Registered Behavior Technician: Complete Guide

Are you considering working as an RBT? When browsing the internet you’ll find many posts telling you, “of course you should become an RBT!” But this career path isn’t ideal for everyone.

Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) is a certification given the Behavior Analytic Certification Board (BACB) for individuals who practice Applied Behavior Analysis under the close supervision of a Board Certified Assistant Analyst (BCaBA) or Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA). While this role is often associated with working with children with autism, RBTs can work with a variety of individuals across many settings. Certification is relatively affordable and easy to achieve, and is a good career options for high school graduates who love both science and 1-on-1 interaction with clients.

But all the information on the internet about becoming an RBT can be contradictory and confusing. How do you know if becoming certified as an RBT is right for you, and if it is, how do you go about obtaining certification? We can help! Below are important questions to help get you started.

  1. What does a Registered Behavior Technician do?
  2. What does it take to be an RBT?
  3. Is RBT certification worth it?
  4. How much does RBT certification cost?
  5. Is working as an RBT stressful?
  6. How much do Registered Behavior Technicians make?
  7. Is it hard to become an RBT?
  8. How can I become a Registered Behavior Technician?
  9. How can I find a BCBA to complete my competency assessment?
  10. How can I prepare for the competency assessment and the exam?
  11. What other challenges can I expect when working as an RBT?
  12. How do I maintain certification once I obtain it?

What does a Registered Behavior Technician do?

Registered Behavior Technicians work 1-on-1 with clients in a variety of settings to implement Behavior Interventions Plans (BIP) under the direct supervision of a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst). They may work in a clinic, school, clients’ homes or out in the community. RBT duties are outlined in the RBT task list provided by the Behavior Analytic Certification Board (BACB). These tasks include teaching new skills and reducing interfering or dangerous behaviors as outlined in the BIP.

Depending on the setting, as an RBT you may work with your client on any of a number of skills including:

  • Communication skills
  • Self-care skills
  • Community skills
  • Play skills
  • Coping skills

As an RBT, every day is different and you often don’t know what to expect from one minute to the next.

Very often an RBT works with individuals with autism, however they may also support individuals with other disabilities or needs. An RBT implements the plan laid out by the Board Certified Behavior Analyst. To do this, you must understand ABA data collection techniques and how to implement intervention procedures. You need to know how to appropriately respond to any behavior you might encounter and you are responsible for keeping yourself, your client and those around you safe.

As an RBT, you may work in a clinic, school, your clients’ homes or out in the community. Tasks will vary depending on your setting and your clients’ individual needs, however the BACB provides a task list that outlines the responsibilities of an RBT. As an RBT you will need to be able to:

  • Record data in a variety of ways including continuous measurement, discontinuous measurement, and more
  • Perform assessments that include preference assessments, functional assessments and individualized assessment procedures
  • Understand an implement a skill acquisition plan that may require the use of shaping, token economy, prompting, DTT, NET, chaining and more
  • Generalize skills learned
  • Describe common functions of behavior
  • Implement behavior reduction procedures including antecedent interventions, differential reinforcement, and extinction procedures
  • Complete detailed session notes for each client session

But what does this mean in practice? The experience of each RBT is unique, but one thing is common among all. Every day is different!

As an RBT you might help your clients with any number of skills including:

  • Communication skills
  • Self-care skills
  • Community skills
  • Play skills
  • Coping skills

You would also help reduce interfering and dangerous behaviors such as SIB (self-injurious behaviors). You can achieve this in a variety of ways depending on the environment in which you work.

As you watch your clients progress and build independence you can find your work to be incredibly rewarding. However, this isn’t a career that is ideal for everyone. Consider the pros and cons of working in each setting before making any decisions.

Let’s look at the types of activities you might perform in different settings.

Work in a Clinic

Every clinic is different. Many will be set up to resemble a school setting, however others will feel more clinical. Some will focus more on Natural Environment Teaching (NET) while others use more traditional methods such as Discrete Trial Training (DTT). When working in a clinic you can expect to work 1-on-1 with clients but you may also work in small groups. You will have direct oversight from a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) or BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst) who works for the clinic.

