What is the Difference Between a BCBA and RBT?

In the world of applied behavior analysis (ABA), there are many different acronyms and abbreviations to keep track of. If your children is receiving ABA therapy, it is important to know understand the role of each therapist on the team of professionals. Two common credentials for therapists who provide ABA services are BCBA and RBT. These two types of therapists will often work together, but there are important differences between their roles and the training they receive.

What is a BCBA?
A BCBA is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. Individuals who hold a BCBA certification are able to provide behavior analysis services to clients without supervision from another therapist. If a BCBA provides ABA therapy to their clients, they focus on the function of behavior and how behaviors are affected by the environment. This approach to behavior analysis is widely used in children with autism, because there is empirical evidence to support its success. BCBAs can work in a variety of settings with individuals of all ages. You might find BCBAs working in a school setting, private practice, or a therapeutic preschool program.

How do you become a Board Certified Behavior Analyst?
Aspiring BCBAs must first obtain a graduate degree (e.g. Master’s degree) from an accredited program. Keep in mind, this is a limited number of schools. This degree must also be in one of the following areas of study: behavior analysis, education, or psychology. Throughout this program, the individual must also complete the required courses outlined by the BACB. Before earning the BCBA certification, you must complete supervisory hours with a fully certified BCBA who is also able to provide supervision. Once these steps are complete, there is a BCBA exam, which you must pass before you can legally practice as a BCBA. To sit for this exam, you must apply and provide proof of completion of your degree, coursework, and supervisory hours.

What is a RBT?
A RBT is a Registered Behavior Technician. While a BCBA can provide professional services without supervision from another therapist, a RBT always practices under the supervision of a certified therapist, such as a BCBA or BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst). A BCBA or BCaBA will provide assessments of children and create treatment plans, but a RBT can still provide direct behavior analysis services (or ABA therapy) to clients. They may also be referred to as a “paraprofessional.”

How do you become a Registered Behavior Technician?
To earn the RBT certification, you must be a legal adult (18 years old) and hold a high school diploma. There is a 40-hour training for aspiring Registered Behavior Technicians, which can be completed online or in person. After completing the training, you will be required to complete the RBT Competency Assessment, as well as a criminal background check. The last step in the process is passing the RBT exam. As with the BCBA exam, you need to provide proof of completion of your high school diploma, training, RBT Competency Assessment, and background check to apply for the final RBT exam.

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