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How to Become a Certified Personal Behavioral Analyst

Research the requirements to become a certified personal behavioral analyst. Learn about the job duties and read the step-by-step process to start a career in behavior analysis.

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Do I Want to Be a Personal Behavior Analyst?

Certified personal behavior analysts work with people of all ages to improve client performance in school and work, as well as help clients develop behavioral patterns that allow them to deal with developmental and psychological disabilities. A certified analyst's duties include observing the behavior of a client, designing a treatment plan, implementing the plan, training other staff members to implement the plan, and monitoring the client's progress.

Behavior analysts work in office settings, often located in schools, homes, and clinics. Such analysts usually work full-time, but they may enjoy flexibility in setting their own schedules. Some may meet with clients in the evenings or during weekends. Depending on an analyst's clientele, there may be risks associated with clients who may be emotionally charged or aggressive.

Job Requirements

Certification as a behavior analyst is required by many employers; however, it may not be necessary for all positions. In some states, including Kentucky, Oklahoma and Wisconsin, licensure is required to work as a behavior analyst.

The following table presents the requirements for starting a career as a certified behavior analyst:

Common Requirements
Degree Level Minimum of a bachelor's degree*; master's degree preferred by employers**
Degree Field Behavior analysis, natural science, education or other related field*
Licensure and Certification Licensure required in some states (requirements vary)*; board certification required by many employers**
Experience 1500-hour work experience is required to qualify for certification*
Key Skills Observation skills, ability to communicate with and train staff, ability to communicate with clients' families, analytical skills**
Additional Requirements_ Valid driver's license may be required for some positions**

Sources: *Behavior Analysis Certification Board, **Job listings from employers, September 2012.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

An undergraduate degree in psychology, applied behavior analysis or a similar field is preferred for individuals pursuing careers as personal behavioral analysts. A bachelor's program in psychology generally includes core or elective coursework in applied behavior analysis or behavior therapy. In addition to methods, techniques and principles, bachelor's programs in behavior analysis commonly cover data collection and analysis topics.

Success Tip

  • Complete an internship or volunteer in a behavior analysis setting. Completing an internship or volunteering can help undergraduates demonstrate their commitment to the field of behavior analysis. Graduate programs like to know that students have spent time in a behavior analysis environment, and some programs even require that students have completed such an experience. Completing an internship or volunteering can have other benefits, such as exposing students to new research in the field and helping them develop relationships with professionals who may be able to supply letters of recommendation for graduate school applications.

Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree

Master's programs in applied behavior analysis can advance undergraduate skills in techniques, methods and philosophies but also expand research work. Applied behavior analysis graduate programs require students to complete hands-on experience through internships or practicum coursework. Many master's programs also require graduate students to complete a thesis project on a topic related to applied behavior analysis. Additionally, it's common for programs to offer electives in a specific concentration, such as developmental disabilities.

Step 3: Complete a Supervised Independent Fieldwork Placement

The Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) regulates the format of approved fieldwork placements. Graduates of a master's program are required to complete 1500 hours of work experience, working no fewer than ten hours per week and no more than 30 hours per week. The fieldwork placement typically takes one year to complete. An approved behavior analyst or behavior analysis instructor must monitor the fieldwork and conduct direct supervision every two weeks for a total of 75 hours throughout the placement.

Step 4: Become Certified

Once master's graduates have completed the fieldwork placement, they may apply to take the BACB examination to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). Applicants may apply online through the BACB website and must submit verification of all coursework and experience requirements to be considered eligible to sit for the exam. When the application has been accepted, the certification candidate may schedule a date to take the computer-based exam at one of many locations across the country.

The exam is available throughout January, May and September. After taking the exam and receiving verification that they have passed the exam, candidates become BCBAs and will be added to the certificant registry.

Success Tip

  • Check state requirements. Licensure as a behavior analyst isn't required in all states, and for the states that have licensing laws, requirements can vary. Prospective analysts should check with their state to make sure they've met all qualifications if their state requires a license for this career.

Step 5: Maintain Certification and Meet Continuing Education Requirements

BCBAs must renew their certification annually by paying a fee to the BACB. Additionally, a recertification process requiring continuing education hours or retaking the certification exam is required every three years. If recertifying through continuing education credits, a BCBA must complete 36 credits. The BACB's approved continuing education sources include graduate-level university courses, BACB events and conference presentations, seminars and workshops.

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