ABA Therapist Certification and Training

Are you interested in becoming a certified ABA therapist? Learn about the certification and training process here.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
August 13, 2023
Published On
August 13, 2023

The Importance Of Getting ABA Certification

Applied behavior analysis is a type of therapy that's centered around behavior and the consequences derived from it.

This form of therapy can be administered to enhance positive behaviors and reduce harmful ones.

Some areas of focus in applied behavior analysis include education, clinical behavior analysis, health and fitness, autism and developmental disabilities, and substance use disorder treatment.

This guide offers a comprehensive overview of the certification and training needed to become an ABA therapist.

Types of ABA Therapist Certification

Anyone who wants to become an ABA therapist will first need to earn some type of ABA certification. In many cases, this certification is provided by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. The three primary credentials that you can take steps to earn include:

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

The main accreditation body for these certification programs is the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

ABA Therapist Certification Requirements

If you're looking to apply for an ABA certification, there are certain requirements you must meet. The exact requirements depend on the type of certification you'd like to earn.

BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)

The BCBA certification is available to graduate-level applicants and provides professionals with the ability to operate as independent practitioners.

Once you earn a BCBA certification, you'll be tasked with supervising registered behavior technicians and board certified assistant behavior analysts.

Along with a graduate degree in applied behavior analysis, you'll also need to complete extensive training, which include a set amount of time in hands-on experience. Before you receive your certification, you must take an examination.

BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst)

This type of ABA certification is available at the undergraduate level. If you want to earn the certification, you'll first need to obtain a bachelor's degree in applied behavior analysis. The degree could also focus on education or psychology with a specialization in applied behavior analysis.

Regardless of the degree you select, make sure that it includes at least 15 hours of behavior-related coursework.

When you apply for this certification, you must provide proof of the coursework you completed as well as a timeline of supervised practical experience you've received.

Just like other ABA certifications, the process ends with you taking an exam. If you pass it, you'll receive your certification. Once you earn the BCaBA certification, you'll be directly supervised by BCBA professionals. If you want to maintain your certification, continuing education is required.

RBT (Registered Behavior Technician)

A registered behavior technician (RBT) is a professional who applies behavior analytic services. They are given an ABA assistant certification.

While they don't design treatment plans, they are tasked with adhering to the directions given to them by professionals with higher ABA certifications. If you want to obtain this certification, you must:

  • Have a high school diploma or college degree
  • Be 18 years old or older
  • Pass a background check
  • Complete 40 hours or more of training
  • Pass an RBT competency assessment
  • Pass an RBT examination
  • Finish a course in professional conduct and ethics

ABA Therapy Training Programs

Training for applied behavior analysis is very similar to the training that behavioral and medical health professionals undergo. Along with the initial academic training, experience will need to be obtained in a clinical setting that's supervised by a licensed ABA therapist.

The clinical experiences you obtain allow you to develop the skills needed to resolve clinical problems in various settings.During Training, you'll learn all of the skills necessary to become an ABA practitioner, which extend to:

  • Implementing behavior-analytic programs
  • Designing behavioral systems
  • Implementing and monitoring skill-acquisition and behavior-reduction programs
  • Performing assessments pertaining to behavioral interventions

The on-hands experience that's needed before obtaining the BCBA certification consists of either an intensive practicum or standard practicum.

A standard practicum requires 1,000 hours of experience under four supervisors. In comparison, an intensive practicum requires 750 hours of experience under eight supervisors.

If you're not taking a graduate program, training occurs via independent field experience. In this scenario, 1,500 hours of total experience is needed.

Financial Aid and Scholarship Opportunities

There are numerous financial aid and scholarship opportunities available to prospective students who are looking to enter a career as an ABA therapist. For instance, SABA grants are available from the Society for the Advancement of Behavioral Analysis.

They provide annual grants to certain students who will advance the field of applied behavior analysis. They strive to fund graduate research projects on different ABA topics.

Considerable student resources are also available from the Association of Behavior Analysis.

These resources are mainly given to students who are just entering the field and are taking a related degree.

One of the scholarship opportunities you can apply for involves the Autism Recovery Foundation Behavior Analysis scholarship.

This scholarship is available to graduate students who want to pursue advanced studies pertaining to applied behavioral analysis. The scholarship is awarded depending on the merit of the advanced research that the student performs.

Another grant opportunity is available through the U.S. Department of Education, which offers special education grants to individuals who are looking to obtain degrees in applied behavior analysis and developmental psychology.

Depending on your specific focus during your studies, there are several different grants you can select from.

Preparing for the ABA Therapist Certification Exam

Before you're given a license, you must first pass an exam, which differs somewhat with each type of certification.

If you're completing a graduate program in the attempt to earn your BCBA certification, the exam you take will be comprised of 150 questions, all of which use the multiple-choice format.

These questions cover client-centered responsibilities and behavior analytic skills.

If you want to pass this exam, you'll need to answer at least 114 of the 150 questions correctly, which equates to a score of 76%. If you pass the exam, all that's left is for the Behavior Analyst Certification Board to verify your certification and send it to you.

Cost of ABA Therapy Certification and Training

Your tuition and training costs will vary depending on the program you take, the school you enter, and the level of education you receive.

For instance, the costs for a graduate degree are much higher than the costs of an undergraduate one. When it's time for you to apply for your certification, keep in mind that the exam and certification application will cost you $245. If you don't pass on your first attempt, retakes cost $140 apiece.

Continuing Education Requirements for ABA Therapists

All ABA therapists are required to obtain comprehensive continuing education, which can involve everything from completing traditional coursework to attending seminars.

Completing this education allows you to maintain your certification.

The continuing education you receive will keep you up to date on the latest advancements in the industry that may allow you to improve your skills and provide patients with better care.

Regardless of the type of ABA therapist certification you obtain, you'll need to take continuing education every two years to make sure that your certification is renewed.

Keep in mind that any extra continuing education credits you earn in a two-year span won't carry over to the next two years.

Since continuing education is always measured in units, different ABA professionals require a different number of units to renew their certification.

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board provides professionals with the ability to choose among seven different forms of continuing education, which include everything from seminars to classes. Each type of continuing education is worth a different number of units.

The same courses can't be repeated to obtain more units. There are also mandated minimums that you must take into account.

An example of a mandated minimum is that a certain amount of classroom instruction must be completed. If you need to renew a BCBA license, you'll need to obtain more continuing education than any other ABA therapist.

A total of 32 units are needed every two years. Four of these units must be obtained in ethics.

If you supervise other ABA professionals, three of the units need to focus on supervision. As for a BCaBA, your continuing education workload will be easier. In the span of two years, you'll need to earn 20 continuing education units, four of which must be in ethics.

If you want to begin a career that involves making a difference with people who are suffering from behavioral issues, the applied behavior analysis field gives you the opportunity to explore numerous career opportunities.

Now that you know how much training is required and what certification you must obtain, you're ready to get started on this journey.


  1. https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/certification/
  2. https://www.abadegreeprograms.net/faq/what-types-of-certifications-are-necessary-for-an-applied-behavior-analyst/
  3. https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisedu.org/how-to-become-aba-therapist/