In a clinic you will likely be expected to:

  • Complete all programing requests from BCBAs and Program Coordinators in a timely manner
  • Collect data
  • Provide assistance to the ABA supervisor during treatment
  • Help clients/parents understand protocols of ABA
  • Support clients in daily activities, including diaper changes/toilet learning, eating, and other areas where they may need support
  • Complete all data sheets, programming sheets, and progress note
  • Implement appropriate teaching strategies and behavior modification approaches
  • Work as part of a team and attend meetings
  • Use Discrete Trial Training (DTT) procedures

Pros: This setting can be beneficial for new RBTs as often there are many people close by who can offer guidance when you have questions. You may feel part of a team and less isolated than when working in clients’ homes or in the community.

Cons: When working in a clinic you may experience conflict with coworkers/supervisors that you might avoid in other settings. In clinics you’re more likely to use DTT. The BCBA may provide more oversight than you prefer.

Work in a School

RBTs in schools may have many different roles. You may be assigned to work primarily with one student, or you may work with groups of students. Schools are required to make accommodations for students who need additional assistance. While schools meet this requirement in a variety of ways, more are seeing the benefit of hiring RBTs to assist, and demand is increasing for these services.

Your responsibilities will typically include assisting teachers and other staff. Some duties you would expect to perform would include:

  • Performs Behavior Intervention for general education and for ESE students
  • Assists teachers in the development and implementation of a social skills curriculum appropriate to students served
  • Collaborates with school personnel to promote an educational climate that facilitates student success and academic achievement
  • Provides direct support to students in need of behavioral services
  • Assist teachers in developing behavioral plans for students who exhibit extreme disruptive or noncompliant behavior
  • Assists educational instructors in implementing strategies to work with students demonstrating emotional and/or behavioral difficulties in the classroom
  • Implements behavior intervention procedures for students needing behavior training
  • Collects data
  • Builds relationships with children
  • Attends meetings

Pros: Typically you will only be required to work during the school day which means no nights, weekends or holidays. You will often have the ability to work more independently, while still implementing the plan set forth by the BCBA responsible for the care of the child or children you are supporting.

Cons: In a school setting you will have fewer opportunities to seek guidance from more experienced RBTs and may have less access to your supervisor for immediate questions.

Work in Client’s Homes

Many RBTs provide in-home services for their clients. In this setting you provide many of the same services as in the other environments, however you may also encounter some of the following tasks:

  • Sibling interactions
  • Interacting with pets
  • Parent training

When applying for a position that is home-based, be sure you will be reimbursed for mileage and travel time.

Pros: Ideal for individuals who want to work independently and who prefer working in a variety of settings. Most often these programs depend heavily on Natural Environment Teaching and you may find generalization easier for many of your clients when compared with treatment in a clinic setting.

Cons: You may be required to work nights, weekends and holidays. You may encounter parents who don’t understand ABA strategies who could make implementing the Behavior Intervention Plan difficult. You might find some living conditions uncomfortable or concerning and become frustrated you can’t do more to help your clients.

Work in the Community

Finally, another option you can consider is working in the community. This option may give you the most independence, but you’ll also find the least support. When working in the community you will find yourself with these responsibilities:

  • Provide transportation
  • Bring your client into a variety of settings including stores, libraries, restaurants and playgrounds
  • Teach your client appropriate ways to interact with others when in the community

As with home-based services, when applying for a position that is community-based, be sure you will be reimbursed for mileage and travel time.

Pros: Variety, flexibility and independence are some of the biggest benefits of working with individuals in the community. Also, by nature the learning is naturalistic, so if you’re not a fan of administering DTT and similar repetitive procedures this may be a good option for you.

Cons: You may be required to work nights, weekends and holidays. Managing challenging behavior when out in the community may be one of the most difficult tasks an RBT will have to do. If your client becomes dangerous, or simply refuses to leave a location you may feel unprepared, unsupported, isolated and even scared.

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What does it take to be an RBT?

