Become a Certified Behavior Analyst: Education and Career Roadmap

Mar 05, 2020

Learn how to become a certified behavior analyst. Research the education requirements, training and licensure information, and experience required for starting a career in behavior analysis.

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Certified Behavior Analyst

A certified behavior analyst works with children and adults to improve performance at school or work and to mitigate the effects of disabilities. He or she would observe and record the behavior of a client and devise a plan utilizing conditioning and reinforcement methods to retrain the client to change his or her automatic responses to new, more productive ones.

A behavior analyst might work at a school, a client's home, a clinic, or a client's workplace. Many behavior analysts work full-time, though those that are self-employed may control their own schedules and set their own hours, working fewer than 40 per week if they choose. There is a small risk of personal harm while working with clients that have behavioral issues or emotional control problems.

Career Requirements

So, what is required to become a certified behavior analyst?

Degree Level Master's degree
Degree Field Applied behavior analysis
Licensure and Certification State licensure varies according to state; national certification is required by most employers
Experience 1,500 hours of work experience is required to qualify for certification
Key Skills Observational skills, communicate skills, and analytical skills
Salary $59,810 per year (median for certified behavior analyst)

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

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The first step toward becoming a behavior analyst is completing a bachelor's degree program. Students can choose to major in any field, but opting for a related field such as psychology, education, or social work might better prepare a student for graduate school.

Success Tip

Gain experience in behavior analysis. Many graduate programs require that students complete a work experience related to behavior analysis or otherwise demonstrate a commitment to the field. Completing an internship or work experience can have other benefits, too, such as putting students in touch with professionals who might be able to supply letters of recommendation for graduate school applications.

Step 2: Earn a Master's Degree

A master's degree program in behavior analysis typically covers theory and techniques of behavior therapy and includes practical hands-on training courses and an independent capstone experience or thesis. Students are trained to evaluate clients, develop and implement treatment programs, and track a clients' progress. Electives often allow students to focus on a specific developmental disorder. Master's programs typically last two years.

Step 3: Supervised Fieldwork

The Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) publishes stipulations that define an appropriate fieldwork placement. Certification candidates must complete 1,500 hours of work experience, usually undertaken over the course of one year. Of those 1,500 hours, at least 75 hours must be directly supervised by an approved behavior analyst or behavior analysis instructor.

Step 4: Become Certified

The BACB administers the Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certification examination, which advises candidates to apply for the exam through the BACB website. Application requires verification of all coursework and experience requirements. Once a candidate's application has been accepted, he or she can schedule a date to take the computer-based exam, which is available across the U.S. throughout January, May, and September. Once a candidate has received verification that he or she has passed the exam, he or she will be added to national registry and can begin to use the title Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA).

Step 5: Maintain Certification

Certification must be renewed annually by paying a fee to the BACB. Analysts must recertify every three years by submitting evidence of completing 36 continuing education credits or retaking the certification exam. Approved continuing education options include completing or instructing graduate-level university courses, completing events sponsored by the BACB, and completing or instructing conference presentations, seminars, or workshops.

Obtaining a bachelor's degree and a master's degree in behavior analysis, completing supervised hours, getting certified and continuing certification, and learning each year, are the steps required to become a certified behavior analyst.

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