If you’ve decided to become a Registered Behavior Technician you are probably familiar with the 40-hour course requirement. But with so many options available how do you know which one is right for you?
We have taken a close look at the options available to meet the 40-hour course required by the BACB. What was most surprising was how different they all are. The Autism Partnership Foundation offers a free course that meets the minimum requirements but may not prepare students adequately for the exam. The Verbal Behavior Institute is a better option, but is best for students who are teachers or plan to work in a classroom environment. The Autism Therapy Career College is the most expensive on our list, but is most likely to prepare students for working as an RBT in the field of ABA.
The style and delivery method for each training is drastically different, as is the cost. All of the options we’ll discuss here are good in their own way. Key factors we’ll compare to help determine the best course for you are:
- Presentation style
- Whether the course is interactive
- What types of examples are used most often
|Course Offering||Cost||Presentation Style||Interactive?||Types of Examples||Best Audience|
|Autism Partnership Foundation (APF)||Free||Online only|
PowerPoint with recording of live presentation
|No||ABA therapy center||Candidates on a budget or who want to supplement other learning|
|Verbal Behavior Institute (VBI)||$99||Online only|
Video of instructor
Personal, less professional
|No||Classroom||Teachers and professionals seeking to work in a school environment|
|Autism Therapy Career College (ATCC)||$29/week|
$1499 for Full RBT Certification (not offered through other options)
Voice over PowerPoint
Professional, not personal
|Yes, has interactive elements to click during the presentation||ABA therapy center||Candidates who wish to complete their coursework quickly. Students who want to be guided through the entire process can opt for the Full Certification Program.|
How to Determine the Best 40-Hour Training for You
The best course for you will depend on a number of factors including your:
- Professional goals
- Learning style
If you’re on a tight budget and are looking for an entry-level position where you’ll get a lot of guidance from your employer, then the free course through the Autism Partnership Foundation is a good place to start. But if you have the money to invest, want to be guided through the whole process, meet 1-on-1 with a BCBA to ask questions and connect with other RBT candidates then the Full RBT Certification through the Autism Therapy Career College is your best choice. Alternatively, if you’re a teacher or working in a school and are looking to get your RBT certification to help you in your classroom and advance your career, then the training through the Verbal Behavior Institute is a good fit because so many of the examples demonstrate how to use the skills in the classroom.
Here are our complete reviews, beginning with our top pick:Autism Therapy Career College Verbal Behavior Institute Autism Partnership Foundation
Autism Therapy Career College
The Autism Therapy Career College (ATCC) offer two options for taking the 40-hour RBT training. Students can opt to pay weekly for access to just the 40-hour training, or you can choose to enroll in the Full RBT Certification program which will give you everything you need – and more – to successfully receive your certification.
If you’re able to complete the course in under 2 weeks, this option ends up being less expensive than the one offered through the Verbal Behavior Institute. But know that if you fail to meet this goal it could end up costing more than you planned.
|40-hour RBT Training||$29/week||High-quality training for less|
Complete your training quickly
The faster you finish the less you pay
|Candidates who will have their competency assessment completed through their employer|
|RBT Competency Assessment||$549||Qualified BCBAs are ready and available to guide you through the competency assessment||Candidates who have already taken the 40-hour training and need a BCBA to complete the competency assessment|
|Full RBT Certification||$1,499||Complete the entire process in as little as 60 days|
Everything you need – and more – to become certified
|Candidates who want guidance and support through the entire process. Students who want 1-on-1 personal attention and interaction with other ABA professionals.|
ATCC 40-Hour RBT Training
Since the 40-hour training is the first step to becoming a Registered Behavior Technician, let’s start there. This information is also covered in our video:
The training itself was created by Relias which is one of the most respected healthcare training companies in the industry. The videos, technical features and production are all professionally executed and we encountered no issues at all after we registered. Upon logging in you’re brought to the Learning Dashboard where you can access all of the lessons included in the training.
The training is broken into 25 lessons that cover all the topics on the RBT task list provided by the BACB. On the dashboard the lessons are listed in alphabetical order, however this isn’t the order in which you should take them. Below the course list you will find 3 elective lessons. The first is 1- Read First – RBT Suggested Training Sequence.
When you click on Show Details you will be able to download or print a list of the lessons in the order in which they are best viewed. Although you are able to view the lessons in any order, and even retake lessons as many times as you need, you will want to use this list as a guide so that the content makes sense as you progress through it.
