Behaviour Analyst Certification

What is Applied Behaviour Analysis (ABA)?

The broad field of behaviour analysis grew out of the scientific study of principles of learning and behaviour. It has two main branches: experimental and applied behaviour analysis. The experimental analysis of behaviour is the basic science of this field and has over many decades accumulated a substantial and well-respected research literature. This literature provides the scientific foundation for applied behaviour analysis (ABA), which is both an applied science that develops methods of changing behaviour and a profession that provides services to meet diverse learning and behavioural needs. Professionals in applied behaviour analysis engage in the specific and comprehensive use of the principles of learning in order to address behavioural needs of widely varying individuals in diverse settings. Examples of these applications include building the skills and achievements of children in school settings; and enhancing the development, abilities, and choices of children and adults with various types of kinds of disabilities.

What is the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board?

The Behaviour Analyst Certification Board, Inc. (BACB) is a nonprofit corporation established to meet professional credentialing needs identified by behaviour analysts, government agencies, and consumers of behaviour analysis services.

The BACB’s mission is to develop, promote, and implement a voluntary national and international certification program for behaviour analyst practitioners. The BACB has established uniform content, standards, and criteria for the credentialing process that are designed to meet

  1. The legal standards established through state, federal, and case law;
  2. The accepted standards for national certification programs; and
  3. The “best practice” and ethical standards of the behaviour analysis profession. The BACB enjoys the support of the Association for Behaviour Analysis International

What Certifications Are Available from the BACB? Is Certification Required in British Columbia?

The BACB offers two certifications, one for individuals with a Bachelors degree (Board Certified Assistant Behaviour Analyst™, BCABA™) and one for individuals with a Masters or higher degree (Board Certified Behaviour Analyst™, BCBA™). While neither certification is required in British Columbia at this time, individuals who act as behaviour consultants through the Autism Funding Programs (both under age 6 and over age 6) and those who design and implement other types of behaviour support services are encouraged to obtain the BCBA credential. The Association for Behaviour Analysis has provided recommendations regarding behaviour consultant training in their Consumer Guidelines for Identifying, Selecting, and Evaluating Behaviour Analysts Working with Individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorders (2007).

Please note that the information on this website applies only to BCBA certification. BCABA certification is offered in Canada through the University of Manitoba and through Douglas College and Capilano University in British Columbia. For information about Universities in the United States that offer online courses leading to BCABA certification, see “Approved University Training” under “Becoming Certified” on the BACB website.

What Does BCBA Certification Mean?

BCBA certification means that an individual has met a number of degree, coursework, and experience requirements and has passed an examination administered by the BACB. Individuals with this certification can refer to themselves as “Board Certified Behaviour Analysts (BCBAs).” A BCBA is an independent practitioner who may work as an employee or as an independent contractor for an organization. The BCBA conducts descriptive and systematic behavioural assessments, including functional analyses, and provides behaviour analytic interpretations of the results. He or she also designs and supervises behaviour analytic interventions, and is able to effectively develop and implement appropriate assessment and intervention methods for use in unfamiliar situations and for a range of individuals. BCBAs seek the consultation of more experienced practitioners when necessary and teach others to carry out ethical and effective behaviour analytic interventions based on published research and designs. He or she may also deliver instruction (e.g., teach courses) in behaviour analysis. Finally, the BCBA can supervise the work of others who implement behaviour analytic interventions.

The requirements for students who wish to enter the UBC graduate program in September 2020 or thereafter and qualify for the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® examination include the following:

  • A Master’s degree (or higher) in a post-secondary degree program from:
    • A United States institution of higher education listed in the Council for Higher Education Accreditation database; OR
    • An institution of higher education outside of the United States that is approved by the Behaviour Analyst Certification Board as an accredited institution (NOTE: UBC meets this requirement).
  • Approved graduate coursework totaling a minimum of 315 hours and covering specific content areas (see below for details).
  • Completion of 2,000 hours of supervised experience that meet the BACB requirements. These requirements change periodically and will change again in 2022; see https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2022-BCBA-Fieldwork-Standards_190404.pdf for details. Supervised experience is not available through UBC; students must make their own arrangements in this regard.

