BCBA: Board Certified Behavior Analyst Licensure

If you have given any consideration to pursuing a career as a behavior analyst, one of the most important steps is seeking licensure as a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA).

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) currently approves degree programs in behavior analysis as well as a specific set of coursework that can lead to certification in this field. The minimum degree level that you should pursue in order to become licensed in this area is a master’s degree. Some students choose to pursue a direct BCBA degree program, while others pair the BCBA coursework with a degree in counseling or education. Either is permissible for BCBA licensure.

If you are interested in being a professional in a field related to behavioral counseling, you should choose degree programs that can lead to licensure. Your state licensing agency can also be a helpful resource for you along the way since it generally sets the standards for licensure in your field.

Consider an online counseling program: Bachelor of Science in Applied Behavior Analysis Learn more.
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Licensure Requirements: An Overview

To obtain licensure as a BCBA, you must have a relevant degree, completed behavior analytic coursework, and the minimum requirement of supervised fieldwork hours. Generally, the two options to fulfilling your behavior analytic coursework requirements are a graduate program that the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) has accredited or a Verified Course Sequence (VCS) that the ABAI has also certified. Students can choose to pursue 2,000 hours of supervised independent fieldwork or 1,500 hours of concentrated supervised fieldwork to fulfill their experience hours.

The BACB also requires that upcoming licensees complete a board examination in behavior analysis as a final step toward pursuing licensure. This examination combines knowledge from both degree programs and field experiences. If you successfully complete this examination, you can earn your certification as a behavior analyst from the BACB and apply for individual licensure through your state. State requirements for licensure may vary, and you are encouraged to review your state’s licensure requirements prior to starting any degree program in this field.

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Counseling Programs for BCBA Licensure

Students interested in counseling fields can take advantage of the flexible degree options currently required by the BACB. Students currently undertaking a master’s in counseling, psychology, or education program can pursue future certification in applied behavior analysis (ABA) after completing their master's-level program, leading to licensure in the future. New college students looking for faster ways to get their certification can locate online master's in ABA programs to complete their curriculum requirements while finishing their graduate degree.

Below, our team of educational experts has pulled together a few examples of online degree programs to help you visualize your educational path toward licensure in this field. The degree programs can be found at online or traditional universities all over the country. If you have completed a master's degree in any of these areas, or even another related field, you could be considered for post-master's certification programs in ABA. Read more about these degree paths in the list below.

  • Online Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis: The most basic route to obtaining your BCBA licensure is through an online master’s in ABA degree programs. These degree programs can be found at traditional and online universities all over the country and include approved course sequences to help you move forward into licensure in your future. During these degree programs, you can learn more about the analysis of behavior, data collection, and intervention programs needed for behavior improvement.
  • Online Master’s in Counseling: To be considered for post-master's certification programs in ABA, students must have already graduated from an accredited master’s in counseling, psychology, or education program. The online master’s in counseling program can allow you to explore some of the common components of mental health, treatment methods, and analysis tools used by professionals in the field. Current ethical principles and laws surrounding this field can also lead to your success in this program. Once you have completed this program, you can move forward into certification programs specifically for licensure prospects.
  • Online Master’s in Psychology: You can also choose to pursue the psychological route for BCBA licensure during your education. Students may choose to complete their online master's in psychology prior to enrolling in a certification program to learn more about the psychological aspects of behavior that are currently known in this specialty area. Once you have successfully graduated from the online master’s in psychology, you can move forward to certification and licensure.
  • BCBA Certification Paths

    Those who wish to work in behavioral counseling may choose from a number of specific academic focuses and certification paths. Options include the following:

    • ABA
    • Behavioral science
    • Cognitive behavioral health
    • Behavior modification
    • Autism studies
    • Social behavior
    • Occupational behavior

    Learn More: How to Become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) 

    Career Options and Salary

    ABA is a relatively new field in comparison to counseling and psychology. Students currently considering a move into this field may be interested in learning how this degree program can get them involved in the field and in which fields they may be most successful. Our team has put together this helpful career information guide to enlighten you on ABA therapist careers in the U.S.

    • ABA Clinics: ABA clinics are a growing necessity in cities all over the country. These settings involve providing observation, behavior planning, and treatment for children in need of behavioral services. Children with autism are often serviced in these locations, as well as children with learning disabilities and other physical impairments. Clinics providing ABA services can employ BCBAs to initiate behavior planning and supervise the implementation of behavioral therapy conducted by registered behavior technicians.
    • Contractual Services / State Agencies: State agencies that work with delinquent youth and children in foster care often employ BCBAs to work in home with children under their care. The purpose of the BCBA in this setting is to analyze a child’s environment to determine antecedents of bad behavior, modify a child’s environment, and implement positive reinforcement techniques aimed at changing behavior. State agencies can seek out BCBAs to help teach families alternative methods for changing behavior for lasting positive change.
    • Schools: In educational settings, children with significant behavior problems can work with BCBAs who are employed to help with behavior change. BCBAs may conduct observations during normal school hours to identify factors in the classroom that may be contributing to behavior issues, and they may develop intervention plans that can be implemented during classroom hours and while in other areas throughout the schools. BCBAs can also train parents and teachers on how to implement strategies within a behavior plan to foster improvement during school and home hours.

    According to PayScale, BCBAs earned a median annual salary of $64,397 (2021). This salary can increase with specialized skill sets; for example, BCBAs with a specialization in ABA earned a median annual salary of $65,207 (2021), and BCBAs with a specialization in autism spectrum disorder (ASD) earned a median annual salary of $65,496 (2021).

    Once you have successfully completed your exam and earned your BCBA licensure, you may have access to a wide range of career options in several different specialized areas. Your title as a behavior analyst may be different depending on the type of work you do in the field and the organization that has hired you. Some common job titles for ABA professionals are:

    • Behavior analyst
    • Behavior technician
    • Behavior specialist
    • Interventionist
    • Autism specialist
    • Behavior therapist
    • Behavior consultant


    Source List: 

    ABAI Accreditation Board, Accredited Programs

    Association for Behavior Analysis International, Verified Course Sequence Directory

    Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Board Certified Behavior Analyst

    PayScale, Average Board Certified Behavior Analyst Salary

    PayScale, Average Board Certified Behavior Analyst with Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) Skills Salary

    PayScale, Average Board Certified Behavior Analyst with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD) Skills Salary

    List of Programs

    Capella University 🗹 Online

    BS in Psychology - Applied Behavior Analysis
    Capella University is HLC Accredited

    Capella University 🗹 Online

    Pepperdine University 🗹 Online

    The Chicago School 🗹 Online

    The Chicago School 🗹 Online

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