested in pursuing a career in behavior analysis, then BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) is perfect for you ✅️. 

Or, if you have completed your undergraduate studies in a related field and are looking for a specialization program, then behavior analysis might be a good option to consider ?.

If you think you can thrive as a BCBA, then get ready to expect an average annual salary of around $74,139 ?. This means you can make approximately $1,425 per week doing something you are passionate about. 

Awesome, right ?? Moreover, you will have access to other perks like job security for life, better control over your job, and endless career advancement opportunities ?.

Let us hop on to learn more about building a career as a BCBA ✅ ⤵️.

Who is a BCBA?

For starters, let me tell you that a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a person who specializes in behavior analysis and works to improve the lives of people with conditions like autism, depression, etc. 

BCBAs are people who are certified behavior analysts and hold a master’s degree in behavior analysis or psychology from the BACB (Behavior Analyst Certification Board) ?. To become a BCBA, you have to complete over 1,000 hours ⏳️ of supervised fieldwork and pass the BCBA examination. 

BCBAs guide individuals with conditions like autism, bipolar disorder, and depression. They offer behavior-analytic services and supervise professionals like BCBAs and RBTs ( Registered Behavior Technicians) who implement interventions. BCBAs update their certification every two years through continuing education credits.

How much can a BCBA earn?

The average annual salary for a BCBA in the US in 2023 is approximately $74,139. This implies weekly earnings of over $1,425 and monthly earnings of around $6,178. ?

However, individual salaries are not fixed and change according to a list of factors. At entry-level positions, you can expect lower salaries, starting at approximately $35000. But as you work your way up, you can expect a salary as high as $106,000. ?

The majority of salaries are within the range of $65,000 to $76,000. 

You should also keep in mind that these salary figures may differ according to the city and state of employment. We have stated a few variations below ⤵️

StateAnnual SalaryMonthly Pay
New Jersey$83,183$6,931

How to Become a BCBA (Tips)

Let us now take a careful look at the pathway you need to follow to become a BCBA ?. Also, do remember that the position of BCBA comes with a commitment to continuous learning and education.

Educational requirement

To become a BCBA, you need to prepare yourself for a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis after your undergraduate studies ?. Common undergraduate degrees for BCBA include psychology, education, or applied behavior analysis. 

While a degree in human behavior is helpful, it’s not always required for applying to a master’s program in applied behavior analysis. 

Behavior-Analytic Graduate Coursework

To obtain certification, the foremost thing you must do is get your hands on a graduate degree that aligns with the coursework requirements specified by BACB ✅️. You must keep this condition in mind. Otherwise, you will find yourself struggling after graduation.

The BACB allows for two ways that you can complete the coursework.

Pathway One involves completing an ABAI (Association for Behavior Analysis International) -accredited graduate program, which adheres to curriculum and faculty standards.

This includes 270 classrooms ⏳️ hours, and specific concentrations covering topics like ethics, research methods, and behavior analysis. 

Pathway Two involves completing behavior-analytic coursework through a Verified Coursework Sequence, indicating a review of content-hour requirements for specific behavior-analytic courses.

Supervised Fieldwork

To fulfill your supervised fieldwork requirement during graduate coursework, you need a qualified supervisor with specific Certifications ?. Based on the pathway you decide you take, you need either 2,000 Supervised Fieldwork hours or 1,500 Concentrated Supervised Fieldwork hours ⏰️.

There are restrictions like ensuring 20-130 hours monthly and completing fieldwork within five years. Clients should be suitable for behavior analytic services but not related to you or your caregiver.

Fieldwork activities include assessments, program design, monitoring, communication, training, and research.

BCBA Examination

After finishing your coursework in fieldwork, you will need to apply and pay for the BCBA exam through Pearson Vue. 

You will need to prove your knowledge and skills in areas like behavior analysis, experimental design, and behavior-change procedures ?. It consists of 160 questions and must be completed within 4 hours. 

To prepare for the exam, you can utilize third-party practice materials which help you study and get ready for the test ?.

State Licensure

After completing the BCBA exam, the last step towards certification is applying for state licensure if it is required in your desired practice state ✅️. Additionally, you must fulfill ongoing requirements to maintain both your licensure and certification. 

These requirements expect your adherence to ethical standards and engagement in continuing education ? so that you can stay well-informed in the field. It’s essential to comply with these obligations to ensure the validity of your license and certificate as a BCBA.

Responsibilities of a BCBA

As I mentioned before, BCBAs are behavior specialists who guide people with disorders like autism, depression, etc. Now brace yourself to take an in-depth look at the responsibilities you will handle as a BCBA ⤵️.

Behavior Regulation 

As a BCBA, you can expect to work with patients of different ages across diverse settings like schools, private practices, and therapeutic preschool programs. The therapy is aimed at reducing challenging behavior so that patients can learn vital life skills ?. 

