How to Become a Behavior Analyst

Behavior analysts work with patients to overcome mental and social disabilities. In schools, this often translates to support for students with autism and developmental disabilities. BAs use principles and theories derived from studying behavior to treat social, behavioral, and learning problems.

BAs assess and evaluate, then treat students with mental and social disabilities through ABA techniques, using positive reinforcement, shaping, prompt fading, and task analysis to drive progress. Using these ABA techniques, BAs can analyze and customize treatment for each student. They also train and educate teachers and caregivers, families, and inform school programs related to mental and social disabilities.

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What is a Behavior Analyst?

Behavior analysts design and implement therapy programs to help treat patients with mental, social or learning disorders. They use ABA techniques such as positive reinforcement, shaping, prompt fading and task analysis. They also collect data during sessions to evaluate behaviors and monitor progress. Behavior analysts often work with individuals on the autism spectrum and those with ADHD. 

BCBA Education Requirements

The minimum educational requirement to become a BCBA is a master’s degree in ABA or other master’s degree with a concentration in ABA. Graduates with a bachelor’s degree can become a board certified assistant behavior analyst (BCaBA) and work under the supervision of a BCBA practitioner. BCaBAs may supervise the work of registered behavior technicians (RBT)

5 Steps to Becoming a Behavior Analyst

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board is the national governing body that establishes the rules for becoming a board certified behavior analyst, or BCBA. Here are the common steps to consider to become a certified behavioral analyst.

  1. Earn Your Bachelor’s Degree

    Becoming a behavior analyst starts with earning a bachelor’s degree. Although you may choose to major in any field, a bachelor’s in psychology, social work or even an applied behavior analysis degree would better prepare students for graduate school. Gaining some work experience in the practice of behavior analysis can also prepare you for graduate school.

  2. Earn a Master’s in Applied Behavior Analysis

    The entry level of education to become a behavior analyst is a master’s in applied behavior analysis, or a master’s in education or psychology with a concentration in ABA. ABA graduate programs provide coursework on theories and research in behavior analysis as well as fieldwork for real-world application and practice. To ensure eligibility for the BCBA certification exam, be sure to select an ABA master’s program accredited by the ABAI-Accreditation Board or a graduate program with a curriculum that meets the Verified Course Sequence. There are many institutions that offer ABA master’s programs online.

  3. Complete Supervised Independent Fieldwork

    Eligibility for the BCBA certification exam also requires supervised fieldwork. This experience is to help students practice behavior therapy under the supervision of a certified BCBA. According to the current BACB experience standards (PDF, 3.7 MB), there is the option of completing 1,500 hours of supervised independent fieldwork or 750-1,000 hours of practicum, which includes a higher percentage of supervised hours. Fieldwork requirements for the BCBA certification exam are changing in 2022 requiring 1,500-2,000 hours of fieldwork.

  4. Get Your Board Certified Behavior Analyst License

    Once you complete your coursework and fieldwork, you can apply for the BCBA certification exam. Passing the exam is the final step to becoming an entry-level certified behavior analyst.

    Most states also require a license to practice as behavior analysts. BCBA certification is required to apply for a behavior analyst license. Below is a list of the states that require behavior analyst licensing:

    • Alabama
    • Alaska
    • Arizona
    • Connecticut
    • Georgia
    • Hawaii
    • Illinois
    • Indiana
    • Iowa
    • Kansas
    • Kentucky
    • Louisiana
    • Maryland
    • Massachusetts
    • Michigan
    • Mississippi
    • Missouri
    • Montana
    • Nevada
    • New Jersey
    • New York
    • North Carolina
    • North Dakota
    • Ohio
    • Oklahoma
    • Oregon
    • Rhode Island
    • South Dakota
    • Tennessee
    • Texas
    • Utah
    • Vermont
    • Virginia
    • Washington
    • Wisconsin
    • Wyoming

  5. Maintain Your Behavior Analyst Certification

    To maintain BCBA certification, you must complete continuing education, adhere to the ethical requirements and submit an application with fees for recertification every two years. Continuing education helps BCBAs stay current and relevant with behavior analysis developments. BCBAs can obtain continuing education credits through ABA graduate courses or by participating in ABA conferences, seminars and workshops. State behavior analyst licenses also require renewal every two years.

How to Find a Job After Becoming a Behavioral Analyst

Consider joining a professional organization that provides a network of professional practitioners. The Association of Professional Behavior Analysis (APBA) and the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) are membership organizations that provide services for behavior analysts including job placement and continuing education.

Demand for Certified Behavior Analysts

National demand for certified behavior analysts is increasing rapidly (PDF, 684 KB), with the number of certified behavior analyst jobs almost doubling from 2018 (16,109 postings) to 2019 (28,967 postings). Demand is strongest in California, Massachusetts, Texas, Illinois and Florida, with nearly 48% of all job postings concentrated in these states.

Salary for Behavior Analysts

The BLS groups ABA careers with substance abuse and mental health counselors. The median pay for this group is $48,520 per year. Careers in behavior analysis can be found in various fields including health care, educational services and social assistance.

Professional Affiliations and Resources for Behavior Analysts

  • Behavior Analyst Certification Board 
    The BACB is a nonprofit established in 1998 to meet professional credentialing needs identified by behavior analysts, governments and consumers of behavior analysis services. The BACB establishes the requirements to become a certified behavior analyst.
  • Association for Behavior Analysis International
    ABAI is a membership organization for those interested in the philosophy, science, application and teaching of behavior analysis. ABAI provides many services to its members and the field, including job placement, continuing education, scholarly journals and discussion forums.
  • Association of Professional Behavior Analysts
    APBA is a nonprofit membership organization whose mission is to promote and advance the science-based practice of applied behavior analysis. APBA carries out that mission by informing public policies and providing education and resources for professional practitioners of ABA.

Last Updated August 2023