Who Can Take the BCBA Exam?

The journey to becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) is rigorous and rewarding. The BCBA credential is highly respected in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA), signifying a professional’s expertise and commitment to ethical and effective practice. But who is eligible to take the BCBA exam? Let’s break down the requirements set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB).

Educational Requirements

To be eligible for the BCBA exam, candidates must meet specific educational criteria. The BACB outlines three main pathways:

  1. Graduate Degree Pathway:
    • Candidates must hold a minimum of a graduate degree (master’s or doctoral) in behavior analysis, education, or psychology from an accredited institution.
    • The coursework must cover content areas specified by the BACB, including ethical and professional conduct, concepts and principles of behavior analysis, research methods, and behavior change procedures.
  2. Faculty Teaching and Research Pathway:
    • Candidates must have a graduate degree in any field.
    • They must complete a full-time faculty position in behavior analysis that includes teaching courses and conducting research for a specified period.
    • This pathway is typically suited for individuals who have substantial teaching and research experience in behavior analysis.
  3. BCBA-D Pathway:
    • This is for those seeking the doctoral designation (BCBA-D).
    • Candidates must meet the requirements of the Graduate Degree Pathway and also hold a doctoral degree in behavior analysis, education, or psychology.

Supervised Fieldwork

In addition to educational requirements, candidates must complete supervised fieldwork to gain practical experience. There are two types of supervised fieldwork:

  1. Supervised Independent Fieldwork:
    • A minimum of 2,000 hours of supervised experience in behavior analysis.
    • Supervision must be provided by a qualified supervisor and meet specific BACB requirements.
  2. Practicum or Intensive Practicum:
    • Practicum involves 1,000 hours of supervised experience, while Intensive Practicum requires 750 hours.
    • These must be part of an approved university program and include frequent supervision and feedback.

Ethics and Professional Conduct

Candidates must adhere to the BACB’s ethics requirements, which include:

  • Ethics Code for Behavior Analysts: Understanding and committing to the professional and ethical guidelines established by the BACB.
  • Criminal Background Check: Some states and employers may require a background check to ensure the candidate’s suitability for working with vulnerable populations.

Examination Application

Once the educational and fieldwork requirements are met, candidates can apply to take the BCBA exam. The application process involves:

  • Documentation: Submitting proof of completed coursework and supervised fieldwork.
  • Application Fee: Paying the applicable fees as outlined by the BACB.
  • Approval: Awaiting approval from the BACB to sit for the exam.

Preparing for the Exam

Preparation for the BCBA exam is crucial. Candidates should:

  • Review the BACB Task List: Familiarize themselves with the content areas and tasks that will be tested.
  • Study Materials: Utilize textbooks, study guides, and practice exams.
  • Study Groups: Collaborate with peers to deepen understanding of complex topics.
  • Professional Development: Attend workshops, seminars, and conferences to stay current with developments in the field.


The BCBA exam is designed to ensure that only qualified individuals become certified behavior analysts. The eligibility criteria are stringent, reflecting the importance of having competent professionals in the field. By meeting the educational requirements, gaining supervised experience, and adhering to ethical standards, candidates can successfully navigate the path to becoming a BCBA. The effort and dedication required to meet these standards ensure that BCBAs are well-prepared to make meaningful contributions to the lives of individuals they serve.

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