The BACB: What It Is, What It Does, and Why

The BACB: What It Is, What It Does, and Why

It doesn't matter if you have been a BACB certificant for many years, are newly certified, or are just starting to explore becoming a practitioner in behavior analysis—it is likely that you have a number of questions about the landscape of the applied behavior analysis (ABA) profession. There are many reasons for this, but chief among them is that ABA is a relatively new profession, with professional credentialing only existing for a few decades. This is where the importance of understanding the role of the BACB in the profession comes in.

The BACB was established in 1998 to meet the credentialing needs of ABA practitioners, governments, and consumers of ABA services. In the BACB's early years, its certification programs grew consistently but slowly. In its first 13 years, the BACB certified 10,000 individuals. In the last seven years, this number has grown to more than 100,000 certificants! In addition, since 2009, 31 states have passed laws to license behavior analysts. These developments mean that professional certification and the credentialing of ABA practitioners are relatively recent events, about which many people have questions. These include: What is the BACB's role? What is credentialing and why is it important? Why can't the BACB speak for behavior analysis? Why are there so many acronyms!?

While we can't address every question, we hope to answer a few.

What Is The BACB?

The Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB) is:

  • A nonprofit organization — The BACB was founded in Florida as a nonprofit corporation in 1998 and has 501(c)(3) tax–exempt status from the IRS. Both of these legal and regulatory frameworks place important limits on BACB activity.
  • A credentialing organization — The primary function of the BACB is to operate certification programs, similar to a regulatory entity. In this role, the BACB provides practice requirements, an ethics code, and a disciplinary system designed to protect consumers, among other certification–program activities. In this capacity, ABA practitioners must interact with the BACB regularly to maintain their certification.

What Is Credentialing and Why Is It Important?

As mentioned earlier, the BACB's certification programs exist as a regulatory–like mechanism to protect consumers of behavior–analytic services. To protect consumers, the BACB establishes entry–level eligibility standards for education and training AND provides a mechanism to discipline behavior analysis practitioners who violate their ethics code.

Professional Credentialing

Credentialing is vital to behavior analysis because of the particularly vulnerable populations that a majority of behavior–analytic practitioners serve. Without credentialing, how would we know who is qualified to enter the profession and who isn't?
Two of the many differences between private certification and government–issued licensure are highlighted in the boxes below because these are the two primary ways behavior analysts are credentialed to practice.

Private Certification (BACB)

  • Voluntary
  • Disciplinary enforcement is limited to those who are certified by the BACB and the consequences are limited to revocation of certification.

Licensure (31 states)

  • Mandatory
  • Disciplinary enforcement may be enacted upon anyone practicing, with or without a license, and consequences include substantial fines and possible incarceration.

 

In ABA, practitioners who obtain certification by the BACB have a great deal of mobility because their certification will meet licensure requirements in almost any state with licensure for the practice of behavior analysis. For more information about US state licensure, please refer to the BACB's US Regulation of Behavior Analysts or visit APBA's Licensure and Other Regulation of ABA Practitioners webpage.

NCCA Accreditation and Consumer Protection

All three of the BACB's current certification programs are accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA). The BACB must adhere to NCCA–established processes, similar to the way BACB certificants and applicants must meet BACB requirements.

Using the NCCA processes, the BACB convenes groups of subject matter experts (SMEs) to evaluate and potentially revise requirements for each BACB credential. SME recommendations are then voted on by the BACB Board of Directors before they are adopted. Through this process, the requirements change as needed to ensure greater consumer protection through standards that accurately reflect the ever–evolving practice of behavior analysis. As usual, everything comes back to consumer protection.

For anyone interested in a little more reading about the processes that are used by the BACB to develop standards and examinations, they are outlined in a number of our publications and can be found on our Resources webpage. In addition, you can give us feedback if you have suggestions for future SMEs to consider as they revise requirements in the future.

What Is the BACB's Role in The ABA Profession?

The major professional organizations in ABA have very specific missions and roles and substantial limitations on their activities from various sources. These limitations include state laws where the organization was founded as a nonprofit, IRS rules, and for the BACB, our NCCA accreditation requirements. Let's start with the role of the BACB.

