Can I Work For a School District as a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst)?

Board certified behavior analysts, also known as BCBAs, are currently in high demand. With the increasing numbers of children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disorders, many child development clinics and mental health organizations have been looking to hire qualified BCBAs. With all of the demand for BCBAs, you might be wondering if there is a need for board certified behavior analysts in schools or other educational institutions.

What is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst?

A board certified behavior analyst is a professional who practices applied behavior analysis or is a behavior specialist and has received additional education and credentials to allow them to practice independently. BCBAs are responsible for assessing and evaluating students with behavior, psychological, developmental or social disabilities and then developing a treatment plan that involves using applied behavior analysis, reinforcement and task analysis. In addition, behavior analysts also work with teachers, caregivers, parents and family members to help them better understand how to identify, modify or understand a child’s behavior. BCBAs also typically supervise registered behavior technicians and board certified assistant behavior analysts (BCaBA).

While the field of autism therapies is rapidly expanding, applied behavior analysis continues to remain the gold star standard of autism treatment. As such, it is often one of the only treatment options covered by insurance companies and accepted by school districts. BCBAs play an essential role in developing and administering ABA programs.

How are BCBAs Certified?

To be a BCBA, the practitioner must have a masters (BCBA) or doctoral degree (BCBA-D) from an acceptable graduate degree program, plus supervised experience and either a faculty appointment or additional coursework. For those who received a doctoral degree at least 10 years before, the education component can be replaced with post-doctoral experience. Regardless of the educational path taken, the BCBA applicant must also pass the BCBA examination before earning final certification as a board certified behavior analyst.

BCBAs in the Educational Field

Many children with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities are offered behavior services as part of their Individualized Education Plan (IEP). Many times, these services are offered in the way of a positive behavior support plan (PBSP). These plants are typically developed and monitored by a BCBA, or in some cases, by a BCaBA under the supervisions of a BCBA. This means that many school districts will employ at least one board certified behavior analyst to develop PBSPs.

In some school districts, board certified behavior analysts work directly with students in the special education setting. However, in many districts, direct work with the children is typically left to intervention specialists or BCaBAs. In these districts, BCBAs work as consultants and IEP team leaders, instructing and training teachers, aids and BCaBAs to work with the child. They might also conduct classroom-based evaluations to collect data on the behaviors of particular students, looking for antecedents to behaviors and giving the teacher tools to use in order to shape more appropriate classroom behaviors.

Related Resource: 10 Best Online ABA Master’s Degree Programs

With federal education laws such as the Every Student Succeeds Act and Free and Appropriate Public Education, as well as with increasing numbers of students diagnosed with autism spectrum disorders or other developmental disabilities, many school districts today are seeing the importance of hiring qualified board certified behavior analysts. Staffing BCBAs allows school districts to better meet the needs of students by having a behavior expert available to observe students, evaluate behaviors and design positive behavior support plans that are necessary for ensuring that every child has access to the school’s curriculum.