Young child and Behavioral therapist in a playroom

How to Become a BCBA

Are you interested in working in the mental health field and are you passionate about helping people live healthier and happier lives? Turn that passion into a career by pursuing your Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification. As a BCBA, you are an independent practitioner. You not only can provide behavioral health services but also supervise the work of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts (BCaBAs), Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs), and other professionals.

For people interested in improving mental health outcomes, we have put together a detailed guide on how to become a BCBA. We cover the step-by-step process of earning a BCBA certificate, the requirements and the career outlook for a BCBA.


How to Get Your BCBA Certification

Earn a bachelor's and a master's degree

Since a BCBA is a graduate-level certification, you will need to earn a bachelor's and then a master's degree. While your bachelor's doesn't need to be in a related behavioral analysis field, it certainly doesn't hurt to get a head start. Your master's, however, will need to be in applied behavioral analysis. Arizona Online offers the Special Education: Applied Behavior Analysis MA, which will prepare you to provide evidence-based services in applied behavior analysis in clinical, school, and home settings. It also includes all seven courses required to take the BCBA exam. All the coursework has been verified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Complete required behavioral-analytic graduate coursework

As a BCBA candidate, you must complete at least 1,000 hours of behavioral-analytic graduate coursework through a supervised practicum. If your master's program doesn't include a qualifying practicum, you will need 2,000 hours of supervised and independent fieldwork. 

Alternatively, suppose you already hold a qualifying master's degree. In that case, the Arizona Online Graduate Certificate in Applied Behavior Analysis meets all coursework requirements and addresses all information required to take the BCBA exam. The courses can be completed over several semesters or as quickly as 16 months, which includes three consecutive semesters and one summer session. All coursework is offered entirely online, and the certificate coursework can be taken independently.

Take the BCBA exam

Now that you've got all the requirements for the BCBA exam, it's time to apply for, take and pass the BCBA exam! The four-hour exam contains 160 multiple-choice questions with content areas like basic behavior analytic skills, behavior change considerations, and client-centered responsibilities. The BACB exam is administered through Pearson VUE.

Once you have passed the exam, you must renew your certification by completing 32 continuing education units every two years. This could mean attending seminars or workshops or completing additional coursework.


Kickstart your career as a BCBA

You did it! You passed your BCBA exam and now it's time to start your career armed with experience and fieldwork. While BCBA jobs can vastly vary, as a BCBA, you might develop an individualized treatment for individuals. Or, you might oversee and supervise client care which could include training other therapists and analysts.

How long does it take to become a BCBA?

Factor in that you will need a master's in applied behavioral analysis to qualify for the BCBA exam. After that, you must earn 2,000 hours of supervised and independent fieldwork. If you already hold a bachelor's, enrolling in Arizona Online's Special Education: Applied Behavior Analysis MA program could save you time. The program coursework includes all seven courses required to take the BCBA exam and fulfills the master's degree requirement for the exam. Completing the degree in as little as six semesters or 24 months is possible!

To get more of an idea of a BCBA career outlook

15 jobs you can get in Applied Behavior Analysis