RBT to BCBA: How To Become Certified

Reviewed by:
Hannah Andreasen

May 17, 2022

While many may wish to become a BCBA, becoming an RBT first can be an accessible option because there are fewer requirements. However, RBTs can still become BCBCAs as they progress through the career path.


  • Registered Behavior Technician (RBT)

According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), an RBT is a paraprofessional certified in behavior analysis. They offer services in early childhood development centers, schools, medical centers, and even mental health facilities and perform these roles under the direction of the BCBA and BCaBA. 

  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA)

A BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) crafts a personalized care plan for children and adults on the spectrum to correct maladaptive behaviors and improve quality of life. BCBAs are responsible for crafting and implementing the plan itself, whereas an RBT is only qualified to assist in its executionn. Becoming a BCBA requires a master’s degree.

Requirements for RBTs and BCBAs

Prospective RBTs must:

  • Be at least 18 years old and hold a high school diploma or a GED
  • Clear a background check, indicating no criminal history or associations
  • Complete a 40-hour RBT-specific training program conducted by several agencies for new recruits and overseen by a supervisor who meets BACB qualifications
  • Pass the BACB-administered competency assessment by succeeding in all of the essential tasks such as measurement, assessment, skill acquisition, behavior reduction, documentation and reporting, and professional conduct
  • Adhere to the RBT Ethics Code, which is divided into three sections: ethical conduct, customer responsibility, and competence and service delivery

Applicants seeking BCBA certification must:

  • Hold a bachelor's degree in any discipline and enroll in a graduate degree in applied behavioral analysis or a similar field.
  • Complete 315 classroom hours of graduate-level classes in specified concentrations involving core concepts such as:
    • Ethical and professional conduct
    • Concepts and principles of behavior analysis
    • Research methods in behavior analysis
    • Applied behavior analysis
  • Complete any of the three types of experience training:
    • Supervised Independent Fieldwork - Candidates are provided with 2,000 hours and receive relevant experience under appropriate supervision.
    • Practicum - Candidates are provided with a minimum of 1,000 hours, and this type of experience is only available within a Verified Course Sequence (VCS)
    • Intensive Practicum - Candidates are provided with a minimum of 750 hours for completing the coursework under the highest level of supervision.

After meeting all the eligibility requirements, the selected candidates can schedule their exam appointments. The BCBA exam is conducted in four hours and consists of 150 multiple-choice questions with 10 ungraded, pilot questions. The exam focuses on evaluating the candidate's knowledge based on behavior analysis, experimental design, measurement, and assessment. After passing the BCBA exam and obtaining the certificate, some states may require licensure for practicing independently.

How long does it take to become a BCBA?

Generally, it takes four years for a bachelor's degree and two more years to earn a master’s degree. An additional year is often required to complete the required 2,000  hours of fieldwork. Therefore, one can expect to be certified as a BCBA within six to eight years.

Methods to become a BCBA

There are three main methods to become a BCBA:

  1. Behavior-analytic coursework

Starting with a graduate degree in a related field from an accredited institution, a prospective BCBA must then complete acceptable graduate coursework in behavior analysis and earn supervised experience, ranging from 750 to 2,000 hours. 

  1. Faculty teaching and research

For teaching or research fields, applicants must have a higher degree in a related field for a full-time faculty position at a teaching institution such as a university. Teaching behavior-analytic coursework to graduate students is required, and applicants should have published at least two peer-reviewed journals while demonstrating a solid understanding of the behavior therapy process. Once these expectations are met, those interested may apply to the BACB to receive supervised experience and become certified in ABA therapy.

  1. Postdoctoral experience

To get ABA therapy certification through postdoctoral experience, applicants must hold a postdoctoral degree conferred at least ten years ago in either behavior analysis, psychology, or education from a reputed institution. At least ten years of professional practice using this degree under relevant state regulations is required, such as practicing therapy or those with national professional credentials. It is acceptable to hold different credentials over this time, including being an RBT. Additionally, applicants must have at least 500 hours of supervised experience.


Applicants seeking work in ABA therapy can begin as an RBT and then slowly gather credentials to qualify for BCBA status. 

This process involves obtaining an undergraduate degree and completing relevant educational requirements as defined by the BACB. This coursework can take place over several years, so it is possible to work as an RBT to gain experience with ABA therapy over this period of time.

Also, potential BCBA therapists must pass the BCBA certification exam. Results are available immediately upon the conclusion of the test and upon success, certification will arrive via email.

Unfortunately, there is no way to become a BCBA using only RBT credentials. Applicants must achieve an advanced degree at an accredited or approved institution. 

If you are an RBT or BCBA looking to help provide children’s autism care, contact us to learn how you can join the team.

Songbird Therapy is a technology-enabled provider setting a higher standard for children’s autism care. With a deeply passionate team and innovative technology, we’re building a world where every child can access world-class care at home, uniquely tailored to them.