What is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a professional who has earned a graduate-level mental health certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Once certified, these professionals work in a variety of settings found in the fields of education, health care, mental health and community services.

How to Earn the BCBA Certification

There are three paths to earning the certification. First, the candidate must have a qualifying graduate degree from an accredited university, have completed graduate coursework in behavior analysis and possess hands-on, supervised practical experience. The most common degrees are in education, psychology and behavior analysis. The second option requires a graduate degree with work experience as a full-time, graduate-level faculty in a department related to behavior analysis. These candidates must have conducted professional research and accumulated at least three years of teaching. The teaching must be related to the ethics, concepts, content and research methods of behavior analysis. The third option is a related doctoral degree that was earned at least 10 years ago with 10 years of post-doctoral work experience.

The BCBA Certification Exam

The exam has three main parts: basic behavior-analytic skills, client-centered responsibilities and foundational knowledge. The first section covers the responsibilities of a practicing behavior analyst. The exam will ask candidates to plot and interpret data using cumulative records and equal-interval graphs. It will require the candidates to use the concepts of applied behavior analysis to assess interventions, review and interpret articles and organize variables to show their effects on the client. The second section covers tasks related to working with all kinds of clients. Exam candidates will be required to define behaviors in measurable terms, environmental variables and behavioral and functional assessment procedures.

They will also have to select intervention strategies based on client preferences, supporting environments, intervention validity and resource environmental constraints. The exam’s third part covers advanced concepts that must be understood in order to perform the tasks included in the first two sections. Students must demonstrate knowledge of psychological theories such as Empiricism, Determinism and Pragmatism. They must also define concepts like environmental stimuli, classical conditioning and unconditioned reinforcement.

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Work Profiles

A BCBA who works in an autistic program will conduct functional behavior assessments for new and current students. They will create, update and implement behavior intervention plans through writing clinical recommendations, documenting interventions and submitting regular progress reports. They may conduct preference assessments, provide assistance in academic programming and establish data collection methods for behavior programming. They will train staff on clinical standards, model behavior interventions and how to collect data and provide feedback.

A BCBA who works in a state-sponsored group home for troubled or high needs teens will provide consultation and intervention services. They will help staff with behavior management and support education programs through the assessment of students. They conduct functional behavioral assessments, implement behavior intervention plans and evaluate student progress. When needed, they develop and execute emergency crisis intervention plans with staff. They also work with psychologists, health care providers, state social workers and community organization staff to support their clients.

Anyone who wants to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst should pursue a master’s degree related to education, psychology, health care and human services.

See also: Top 50 Online Psychology Master’s Degree Programs 2016