Assistant behavior analyst is a worthwhile career in a subfield of psychology that you don’t need a graduate degree to attain. In this role, you provide support for the activities involved in behavior analysis, including performing behavior assessments through interviews and questionnaires and putting together intervention plans that help clients improve behaviors. Although the education needed to become an assistant behavior analysis is less rigorous than that of a licensed psychologist – or a behavior analyst – college studies are still an important part of preparing for this occupation, as is fieldwork experience. In many states, achieving board certification or licensure is essential to practicing in this role.
A College Education
People are often quick to say that you can’t work in the field of psychology with just a bachelor’s degree, but, as the position of assistant behavior analyst proves, that isn’t quite true. While you can’t become a psychologist without going on to earn an advanced degree – usually a doctorate – you can become qualified for certification as an assistant behavior analyst with only a bachelor’s degree. Your undergraduate degree doesn’t necessarily have to be in psychology, either, since the Behavior Analyst Certification Board accepts a bachelor’s degree in any subject, as long as you earned your degree from a school recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Although your choice of major doesn’t affect your ability to seek certification, you must complete certain mandatory coursework in the field of behavior analysis. You can complete these required courses through different types of programs, including bachelor’s degree programs in behavior analysis, undergraduate certificate programs and graduate certificate programs. It’s wise for students to plan ahead when selecting a program to make sure that it fits their needs and their short-term and long-term career goals. If you want to become a board certified assistant behavior analyst (BCaBA) as quickly as possible, a bachelor’s degree program that meets the Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s requirements for the assistant-level credential may be the best option in the short-term. However, if you think you may want to move up from your assistant role to become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) someday, then it may be wiser to earn a bachelor’s degree first and then complete a graduate certificate that qualifies you for the BCaBA credential. Otherwise, the undergraduate-level coursework you took in behavior analysis may not count toward your BCBA requirements, which specify that coursework must be taken at the graduate level.
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board is the entity that sets the coursework and other requirements for certification for BCaBAs, BCBAs and others in the behavior analysis field. Under the newest certification requirements, aspiring assistant behavior analysts will need to complete 225 hours of study. Coursework in behavior assessment, behavior change interventions and procedures, data measurement and experimental design, the philosophical concepts and principles of behavior analysis, personnel supervision and professionalism and code compliance make up the required curriculum.
Although in most areas of study BCaBA requirements are less rigorous than BCBA requirements, candidates for both certifications need the same number of hours of study – 45 and 60, respectively – in behavior assessment and behavior change procedures.
Real-World Training Through Fieldwork
There is a lot to learn to succeed in the world of behavior analysis, but certain skills simply can’t be mastered until the student has the opportunity to put them into practice by applying them outside the classroom. To help students develop these skills, they must complete fieldwork experience prior to becoming certified.
Under the supervision of an established BCBA, students preparing for an assistant behavior analysis role must complete 1,000 hours of independent fieldwork, the Behavior Analyst Certification Board reported. At least 50 percent of the candidate’s fieldwork hours must be spent on what the Behavior Analyst Certification Board considers “unrestricted activities,” which include performing behavior assessments, collecting and graphic data, meeting with clients and caregivers and educating intervention staff on how to implement individualized treatment plans and programs.
Candidates can also complete hours in practicum or intensive practicum experience. Generally, practicum hours count for more credit, requiring 670 to qualify for certification, while intensive practicum hours stretch even further, requiring just 500.
Acquiring Board Certification
An undergraduate degree, fulfillment of behavior analysis coursework requirements and fieldwork hours generally complete the eligibility requirements to seek certification. The next step is to earn a passing score on the BCaBA Examination. Offered in February, May, August and November each year, this four-hour computer-administered exam includes 130 graded multiple-choice questions.
In recent years, the pass rate for first-time BCaBA Exam test-takers has decreased from 71 percent down to 62 percent.