The lessons stay focused on the RBT Task List provided by the BACB and concentrates on what you will need to know as an RBT to be successful. This means every minute of the training moves you toward your goal of certification.
Lessons and Navigation
Each lesson is broken up into multiple sections which you can navigate using the outline on the left-hand side. You can progress through the sections using the next button, or skip back to something you want to view again. It’s also easy to see what topics are yet to be covered. The navigation also serves as a guide as you take notes.
The narration of the course is professionally completed and flawless, but lacks personality. Although the lessons are narrated by more than one person, the tone remains consistent throughout the training. The video below demonstrates what you can expect from the lessons:
Some people will love this style of presentation, while others will find it hard to listen to. If you enjoy this method of delivery then this is a great option for you.
Most of the lessons include text to help visual learners. This also makes it easy to capture key points in a screen shot, or you can pause the video to take notes without having to listen to the video multiple times. This can speed up the process of learning the material.
The training uses a variety of images, drawings and photos to support key points. In the example above, you might be more likely to remember the example of kicking a wall, and when it might be appropriate because of the simple images they use.
ABA interventions are demonstrated with short video clips that help you prepare for what will be expected of you once you complete your certification. Not everything can be explained with pictures and text and the videos really help students understand how to implement an intervention.
Let’s face it, listening to someone talk on and on about a subject can give your mind time to wander. Training that encourages, or even requires you to interact with the material is a more effective way to learn for most students. Many of the lessons in the ATCC training include interactive elements. In the above lesson students click each circle to learn more about recent changes to the RBT Credential.
In this lesson students choose each type of behavior to be targeted for increase, to learn more. You can select the cards in any order, so if you want to compare two behaviors you can do this easily. For example, if you want understand the differences between “Attending and social referencing” and “Social skills” you can easily listen to one and then the other.
As an RBT you will have a specific role with your clients. The examples used in the lessons support learning and align with the function of the RBT. These examples will help you understand what will be expected of you in your position.
This lesson offers short examples of prompts an RBT might use. They reinforce the lesson by repeating the main idea, and provide a scenario you might encounter as an RBT.
Some examples model decisions an RBT might be tasked to make when working with a client. Not only does this prepare you for the exam but it demonstrates situations you can expect to encounter in the future.
Additional examples role play scenarios an RBT might encounter, such as the one above that involves a new employee orientation.
Pros and Cons
No program is a perfect fit for every student. While the 40-hour RBT training offered through ATCC is great, it’s not a fit for everyone.
|Students have control over videos and lessons. Watch them in any order and pick up where you left off even if you leave the site.||The presentation is impersonal and there is no connection with the instructors.|
|Navigation is easy to understand.||It can be tedious to keep clicking next and this interrupts the flow of the lesson.|
|Content progresses logically and is easy to understand.||Could be expensive if you need months to complete the coursework.|
|Examples help demonstrate concepts.|
|The material stays within the requirements of the BACB and the task list and therefore the course prepares you for the exam better than some other options.|
|Visuals aid learning.|
|Pricing structure encourages learners to complete the course in 2 weeks or less.|
What We Liked about the Training through the Autism Therapy Career College
The training itself was created by Relias – one of the top training organizations in the field. The course is thorough and focused on what the BACB wants you to know. It is one of the best options available to prepare you for the exam.
Like the Verbal Behavior Institute, the videos can be watched in any order and you can start and stop them so that the training fits in your schedule. This training however has been professionally produced – and it shows.
The examples generally prepare students to work as an RBT in any setting. They focus on how an RBT should respond to a variety of behaviors that they could encounter anywhere.
We feel that this option is the best one to prepare you to not only take the exam, but also begin your career.
Why You Should Consider a Different Option
If you’re on a strict budget and you’re not sure you’ll be disciplined enough to finish the course in your target timeline then paying by the week might not be a good option for you. You might be better off with the training offered through the Verbal Behavior Institute or something else entirely.
Not everyone will want the level of interaction required in this training, since some of the interaction is to ensure you’re paying attention for the full 40 hours. Depending on your personal learning style you may prefer to watch videos like in the Autism Partnership Foundation and Verbal Behavior Institute trainings.
While some people will love the perfectly executed training, others might find the monotone of the speakers to be robotic and not personal enough for their tastes.
Who Should Sign Up?
|Sign Up||Try Something Else|
|You need motivation to complete the coursework quickly||You’re on a budget and can’t afford to continue the course if it’s not completed as expected|
|You like the type of narration in the example above||You prefer a more personal approach to the course*|
|You can afford to continue the course if it’s not complete in the time frame you expect||You don’t plan to work in a typical ABA setting (for example, a teacher who will be working in a classroom)|
Verbal Behavior Institute
The Verbal Behavior Institute was the mid-priced training that we examined. At $99 for the complete training this option is affordable for most candidates seeking certification as a Registered Behavior Technician.