While many posts will tout RBT certification as a great career for anyone, in reality it takes a special kind of person to enjoy working in this role. While it isn’t our goal to discourage anyone from getting into the field of ABA, it’s important to have the facts so that you’re able to be the best RBT you can be. These traits will be critical to your success:

  • Patient
  • Work well in a team environment
  • Take direction from others
  • Able to be playful
  • Energetic
  • Control emotions
  • Compassionate

An RBT must be patient

Not only will patience be required while working with your clients and coworkers, many of your tasks may be repetitive and even boring. Whether you find yourself in a clinic administering Discrete Trial Training, recording how many times your client gets out of his chair in an hour during school, or in a client’s home conducting a preference assessment, you will likely find some tasks to be tedious. You’ll be required to provide detailed notes of each session and follow a methodical approach to each interaction.

While engaged in training to become an RBT, carefully consider whether you enjoy these types of tasks. They will be a big part of your day.

An RBT needs to work as part of a team

Although much of your time will be spent working 1-on-1 with clients, you will also be required to function as part of a team. This may be sharing space and resources with your fellow RBTs , collaborating with teachers, occupational therapists, speech therapists and parents, or simply representing your employer in a professional manner.

An RBT must take direction from others

As part of certification as an RBT you’re required to take direction from your RBT Supervisor (a BCBA or BCaBA). You must implement the Behavior Intervention Plan as they’ve written it. If you’re someone who prefers to do things your own way or will feel compelled to voice your opinion when you disagree with the plan, then becoming an RBT may not be the best path for you (you may want to consider becoming a BCBA instead!). There will likely be times you don’t agree with what your RBT Supervisor wants you to do, but unless it breaches the BACB code of ethics it’s your job to follow their plan.

You may find yourself working in an environment where you are encouraged to voice your opinions, but this is the exception.

An RBT needs to be able to be playful

Whether working with children or adults, you will need to become a reinforcer for your clients (they need to WANT to be with you). A playful manner can often encourage a client to engage while you’re still building a rapport with them. Remember that most of the individuals you support don’t choose to work with you. Through circumstance beyond their control they may need your services, but you can’t expect that they’ll be excited to be with you – a stranger – and creating new routines.

You will find that being playful will make sessions fun for both you and your clients.

An RBT must be energetic

An RBT’s work is often physically demanding. You may find yourself running after clients who elope, cleaning up after clients and even rearranging furniture for environmental modifications (if your client insists on climbing on the bookshelves you just might decide to turn them to face the wall!).

But beyond this, interventions are often better received when delivered with a level of enthusiasm. Watch this video on Behavioral Momentum as an example:

An RBT needs to be in control of their emotions

An RBT position can be emotionally draining. You will feel anger, frustration, disappointment, and possibly even sadness both as you work with your clients and deal with the demands of your superiors in the organization. Decisions might be made you disagree with. You may discover one of your clients being badly treated at home. A client who had shown significant progress might regress and you may encounter problem behaviors worse than they were when you started.

Regardless of what happens, or how you feel about a situation, you need to remain calm and professional.

An RBT must be compassionate

Many of the individuals you will support as an RBT will have severe challenges with everyday tasks. Some may be unable or unwilling to communicate. Others may communicate their frustration with you and the world through aggressive behaviors. You might work with clients who ignore you, spit in your face, pee on the floor, remove their clothes in public or otherwise make your job difficult. Through it all it’s critical you maintain compassion for your clients and remember to treat them as you would anyone with thoughts, feelings and opinions.

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Is RBT certification worth it?

For most, certification as a Registered Behavior Technician provides opportunities to be hired at entry-level positions. Certification only requires a high school diploma, isn’t expensive and can be obtained fairly quickly for as little as $200-300. However, there are requirements to maintain certification – such as ongoing supervision – and if you don’t plan to work in the field of ABA under the guidance of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) then going through the certification process may not be worth it.

When deciding for yourself if certification is worthwhile, consider the following:

  • Will you be able to meet the ongoing supervision requirement? (5% of your hours must be supervised by a qualified supervisor)
  • Is the median salary/hourly wage sufficient? (you can expect to make approximately $13-20/hour)
  • Do you enjoy working as part of a team or under the direction of a supervisor? (this is not a role for someone who likes to work independently)
  • Do you have the patience to collect data and work with individuals with disabilities?

Applied Behavior Analysis is a field that is in-demand. But is certification as a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) worth it? Most often, you’ll find people on the internet, “of course it’s worth it!” But this career path isn’t ideal for everyone.