Individuals who meet all of these requirements may apply to the BACB to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® examination. ONLY individuals who achieve a passing grade on this exam can refer to themselves as Board Certified Behavior Analysts®.

Verified Course Sequence (VCS)

The Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI) has verified the following courses at UBC toward the coursework requirements for eligibility to take the Board Certified Behavior Analyst® (BCBA®) examination. Applicants will need to meet additional requirements before they can be deemed eligible to take the examination.

The content allocation of this Verified Course Sequence (VCS) conforms to the 5th edition Task List for the BCBA® credential. At UBC, these courses may be taken in conjunction with either an M.Ed. or M.A. degree in Special Education, with concentration in Autism/Developmental Disabilities (A/DD) or Behaviour Disorders (BD) only. This Table summarizes the content allocation hours of the UBC VCS:

VCS courses are offered on the UBC Point Grey campus only; there is no distance-only option. Students who wish to complete the VCS MUST plan to enroll in two courses per semester for a two-year period. Please note that several courses in addition to the VCS are also required for completion of a graduate degree (M.Ed. or M.A.) in either A/DD or BD. The Table below lists all required courses for a graduate degree (M.Ed or M.A.) that includes the VCS, and the semester in which students must enroll in the courses that are required:

Course Name Credits Sequence Timeframe Prerequisites
EPSE 572: Applications of Behavior Analysis 3 First course in the VCS; on campus September, year 1
EPSE 574: Principles of Behavior Analysis 3 Second course in the VCS; online September, year 1 Must be taken concurrent with EPSE 572
EPSE 575: Seminar in Instructional Methods for Persons with Significant Learning Challenges 3 Third course in the VCS; on campus January, year 1
EPSE 578: Ethics for Behaviour Analysts 3 Fourth course in the VCS; on campus January, year 1 EPSE 572 and 574
EPSE 437: Interventions for Children & Adolescents with Behaviour Disorders 3 Not a VCS course, but required of all BD students; on campus July, year 1
EPSE 449: Educating Students with Autism 3 Not a VCS course, but required of all A/DD students unless equivalent completed elsewhere; online and on campus July, year 1
EPSE 512: Critical Issues in Special Education 3 Not a VCS course, but required of all graduate students; on campus July, year 1
EPSE 576: Assessment and Positive Behaviour Support in School and Community Settings 3 Fifth course in the VCS; on campus September, year 2
EPSE 593: Design and Analysis of Research with Small Samples and Single Subjects 3 Sixth course in the VCS; on campus September, year 2
EPSE 577: Seminar in Assessment and Positive Behavior Support in School and Community Settings 3 Seventh course in the VCS; on campus January, year 2 EPSE 576
EPSE 515A: Building Supportive School and Community Environments to Prevent Problem Behaviour 3 Not a VCS course, but required of all BD students; on campus January, year 2 EPSE 437
EPSE 549: Seminar in Autism 3 Not a VCS course, but required of all A/DD students; on campus January, year 2 EPSE 449 or equivalent
EPSE 579: Supervision and Management for Behaviour Analysts 2 Eighth and final course in the VCS; on campus May-June, year 2 all of the above
EPSE 590: Graduating Seminar 3 Not a VCS course, but required of all M.Ed. students; on campus July, year 2 all of the above
EPSE 599: Thesis 6 Not a VCS course, but required of all M.A. students; on campus All of year 3 all of the above

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board® requires a Masters or higher degree for BCBA® certification. Individuals seeking this certification should complete the usual application process for admission to a UBC graduate program in special education. The application can be for either an M.Ed. or M.A. degree in either Autism/Developmental Disabilities or Behaviour Disorders; students in these programs may complete the Verified Course Sequence along with the other courses that are required for the degree.  To find out more about the degree options, click on the links below:

Please note that admission to ALL UBC graduate programs is quite competitive, and only a limited number of students are admitted each year. UBC’s Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies requires a minimum GPA of 76% or higher in 3rd and 4th year undergraduate courses, plus three letters of references from individuals who can comment favorably on the applicant’s academic potential.  For applicants who seek the BCBA® credential, at least one of the references should be academic in nature (i.e., from a previous post-secondary instructor) and at least one should be from a supervisor (preferably, a BCBA®) who is familiar with the applicant’s work as a behaviour interventionist, teacher, educational assistant, etc.  Reference letters from parents of children with whom the applicant has worked or from colleagues are not acceptable.

