Is Becoming a BCBA Easy?

If you're considering becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), you might be wondering if the process is easy. The truth is, the answer to that question depends on a variety of factors.

judah schiller
Judah Schiller
June 14, 2024
Published On
June 14, 2024

What is a BCBA?

First, let's define what a BCBA is. A BCBA stands for Board Certified Behavior Analyst, a professional who works with individuals with autism and other developmental disabilities. They use behavior analysis to help improve their clients' behavior and overall quality of life.

Behavior analysis is a scientific approach to understanding behavior and how it is affected by the environment. BCBAs use evidence-based strategies to teach new skills, increase positive behaviors, and decrease problem behaviors. They also work with clients' families, teachers, and other professionals to create behavior support plans that can be implemented across settings.

BCBAs are highly trained professionals who must meet rigorous education and experience requirements to earn their certification. They must also adhere to a professional code of ethics and participate in ongoing professional development to maintain their certification.

If you or a loved one is in need of behavioral support, it's important to seek out a qualified BCBA who can provide effective and ethical services.

The Requirements

To become a BCBA, there are a series of requirements that must be met. These requirements include:

  • A master's degree in behavior analysis or a related field
  • Completion of a BCBA-approved course sequence
  • Supervised fieldwork experience
  • Passing the BCBA certification exam

The Difficulty of the Process

While the requirements to become a BCBA may seem daunting, the process is definitely achievable with the right mindset and effort. Pursuing a career as a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) can be a rewarding and fulfilling experience for those who have a passion for helping individuals with behavioral challenges.

The master's degree program itself can take anywhere from 2-3 years to complete, depending on the program and course load. It's important to choose a program that is accredited by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) to ensure that you are receiving the necessary education and training required for certification.

The BCBA-approved course sequence can take an additional 1-2 years, which includes supervised fieldwork experience. Finding a BCBA supervisor can be challenging depending on your location, but there are resources available to help connect you with potential supervisors.

Once all of the requirements have been met, passing the BCBA exam can be challenging. However, there are many resources available to help prepare for the exam, including study groups, practice exams, and review courses. Utilizing these resources can increase your chances of success on the exam and ensure that you are fully prepared to become a BCBA.

The Benefits of Becoming a BCBA

Becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) can offer many benefits, both professionally and personally. Here are just a few:

Professional Benefits

  • High demand for BCBAs: With the increasing prevalence of autism and other developmental disabilities, the need for qualified BCBAs continues to grow. This means that there is high demand for BCBAs in a variety of settings, including schools, clinics, hospitals, and private practices.
  • Competitive salary: Due to the high demand for their services, BCBAs often earn competitive salaries. According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board's 2020 compensation report, the median annual salary for BCBAs is $70,000-$80,000.
  • Flexibility in career options: BCBAs have the flexibility to work in a variety of settings and with clients across the lifespan. They can also choose to specialize in certain areas of behavior analysis, such as early intervention or feeding disorders.

Personal Benefits

  • Making a difference: As a BCBA, you will have the opportunity to make a positive impact on individuals with behavioral challenges and their families. Seeing your clients make progress towards their goals can be incredibly rewarding.
  • Continued learning: Behavior analysis is an ever-evolving field with new research and strategies being developed all the time. As a BCBA, you will have opportunities for ongoing professional development and continued learning throughout your career.
  • Sense of fulfillment: Helping others improve their quality of life can give you a sense of purpose and fulfillment in your career. Knowing that you are making a difference in someone else's life can be incredibly meaningful.

Overall, becoming a BCBA requires hard work and dedication, but it can offer many benefits both professionally and personally. If you're passionate about helping individuals with behavioral challenges reach their full potential, pursuing certification as a BCBA can be a great choice.

Job Outlook for BCBAs

The demand for Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) varies depending on the region. In general, areas with higher populations tend to have more job opportunities for BCBAs. However, there are some regions that have a particularly high demand for BCBAs due to factors such as state funding and prevalence rates of autism.

According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board's 2020 compensation report, the top five states with the highest median annual salaries for BCBAs are:

  1. California - $85,000
  2. Massachusetts - $79,000
  3. Connecticut - $78,000
  4. New York - $77,500
  5. Washington - $75,000

In addition to higher salaries, these states also tend to have more job openings and a higher concentration of BCBAs per capita.

However, it's important to note that there is still a demand for BCBAs in other regions as well. Rural areas and smaller cities may not have as many job openings as larger metropolitan areas, but there is still a need for qualified behavior analysts in these areas.

If you're considering becoming a BCBA and are open to relocating, it's worth researching job opportunities in different regions and considering factors such as cost of living and quality of life in addition to salary and demand for services. Ultimately, finding a job that aligns with your values and career goals is key to building a fulfilling career as a BCBA.

Salary Range and Factors Affecting BCBA Salaries

According to the Behavior Analyst Certification Board's 2020 compensation report, the median annual salary for BCBAs is between $70,000-$80,000. However, the report also found that some BCBAs earn significantly higher salaries depending on their level of experience and job responsibilities.

For example, BCBAs who work in supervisory or management roles may earn higher salaries than those in entry-level positions. Additionally, BCBAs who work in specialized areas such as organizational behavior management or behavioral pharmacology may command higher salaries due to their expertise.

In some cases, BCBAs who own their own private practices may also earn higher salaries than those who work for organizations. This is because they have greater control over their fees and can set rates based on their own expenses and desired income.

It's worth noting that salaries for BCBAs can vary widely depending on factors such as location, industry, and employer. For example, BCBAs who work in schools or non-profit organizations may earn lower salaries than those who work in healthcare or private practice settings.

