The role of the board certified behavior analyst (BCBA) is critical in managing behavior change interventions. They have a variety of responsibilities and tasks related to behavior analysis and intervention. A professional with a behavior analyst certification works with individuals with:
- autism spectrum disorders
- developmental disabilities
- behavior disorders
- other conditions that require behavioral support
For someone who wishes to pursue a career in which he helps children, teens, and adults to cope with a host of cognitive or developmental issues, BCBA certification is one of the highest levels of achievement. The BCBA is second only to a BCBA-d, which is a doctoral level certification. Below, we’ll provide details about:
- the role of a certified behavioral analyst in the therapeutic community
- general salary expectations
- educational or recertification requirements
A Bit of Background
Applied behavior analysis ABA is a scientific discipline that focuses on understanding and improving human behavior. Those who work with people to craft learning plans and enact therapy for emotional or cognitive disabilities apply the data accumulated by the experimental observation and research branch of the discipline. There are four tiers of accreditation within the applied behavior analysis realm—Registered Behavior Technicians (RBT), the BCaBA or assistant, the BCBA, and the BCBA-d. The board certified behavior analyst is a graduate level certification.
What is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst?
A Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is a professional who specializes in applied behavior analysis (ABA). BCBA certification is granted by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), which is the governing body responsible for establishing professional standards and ethics in the field.
To become a BCBA, individuals must meet specific educational and experiential requirements. These include:
- Holding at least a master’s degree in behavior analysis or a closely related field
- Complete supervised fieldwork hours
- Pass a comprehensive examination administered by the BACB
It’s important to find a master’s degree program that includes the Verified Course Sequence. These courses meet behavior analytic coursework requirements determined by the ABAI. These courses cover content areas like basic behavior analytic skills and behavior change considerations that will appear on the BCBA exam.
What Does a Board Certified Behavior Analyst Do?
BCBAs provide behavior analytic services by:
- conducting assessments related to the need for behavior interventions or for the purpose of evaluating interventions
- crafting action plans with patients and their loved ones or caregivers
- operating in an appropriate setting that meets the needs of the individual they are serving
By employing evidence-based practices and data-driven decision-making, BCBAs strive to:
- promote positive behavior change
- enhance individuals’ quality of life
- improve functional skills in various areas
BCBAs must adhere to a professional code of ethics and maintain their certification through continuing education and adherence to the BACB’s recertification requirements. They must attain continuing education to update their practice with current research.
See Also: Certified Autism Specialist (CAS)
A BCBA can work in many different environments and help a variety of individuals with different learning or behavioral needs. In each case, he adapts his skill set to accrue the maximum benefit to his clients. For example, if he elects to work in a specialized facility, such as a group home for special needs adults, his behavioral or learning plans serve that specific community.
When a BCBA works with people, he may engage in a variety of tasks and educational activities. Interventions are typically the initial encounters that address a previously untreated behavioral or emotional disorder in a child, teen or adult. Once he conducts an intervention, the analyst may continue to work with the individual and their loved ones or caregivers in a calm, controlled environment using specialized techniques.
While many BCBAs elect to actively engage with clients within the therapeutic community, they have another, equally important role. As they acquire experience and develop their sense of which approaches work best. They can offer insight to those who design learning programs and assessments for both individual clients and groups. In this capacity, they can actively craft:
- methods of performance evaluation
- intervention strategies
BCBAs may also assist in the research and experimental aspects of their field. They bring valuable data from client interactions to their analyses. For example, if they have worked with autistic children and observed that certain strategies are less effective than the experimental analysis indicated, this feedback helps the field grow and refine itself.
What It Means for Careers
A BCBA certification affords some degree of freedom for those who have achieved this distinction. Associated with the completion of a master’s degree program in behavior analysis, the certification process allows someone to provide behavioral health services unsupervised. BCBAs can also supervise the work of BCaBAs. While it is much like an assistant accreditation and represents a career stepping stone, a BCBA need not seek a doctoral degree to engage in a fulfilling practice.
How Long Does It Take to Earn BCBA Certification?
The length of time it takes to become a board certified behavior analyst varies from person to person. Full-time students can earn their certification in about six years while those working toward the requirements on a part-time basis could take up to 10 years.
Salary Range and Job Outlook
When it comes to job opportunities, the BCBA has many from which to choose. Unlike some specialties, the BCBA profession has broad applicability. Many organizations avidly seek to recruit behavior analysts with board certification including:
- community health centers
- assisted living facilities
- group homes
- schools for those with disabilities
- other health institutions
However, Board Certified Behavior Analysts can also find plenty of rewarding work in related capacities. Many institutions attempt to bring the expert knowledge of these analysts into the classroom, recruiting them as teachers with full benefits. They’re also in demand in supervisory roles, helping to craft and guide broad scale programs to assist those with behavior or emotional difficulties in a variety of contexts.
Salary expectations for a behavior analyst with full board certification are subject to a variety of factors. How much experience the BCBA has in the field is one of the largest determinants of salary, followed by the employing institution and the type of position the analyst fulfills for that employer. Salaries fall between $49,000 and $75,000 annually, with a rough median of $57,500. It’s notable that geographic location of any BCBA job will also impact the level of salary one can expect. Many large urban areas offer greater benefits along with increased competition. Those willing to relocate for a job may have a higher chance of advancing their particular career regarding salary expectations.
BCBA professionals are uniquely positioned to reach out into the world to assist individuals with behavioral and emotional disorders, as well as back into the lab and the research facilities in which programs and approaches are developed. A board certified behavior analyst has both flexibility and freedom to accomplish the most good in the way he deems best, which is an ideal scenario in any discipline.
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