We discovered that there is no information available on the instructors (and therefore no way to verify that the training is actually accredited by the BACB) until you purchase the training. This information should be visible before you buy the training, but we have verified this for you.
We weren’t able to find any information about the instructors until after we signed up for the training. Once logged in, you will discover that the lead instructor is Vivian Attanasio, BCBA, LBA. Her biography from her training is below:
Vivian Attanasio has been serving the special needs community for over 20 years. In that time, she has served many roles such as school Psychologist, Case Manager, Clinical Director and Consultant.
She has designed ABA classrooms utilizing B.F. Skinner’s analysis of verbal behavior across several counties of New Jersey. In addition, she has published research in the Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis on vocal production.
Currently, Ms. Attanasio is VP of the Behavior Services Department for the Services for a NY-based not-for-profit organization which serves over 300 adults with Autism and other Developmental Disabilities.
The lead instructor is Vivian Attanasio from New Jersey and we were able to find her in the BACB Certificant Registry:
Through the lessons, you will learn that Vivian has a passion for children. She clearly empathizes with the children she works with and strives to help others understand that they don’t see the world in the same way. During the training, she reminds students that when things are written down about a learner the information stays in their file. She encourages her students to set an example and advocate for the children they work with.
Some of the lessons are led by James O’Brien, MA, BCBA, NY-LBA. There is no biography for Jim.
What We Like about the Training through the Verbal Behavior Institute
Unlike some trainings we’ve tried, with the training offered through the Verbal Behavior Institute the user has controls in the videos so you can back up and listen to lessons again if you miss something. You can stop and start each video when you need to. Know that if you forward through a video it won’t mark the lesson as complete. The BACB requires 40 hours for training and you must watch the entire video to get credit for the lesson.
The videos can be watched in any order and you can easily stop and start when you need to – a feature sorely missing in the free training.
The navigation through the training is simple and intuitive. The check marks and progress bars next to each lesson allows you to quickly see exactly how much you’ve completed and what you have left to do. While you’re viewing a lesson you’ll find similar indicators for each lesson in the module as well.
Each presentation is available for you to download as either a PDF or PowerPoint. This allows you to keep the materials to use to study for your exam, but also to reference as you begin your career. There is a lot of information in these documents and they include her examples and case studies. The downloaded files have the name to match the lesson, but you’ll want to be sure to rename them to something more useful to make it easy to find information later one.
The training is full of examples that come from the real world and helps the student understand how to apply what is being taught. Her examples are especially helpful if you’re working, or planning to work in a school setting as her examples primarily take place in the classroom.
While she doesn’t demonstrate all of the skills being taught, some of the more advanced skills like discrete trial training are shown in practice with a student. These demonstrations help students better understand what will be expected of them in the field.
The training comes with an Exam Prep section that contains quizzes for each module. While some users might prefer to have the quizzes accessible through the training, having them in a separate section allows you to truly use it as a practice for your exam.
What Could Be Improved in the 40 Hour Training through the VBI
While overall we feel this training is a good option for many students, there were areas in which the training from the Verbal Behavior Institute could be improved.
Not all of the information she covers relates specifically to an RBT’s role. For example, she covers creating operational definitions which wouldn’t be something an RBT would do, however this knowledge might help an RBT work better with a BCBA.
Doesn’t Explain the RBT Role and Responsibilities
The lessons are organized according to the RBT task list. This is good if your primary goal is understanding the BACB task list and how it relates to being an RBT. Best for people who are linear thinkers, but you will need to plan on additional training to understand your role and responsibilities outside the task list. This training is a good supplement if you’ve taken other training, like the free training offered through the Autism Partnership Foundation, but want to understand how ABA concepts relate to the task list.
Might be Confusing
The training follows the task list a bit too closely so if you don’t have any background knowledge of ABA you might be confused by some of her lessons. The concepts she introduces aren’t necessarily presented in a way that gives you context if you’re unaware of the terms she’s using, such as antecedent or consequence. She sometimes uses these terms before she’s defined them which might be confusing for someone with no experience in ABA.
Find more information watch our video review:
Who Should Register for the 40 Hour Training through VBI?
Is the 40 hour RBT training offered through the Verbal Behavior Institute right for you?