To recap, as we mentioned earlier, the BACB's job is to credential practitioners of behavior analysis and to coordinate with regulatory authorities. Although we are sometimes called upon to engage in advocacy and political and social commentary, our involvement in these activities is necessarily restricted by some of the entities mentioned earlier. In our regulatory–like role, the BACB is prohibited from engaging in political activity and has very strict limitations on its acceptable activities. That said, a number of the questions we receive indicate that some think of the BACB as a professional membership association, with flexibility about our public behavior. This is just not true. Although we sometimes wish we could engage in a broader array of advocacy activities, we have a very limited role in ABA—again, due to restrictions imposed upon us by certain legal statutes and IRS rules. It's useful to think about the BACB as similar to a licensure board, since we serve a similar and often interrelated regulatory function. It is notable to mention here that other professions may have certification boards that look like the BACB in function but are regulated differently under law and IRS rules, which allows them greater flexibility than the BACB. We know that this makes understanding our limitations pretty tricky!

A professional membership association is charged with representing the interests of its members and speaking on behalf of a profession. The BACB doesn't have members; we have certificants. Fortunately, ABA has a number of state, provincial, and national professional associations to serve the membership role.

Two major professional membership associations in behavior analysis are the Association of Professional Behavior Analysts (APBA) and the Association for Behavior Analysis International (ABAI). These organizations were established to provide different services than a certification board and are permitted much more flexibility in their permissible activities, including making public statements and taking a stand on social issues. We strongly encourage our certificants to become members in their state and national professional associations if they have not already. In fact, at the very beginning of a certificant's professional experience, we send a welcome letter encouraging them to join and become involved in their relevant professional associations. The professional membership associations are permitted to engage in a wide range of important activities. They are truly the voice of behavior analysis and have the primary obligation to represent our profession.

Because the BACB cannot speak on behalf of the profession of behavior analysis, we hope all certificants and practitioners join their state and national professional membership associations. Together, membership associations, the BACB, and, most importantly, behavior analysis practitioners and stakeholders can work to improve the discipline of behavior analysis.
If you're interested in hearing more about this topic, check out Episode 11 of the BACB's podcast, Inside the BACB.

ASD Practice Guidelines Find New Home with CASP

ASD Practice Guidelines Find New Home with CASPThere’s no place like home – although sometimes it takes a little while to get there.

On March 25, 2020, the Applied Behavior Analysis Treatment of Autism Spectrum Disorder: Practice Guidelines for Healthcare Funders and Managers (2nd edition) – commonly referred to as the ASD Practice Guidelines – were transferred to the Council of Autism Service Providers (CASP). The BACB first published the ASD Practice Guidelines in 2012, and the current and second edition in 2014. While such practice guidelines are traditionally published by membership organizations, the BACB’s Board of Directors authorized publication due to an impending need at the time to provide guidance to the many new funders developing ABA benefit plans as a result of legislative activity.

With its mission of cultivating, sharing, and advocating for provider best practices in autism services, CASP is an apt home for the ASD Practice Guidelines. Formed in 2015, the nonprofit organization is the official trade association of autism service providers. Its member agencies – all of which must demonstrate an ongoing commitment to evidence-based practice – care for more than 50,000 children and adults with autism across the U.S. Lorri Unumb, Esq., CASP’s CEO, is renowned for her accomplishments as vice president for state government affairs for Autism Speaks, where she led the autism insurance reform movement that resulted in all 50 states requiring meaningful health insurance benefits for autism. Unumb heads up CASP with Mike Wasmer, DVM, DACVIM, who serves as vice president of government affairs and special projects. Previously, Wasmer served as a director of state government affairs at Autism Speaks, and was instrumental in leading the passage of autism insurance reform laws. He is a frequent speaker on autism advocacy and policy, and has successfully advocated for the addition of ABA benefits in many self-funded health plans.

Following the transfer of the ASD Practice Guidelines, CASP plans to publish the third edition of the guidelines in 2021. For more information about CASP, and to download a copy of the ASD Practice Guidelines (2nd Edition), visit casproviders.org/asd-guidelines. Hear directly from Lorri Unumb and Dr. Jim Carr, CEO of the BACB, about the ASD Practice Guidelines transfer in an episode of the Inside the BACB podcast available for streaming now.

All BACB blogs are intended for general information only. Readers should refer to bacb.com for the most up-to-date information regarding BACB policies, standards, and requirements as blog content does not replace or supersede this information. All BACB blogs are the property of the BACB and may not be commercially reproduced or edited in any medium.

