Understanding BCBA and BCBA-D

When it comes to the field of behavior analysis, two important credentials to understand are BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) and BCBA-D (Board Certified Behavior Analyst Doctorate). While both titles share similarities, there are distinct differences that set them apart.


The primary distinction between a BCBA and BCBA-D lies in the level of degree achieved. A BCBA requires at least a master's degree, while a BCBA-D requires a doctorate in order to earn the credential. Both professionals possess the same scope of practice and serve in equivalent capacities as mental health professionals.

Educational Requirements

To obtain BCBA certification, individuals must fulfill specific educational requirements. This includes having a Bachelor's degree, a Master's degree in behavior analysis, education, or psychology, completion of specific BACB-set courses, supervised experience hours under a fully certified BCBA or BCBA-D, and passing the BCBA exam. Once certified as a BCBA, there is no requirement for supervised practice.

On the other hand, to become a BCBA-D, individuals need to complete a verified doctorate program listed by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). This entails earning a PhD in addition to their Master's and Bachelor's degrees. The BCBA-D designation recognizes the achievement of a higher level of education in the field of behavior analysis.

In summary, the educational requirements for BCBA certification include a Bachelor's and Master's degree, while BCBA-D certification requires a doctorate in addition to the Bachelor's and Master's degrees. Both credentials signify proficiency in behavior analysis and enable professionals to practice as mental health providers with similar skills and competencies.

Role of BCBAs

BCBAs, or Board Certified Behavior Analysts, play a crucial role in providing behavior analysis services, particularly beneficial for children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They utilize the evidence-based approach of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to help individuals with autism acquire essential skills and reduce problematic behaviors.

Behavior Analysis Services

Behavior analysis services provided by BCBAs aim to build positive behaviors and reduce problematic behaviors by identifying the root cause of specific behaviors. BCBAs work with individuals of different ages and ability levels in various settings such as schools, therapeutic preschool programs, private practices, homes, and hospitals.

In their practice, BCBAs use the principles and techniques of ABA to assess behavior, develop individualized behavior intervention plans, and implement strategies to teach new skills and modify behaviors. They closely monitor progress, collect data, and make adjustments to their interventions as needed. By focusing on behavior change, BCBAs help individuals with autism improve their quality of life and reach their full potential.

ABA Therapy Benefits

ABA therapy has been proven to be highly effective in improving the lives of individuals with autism. It helps individuals develop skills in communication, safety, social adaptation, and daily living. The benefits of ABA therapy extend beyond the domain of autism, as behavior analysts can work with individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities and others from diverse populations [3].

The evidence-based approach of ABA allows BCBAs to tailor interventions to the unique needs of each individual. Through systematic assessment and data-driven decision-making, BCBAs can identify the most effective strategies for behavior change. ABA therapy provides individuals with autism the opportunity to learn and practice essential skills in a structured and supportive environment.

By working collaboratively with families, educators, and other professionals, BCBAs create comprehensive treatment plans that promote consistency and generalization of skills across different settings. The ultimate goal is to enhance independence, improve social interactions, and enhance overall quality of life for individuals with autism.

In conclusion, BCBAs play a vital role in providing behavior analysis services, particularly through the application of ABA therapy. Their work helps individuals with autism develop essential skills and reduce problematic behaviors, leading to improved outcomes and a better quality of life.

Becoming a BCBA-D

To earn the BCBA-D (Board Certified Behavior Analyst Doctorate) designation, individuals must meet specific requirements beyond those needed for the BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) certification. Let's explore the doctoral degree requirement and the application process for becoming a BCBA-D.

Doctoral Degree Requirement

A BCBA-D requires a doctoral degree in addition to a Master's and Bachelor's degree. This advanced level of education distinguishes a BCBA-D from a BCBA. The doctoral degree can be in fields such as behavior analysis, psychology, or education.

To become a BCBA-D, individuals must complete a verified doctoral program listed by the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) [2]. The doctoral program should meet the rigorous standards set by the ABAI and provide in-depth knowledge and research opportunities in behavior analysis.