This training will be a good option for some people. If the format appeals to you this is certainly one of the better options we’ve found. The flexibility of having user control over the videos and the ability to watch them in any order, or rewatch parts of them if you need to is a great feature.
All of the quizzes are in the Exam Prep section which is separate from the training. Some people might prefer a quiz after each of the lessons to test what they’ve learned. But for others the idea of taking quizzes throughout the training might add unnecessary stress. Just know that you’ll have to navigate out of the training if you want to take the quiz after the lesson.
Another great resource is the downloadable materials. This is perfect for taking notes or studying. She’s put a lot of work into this training and it’s worth the relatively small fee she’s charging. At $99 you get a lot of value in the training. This is a good mid-level option for students on a budget who need more guidance than what the free training through the Autism Partnership Foundation training offers.
|Sign Up||Try Something Else|
|You’re familiar with ABA terms and basic concepts.||You’re brand new to ABA and you don’t have time to watch the videos more than once (see below for recommendations).|
|You work or plan to work in a school environment.||You want an interactive training.|
|You’re a linear thinker who wants a training that strictly follows the BACB Task List.|
If you’re new to ABA and you have the time, it might be good to start with the free training offered by the Autism Partnership Foundation (APF) to get some foundational knowledge of ABA and the terms, then take this training. I have a review of this training as well – and why you might not want to rely on the free training as your only training before taking the exam (read our review). If you don’t have time to supplement this training with the one from APF, then you would be better off with the training offered through the Autism Therapy Career College (read our review).Back to Top
About the Autism Partnership Foundation
The Autism Partnership Foundation offers the only completely free course you’ll find to meet the 40-hour training required by the BACB. But there’s a reason this course is free.
The mission of this non profit organization is “Advancing effective methodology and behavior analytic treatment to improve outcomes of individuals with Autism Spectrum Disorder.” They do this by providing training in the field of ABA.
This organization has a clear vision of how ABA should be implemented and they use their training, particularly their free 40-hour RBT training as a way to share their vision. In their marketing video they promote their “extra” content in the training as going beyond what the BACB requires for certification, however what this actually does is take time away from teaching the items that are on the task list.
When we took their training we were shocked at how much training time was used to promote what they call the “Autism Partnership Method” or “Progressive ABA.” Although we didn’t disagree with much of what they’re teaching, it certainly isn’t the best training to prepare you for the RBT exam, and often the message they’re sharing about how the field of ABA needs to change is something an RBT will have little to no influence in changing, especially when they’re just starting out.
In their marketing video they also sound surprised that anyone would charge for access to training. However it takes time and money to create a quality training program and it’s unreasonable to expect anyone to provide training without recouping that investment. The Autism Partnership Foundation charges for all their other courses. There’s a reason this one is free.
Free 40-Hour Training from the Autism Partnership Foundation
The Autism Partnership Foundation provides a training that meets the requirements for RBT certification through the BACB. You can access their training through the Autism Partnership Foundation website.
The training consists of 69 videos, each with a required quiz at the end (except for the last lesson which doesn’t have a quiz). Each lesson features a recording of a presenter at a podium with a PowerPoint presentation. The training is a recording of an in-person training they had provided.
Within the training they caution students that the 40 hour training isn’t enough. It’s true that any 40 hour training will likely leave students unprepared for their first day as an RBT even if they pass the exam and competency assessment. However this training spends so much time talking about the Autism Partnership Method and what they term Progressive ABA that students may be left unprepared to take the exam itself.
The training itself is a recording of an in-person training they offered. The video shows both the speaker and the PowerPoint presentation:
They are very clear about which topics are on the BACB task list and which are part of what they call the Autism Partnership Method. But this also makes it obvious how much of the presentation is dedicated to their own topics.
The lessons are presented in a logical order that assumes the student doesn’t have prior knowledge of Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) concepts. This is important if you’re new the field and aren’t familiar with the seemingly endless terms and acronyms used in ABA.
The first 5 lessons provide an overview of ABA and ABA programs. During this section students are introduced to the core beliefs of the Autism Partnership Foundation and what they term the Autism Partnership Method or Progressive ABA. This information is not required by the BACB and is at the core of why APF provides this training for free.
The 40-hour training from APF was the least flexible of all the options we looked at. When taking the training users aren’t able to listen to segments of the videos again without rewatching it from the beginning. Students also must watch the videos in order and are unable to continue until they’ve taken the quiz at the end of the lesson.
