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What is a Board Certified Behaviour Analyst?

A Board Certified Behaviour Analyst (BCBA) is a professional who possesses a graduate-level certification in behaviour analysis. Professionals certified at the BCBA level are independent practitioners who provide behaviour analytic services and provide supervision to Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analysts (BCaBA), Registered Behaviour Technicians (RBT) or other professionals that have education in child development, behaviour analysis and/or social services. 


Please note that the information provided is a summary of the process for obtaining BCBA credentials. If you would like to review the process thoroughly please refer to the BCBA Handbook that outlines all the requirements for obtaining and maintaining BCBA certification.

Education & Certification

The Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is a not for profit corporation that was established in 1988 to assist with the needs of certifying and governing behaviour analysts. The mission of the this board is to  "protect consumers of behaviour-analytic services by systematically establishing, promoting, and disseminating the professional standards of practice." (BACB, 2023). The BACB is located in Colorado and up until January 1, 2023 it was responsible for the certification of all behaviour analysts utilizing the BCBA credentials worldwide. They have recently reduced their oversight and credentialing to Canada, Australia, United Kingdom and USA.

Educational Focus

Professionals who possess the BCBA credentials have completed a Masters level program that is has been reviewed and approved as an accredited program. In Ontario you will find the graduate level program completed by BCBAs is typically focused in one of the following areas (this is not an exhaustive list): behaviour analysis, applied behaviour analysis, education or special education with a focus in applied behaviour analysis, or applied disability studies

Supervised Hours & Examination

In addition to completing the educational requirements a BCBA must also have completed between 1500 and 2000 hours of supervised fieldwork (number of hours vary depending on the intensity of supervision provided). This field work must be overseen by a professional who meets all the outlined requirements by the BACB (e.g., experienced BCBA, approved registered psychologist). If working full time this equates to approximately 1-2 years of supervised work.

Upon completion of an approved graduate level program and supervised fieldwork, the individual would need to submit an application to the BACB to write the certification exam. This exam takes approximately 3-4 hours to write and the content of the exam includes both foundation and applications of behaviour analysis.

In Ontario, once an individual has successfully obtained the BCBA credentials they must complete an additional 3000 hours of behaviour analytic work, with a minimum of 1500 hours of supervisory tasks before they can be added to the Ontario Autism Program (OAP) provider list.

Employment & Ethics

As the field of behaviour analysis grows, BCBAs are being employed in various areas. Some sub specialities include: Behavioural Treatments of Autism & Other Differently Abled Populations, Organizational Behaviour Management, Behavioural Gerontology,  Behavioural Pediatrics, and Behaviour Analysis in Education are just a few of the different areas you may encounter a BCBA.

Every BCBA is obligated to follow these four core principles: benefit others, treat others with compassion, dignity & respect, behave with integrity, ensure own competence. Every BCBA is bound and obligated to follow the Ethics Code for Behaviour Analysts (2022). Within this document the details of a BCBA's ethical obligations are outlined. Should a BCBA violate a code within this document they may be reported to the BACB. Once a complaint is filed an investigation is completed by the Ethics board. Should a violation be confirmed, consequences for the BCBA are managed according to the severity of the violation.

What to Expect

BCBAs are very thorough when taking on a new client. They are required to complete specific steps to determining whether or not they are the right professional to be providing support. Some common components of beginning and participating in services with a BCBA would likely include the following (the following are examples and not an exhaustive list):

  • Initial information gathering and discussion regarding goals

  • Completion of a service agreement (i.e., outlining the terms of the service being provided)

  • Indirect assessment (e.g., questionnaires, surveys, interviews related to the goals)

  • Direct assessment (e.g., observation in-person or via video or directly implementing an assessment with the client)

  • Baseline measurement of the current level of behaviours

  • Description of goals, target behaviours and how they will be measured

  • Ongoing data collection & analysis of goal progression

  • Revisions to strategies and/or interventions as needed

  • Ongoing documentation and requests for feedback

When working with a BCBA the goal is always to collaborate and work together to improve the quality of life of the individual needing support and the community that surrounds them. 

If you would like to read more about Board Certified Behaviour Analysts (BCBA) or the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board (BACB) click here.

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