Certification as a Registered Behavior Technician isn’t very expensive, nor is it overly difficult if you have an aptitude for science and logical thinking. But to maintain your certification you will need to meet the supervision requirement set by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). If you are able to meet this requirement, then certification can create new career paths and could help you earn more money. However if you are unable to meet the supervision requirements you should consider another option.

While the rest of this post goes into detail, the table below will help you decide whether certification as an RBT is the right path for you. Even if certification isn’t a good fit, taking the training and learning ABA skills can benefit many individuals.

Become CertifiedTake RBT TrainingTry Something Else
You’ll be able to receive ongoing supervisionYou won’t be able to meet the supervision requirementsYou want to control or manipulate customers or clients
You like the idea of executing someone else’s planYou prefer to work independently with little or no supervisionYou find the idea of collecting data tedious
You have a high school diplomaYou have an undergraduate or graduate’s degree and are considering working in ABAThe idea of working with a science is unappealing
You want to advance your careerYou want to become more proficient in your current positionYou lack empathy for the individuals you may be supporting
You’re looking for a new career working with children or adults with disabilitiesYou’re not sure if a career in ABA is right for you

RBT Ongoing Supervision Requirements from the BACB

In order to maintain certification, individuals must comply with the requirements set forth by the BACB. The most challenging criteria to meet for some candidates will be the ongoing supervision. As an RBT you are not permitted to work without the oversight of a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst) or BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst). A BCBA or BCaBA must oversee 5% of your hours at each organization where you perform ABA services. As part of this requirement the BACB also does not permit RBTs to be independent contractors as they are required to take direction from the supervisor, therefore the supervision must take place as part of their position. If you’re not able to meet this requirement, it’s unlikely to be worth obtaining certification.

However, training in Applied Behavior Analysis can help in a variety of careers so you may still want to complete the training without following through with certification, or you may decide to obtain a higher certification that doesn’t have this requirement.

The RBT Handbook has complete details on the requirements for ongoing supervision. In this document, the BACB explains the need for supervision:

As an RBT, you must practice under the close, ongoing supervision of a qualified RBT Supervisor and/or RBT Requirements Coordinator who are responsible for the work you perform. The purpose of ongoing supervision is to improve and maintain your behavior-analytic, professional, and ethical repertoires, and facilitate the delivery of high-quality services to clients (i.e., any recipient or beneficiary of behavior-analytic services). All activities must comply with the respective Codes (i.e., RBT Ethics Code for RBTs, Professional and Ethical Compliance Code for Behavior Analysts for RBT Supervisors and RBT Requirements Coordinators). For that reason, you must meet the supervision requirements at each organization where you are providing behavior analysis services.

Supervision is a critical piece of maintaining certification and therefore if you’re not able to receive supervision there is little reason to take the steps to become certified. Be aware that this advice is contrary to what you’ll find in many places on the internet. The website Applied Behavior Analysis Program Guide , for example, states:

Not only is the Registered Behavior Technician credential often required by employers working with people displaying problematic behaviors, but it’s also useful for parents and guardians of developmentally challenged children.

While it may be true that parents and guardians, and many others not working specifically as an RBT, can benefit from the training, obtaining certification is meaningless unless you plan to work in the field.

Career Prospects for an RBT

The field of Applied Behavior Analysis is growing exponentially, Individuals who hold a certification as a Registered Behavior Technician can work in a variety of settings including clinics, schools, clients’ homes and the community. Additionally, physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech therapists and more may opt to obtain certification as an RBT. Because of the range of potential employers and job responsibilities, hourly wages and salary can vary dramatically. When considering certification in the field you might expect to earn approximately $13-20/hour.

Let’s look at some examples of fields you could enter with an RBT certification.

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics , individuals working in home health or as a personal aide earn a median hourly wage of $13.02 ($27,080 annually):

While New York, California, Texas, Washington and Massachusetts have the highest demand for home health workers, the map below clearly demonstrates demand throughout the country:

Community Health workers, on the other hand, may earn a median hourly wage of $20.19 ($42,000 annually):

Not surprisingly, New York, California, Texas, Washington and Massachusetts also have the highest demand for community health workers, however once again the map below clearly demonstrates a demand nationwide:

Although the US Bureau of Labor Statistics doesn’t list Registered Behavior Technicians as a separate category, these examples are representative of what you can expect when you begin your career.,

Should You Become Certified as an RBT?

