A college education is essential if you want to be an assistant behavior analyst. This role involves working under supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) to assess the impact of environmental variables on behavior and alter those variables to change behavior. Although the requirements to become a Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst (BCaBA) are less demanding than those needed for the BCBA credential, they still include an undergraduate degree and behavior analysis coursework in specific content areas. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board doesn’t mandate specific course titles, only curriculum content areas, so the programs of study that equip students with this knowledge may address these content requirements through different classes.
Beyond the Degree Requirements
The minimum degree requirement to qualify for the BCaBA credential is a bachelor’s degree, which means that students can, in theory, prepare for this career in just four years of college. However, students considering this occupation should remember that the educational requirements for this career path don’t end with the level of degree. Because the Behavior Analyst Certification Board accepts undergraduate degrees in any discipline of study, students can choose whatever major they like – but, if their program of study does not meet the separate coursework requirements for certification, they will need to complete further studies in the field of behavior analysis. For assistant behavior analysts, the educational path can take the form of a bachelor’s degree program that meets the Certification Board’s coursework requirements or a separate certificate program that offers this coursework.
The coursework for the BCaBA certification can be taken at the undergraduate or graduate level. If you may want to become a BCBA later in your career, you should choose a graduate certificate program so your coursework transfers to this higher-level credential.
Content Areas Required for Board Certification
The six content areas of study required for becoming an assistant behavior analyst are the same as those needed to be a certified behavior analyst, but fewer hours of study in these subjects are required. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board’s newest task list, which will be implemented for certification candidates beginning in 2022, requires a total of 225 hours of coursework for BCaBA certification, compared to 315 hours for the BCBA credential.
Of those hours, 30 must be spent learning about compliance code and disciplinary systems of the Certification Board and professionalism in this field. Next are the requirements for studies in foundations of behavior analysis, including 45 hours on the philosophical underpinnings, concepts and principles of the field and 30 hours on measurement, data display and interpretation and experimental design in behavior analysis research. These requirements include understanding types of behaviors, responses and response classes, reinforcement schedules and experiment design and data collecting procedures.
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Much of the work done in the behavior analysis field is applied, so unsurprisingly, knowledge of applications is crucial to becoming eligible for board certification. Aspiring BCaBAs spend 45 hours on coursework in behavior assessment, 60 hours of coursework on behavior change procedures and interventions and 15 hours studying personnel supervision and management. This coursework should include studies in performing behavior assessments, interpreting findings and using different methods of intervention, such as token economies, modeling and imitation training and conditioned reinforcers, to prompt behavior changes.
Despite their assistant status, BCaBAs are qualified to supervise lower-level behavior technicians, which is why studies in personnel supervision and management are important.
Examples of Behavior Analysis Coursework in BCaBA Programs
There’s no one right way for schools to create a curriculum that meets the BCaBA requirements. Schools can approach this challenge in different ways. One behavior analysis graduate certificate program can use courses such as Introduction to Behavioral Intervention in Autism, Management Strategies in Applied Behavioral Intervention, Teaching and Positive Behavioral Support in Autism and Functional Analysis and Treatment of Challenging Behavior to cover multiple content areas. Other graduate certificate programs may break the subject matter down into more focused courses, such as Ethics of Behavior Analysts, Principles of Applied Behavior Analysis, Single Case Research Design and Behavioral Intervention.
In bachelor’s degree programs in behavior analysis, students typically take major coursework in psychology as well as specific coursework in Autism Spectrum Disorders in Young Children, Exceptional Needs Children and Program Design and Evaluation.