BCBAs develop personalized programs working alongside speech pathologists, occupational therapists, teachers, and parents to ensure positive results ?. 

The fundamental objective behind this is to assist individuals in regulating their reactions to the environment and fostering independence.

Spending Time With Patients

A BCBA has to dedicate a sufficient amount of time to patients, whether it be in their homes or at the clinic, to closely monitor ? the effectiveness of the treatment. This includes evaluating whether the patient is excessively concerned about external influences or is experiencing sleep problems ?. 

By engaging with their patients, healthcare providers can customize their approach to better suit the individual needs of each child. 

Support and Guidance

As a BCBA, you will also provide assistance and guidance to behavior therapists, who may engage in discussions about successful model programs and interventions by drawing inspiration from current research on behavior analysis ?. 

Additionally, a crucial aspect of this role would involve ensuring compliance with privacy and confidentiality ?, company policies, and the specifications of funding sources.

Facilitating training for their team of therapists

When behavior analysts are not directly engaging with patients, they play an active role in providing training to the team of therapists as well as parents. 

Empowering caregivers to become experts in ABA (Applied Behavior Analysis) for their children is highly prioritized by behavior analysts ✅️. To ensure continuous support, behavior analysts maintain regular communication with families through email and phone interactions. 

Tips to improve your BCBA career

Let us assume that you’ve become a BCBA officially; now, what should you do to make your career a successful one? ? You will find that out below, but only after I remind you that success as a BCBA might not come overnight. 

Client-Centric Mindset

As a BCBA, you must learn to prioritize and value the progress of your clients, maintaining a client-centered mindset ?.

You should have a strong focus on their well-being and adaptability in your approach, ensuring you meet them at their current level. 

Keep yourself updated

The job of a BCBA demands you stay updated on the latest research ? in the field, technological advancements ?‍?, and the latest methodologies.

You must develop the habit of regularly visiting relevant journals, attending conferences, and participating in workshops.

Continued Education

If you want to move with the pace of time in a dynamic career like that of a BCBA, I would suggest you think about staying in the education arena for the longer run ?‍?.

Besides attending workshops and seminars, you must be on the lookout for relevant training programs, research collaborations, and specialized courses in the field. 

Seek Supervision

If you are willing to advance your career as a BCBA, do not hesitate to seek supervision and mentorship from experienced BCBAs ?‍?.

You might get the opportunity to refine your skills, get your work reviewed, and receive constructive feedback.

Embrace technology 

With rapid technological advancements, learn to keep up with changes. Try to know more about new technologies in behavior analysis ?‍?.

Harness the efficiency of the latest assessment tools, data collection apps, and other software that can streamline your practice.

Top BCBA courses in the United States

Anyone aiming to become a BCBA must go through a high-quality ABA program. You will become equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for designing individualized treatment programs suitable for every child’s specific needs with Autism Spectrum Disorder. ?

As I’ve highlighted before, your course should meet the criteria specified by the BACB. So, be aware while you do the research for yourself!✅️

Simmons University

Simmons University’s on-campus Master of Science in Behavior Analysis program is accredited by ABAI and prepares students to become BCBAs. BCBAs make a difference in areas like neurodiversity, animal training, and behavioral medicine. 

With a 75% first-attempt pass rate in 2021 (national average: 60%), the program meets BACB exam requirements ☑️. It’s the first ABAI-accredited program in New England, offering annual outcome reporting and exceptional preparation for a career in behavior analysis. 

If you are looking to learn part-time through evening classes or online mode, then do check their website for more details.✔️

Michigan State University 

The MA-ABA program is designed by Michigan State University to train competent behavior analysts to excel in education settings. You should also know that the program structure is focused on autism and neurodevelopmental disabilities ?. 

The hybrid program combines online coursework, on-campus instruction, and faculty-supervised practicum. If you are willing to commit to improving the quality of life for individuals in diverse service settings, this course is for you. ?

Central Washington University 

If you are looking for an affordable graduate ABA program ?, do check out the one offered by Central Washington University. 

Their ABA degree program trains highly skilled behavior analysts through a scientist-practitioner model, which helps students develop clinical expertise and research understanding. 

The program prepares students for BCBA certification to work with diverse populations with autism, intellectual disabilities, and pediatric feeding disorders. Approved by the BACB, the program incorporates a combination of coursework, supervised internships, and a thesis project ✍️. 

Drexel University

If you are specifically looking to cater to individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders, then Drexel University has an online master’s program and graduate certificate program in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) for you ?. 

Verified by the Association of Behavior Analysts International, these programs cater to working professionals like teachers, psychologists, and social workers. 