Should you become certified as an RBT? Well, the answer depends on your career goals, your personality and your level of education. This option is good for individuals with a high school diploma who want to work under the supervision of a BCBA or BCaBA. It may not be the best choice for someone with a college degree, who wants to work independently, or who won’t have access to a qualified supervisor in their role. However, it’s also important to consider your aptitude for the science of ABA as well as your desire to work one-on-one with clients who have disabilities.

Let’s look at the options by level of education first, then discuss options based on career.

High School Graduates

If you’ve graduated high school but have decided that a college degree isn’t for you, then certification as an RBT may be a good fit. This certification is one of the most affordable career-focused programs you’ll find. For someone motivated to complete the training and other requirements, preparation for certification can be completed in just a few weeks. Therefore the risk of trying this as a career option is minimal.

You may find that the structure of data collection mixed with the variety of everyday tasks is a good fit for you. Or you might discover that the jargon and constant data collection is tedious and overwhelming. Either way, you won’t have to invest much time or money to find out! If you discover you love the field there is plenty of room to grow and advance.

College Graduates

As a college graduate you have many career options available to you, depending on your area of study. The BACB offers individuals with undergraduate and graduate degrees the option of becoming certified as a BCaBA (Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analyst) or a BCBA (Board Certified Behavior Analyst), respectively. Still, obtaining certification as an RBT can help you determine your aptitude and affinity for Applied Behavior Analysis before attempting to meet the more rigorous certification of these higher levels.

Be aware however, when entering the field of ABA as an RBT with a college degree some employers may see your degree as a benefit, however others may consider you to be over-qualified. Also, most RBT positions are entry-level and the pay may not be adjusted because of your degree.

To help you decide whether pursuing RBT certification is the best option, consider the BCaBA and BCBA alternatives below.

Undergraduate Degree (BCaBA)

For candidates with an undergraduate degree, certification as a BCaBA is an option. When applying after January 1, 2022 the BACB offers 2 pathways for certification as a BCaBA (see BCaBA: 2022 Eligibility Requirements for more):

*If applying prior to 2022, see the BCaBA Handbook for requirements.

This certification takes more time and money to achieve, however you’ll find the pay to better reflect the investment you’ve made in your education. However, this level of certification still requires ongoing supervision so if you will not have access to supervision you will not be able to maintain certification.

See our post Board Certified Behavior Analyst Certification: Complete Guide for more information on this certification.

Graduate Degree (BCBA)

For candidates who have achieved, or are willing to complete, a graduate degree, you may still consider training as an RBT to explore the field of ABA as an option, but certification will likely not be worth your time. It’s unlikely someone with this level of training will be satisfied with the pay and required supervision you’ll experience in a position working as an RBT.

Instead, you may want to consider certification as a BCBA. When applying after January 1, 2022 the BACB offers 4 pathways for certification as a BCBA (see BCBA: 2022 Eligibility Requirements for more):

*If applying prior to 2022, see the BCBA Handbook for requirements.

Unlike RBT and BCaBA certification, the BCBA certification doesn’t have the ongoing supervision requirement. While there are other requirements to maintain this level of certification, you can meet these requirements even if your current role doesn’t support this.

Teachers

Teachers often find themselves working with children with autism, disabilities and behavior problems. Depending on their training and experience they may feel unprepared to cope with the situations they encounter in the classroom. Training as an RBT can help teachers learn the fundamentals of Applied Behavior Analysis and may better prepare them for working with these children. If you are able to meet the ongoing supervision requirement of RBT certification, obtaining this certification can help you advance in your career, or may open the door for other opportunities.

Physical, Occupational or Speech Therapist

While understanding behavior and motivation can be valuable in many careers, physical, occupational and speech therapist can especially benefit from training in Applied Behavior Analysis, even when not working with children or adults with autism or other disabilities. These therapists work directly with individuals who need to be motivated to perform tasks and create habits that are often difficult for them. ABA provides many tools therapists can use to achieve this. Similar to teaching, certification may be a good option if you’re able to meet the supervision requirement as this can provide new career possibilities.

