There are many different paths to pursuing a career in Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) to help improve the lives of individuals with autism (and other disabilities). Many interested in entering the field begin by obtaining their certification as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT).
There are 3 simple steps to reach your RBT certification. While the steps are simple, earning your certification takes work and dedication. To become an RBT, you must complete the 40 hour coursework, pass the competency assessment and take the certification exam.
- Complete the 40-hour RBT coursework
- Pass the competency assessment with a BCBA
- Take the RBT certification exam
Before we dive into the 3 steps you need to take, make sure you’re eligible for certification. The BACB requires that all RBT applicants:
- Are at least 18 years of age
- Have a high school diploma or national equivalent
- Pass a background check equivalent to that needed for employment in schools or child care centers
Don’t go on to complete the steps below if you don’t meet the above requirements.
1. Complete the 40-hour RBT Certification Coursework
The BACB has strict guidelines about the coursework RBT candidates must complete. Online training programs, universities, and agencies provide training that covers the RBT 2nd Edition Task List as outlined by the BACB. This training must take at least 5 days, but not more than 180 days from start to finish. For information about recent changes to the RBT Task List, read our post: Identifying the Changes in the RBT Task List from the BACB.
Which training is best for you depends a lot on your learning style. Many available trainings are self-paced requiring that you have the self-discipline to complete the coursework before the 180 days. If you struggle with the terminology, an in-person course that gives you access to an instructor to answer your question may be best for you.
Comparing Available Courses
The table below presents many of the available options for online training. You have a lot of options available to you and they vary widely in both cost and quality. If you feel that in-person training is the best fit for you, research the schools near you to find one that offers an approved course. As companies often run sales on their training programs, the cost listed in the table reflects the usual, non-sale prices for the training. For an in-depth comparison of 3 of these options, as well as tips on what to look for when selecting a course view our post Become an RBT: Choose the Best 40-Hour Course for You!
|Training||Usual Cost||Additional Information|
|Autism Therapy Career College||$29/week||Offers packages including RBT Competency Assessment and Full RBT Certification|
|Relias Academy||$99||Includes 75 question practice exam|
|RBT Online Training||$35||Also offers a study guide add-on for an additional $8|
|Florida Institute (FIT)||$149||Includes 2 practice exams|
|Behavior Development Solutions||$132||Includes acquisition and fluency modules to promote both quick and accurate responding|
|University of South Florida (USF)||$200||Offers discounts of up to 100% depending on USF affiliation|
|Behavior University||$69||Offers upgrades to include additional resources ranging in price from an additional $30-$60.|
|Verbal Behavior Institute||$99||Lecture-style lessons with examples from a school environment.|
|Autism Partnership Foundation||Free||Lecture-style lessons with information about their teaching method that isn’t necessary for the RBT exam.|
|University of Central Florida (UCF)||$539||Available live-stream or in-class.|
|Special Learning||$99||Offers a bundle that includes the competency assessment for an additional $500.|
|Central Reach||$149||Includes interactive activities|
Many employers will cover the cost of the training for staff new to the field; however, some employers may have conditions surrounding this training. If your employer offers this training to you, make sure you know what their expectations are. Ask the following questions before agreeing to allow them to cover the cost of training:
- Do they require you to sign a contract?
- Will they ask you to sign a noncompete clause?
- Do they expect you to reimburse the cost if you fail the exam?
- Will you receive a pay increase when you pass the exam?
- What is the pay differential between an RBT and a non-RBT?
- Is becoming an RBT a requirement of employment?
- Will you be paid for time spent training?
Should I Find an Employer Willing to Pay for the RBT Certification Coursework?
Due to the requirements of employers and the possibility of beginning a position at a higher pay scale, it’s not always in your best interest to allow an employer to cover the cost of training. Online training is often available for under $100. Completing your training in advance of pursing a professional position makes you more marketable and likely means a higher initial pay rate which significantly offsets the initial cost of becoming certified.
Although employers in some states and locations may be willing to pay for the coursework for non-certified applicants, this is becoming harder to find as RBT positions become more competitive. Obtaining your certification before applying for a position in the field provides you with an important advantage over other applicants. With the final cost of completing the process yourself under $1,000 in most circumstances (including the cost of the coursework, competency assessment, application fee, and exam fee), it’s worth the investment if you can manage.
2. Pass the RBT Competency Assessment with a BCBA
The BACB requires that the RBT applicant pass an assessment demonstrating competency in each of the areas listed on the task list. The initial competency assessment includes 20 assessment items and must be completed by a BCBA. You must demonstrate understanding of each of the skills either through interview, role-play, or with a client.
