School District Resources

How to Find a BCBA Therapist That's Right for Your School

A BCBA therapist may be just what your school needs, and finding the right match is crucial. With a growing need for managing learning challenges, students - and your school - will reap the benefits of having a BCBA on campus.

What Does a Behavioral Analyst Do?

A Board Certified Behavior Analyst, or BCBA, can serve a critical role in schools. By utilizing Applied Behavior Analysis, these professionals provide and supervise support services for individuals. A behavioral therapist's responsibilities include ensuring that students succeed by developing and implementing appropriate assessments and behavior plans. BCBAs also supply guidance and direction to ABA providers, paraprofessionals, and other staff to apply ABA methodologies reliably.

Many experts work cooperatively in the field of Applied Behavior Analysis. An ABA - or Applied Behavior Analyst - often works in cooperation with a BCBA. An ABA therapist provides treatment to students using a proven set of principles and methods. BCBAs, meanwhile, are highly trained individuals who offer similar services but also serve in a supervisory role over ABAs and other practitioners. Since board certification involves more schooling and hands-on preparation, BCBAs often have increased responsibilities and a highly-specialized approach.

While every school's needs are different, many are reaping significant benefits from hiring a behavioral therapist. Depending on the student population and behavioral makeup, schools can decide on an ABA therapist vs. BCBA. The majority of schools that employ behavioral therapists incorporate ABA therapists. ABAs are well-trained and capable practitioners but are often committed to one student at a time, which can significantly limit the equity for all students at school. For those schools with more intensive or further-reaching behavioral needs, a BCBA is a solution. Having an expert on campus is becoming more and more of a necessity, as special education numbers rise and myriad behavioral challenges surface. Some schools incorporate a team approach, using both ABAs and BCBAs to provide a comprehensive suite of services. Applied Behavior Analysis is a sophisticated approach, and while therapists can manage it alone, a collaborative strategy is often more effective.

The Rising Demand for BCBA Therapists

As the number of special education students rises across the country, especially in the category of autism, the demand for BCBA therapists is increasing substantially. Applied Behavior Analysis is the primary treatment for ASD, but can also work with many other learning challenges. From 2010 to 2017, as more children were diagnosed with autism, there was an 800% increase in demand for BCBAs. While that number is likely to drop slightly in the coming years, there is still a significant demand for behavioral therapists.

Research continuously shows that Applied Behavior Analysis, delivered by BCBA therapists, is effective in treating and managing autism and other learning challenges. The systematic approach of Applied Behavior Analysis provides a framework for BCBA therapists to operate within and benefits students as far as learning and behavior. With positive reinforcement, evidence-backed practices, and measurable and attainable milestones, BCBAs can help students achieve positive outcomes. Many schools notice a significant increase in positive behavioral and academic performance after incorporating a behavior analyst into their schools. Some schools feature BCBAs as consulting experts who are on hand to assist teachers, specialists, and paraprofessionals in delivering services to special education students. Others use the school behavioral analyst as a hands-on service provider who works with individuals or small groups of students.

Behavioral therapists can play other roles in schools, as well. Besides the critical role of service providers to students, BCBAs can serve as part of a school's mental health team. With a deep, scientifically-based understanding of behavior, BCBAs can advise and drive campus policy. Many public schools are integrating behavioral therapists into the campus community, opening opportunities for them to provide multifaceted behavioral and learning support.

Ethics for Behavior Analysts

There are many qualities that effective behavior analysts have in common. Conversely, proficient BCBAs are expected to adhere to an expansive set of ethics related to their profession. Behavioral therapists are bound to make decisions based on scientific data and knowledge while operating within the scope of their role and responsibilities. To retain their status, BCBAs are required to stay abreast of current trends and learnings through ongoing professional development. As a position of power, BCBAs are held to stringent guidelines regarding relationships, both professionally and personally. BCBAs must document results and actions consistently and maintain the confidentiality of records for all stakeholders. A candidate's ethics are critical, and many schools prioritize this aspect when hiring a BCBA.

In both ABA and BCBA roles, certain volunteer, work, and fellowship experiences are highly valued. Although there is a wide variety of backgrounds, qualified candidates will demonstrate adherence to scientific principles, integrity, and honesty in their prior experiences. If candidates cannot show ethically-responsible and science-backed practice in their past, this may be a warning sign that they are not qualified for the BCBA position.

Behavioral Therapist Qualifications

To become a behavioral therapist, BCBAs must meet specific qualifications. These include:

  • Obtain a Master's degree in Education, Psychology, or Behavior Analysis
  • Undergo supervised practice in the field
  • Pass the national BCBA exam
  • Depending on state requirements, acquire a state license

The above qualifications are to become a BCBA. There are different requirements for other behavioral therapy levels, such as BCaBA (Bachelor's degree) or BCBA-D (Doctorate). Employers can quickly and conveniently verify the candidate's qualifications via the BACB Certificant Registry at www.bacb.com.

Many BCBAs are contracted by schools, as opposed to becoming salaried employees. There are pros and cons to both contract and salary work, but many behavior therapists choose to go through agencies or work as independent contractors. Prospective BCBAs consider the difference in the board certified behavior analyst salary offered by districts, along with personal preferences, to choose between contract or full-time work. Individual schools and districts determine the need and decide whether to hire a full-time BCBA or establish a contract arrangement.

Recruiting a BCBA Therapist

As schools realize the increasing need for intensive behavioral intervention, the demand for qualified BCBAs is skyrocketing. Schools are exceptional places for behavioral therapists to thrive, and some BCBAs may not realize the potential growth that your school can provide. Once qualified BCBA candidates and schools see the possibilities in this mutually beneficial partnership, they can begin to work together to create positive changes for all students. Ensure that you land the BCBA you want by:

  • Communicate honestly and openly
  • Highlight the benefits of your school, while being realistic about the negatives
  • Give them time to consider
  • Follow up within a reasonable timeframe
  • Make the offer as soon as the hiring team agrees to offer the position

If you are ready to find the ideal BCBA candidate for your school, post your position in the ProCare Therapy job listings today!