Career Change

For many individuals looking to change careers, RBT certification is a good fit. It will allow you to test out the field of ABA while learning new skills. It can serve as a good way to launch a new career, but can also prove to be an option for those approaching retirement so long as you have the energy and physical abilities required of the position.

Parents of Children with Autism

Often on the internet parents of children with autism are advised to pursue a certification as an RBT. Unless a parent is planning to work in the field and help other children and families, there is NO REASON a parent needs to obtain certification. That being said, for parents who want to really dig into learning and understanding ABA concepts, taking the RBT training might be an option.

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How much does RBT Certification Cost?

There are 4 fees associated with becoming a Registered Behavior Technician: 40-hour training (varies, average around $99), competency assessment ($60-500, average $75) BACB application fee ($50) and exam fee ($45). All combined, certification as an RBT typically costs under $300.

Depending on your budget and your ability to learn independently, a certification as a Registered Behavior Technician can be achieved for even less – under $100 (just the cost of the application fee through the BACB and the exam itself). Conversely, if you want someone who will walk you through the entire process including having all fees paid for you, exam prep, and personal coaching you may pay about $1500 (see ATCC for more).

To become certified for the lowest cost, there is an option for meeting the 40-hour training requirement for free, which would mean certification would cost only $95, however this isn’t a training that will prepare you for the exam and you may be better off with other options. Other options are available for as little as $29/week or even $99 for 180 days of access to the training. If you want a complete package with someone to walk you through each step of the process and thoroughly prepare you for the exam, Autism Therapy Career College is the only program we’ve found. Our post Become an RBT: Choose the Best 40-Hour Course for You! compares what you can expect from 3 different choices.

The fact that RBT certification requires nothing more than a high school diploma makes this one of the more affordable fields to pursue.

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Is working as an RBT stressful?

Yes, working as an RBT can be stressful, demanding and emotionally draining. However it also may be one of the most rewarding careers you’ll find. As an RBT, you are on the front line, You will see some of your clients progress beyond what anyone expected of them. But you may also bear the brunt of a parent’s frustration, and be required to juggle many tasks simultaneously – all while ensuring the safety of your client and those around you.

You’ll be expected to:

  • Remember the details of the Behavior Intervention Plan you’re meant to implement – preferably without looking at it – for multiple clients
  • Deal with caregivers, teachers and more who don’t understand ABA or “buy in’ to ABA strategies
  • Adapt when a client doesn’t respond the way you expect
  • Maintain the flow of each session while recording data discretely
  • Motivate your clients to complete tasks they don’t want to do

You will also undoubtedly encounter resistance and possibly even aggressive behavior.

This isn’t “dealing with angry customers at a cash register” kind of stress. The demands on an RBT are real and sometimes your decisions may have life-altering consequences. HOWEVER, you will also experience a sense of accomplishment like no other when on of your clients speaks his first word after his parents assured you he’d never utter a word, or when the toddler turned preschooler you’ve been working with for 3 years is suddenly ready to move into Kindergarten.

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How much do Registered Behavior Technicians make?

When looking at data from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as job postings on Indeed, Glassdoor and more, the median salary for positions in which an RBT might be employed ranges from $13-20. Job listings in some areas exceed this range, however when entering the field this range would be a good guide.

See the details in the question Is RBT certification worth it? above.

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Is it hard to become an RBT?

RBT certification is the easiest certification to achieve from the BACB (Behavior Analytic Certification Board). This level of certification requires only a high school diploma, a 40-hour training, a competency assessment and the BACB exam. The BACB reports an average pass rate of 86% for this exam, which is much higher than the 65% pass rate for BCaBAs and BCBAs.

That being said, not everyone finds this certification easy to achieve. There is a lot of terminology and many acronyms to remember. Also, ABA is a science so individuals who are less analytical in their thinking might have a harder time learning the material. Also, there the trainings available vary greatly in quality of content and whether they prepare you for certification (see our post post Become an RBT: Choose the Best 40-Hour Course for You! for a comparison of 3 options).

Being an RBT and passing the competency assessment requires a great deal of organization and candidates who prefer to adhere to structure tend to have an easier time meeting the requirements.

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How can I become a Registered Behavior Technician?