BCBA and BCaBA Exams: Immediate Results and Year-round Availability

BCBA and BCaBA Exams: Immediate Results and Year-round AvailabilityConvenience and immediate results: We seek both in virtually every aspect of our daily lives – from our food and entertainment to our transportation. Now you can expect these same qualities in your BCBA and BCaBA certification exams.

Following extensive work to ensure that our systems are optimized, we will move to continual testing on Feb. 1, which means that those of you seeking BCBA and BCaBA certification will not have to wait for testing windows to take your exams. Once you apply for certification and your application is approved, you’ll be able to schedule your certification exam as soon as you receive your "authorization to test" email (typically within 24 hours of your application being approved). This means that YOU pick a time, date, and location that works for YOU.

And, if that’s not enough to get you excited, when you take your BCBA or BCaBA certification exam, you’ll get the results BEFORE you leave the testing center. You read that correctly: When you walk out the door, you’ll know whether you’re certified or whether you have to retake the exam. If you pass the exam, your certification is effective immediately (woo hoo!) and you’ll find your certification number in your BACB account within 24 hours. If you fail the exam, you’ll be able to start planning your retake right away: The retake application will be available in your BACB account within 24 hours, and once your completed application is authorized, you can sit for the exam 30 days from the date of your last attempt. That gives you plenty of time to study and prepare.

Why Now?
Given our excitement about these changes, many of you may be asking, "Why didn’t the BACB offer continual testing and immediate exam results before now?" Well, we did – but only for our RBT certification exam. With the dramatic growth of the profession in recent years – and the number of you applying for BCBA and BCaBA certification – requests for greater flexibility in scheduling those exams have increased exponentially. Similarly, our growth as an organization means that we now have the psychometric infrastructure to make these changes without impacting the quality of the BCBA and BCaBA exams.

Our ability to provide you with your score report before you leave the testing center is tied to how we now equate our exams – or in simpler terms, how we ensure our exams are fair and valid. Historically, we used a post-equating model to analyze exam data in order to ensure fairness and validity. It recently became possible for us to implement a pre-equating model, however, something that enables us to perform data analysis earlier in the testing process, which means immediate results for you.

Keep In Mind
When you can take the BCBA and BCaBA certification exams may have changed, but their look, feel, format, and rigor has not, nor has the overall testing experience or our stringent security standards.

Another thing that hasn’t changed is how many attempts you have to pass the certification exam: You still have eight chances to take and pass the exam within a two-year period after you’re authorized to take it. Like before, we urge you to prepare for each exam attempt you make. If you fail the exam, use your score report to identify the areas in which you need additional study time – or training or fieldwork – for your next attempt. The bottom line is, if you use all of your eight exam attempts before the end of your two-year authorization period, you’ll have to wait for that period to end before you can reapply for that certification. And anyone authorized to take the BCBA or BCaBA exam on January 1, 2020 or later has a two-year authorization that will expire after the transition to our 5th edition standards on January 1, 2022. This means that if you don’t pass your exam within your two-year authorization window, you’ll have to reapply for certification under the new standards, which entail additional coursework and fieldwork requirements.

While this rarely happens, if you’re authorized to take the BCBA certification exam and you use all eight exam attempts before the end of your two-year authorization period, you have the option of applying for BCaBA certification. Perhaps you’re not quite ready to practice as a BCBA and need a bit more training and experience in behavior analysis. If you apply for and pass the BCaBA certification exam, you can start working in the field and preparing yourself to become a BCBA. Should you take this route, you will have to reapply for BCBA certification and meet the requirements applicable at the time you reapply.

One final thing to consider: Now that certification application deadlines and testing windows have gone out the . well, window, it will be harder to predict when busy application periods will be throughout the year. You may apply during a period when we happen to receive a high volume of applications, which means it will take us a little longer to review your application than it would if you applied during a low-volume period. To be safe, allow up to 45 days for your application to be processed. As always, you can visit our Customer Service page for the latest on application processing times.

Want More Information?
We hope you’re as excited about the changes to our BCBA and BCaBA testing as we are. We’re SO excited, in fact, that we dedicated an entire episode of the Inside the BACB podcast to this topic for your listening pleasure. Additionally, everything you need to know about these changes is available at bacb.com, the official source of information for everything BACB.

Happy testing!