The BACB requires that at least 3 skills be demonstrated with a client. The client does not need to be a paying client but must be someone for whom behavior analytic services are appropriate. This requirement may make it difficult to complete the competency assessment outside of a work environment; however, many BCBAs are willing to help RBT candidates meet this requirement, for a fee.
As with the RBT coursework, many employers offer a BCBA supervisor to complete the assessment. Many of the same questions above apply here. Make sure you know what your employer expects of you if they complete this assessment for you. Don’t assume that this comes without strings.
When you’re ready to complete the competency assessment, practice! Make sure you understand the terminology. This will make the assessment faster and easier to complete while removing much of the stress.
The assessment requires that you understand terms including:
- Continuous measurement
- Discontinuous measurement
- Whole interval
- Partial interval
- Momentary time sampling
- Discrimination training
- Stimulus control transfer
You must also demonstrate the ability to:
- Enter data and update graphs
- Teach skills in both DTT and NET settings
- Conduct preference assessments
- Collect ABC data
- Use prompting strategies
- Use token economy
- Implement crisis procedures
- Demonstrate antecedent interventions, differential reinforcement, or extinction procedures
- Write a session note
- Describe ways to protect client dignity and maintain professional boundaries
- Identify supervision requirements
- Describe a situation that requires seeking clinical direction
Below is an image of the RBT Competency Hidden Objects Practice available on TpT. Find the 22 hidden objects in the library, answer the questions, then ACE the competency assessment! It covers all the subjects in the assessment and makes it fun to learn the material!
How to Find a BCBA Supervisor for Your Competency Assessment
If you decide to pursue certification without the help of your employer, you must also find a BCBA supervisor. While this might feel daunting, the BACB makes it easy. They offer a search function on their website that allows you to easily find BCBAs in your area who offer supervision. If there are no BCBAs in your area or if you prefer completing supervision online, you can find BCBAs across the country willing to provide supervision.
If you know a BCBA, you can search by name to get the contact information. Clicking on the arrow to the left of the BCBA’s name will provide you more details. In this expanded format, you can see if the certificant is able to offer supervision. There are options for BCaBA and BCBA or BCaBA trainees; however, the BACB does not list willingness to work with RBT candidates. You will have to reach out individually to the certificant to inquire about this specifically. In order to provide supervision, a BCBA must complete an 8 hour supervision course and collect supervision CEUs each certification cycle.
When you click on the name of the BCBA, you see an option that allows you to contact the BCBA via an email form. Most BCBAs respond quickly to inquiries. If they are not able to provide you with supervision, they many will happily assist you in finding the supervision you need.
Interested in an easier, more reliable process? Learn about Autism Therapy Career College (ATTC) and what they have to offer you! Learn more in our post: Autism Therapy Career College: Online RBT Training .
3. Take the RBT Certification Exam
Before taking the exam, you will need to sign up for an account at the BACB Gateway. There you will be guided through each step you need to complete to apply for the exam. You need to upload documentation that confirms your eligibility to take the exam, including your certificate of completion for the coursework and have your BCBA supervisor complete their attestations. At this time, you the BACB requires a $50 payment for the application.
As the exam is done at a Pearson Vue testing site, you will need to schedule with the testing center once your application is approved by the BACB. Unlike the other BACB exams, the RBT exam is available on a continuous basis, including on Saturdays. The fee for the exam is $45.
The RBT certification exam consists of a series of multiple-choice questions that test your knowledge of ABA terminology and theory. It closely aligns to items on the task list, therefore, after completing your 40-hour training you should be well prepared for it.
There are multiple ways to prepare for the exam. Review the material from the 40-hour training, identify terminology that’s unclear, and consult with your BCBA supervisor. Your BCBA supervisor is a great resource for helping you understand the material. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. ABA.Rocks offers multiple practice exams and SAFMEDS cards that guide you through the material. The information on this site is free, but they do have ways you can support them in their ongoing mission. Few people enjoy taking exams, but being prepared will help you feel relaxed through it.
Check out the information on the BACB website for additional information about the exam.
As with the coursework and competency assessment, some employers offer to cover the cost of the exam. Make sure you know what your employer expects in return. If you plan to look for a new position, you might find a higher starting salary if you complete the exam prior to applying. The total cost for certification typically falls between $200-$1,000 (including the coursework, exam fees, and paid supervision from a BCBA) depending on the path you choose. If the total cost you invest in becoming certified is $1,000 and you start your job $2/hour more than non-certified staff, then you will recoup the cost in just 12.5 weeks without any obligation to your employer. Don’t let the process intimidate you. Take it step-by-step and you will become a Registered Behavior Technician!
Welcome to the field! Enjoy the journey!