ABA Therapist Certification and Training

Want to become a certified and trained ABA therapist? Read on to learn about the requirements and steps to take.

Ruben Kesherim
June 22, 2023

ABA Therapist Certification and Training

ABA Certification Options

Several different certification levels exist that you can pursue to become an ABA therapist.

ABA Certification Options

BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst):

BCBAs have graduate degrees in ABA therapy and have passed the BCBA certification exam. They typically work in a supervisory capacity and are trained to design treatment plans for patients. They also have prior hands-on professional experience.

RBT (Registered Behavior Technician):

RBTs work under the supervision of BCBAs and BcaBAs and work hands-on with therapy patients. They implement treatment plans as designed by supervisory therapists. A high school diploma or GED is the minimal amount of formal training needed to become an RBT.

BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst):

BCaBAs function as assistants to BCBAs and oversee the work of RBTs. To become one, you must have a bachelor's degree, complete 15 hours of behavior-related coursework and obtain a certain amount of time working under the guidance of a BCBA.

CAS (Certified Autism Specialist):

A CAS is a therapist who is certified to work specifically with patients with autism. BCBAs can become CAS certified. Likewise, therapists, psychologists and other mental health professionals can obtain CAS credentials for their own practices.

AC (Autism Certificate):

AC credentials are available to educational professionals, home care workers and others who provide services to people with autism. AC does not require a graduate degree. Applicants must be employed in a setting that provides autism support and complete hands-on therapeutic experience.

Education Requirements for ABA Therapy

The amount of education you must acquire prior to joining the ABA therapy field depends on what kind of certification you pursue. The top tier ABA therapists, such as BCBAs, are required to obtain a master's degree in psychology or education. They must also sit for and pass the required BCBA certification exam to become certified ABA therapists.

Other levels of ABA therapists, such as RBTs, are not required to obtain master's degrees but rather than pursue ABA therapy certification with just a high school degree, GED or a bachelor's degree.

RBTs typically only need high school diplomas or GEDs while BCaBAs only are required to obtain a bachelor's degree and a finish a certain number of therapy-related classes.

Some levels of ABA therapy, such as CAS, require the same higher levels of education as BCBAs.

However, they also require additional completion of hands-on experience or formal classroom training. AC-level ABA therapy likewise requires applicants complete a certain number of hands-on training and work experience prior to becoming certified.

Additionally, many types of ABA therapists must also continue their educations with refresher courses or taking new training as it becomes available. RBTs must take annual tests to maintain their credentials.

Certification Options for ABA Therapists

ABA therapists can pursue a variety of certification options that allow them to work closely with patients with autism. These options include:

  • BCBA, or Board Certified Behavior Analyst
  • BCaBA, or Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst
  • RBT, or Registered Behavior Technician
  • CAS, or Certified Autism Specialist
  • AC, or Autism Certificate

Each of these five different ABA therapist certification options require different levels of formal training and hands-on experience.

They also all differ in what types of services ABA therapists can provide to patients with autism.

BCBAs and CAS ABA therapists, for example, are permitted to design and implement treatment plans for patients. They are also certified to supervise the work of other ABA therapists, most notably BCaBAs and RBTs.

They can likewise open their own private practices if they prefer not to work in a school or mental health facility.

BCaBAs can also supervise RBTs. However, they cannot open their own practices. They must work under the supervision of BCBAs and assist in implementing treatment plans for patients.

RBTs, as well as AC-level ABA therapists, work hands-on with patients with autism. They carry out the treatment plans as designed by BCBAs and CAS therapists.

Training Programs for ABA Therapy

ABA therapists undergo different levels of training, depending on what kind of certification they choose to pursue. RBTs, for example, are only required to obtain a high school education or a GED to undergo hands-on training and take the certification exam.

They are not required to complete any level of college or university training before becoming certified as registered behavior technicians.

AC therapists likewise only need high school diplomas or GEDs to become certified for this level of ABA therapy.

AC certification is open to healthcare and educational professionals, as well as home care providers for people with autism.

The higher levels of ABA therapy require more formalized training. BCaBAs, for example, must obtain at least a bachelor's degree and complete 15 hours' worth of psychology-related courses.

They also must complete a certain number of hands-on training under the supervision of a BCBA.BCaBas also must have bachelor's degrees in education or psychology and work under the supervision of BCBAs.

They also must continue their educations and keep their training updated to maintain certification.BCBAs must obtain the highest level of formal training. They are required to complete a master's degree in education or psychology. They must also pass the BCBA exam to become certified in the state where they plan on pursuing employment and ultimately working.

Continued Educating for ABA Therapists

ABA therapists are required to maintain their certification by undergoing continuing education each year. The types and amounts of continuing education each level of ABA therapy requires varies.BCBAs, for example, are required to undergo 32 hours of continuing education every two years. Continuing education for BCBAs can come in the form of:

  • College or university courses
  • Authorized employer events like seminars or workshops
  • Non-authorized events like those held by approved sponsors or mental health organizations
  • In-person on-the-job instruction
  • Professional or state exams

BCaBAs are also required to complete continuing education. Many states require this level of ABA therapy to undergo 20 hours of continued training every two years.RBTs likewise are required to continue their educations and formal training to maintain their certification to work.

Depending on what state they work in, they may have to complete three hours or more hours of supervised training each year. This training must be completed on-the-job and be administered by a BCBA in good standing.

Additionally, RBTs typically must take a yearly exam to maintain their credentials. They must renew their RBT certification annually to keep working at this level of ABA therapy.

The Importance of ABA Therapy Certification and Training

ABA therapy training and certification serve vital purposes in the mental health and educational industries. Their importance explains why most states require even entry level ABA therapists to obtain a certain amount of skills prior to being allowed to work with patients who have autism.

The training primarily teaches aspiring ABA therapists how to work consistently and thoroughly with patients with autism. It also teaches therapists how to recognize symptoms and behaviors of autism and understand their causes.

The training imparts empathy and patience, which are both vital to working with people with autism and correcting or modifying targeted behaviors.

ABA therapists must maintain proven success in helping people with autism acquire more desirable behaviors and function as well as possible in everyday society.

Certification shows the ABA therapists have undergone the required level of training for their positions and can work competently with patients with autism. It also shows the therapists have completed the required state certification tests and continuing educational requirements for their jobs.

Certification likewise shows that ABA therapists have themselves undergone background criminal and personal background checks. The states in which they are employed have verified they are safe to work with patients with autism and should pose no risk to people in their charges.

How to Get Started with ABA Therapist Certification and Training

People interested in pursuing ABA therapy certification and training can start by finding programs where they live that offer these credentials. RBTs, for example, may find courses available at vocational or community colleges. They may also find on-the-job training available to them at mental health facilities that hire RBTS.

BCaBAs and BCBAs can obtain the required training at universities that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in majors like psychology and education. They can choose emphases that are geared toward ABA therapy and working with people with autism.

They must also complete the required number of hours of coursework that is geared specifically toward psychology and ABA therapy. For BCaBAs, this number of hours can total 15 or more, depending on in what state they plan on finding employment.

BCBAs must complete graduate degrees that can take upwards of two to three years. They must also complete a certain number of hours of field training and supervised hands-on work with people with autism.

Many BCBA graduate programs likewise require students to complete theses and pass an exit exam prior to graduating. Students must also sit for and pass the BCBA professional exam.


  1. https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisprograms.com/certification/
  2. https://teach.com/online-ed/psychology-degrees/online-masters-applied-behavior-analysis/aba-certification/
  3. https://www.appliedbehavioranalysisedu.org/how-to-become-aba-therapist/

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