Overview of ABA Certification

Types of Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy Certification

Types of ABA Certification

Applied Behavior Analysis is a therapeutic approach based on behavior and its consequences.  Using our understanding of how behavior works in real situations, ABA therapy can be used to increase positive behaviors and decrease those that are harmful or holding us back.  Applied behavior analysis is used in a variety of subspecialty areas including:

  • Autism and Intellectual/Developmental Disabilities
  • Clinical behavior analysis
  • Education
  • Health and Fitness
  • Treatment of Substance Use Disorders

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) has been the leader in behavior analyst certification for over 20 years.  When you hear the term “ABA Certified,” most likely it is in reference to an ABA certification administered through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board.  They offer three of the most popular and well-known credentials including the:

  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA and BCBA-D for practitioners with a doctoral degree)
  • Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA)
  • Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)

These certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) which is the accreditation body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. 

There are other certification options that can be completed as stand-alone credentials or to supplement a BACB certification. We will discuss those below.

What are the different certification options?

If you’ve heard of or are thinking of applying for an ABA certification or completing ABA therapy training, the various types and levels of certification can be confusing. The field of behavior analysis has grown exponentially in recent decades, and it’s not slowing down anytime soon. In fact, Forbes rated Behavior Analysis sixth in their list of the most meaningful job. The ABA certifications you’ll find detailed below will outline the similarities and differences between the certifications. Once you’re familiar with their distinctions you will be better able to choose your path.

BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)

The BCBA certification is given to applied behavior analysts in the field who have received a graduate degree and already provide behavior-analytic services in some fashion. These analysts are usually in a supervisory position and supervise the work of a BCaBA or a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT), among others. They conduct behavior assessments and develop individual treatment plans for their clients. BCBAs can open their own practice. Applicants for BCBA certification must have their:

  • graduate degree
  • completed a certain amount of behavior-related coursework
  • required amount of experience as a behavior analyst

There are two ways to meet the BACB’s coursework requirements.

ABAI Accredited or ABAI Recognized Behavior Analysis Degree Program

These programs are either accredited or recognized by the ABAI and meet the standards for curriculum, faculty and resources. Candidates who earn their graduate degree from an ABAI recognized or accredited program meet both the coursework and degree eligibility requirements for certification.

Verified Course Sequence (VCS)

The VCS is a set of courses offered by a graduate school that are verified by the ABAI to meet the BACB’s behavior analytic coursework requirements. Students who complete the VCS will still have to meet other degree eligibility requirements.

Only certified behavior analysts are able to supervise BCaBAs and RBTs. BCBA’s with a doctoral degree are known as a BCBA-D.

BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst)

Assistants of BCBAs can apply for this type of certificate. It’s an undergraduate degree-level certification, given to applicants who may not practice independently. Assistants perform helpful tasks and are a vital part of a BCBA’s work. You might be wondering how to become a BCaBA. BCaBAs must have;

  • a bachelor’s degree
  • completed at least 15 hours’ worth of behavior-related coursework
  • a defined amount of experience under a BCBA

CAS (Certified Autism Specialist)

A CAS is someone who provides support and services, within their own fields, to individuals with autism. CAS credentials are offered through the International Board of Credentialing and Continuing Education Standards. Unlike the BCBA credentials, the CAS is specific to autism. Some BCBA’s earn a CAS as a supplemental certification. A Certified Autism Specialist must have:

  • a bachelor’s degree and 10 years of experience OR a master’s degree and 2 years’ experience
  • be able to pass an autism competency exam

People in many different professions have this ABA training certification including

  • therapists
  • psychologists
  • doctors
  • special education teachers

AC (Autism Certificate)

The Autism Certificate is another certification option through the IBCCES. This certificate in the autism field does not require a graduate degree. The main purpose of the Autism Certificate is to recognize professionals within the field that promote quality care. Applicants must:

  • be employed in a setting that fits into the autism field
  • be able to pass the competency exam
  • obtain 14 continuing education hours
  • pay the $295 Registry Fee

Professionals in the fields of education, healthcare, therapy, in-home care, and community services can benefit from this certificate.

RBT (Registered Behavior Technician)

RBTs typically work under BCBAs and BCaBAs and are primarily responsible for the implementations of the behavior services created. Essentially, they must perform plans as directed by the BCBA and BCaBA. A college degree is not necessary for Registered Behavior Technicians. Here are the steps to earn this entry level credential:

  • Each a high school diploma or equivalent
  • Pass a background check
  • Complete 40 hours of training
  • Successful completion of the competency exam
  • Pay the $95 RBT exam cost
  • Pass the RBT certification examination

This can be a perfect pathway if you wish to receive your BCaBA or even the BCBA in the future.

Related Resource: Top 15 Best Applied Behavior Analysis Online Programs


ABA therapy certification

Earning an ABA therapy certification can help:

  • improve your career
  • enhance opportunities
  • create a greater trust in your abilities from your employer and clients

With any luck, the information you’ve found here about the various ABA certification options will have you heading down the right path towards your perfect career.