For a complete review and demonstration of the training watch our video:
What We Love about the Free 40-Hour Training
While there are many training options available for the 40-hour course requirement, the training provided by the Autism Partnership Foundation has some important benefits.
- It’s free. Regardless of the limitations of the training, it’s hard to beat free. Even if you choose to take this as a supplement to other training, that’s easy to do because this is free. And oh, did we mention its FREE?
- They have an honorable goal. Additionally their mission of elevating the knowledge of individuals entering the field is commendable.
- They map what they’re teaching to the RBT task list.
- The presentations clearly indicate the section of the task list the subject applies but also lets students know when the topic is strictly concerning the Autism Partnership method.
What Could be Improved with the Training from the Autism Partnership Foundation
That being said, there is much room for improvement with this training.
- This training alone probably won’t prepare someone new to the field of ABA for the RBT exam on its own. The amount of time they spend spreading their own message detracts from time that should be spent covering the material students are required to know. This information should be provided as an addendum or supplement to training that covers what the BACB requires prospective RBT candidates to know.
- The lack of controls is also something that might be difficult to handle. With each video taking over an hour to watch it’s hard to stick with each lesson in its entirety. However if you get pulled away and you end up logged out of their system you’ll have to start the lesson over from the beginning. For students who want to take notes as you go, you’ll need to be sure to pause the video because you won’t be able to rewatch something you missed without starting from the beginning.
- The delivery of the material is fine, but it’s not interactive and simply not that engaging. But then it’s free so it’s reasonable quality for the price. Just know that if you don’t do well listening to lectures this might not be the training for you.
How Can the Autism Partnership Foundation Provide the 40-Hour Training for Free?
Few, if any, organizations have the resources to provide quality training for free. In their marketing video Justin Leaf, Director of Training and Co-Director of Research, says he’s “had it” with people charging for this training. Yet how can anyone offer so much content for free?
There are a few things you should know about how and why they are offering the 40-hour RBT training for free.
- The training is a recording of an in-person training they did.
- They are a non-profit organization which is eligible for donations and grants.
- They have a clear message they are conveying through the training that isn’t directly related to the BACB requirements.
Recording of In-Person Training
The Autism Partnership Foundation provides in-person training and workshops. The free 40-hour online RBT training is a recording of one of these trainings. It’s unclear if the people who attended in-person paid for the training, but the end result is that the training consists of a presenter at a podium with PowerPoint slides.
Because of this, it lacks many of the features other online courses offer such as downloadable resources or interactive elements. However, this is a key reason they are able to provide this training for free.
As a non-profit organization they are able to accept donations and qualify for grants other organization can’t get. This allows them to operate by getting money from donors and grantors instead of students. For students who would struggle to pay the $99+ other companies charge for training, this can be a game-changer.
Autism Partnership Foundation Message
A significant portion of the training is spent talking about how the Autism Partnership Foundation would like ABA services to be provided. An entire lesson (over an hour) is spent discussing “bad ABA” and how the “Autism Partnership Method” or “Progressive ABA” is the solution. This theme carries throughout the training.
Although we aren’t affiliated with the APF in any way, and therefore don’t have any specific knowledge about why they created this training for free, it seems clear that the purpose of providing the training for free is to share this message with as many people as possible.
While we agree with much of what they say, using this training as a means to spread the message takes valuable time away from the topics required by the BACB.
Should You Take the Free 40-Hour Training?
The bottom line. It might seem like an easy decision to go with the free training, but it’s not for everyone.
|Sign Up||Try Something Different|
|You can’t afford other training options||You have at least $99 you can invest in a different training|
|You want to take this training in addition to other training||You are looking for a training focused on the RBT task list and what the BACB expects you to learn|
|You feel confident in passing the exam even if much of the training is focused on topics not on the task list||You don’t learn well from lectures|
|You are researching perspectives on the field of ABA||You don’t have at least 2 hour blocks to commit to training|
This training is perfect if you:
- Can’t afford $99 for one of the other training options and you are confident you can study sufficiently on your own to pass the exam.
- Have prior experience with ABA and simply need to meet the 40-hour training requirement.
- Plan to take this in addition to other training to get multiple perspectives and/or additional reinforcement of the material.
Look for a different option if you:
- Need the 40-hour training to fully prepare you for the exam.
- Don’t have at least 2 hour blocks that you can dedicate to watching the lectures. Some videos are less than 2 hours but if you can’t block at least 2 hours at a time you will find yourself rewatching some of these lectures.
- Are unable to learn well from a lecture. There are no documents to download and no interactive elements to keep your attention focused on the presentation.