Comparing Autism & ABA Therapy Technician Certifications

The autism and ABA therapy industry is no stranger to acronyms, a reality extending beyond clinical applications (ABI, ABLLS, ADOS, EIBI, FSP, IEP, IFSP, you get the picture…) and into the roles of autism therapy practitioners.

While one certification organization has existed for over twenty years, in the past decade, two additional certification organizations have emerged to establish practice standards, administer examinations, and provide ethics requirements and a disciplinary system for certification related to treating individuals with autism and related disorders. Here, we provide a comparison of three well known certifications for behavior technicians: Registered Behavior Technician™ (RBT®), Applied Behavior Analysis Technician (ABAT®), and Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT).

First, a bit of background on the bodies that provide these individual credentials.

  • Behavior Analyst Certification Board (RBT administrator):

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc.® (BACB®) is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation established in 1998 by Dr. Jerry Shook to meet professional credentialing needs identified by behavior analysts, governments, and consumers of behavior analysis services. According to their site, the BACB’s certification requirements, examination content, and procedures undergo regular review according to established standards for organizations that grant professional credentials. All BACB requirements and examination content are developed by experts in the discipline. All three of the BACB’s certification programs (BCBA, BCaBA, RBT) are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA).

Mission: To protect consumers of behavior analysis services worldwide by systematically establishing, promoting, and disseminating professional standards of practice.

  • Qualified Applied Behavior Analysis Credentialing Board (ABAT administrator):

Established in 2012, the Qualified Applied Behavior Analysis Credentialing Board was established to meet the growing need for more credentialed professionals providing Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) services. According to their website, QABA certificants are trained in all aspects of ABA with qualification in autism and related disorders. QABA provides a 3-tiered credentialing model, offering certified providers across all levels of behavior analysis.

QABA is internationally accredited by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) as a personnel certification agency.

Mission: The Qualified Applied Behavior Analysis Credentialing Board (QABA) is an agency whose mission is to establish the highest standard of care and empower all professionals who provide behavioral intervention services to individuals with autism spectrum disorders and related disabilities. Through access, transparency, and dedication to best practice, QABA provides all communities opportunity for consistent high-level care.

  • Behavioral Intervention Certification Council (BCAT administrator):

BICC is a 501(c)3 non-profit established in 2013 to develop and administer autism specific certifications for behavior technicians and professionals that follow the principles of applied behavior analysis in the treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder.

Per their website, BICC promotes the highest standards of treatment for individuals with autism spectrum disorder through the development, implementation, coordination, and evaluation of all aspects of the certification and certification renewal processes. BICC is an independent and autonomous governing body for the Board Certified Autism Technician (BCAT) & Board Certified Autism Professional (BCAP) certification programs. Created by behavior analysts, BICC certifications are based on evidence-based treatment using the principles of applied behavior analysis.

Mission: The mission of BICC is to enhance public protection by developing and administering a certification program consistent with the needs of behavior analysts to recognize individuals who are qualified to treat the deficits and behaviors associated with autism spectrum disorder using the principles and procedures of applied behavior analysis.

Now that you have some baseline knowledge on the administering bodies of these credentials, let’s dive into the details on each. First, we will specify the areas of similarity and alignment across the three credentials as there are several consistencies with their credentialing.

Consistent Requirements Across Credentials

ABAT, BCAT, and RBT all require the following:

  • Recipient must be at least 18 years of age
  • Recipient must have a minimum education of a High School Diploma or equivalent
  • Recipient must complete a 40-hour training program
  • Recipient must demonstrate knowledge in Skill Acquisition
  • Recipient must demonstrate knowledge in Reduction of Behavior
  • Recipient must demonstrate knowledge in skills in Behavioral Data

Up next, let’s look at a few key areas where these credentials generally match but with minor nuances.

Technical RequirementABATBCATRBT
Hours supervised prior to obtaining credentialsMinimum of 15 supervised practicum/fieldwork hours
working directly with clients, 10% of hours
Minimum of 15 supervised practicum/fieldwork hours
working directly with clients
None
Ongoing SupervisionMin. 5% of hours, every
90-day period
Min. 5% of hours/month by licensed QHCPMin. 5% of hours/month
Minimum EducationMinimum HS diploma
or equivalent
Minimum HS diploma
or equivalent
Minimum HS diploma or equivalent
Test/Competency CheckComplete 40 hours of assessment-based coursework.
Pass ABAT exam.
Complete 40 hours training.
Pass BCAT exam.
Complete 40 hours training.
Complete RBT initial competency assessment.
Pass RBT certification exam.
Recertification Cycle2-Year Re-Certification Cycles2-Year Re-Certification Cycles1-Year Re-Certification Cycles

 

Last, these are the areas where each of the credentials holds a different technical requirement.

RBTABATBCAT
Background Check RequirementSupervisor verifies any background check via attestationYes, including attestation on initial background checkMulti-level DOJ, nationwide criminal background check with ongoing monitoring
Number of Certificants as of October 1, 202082,9786324,674
# of items on exam7568150
1st Time Pass Rate (2019)87%Not Available71.20%
Autism Spectrum Disorder focusNoYesYes
Principles of ABAYesNoYes
Ethical/Legal Considerations/Professional Conduct/Scope of PracticeYesNoYes
Supervisor RequirementsBCBA, BCaBA, appropriately licensed professionalsQualified Healthcare Professionals (BCBA, BCaBA, Licensed Psychologist)
Cost$50 (application), $45 (exam)$125$74 (exam), $50 (background check)

 

Certifications instills confidence in the quality of services provided by today‘s growing body of autism therapy practitioners, which boasts over 42,000 Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) certificants alone.

As you evaluate the credential that’s best for you or your staff, look critically at the requirements of your existing payors, individual credential details, and the available support network from each of the above providers for ongoing training and recredentialing.

 

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