Application Process

The application process for the BCBA-D designation involves several steps. Individuals interested in pursuing the BCBA-D certification should carefully follow the requirements outlined by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), the organization responsible for certifying BCBAs.

To apply for the BCBA-D designation, individuals must complete the application form, provide all required supplemental documentation, and pay the application fee. The review process will commence once the fee is paid.

There are different options available for individuals to apply for the BCBA-D designation. One option is the completion of an ABAI-accredited doctoral program, which ensures that the program meets the necessary standards set by the ABAI. Another option is completing a doctoral program from a qualifying accredited institution.

Applicants should carefully review the specific requirements outlined by the BACB to ensure they meet all the necessary criteria for the BCBA-D certification. It is essential to gather all the required documentation and submit a complete application to facilitate a smooth review process.

By fulfilling the doctoral degree requirement and successfully completing the application process, individuals can earn the BCBA-D designation. This prestigious certification acknowledges their expertise and advanced knowledge in behavior analysis, opening up new opportunities for professional growth and leadership in the field.

BCBA-D Designation Details

When it comes to understanding the BCBA-D designation, it's important to delve into the scope of practice and maintenance requirements associated with this distinction.

Scope of Practice

A BCBA-D, which stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst-Doctoral, is a professional who has earned a Ph.D. in addition to their Master's and Bachelor's degrees [2]. The primary distinction between a BCBA and a BCBA-D lies in the level of degree achieved. However, it's important to note that the BCBA-D designation is not a separate certification from BCBA, and it does not grant any additional privileges beyond those of a BCBA.

BCBA-Ds may function in the same capacity as BCBAs, serving as independent practitioners who provide behavior-analytic services. They are qualified to supervise the work of Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysts® (BCaBAs®), Registered Behavior Technicians® (RBTs®), and other professionals who implement behavior-analytic interventions.

Maintenance Requirements

If you hold the BCBA-D designation, you are required to meet all the maintenance requirements outlined in the BCBA Handbook, just like BCBAs. These maintenance requirements ensure that professionals stay up to date with the latest developments in the field and continue to provide high-quality services.

To apply for the BCBA-D designation, individuals must complete the application, provide all required supplemental documentation, and pay the application fee. The review process will commence once the fee is paid [4].

By maintaining the BCBA-D designation, professionals can continue to contribute to the field of behavior analysis, provide effective interventions, and make a positive impact on the lives of individuals they serve.

Growth of BCBA Certification

As the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) continues to gain recognition and importance, the demand for Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) is on the rise. The growth of BCBA certification has created numerous job opportunities and professional outcomes for individuals in this field.

Job Opportunities

According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB), job growth for those with BCBA certification has soared in recent years. From 2010 to 2022, job growth for BCBAs increased by more than 5,800%. This reflects the growing need for behavior analysts in various settings, including clinics, schools, long-term care facilities, and in-home services.

The field of ABA offers a wide range of job opportunities for BCBAs. These professionals work with individuals diagnosed with autism and other intellectual and developmental disabilities, helping them acquire crucial skills in communication, safety, social adaptation, and daily living. The demand for behavior analysts extends beyond autism spectrum disorders, as they can work with diverse populations and address various behavioral challenges.

Professional Outcomes

BCBA certification recognizes specialized training in ABA and opens doors to a broad range of professional outcomes. As of January 2023, there were over 59,000 board-certified behavior analysts practicing in the United States. This number highlights the significant impact and value of BCBAs in the field of behavior analysis.

By obtaining BCBA certification, individuals in the field of ABA can achieve socially significant outcomes. They play a vital role in helping individuals with behavioral challenges lead more fulfilling lives, improving their communication skills, promoting safety, and facilitating social adaptation [3]. The positive impact that BCBAs have on individuals and their families is immeasurable.

The continuous growth of BCBA certification reflects the increasing recognition and importance of ABA in addressing behavioral challenges. As the field continues to expand, BCBAs can expect to see even more job opportunities and professional advancements in the years to come.