All BACB blogs are intended for general information only. Readers should refer to bacb.com for the most up-to-date information regarding BACB policies, standards, and requirements as blog content does not replace or supersede this information. All BACB blogs are the property of the BACB and may not be commercially reproduced or edited in any medium.

Introducing the BACB Blog

2020 brings a new resource for certificants, applicants, and anyone seeking more information about what we do and how we do it: The BACB Blog. Like a good chat with a close friend, the BACB Blog offers helpful tips, answers to your burning questions, and key insights into the BACB — all in a down–to–earth, conversational format. Check out our first blog, "BCBA and BCaBA Applicants: 5 Tips for a Smoother Application Process," and learn what you can do to help speed up and smooth out the process of applying for these certifications.

BCBA and BCaBA Applicants: 5 Tips for a Smoother Application Process

BCBA and BCaBA Applicants: 5 Tips for a Smoother Application Process

We get it: Life is short, time is precious, and waiting really is the hardest part. Particularly when you’ve got a lot riding on something, like your BACB certification exam. You want to know NOW whether you’re eligible to take the exam, and we want to tell you (really!). But we need your help.

The following five tips help pave the way for a smoother application process by giving us what we need when we need it so that we can review your application and required documentation as efficiently as possible. This means that we’ll be able to give you the answers you seek sooner rather than later.

Tip #1: Get your ducks in a row. Before you even think about applying for certification, take a step back and determine whether you meet all the eligibility requirements. Do you have the required degree? Did you complete a verified course sequence (VCS) and if so, do you know the VCS number? If you completed nonverified coursework (i.e., courses that are not in a VCS), do you have course content attestations? Have you double-checked the calculations on your Final Experience Verification Forms (F&-EVFs)? Do you have the necessary signatures from the necessary people? Ask for help if you’re uncertain about your eligibility: Your supervisor or VCS coordinator are great resources. Or request a preliminary degree or coursework evaluation from us before applying. We’re happy to help!

Tip #2: All together now. Once you’re certain you meet all the eligibility requirements, get all your documents in order before submitting your application so that you have everything at your fingertips and aren’t scrambling for missing pieces at the 11th hour. We only review complete applications (i.e., the application itself, the application fee, and your supplemental documents) so if we notice that one of these things is missing, we have to pause the process and check with you to see where it is and when we’ll receive it. Getting everything in order before you start the process will make life easier, for all of us.

Tip #3: What’s in a name? Everything! Please, please, PLEASE make sure the name on your transcript and F-EVF(s) matches the name in your BACB account EXACTLY. If your name has changed, tell us and update your information in your BACB account. It’s also a good idea to include your BACB account number on everything you send to us as an additional means of identification. It’s simple: If we can’t verify who you are, we can’t process your application.

Tip #4: Can we all agree? Be sure the supervisor who signs your F-EVF(s) is the supervisor who can agree to the attestations you’ve made on your F-EVF(s). This is the supervisor who is listed on your supervision contract, and who meets all supervision requirements during the entire experience timeframe you record on your F-EVF(s). And while we&’re talking F-EVFs, please don’t change information (i.e., cross out statements or insert new ones) on your F-EVF(s) once your supervisor has signed it/them. We have no way of knowing whether your supervisor has approved or verified the altered information. If you must make changes, we recommend completing a new form(s), having your supervisor sign it/them, and sending us a clean copy(ies). Oh, and you can always send us your F-EVF&(s) via email versus snail mail to speed up the process.

Tip #5: Make it official. We require a sealed official transcript or an e-transcript sent to us directly from your institution(s). Make sure your transcript(s) lists all required degrees and coursework. Please don’t send us a photocopy of your degree or (perish the thought!) the real thing. If you earned your degree from one school and completed your coursework at another, we need two transcript: one from each school. If you completed your degree and required coursework at the same school, one transcript showing both will do the trick.

While all this may seem pretty basic, you’d be surprised by some of the things people do when applying for certification (do we have stories!). Following these five simple tips will help smooth out and speed up our review of your application. And remember: Current application processing times, updates, and other news you need to know is available on our Customer Service Updates page. For specific instructions on applying for BACB certification, visit bacb.com and select the certification that applies to you.

All BACB blogs are intended for general information only. Readers should refer to bacb.com for the most up-to-date information regarding BACB policies, standards, and requirements as blog content does not replace or supersede this information. All BACB blogs are the property of the BACB and may not be commercially reproduced or edited in any medium.