There are 3 steps to completing your RBT Certification:

  1. Complete the 40-hour RBT coursework
  2. Pass the competency assessment with a BCBA
  3. Take the RBT certification exam

The 40-hour coursework is available online in a wide variety of styles and price ranges. Different options will appeal to various candidates. Some will include materials to prepare you for the exam. We compare 3 options in detail in our post Become an RBT: Choose the Best 40-Hour Course for You!

Information regarding the competency assessment can be found on the BACB website . You will need to find a qualified BCBA to complete the assessment (for more on this see the question below).

For information specific to the RBT exam you can view the Examination section of the RBT Handbook . Many free quizzes are available online to help you prepare for the exam, however several training options include this preparation as well.

See our post 3 Steps to Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Certification for more information.

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How can I find a BCBA to complete my competency assessment?

The BACB provides a search to help candidates locate BCBAs willing to provide this service. However, often those willing to complete the assessment are busy and you may have trouble locating someone who is available when you need to complete it. Companies like the Autism Therapy Career College offer the competency assessment as well.

Your competency assessment is more than another box to check off on the way to certification. This is an excellent opportunity to engage with someone who is experienced in ABA. While you may be charged by the hour for this consultation, use this time to not only prove your knowledge, but also ask clarifying questions and gain a better understanding overall. This will only help you prepare for the exam and your career as an RBT.

See our post How to Find a Great BCBA Supervisor and our RBT Competency Assessment FAQs page for more on this topic.

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How can I prepare for the competency assessment and the exam?

You will find many resources online to help you prepare for the competency assessment and the RBT exam. You’ll find videos on YouTube, sample questions, study guides and more. Many trainings also include preparation (see Autism Therapy Career College: Online RBT Training and Verbal Behavior Institute (VBI): 40-Hour RBT Training as examples).

What’s best for you and how much you need to prepare depends entirely on the quality of the training in which you enrolled and how well you absorbed the material.

Unlike the exam, the competency assessment isn’t pass or fail. You will continue working on this until you’ve mastered the material. If you feel unprepared for the assessment you may want to choose someone who offers a flat fee for this service like the Autism Therapy Career College . This may be cheaper than paying by the hour if you need to supplement what you learned in the training.

The exam itself may be taken up to 8 times in a 1 year period. When paying $45/exam, this could be costly if you’re not prepared, but at least you have the option to retake the exam if you need to.

See our RBT Competency Assessment FAQs page for more information.

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What other challenges can I expect when working as an RBT?

We would love to tell you that working as an RBT is a great experience for everyone, however that’s unfortunately not the case.

  • Undependable income
  • Odd or excessive hours
  • Unethical behavior

Undependable Income

As an RBT you will be paid by the hour. When a client cancels, you won’t be paid for the time you planned to work with them. If a client leaves and isn’t replaced, your employer may not have a new client lined up to fill that spot. You may not be guaranteed a minimum number of hours – if the organization isn’t being paid then you likely won’t be either – and so you may need to ensure you have multiple sources of income or savings built up to guard against this.

Odd or Excessive Hours

Working as an RBT often isn’t a 9-5 job. Many RBTs are required to work evenings and weekends, at times convenient for the families and not the employee. Meetings may be required at times you’re not normally scheduled to work. Many employers expect their RBTs to work in excess of 40 hours when the client demands allow, but you also may not be guaranteed a minimum number of hours.

Unethical Behavior

The BACB is very serious about the ethical use of ABA strategies. All certified ABA professionals are held to their code of ethics, however as with any profession you may encounter unethical behavior. The BACB provides information about reporting unethical behavior on their website and provides the below infographic to help you determine whether you should report an incident:

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How do I maintain certification once I obtain it?

Once you obtain certification, it becomes your responsibility to know what you need to do to maintain it. You must:

  1. Be aware of any changes to the RBT Task List (see 3 Steps to Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Certification)
  2. Receive ongoing supervision
  3. Adhere to ethical standards
  4. Pass the renewal competency
  5. Complete the application
  6. Pay the fee

If you’ve been hired to perform as an RBT, failure to comply with these requirements can put your position and your certification at risk

The RBT Handbook now offered by the BACB provides answers to many questions you may have about renewing your certification. Use this as a tool for maintaining your certification.

1. Receive Ongoing Supervision

The Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification requires continuous supervision to maintain your certification. You must retain documentation of this supervision, but you do not need to submit this documentation to the BACB when you renew your certification.

