In March 2016, I could finally call myself a BCBA. It wasn’t easy to get there. It took 2 and a half years of hard work and sacrifices. You see at the time in Melbourne there were only 3 BCBAs. But none of them were looking at hiring people and they all had busy caseloads, which meant that no one was able to supervise me to do my practicum requirement. So I had to travel and live interstate, and even overseas, to build up my practical hours while I was studying online and trying to scrape together enough funds to make ends meet. And now even though I can finally call myself a BCBA, no one really knows what a BCBA even is!

So what exactly is a BCBA? BCBA stands for Board Certified Behaviour Analyst. The BACB, which stands for the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board, is the governing body for BCBAs and regulates our profession. They do what the Medical Board of Australia does for medical practitioners or what the Physiotherapy Board of Australia does for physiotherapists. The BACB determine the requirements for what you need to do to become certified, regulate our ethics and make sure BCBAs practice ethically and keep up to date with the current research. You can find more about the BACB here: http://bacb.com/about-the-bacb/

In order to become a BCBA, you have to fulfil several requirements which include:

  • Obtain a Master’s degree in education, psychology or behaviour analysis (I luckily met the requirements when it was still acceptable to have an allied health degree like speech pathology)
  • Complete a six course (ABA) sequence through a BACB approved university (only if you do not already hold a behaviour analysis Master’s degree)
  • Complete 1500 hours of supervised practice under a BCBA (this takes 1 year of full time work to complete)
  • Submit an application to the BACB, and once approved, pass a 4 hour final exam

As you can see, it is not an easy feat to become a BCBA. It takes a lot of hard work, especially if you are in Australia. In Australia, we currently do not have any universities that offer a behaviour analysis degree. I was lucky to already have my Masters of Speech Pathology, but I still had to do another 18 months of full time online study at an American university – and the fees there were not cheap! As I already said above, it is quite hard to find supervision here too. We are a growing profession though, with more people becoming certified every year.

At this point in time we also do not have any regulations in Australia stipulating who is qualified to deliver and supervise ABA programs. I do caution you though, when looking for someone to supervise your child’s ABA program, to make sure that you ask them what their experience is. We have people here in Australia who are a lot less qualified but are supervising ABA programs. Trust me when I say that there is A LOT of theory that you need to know – it took me 18 months to learn the basic principles, and I will continue to learn more every single day. The 1500 hours of intense supervision that I had was invaluable, and gave me the opportunity to apply the theory that I was learning.

Before I finish, I also wanted to add that a BCBA isn’t an “autism credential”. BCBAs don’t just work with children with autism. In fact, BCBAs can work with just about anyone. We use the basic principles of behaviour and apply it to so many different areas including:

  • Education
  • Speech Pathology
  • Organizational Behaviour Management (includes business performance; employee motivation and productivity)
  • Weight loss
  • Athletic performance
  • Mental health
  • Stroke and acquired brain injury
  • Sleep problems
  • Habit reversal
  • Road safety
  • Animal training

I hope you now have a better idea of what a BCBA is. If you would like any further information, please let me know!

So……what’s this BCBA certification all about?