In addition, the application should provide evidence of at least 2 years of full time, paid experience working with individuals with autism, developmental disabilities, and/or behaviour disorders in an intervention-based setting (e.g., school, early intervention program, group home, etc.).  Applicants who have completed this work under the supervision of a BCBA are more competitive than those who have not. Please note that completion of the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission, as we always have many more qualified applicants than we are able to accommodate each year.

The application deadline for graduate admissions is December 1 annually, and students who are admitted begin their programs in the following September.

For more information about the M.Ed and M.A programs in special education, including tuition and fees, go to https://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/graduate-degree-programs/master-of-education-special-education (M.Ed) and https://www.grad.ubc.ca/prospective-students/graduate-degree-programs/master-of-arts-special-education (M.A.)

Please read the FAQs on the BACB website in addition to those below. On the website, click “Become Certified” and then click “Application FAQ” under BCBA.

Click here to see the most up-to-date pass rate data for all Universities with a VCS, and search for UBC:  https://www.bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/BCBA-pass-rates-percent_180814.pdf

No, UBC does not offer (and does not plan to offer) an online graduate program in special education, either with or without the VCS. 

No; we simply do not have sufficient resources (i.e., qualified faculty) to offer BCBA® supervision at UBC. Most students meet the BACB® experience requirement by working with local BCBAs who agree to act as supervisors. You can locate potential supervisors on the BACB website.  Choose British Columbia under the Province (Canada) tab. Then, look for people with a 'C' in the Supervision column. You may contact potential supervisors through the BACB website by clicking on a name, which will then give you an email form to complete.

No; we do not have the resources to develop and teach the required BCaBA® courses at UBC. If you are interested in this credential, contact Douglas College or Capilano University.

We aim for a cohort of 20 students annually, across these two concentrations. To achieve this, we admit a few more than 20 students, assuming that some will not accept the offer of admission. The ratio of students admitted to students who apply varies considerably from year to year, but we always have more applicants who meet the minimum qualifications than we can admit.

No; UBC does not offer an ABA graduate program. Your degree will be in Special Education. If you want a graduate degree in ABA from a Canadian university, you should contact the University of Manitoba.

No; VCS courses and are only open to students who are enrolled in a graduate program.

No, you cannot. In the past we allowed this option at UBC but we are no longer able to offer it. There are a few reasons for this: (a) the approved VCS at UBC consists of eight graduate courses, which is close to the requirement for a full masters degree; and (b) we have so many qualified applicants for the full masters degree that we simply cannot accommodate “VCS only” students as well. If you have an existing masters or doctoral degree and want to complete the VCS, you should simply apply for a masters degree program in special education, with a concentration in autism/developmental disabilities or behaviour disorders. Please note that in order to be competitive, you must meet all of the requirements that are specified in the section entitled “How to Apply,” even though you have already completed a graduate degree. In addition, note that your existing graduate degree should be in an appropriate, related area (e.g., education, psychology, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, etc.).

No, you cannot. A Ph.D. program at UBC is a research degree, not a clinical degree. Students in a Ph.D. program primarily complete courses in research design, measurement, and statistics, in addition to graduate courses in the area of focus for their dissertation. Adding the eight VCS courses to this program is not realistic. In addition, remember that, in order to apply for the BCBA® exam, you need to accrue 2,000 hours of ABA experience under the supervision of a BCBA®. In most circumstances, it is simply not possible to complete this supervision requirement while focusing on the requirements for a Ph.D. program, which include the design, execution, and analysis of data for a dissertation.

Yes, of course.  In order to be competitive, you will need to meet the same requirements as all other applicants, as described in the section entitled “How to Apply.”  In particular, you cannot meet the experience requirement by virtue of your role as a parent; you must have at least 2 years of paid, full-time experience with individuals other than your child who have autism, developmental disabilities, and/or behaviour disorders, in an intervention-based setting (e.g., school, early intervention program, group home, etc.).