In November of 2019, the BACB released significant changes to the supervisor requirements for RBTs. Previously, an RBT required that 5% of his time spent performing behavior analytic tasks was supervised by a higher level certificant (BCBA or BCaBA). These supervisors were called the responsible certificant.

With the changes, the BACB required that all RBTs have an RBT Requirements Coordinator who is a BCBA or BCBA-D. The RBT may also have an RBT supervisor who provides the 5% direct supervision who does not maintain one of these certifications. This change opens the door to certificates who previously struggled to find a BCBA who could provide an adequate amount of supervision. Do you need an RBT Requirements Coordinator? Our article: 3 Steps to Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) Certification provides directions on how to find a BCBA willing to offer supervision.

2. Adhere to Ethical Standards

The BACB has high standards for ethical conduct. During your initial application for certification, your Requirements Coordinator or Responsible Certificant attested that you passed a background check to reveal criminal activity that would prohibit you from working in the field with vulnerable individuals. During the reapplication process, you do not need to renew this background check, but the BACB does require that you self-report violations of the ethics code.

They also require that you self-report within 30 days of you becoming aware of potential ethical violations. These violations include legal actions, fines and even mental health conditions so make sure you know what you need to self-report. For more information, download the Considerations for Self-Reporting from the BACB. Failure to self-report may result in the loss of certification if the BACB becomes aware of violations.

3. Pass the Renewal Competency

In November 2019, the BACB released a separate renewal competency for the RBT certification. Download your copy of the Renewal Competency Assessment Packet from the BACB to make sure you know what they require. This assessment must be overseen by a qualified assessor (BCBA, BCaBA, BCBA-D who meets supervisor requirements) but may be completed by an assistant assessor.

As the RBT certificant, it is your responsibility to ensure that the assessment is conducted in an ethical manor. Busy supervisors may be tempted to overlook the assessment and simply sign off, especially if they have observed you performing many of these tasks throughout the year. When you submit the assessment to the BACB, you become responsible for its authenticity. Make ethics an everyday practice.

4. Complete the Application

The RBT Renewal Application available on the BACB website takes you step by step through attesting that you understand the requirements of being an RBT. The BACB does not allow ignorance of the requirements to pass as an excuse for violations. Again, the BACB places high value on ethics. This application ensures that you know the requirements for your certification.

Once you complete the application, check all the necessary boxes and sign the document, you need to upload it to your BACB Gateway account.

5. Pay the Fee

Although the amount of the fee may change over time, failure to pay the fee on time results in immediate suspension of your certification and a late fee should you submit it after it’s due. The BACB currently accepts payment online and by check via the mail.

Some employers that require RBT certification will pay or reimburse the application fee, but many don’t. The RBT certification belongs to you. Should you leave your current employer, the certification remains yours as long as you find another RBT Requirements Coordinator and Supervisor. For this reason, many employers believe maintaining certification is the responsibility of the RBT.

What if I Don’t Renew?

For many reasons, you may choose not to renew your certification when it’s due. Choosing not to renew automatically revokes your certification, yet this might be the right choice for you. Do any of the following situations apply to you?

You:

  • Don’t currently practice as an RBT and may not return to the field
  • Are a full-time student in a BCBA track program, don’t currently practice as an RBT and will sit for the certification exam prior to returning to work in the field
  • Took significant time off from work due to illness or family needs and are not current lying practicing as an RBT

If any of these situations apply to you, then you may decide not to renew or to delay your renewal. If you attempt to renew after your certification expiration date, the BACB will charge you a late fee. To avoid this, the BACB offers the option to register a Voluntary Inactive Status.

Voluntary Inactive Status

The BACB allows RBTs to file for inactive status for up to 2 years. As listed above, there are many reasons you may choose to delay renewing your certification. Filing for Voluntary Inactive Status will keep you listed in the BACB registry without having to complete the renewal process. Download the RBT Application for Voluntary Inactive Status through the BACB website. Submit this application during your renewal window to avoid accruing late fees. Although there is a fee for this application (currently $25) it is much lower than the fee for renewal.

Completing your first renewal cycle may feel daunting, but taking it step-by-step allows you to complete the process with no stress.

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