Overall, while the potential salaries for BCBAs are competitive compared to other industries requiring similar levels of education and training, it's important to research job opportunities and negotiate fair compensation based on your skills and experience.

Tips for Passing the BCBA Certification Exam

Passing the BCBA certification exam is a crucial step in becoming a Board Certified Behavior Analyst. While it can be challenging, there are several tips and strategies that can help you prepare for and pass the exam:

1. Start Early

Starting to study early is crucial to give yourself enough time to review all of the material. The BCBA exam covers a wide range of topics, so it's important to give yourself enough time to thoroughly review each area.

2. Create a Study Schedule

Creating a study schedule can help you stay organized and on track with your studying. Break down the material into manageable chunks and assign specific study goals for each day or week.

3. Utilize Multiple Study Resources

There are many resources available to help you prepare for the BCBA exam, including textbooks, online courses, study groups, and practice exams. Utilizing multiple resources can help you get a well-rounded understanding of the material.

4. Practice Test-Taking Strategies

The BCBA exam is timed and consists of multiple-choice questions, so practicing test-taking strategies can be helpful. For example, learning how to quickly eliminate obviously incorrect answer choices can save time and increase your chances of selecting the correct answer.

5. Focus on Areas of Weakness

Identifying areas where you need more practice and focusing on those areas can be beneficial. It's important to have a solid understanding of all areas covered on the exam, but spending extra time on weaker areas can help ensure that you are fully prepared.

By following these tips and putting in dedicated effort towards studying, passing the BCBA certification exam is definitely achievable!

The Reward

While the process of becoming a BCBA may not be easy, the reward is definitely worth it. Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs) are a highly sought-after group of professionals who are in high demand across the globe. The job outlook for BCBAs is very promising, and the opportunities for career advancement are limitless.

As a BCBA, you will have the opportunity to work with clients of all ages and backgrounds. Whether you are working with children with autism, adults with mental health disorders, or seniors with dementia, your work will make a real difference in the lives of those you serve. The positive impact that BCBAs have on their clients is immeasurable, and it is incredibly rewarding to watch clients grow and thrive under your care.

If you are considering a career as a BCBA, there are many resources available to help you get started. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) website is a great place to start, as it provides detailed information on the certification process and the requirements for becoming a BCBA.

Additionally, there are many online communities and support groups for aspiring BCBAs, which can be a great source of information and encouragement as you work towards your goal.

Continuing Education Requirements

In addition to meeting the initial requirements for BCBA certification, BCBAs are also required to complete continuing education (CE) credits to maintain their certification. The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) requires that BCBAs complete 32 CE credits every two years in order to renew their certification.

CE activities must be directly related to the practice of behavior analysis and can include a variety of options such as attending conferences, workshops, or webinars; completing online courses or reading articles; and participating in supervision or mentoring activities.

It's important for BCBAs to stay up-to-date with the latest research and best practices in the field, and completing CE credits is a great way to do so. Additionally, some states may require additional CE credits beyond those required by the BACB for state licensure, so it's important for BCBAs to check with their state board for specific requirements.

Failing to meet the CE requirement can result in loss of certification, so it's crucial for BCBAs to stay on top of their CE credits and ensure that they are meeting all requirements for maintaining their certification.

Opportunities for Growth and Advancement in Behavior Analysis

Behavior analysis is a growing field with many opportunities for advancement. BCBAs can advance their careers by taking on supervisory or management roles within their organization, which often come with higher salaries and more responsibility.

Additionally, some BCBAs choose to specialize in certain areas of behavior analysis, such as early intervention or feeding disorders. Specializing in a particular area can lead to increased demand for your services and the potential for higher salaries.

For those interested in pursuing an academic career in behavior analysis, there are also opportunities for teaching and research positions at universities. These positions typically require a doctoral degree in behavior analysis or a related field, but can offer competitive salaries and the opportunity to contribute to the development of the field through research and teaching.

Overall, there are many opportunities for growth and advancement within the field of behavior analysis, making it a great choice for those looking to build a long-term career in a rewarding and impactful field.


How long does it take to become a BCBA?

The process of becoming a BCBA typically takes around 5-6 years, including completing a bachelor's degree, a master's degree in behavior analysis or related field, and accruing supervised experience hours. However, the exact timeline can vary depending on individual circumstances and the program requirements.

Is the BCBA exam difficult?

The BCBA exam is known for being challenging due to its breadth of topics and the level of detail required for each question. However, with proper preparation and study habits, passing the exam is definitely achievable.

Do I need previous experience in behavior analysis to become a BCBA?

While having previous experience in behavior analysis can be helpful, it is not necessarily required to become a BCBA. The certification process includes both coursework and supervised experience hours that provide training and practice in behavior analysis principles and techniques.

Can I work as a behavior analyst without being certified as a BCBA?

While certification as a BCBA is not necessarily required to work as a behavior analyst, it is highly recommended as it demonstrates expertise and adherence to ethical standards in the field. Additionally, many employers require or prefer candidates who are certified BCBAs.

What kind of coursework is required for becoming a BCBA?

Coursework requirements for becoming a BCBA typically include courses in ethics, research methods, behavioral assessment and intervention strategies, and other topics related to behavior analysis principles and techniques. The specific coursework requirements can vary depending on the program you choose to pursue.


In conclusion, becoming a BCBA is definitely achievable, but it will take time, effort, and dedication. However, the reward of becoming a BCBA and the impact that you can have on your clients' lives make it a worthwhile pursuit. If you're passionate about helping others and making a difference, then becoming a BCBA might be the perfect career path for you.