Yes, but you will be less competitive than someone with an undergraduate degree in education, psychology, applied behaviour analysis, or another closely related field. In order to be competitive, you will need to have three excellent letters of reference (preferably, at least one of which is from a BCBA®  who has supervised you) and (like all other applicants) at least 2 years of paid, full-time experience with individuals who have autism, developmental disabilities, and/or behaviour disorders, in an intervention-based setting (e.g., school, early intervention program, group home, etc.).

Yes, you can apply -- but your application will be less competitive. If your GPA is “close” to the 76% cut-off, you are advised to supply three excellent letters of reference from academic or supervisory sources and a good explanation of why your GPA falls short, along with the other information required on the application. Even with this, there is no guarantee of admission. If you apply and are not admitted, or if your 3rd and 4th year undergraduate GPA is considerably less than 76%, you should consider pursuing BCaBA certification instead, either by enrolling in online courses through one of Universities in the United States that offer this option or enrolling in the program at either Douglas College or Capilano University.

UBC’s Office of Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies does not have additional requirements for admission to a Masters degree program in special education. However, as noted in the section entitled “How to Apply,” students who want to complete a graduate degree in special education that includes the Verified Course Sequence for the BCBA® credential MUST have previous paid experience for at least 2 years, full time as a behaviour interventionist (BI) or in a comparable position (e.g., educational assistant with formal ABA training). Preferably, this work was completed under the supervision of a BCBA® who provides one of the three required references. In addition, under most circumstances, applicants must identify, in their application, a BCBA® who will provide ongoing supervision that meets the requirements of the Behavior Analyst Certification Board®. The exception is students who plan to re-locate to UBC to enroll in the graduate program if they are admitted. Upon admission, we will provide advice to these students about local BCBAs® who can provide supervision; it will then be up to each student to contact potential supervisors and arrange for supervision, post-admission.

No. You cannot begin accumulating supervision hours until you secure a qualified supervisor and begin the VCS (September of your first year in the graduate program).

If you are accepted, you can certainly enroll in the VCS as part of your graduate program. However, remember that in, order to apply for the BCBA exam after graduation, you also need to accrue 2,000 hours of applied behaviour analytic (ABA) experience under the supervision of a BCBA®. This is difficult in school setting, because most teachers are responsible for the delivery of instruction that is not primarily ABA in nature. Plus, unless there is a BCBA in your school district who is authorized to supervise you, someone who is not a school district employee will have to provide supervision, and most school districts will not allow this. Finally, even if the latter arrangement can be made, an outside supervisor will have to be paid, either by you or by your school district; this additional expense is often prohibitive. For all of these reasons, it is very difficult (and, in our experience, unusual) for someone who is working as a teacher full time to qualify for the BCBA® exam, even after completion of a graduate degree that includes the VCS.

BCBA® examinations are scheduled four times each year in over 150 testing sites (usually, in February May, August, and September). The exams are administered in a computer-based testing format delivered through the Pearson VUE network of high-security, standardized testing centers. Pearson VUE is one of the largest and best-respected high-stakes certification and licensure testing organizations in the world. In British Columbia, there are at least two test sites in the Lower Mainland. A computer-based testing tutorial is available on the Pearson VUE website to acquaint individuals with the on-line testing format. For additional information, go to https://www.bacb.com/examination-information/exam-dates/ the BACB website.

The examination questions cover a wide range of basic and applied behavior analytic principles, techniques, research and measurement techniques, ethical issues, and other content. A new exam is created for each sitting and all questions are in a multiple choice format. The BACB provides a Task List of topics that will be covered, as well as information about the overall pass rate for each exam. They also track the pass rates for examinees from each University with approved coursework so that, if the rate is low compared to the overall average, faculty teaching the courses will know that they may need to be strengthened in specific areas. (The BACB does not provide information about examination scores to persons other than examinees themselves.) Although the approved VCS at UBC (including readings, assignments, etc.) and your supervision experiences should provide you with the information you need to take the exam, you should plan to study for it as well, just as you would for any other important test.

If you have questions about BACB® requirements or procedures, please go to the BACB® website and read it thoroughly. If you still have questions after doing this, or if you have questions about the approved UBC courses or the UBC application process, please contact Pat Mirenda, the VCS Coordinator at UBC.