As you gain practical experience through community partnerships, do not forget to select a concentration in more sophisticated topics in ‘ABA,’ ‘Autism Spectrum Disorders, or Social, Emotional, and Behavioral wellness ✅️.

University of Michigan 

Their MS in Applied Behavior Analysis program prepares students to become BCBA-certified professionals ?. ABA is a scientific approach to behavior, focusing on improving social, educational, and health outcomes. 

The program meets BACB requirements, emphasizing theory application. As a graduate, you will complete both the supervised fieldwork and the BCBA exam. BCBAs work in mental health, education, and human services, providing data analysis, intervention plans, training, and supervision. 

You can expect to complete the program anytime between 1.5 to 2.5 years, with full-time and part-time options, including evening courses.✔️

Top BCBA Schools in the World

I told you previously that to become a BCBA; you must hold a master’s degree in behavior analysis, education, or psychology. And let me repeat that your program should meet the requirements specified by BACB.?

When we look at the best schools for an aspiring BCBA, the United States of America is the hub ??. The USA has several prestigious institutions offering programs in ABA, preparing students for the BCBA certification. These institutions are also well-recognized worldwide for their excellence in the field ?.

Utah State University

Your search for a Master of Science in Special Education with BCBA coursework will lead you to Utah. It has an impressive 100% success rate for first-time BCBA exam takers. “Take the hint!” ?

While coursework is primarily delivered online, students are required to attend campus for the proposal meeting and final defense. You will find yourself learning verified courses covering subjects like ‘Systems Change/ Supervision,’ ‘Legal Issues in Special Education,’ and ‘Ethics and Professional Behavior.’ ?

University of North Carolina Wilmington  

The University offers undergraduate psychology programs and graduate Applied Behavior Analysis programs. The average passing rate of first-time exam takers is 100% ?. 

The curriculum emphasizes experimental and applied behavior analysis, including research and applied practicum experiences and an empirical thesis. The program aims to develop highly skilled professionals recognized regionally, nationally, and internationally in behavior analysis ?.

University of Texas

If you are interested in Autism and Developmental Disabilities, you should check out the University of Texas’s one-year Master’s in Special Education. Here, you can earn your MEd or MA and go on to complete the BCBA course Sequence. 

You can learn more about areas like Challenging Behavior, Autism Treatment, and Teaching Individuals with Developmental Disabilities ?.

Vanderbilt University 

Vanderbilt University boasts a 7:4 student-to-faculty ratio and an impressive 94% BCBA exam passing rate. You can research more about topics like ‘Administering Ethical Behavior Analytic Services’ and ‘Advanced Procedures in Classroom Management.’ 

And if these topics interest you, then this might be a good program for you to join ✅️. Let me tell you that the Department of Special Education has been ranked the best by US News and World Report.

Westfield State University 

Another University with a 100% passing rate on the BCBA exam. At Westfield, you will find yourself exposed to areas like Behavioral Interventions, Clinical behavior Analysis, and Autism and Developmental Disability. 

The interesting part is that to accommodate working professionals, and the University also offers evening classes ?.

Where to find BCBA opportunities online?

These days there are endless ways to access opportunities online. You can utilize platforms like LinkedIn, Indeed, and even Facebook ?. Or, you can manually send personalized emails to experts and experienced BCBAs that you would like to work with. Just stay persistent! ?

Job websites

The easiest way to look for an opportunity as a BCBA is to regularly stay updated on platforms like Indeed, LinkedIn, Upwork, Glassdoor, etc.

You will be able to see relevant job listings once you filter your searches with relevant keywords related to BCBA. ?

Official Websites

Another reliable method to search for opportunities is to regularly visit the official websites of recognized behavioral health organizations, agencies, and clinics offering ABA services. You may consider sending personalized emails to their HR team along with a confident resume. ?‍?

Local and Regional ABA Networks

Stay on the lookout for local and regional ABA networks and groups in your area.

These networks often have an online community or mailing lists where BCBA job opportunities and other updates are shared regularly. ?

Social Media Platforms

Follow relevant ABA organizations, behavioral health providers, and professional associations on social media platforms to receive updates on job openings in your feed.

You may even consider getting in touch with experts in the industry through LinkedIn, Facebook, etc. ?

Recruitment Agencies

Do not shy away from reaching out to recruitment agencies and staffing firms that specialize in placing behavior analysts and ABA professionals.

These agencies often have connections with various healthcare organizations and can help match you with suitable job opportunities. ?

Key takeaways

The role of a BCBA is valuable because the way a BCBA deals with patients will impact their lives immensely ?.

This is why it is also a role of extreme responsibility ?. So, if you feel passionate enough to take on the challenging job of a BCBA, my best wishes to you!?

Similar Posts:

Was this article helpful?

Leave a Comment