That's great news - the field of behavior analysis needs passionate, scientifically-minded, and committed folks who are interested in helping others. But how the heck do you become an RBT?
Wanna get your information straight from the BACB (Behavior Analysis Certification Board)?
First - what is an RBT?
RBT stands for Registered Behavior Technician - a paraprofessional in behavior analysis who has received a credential from the Behavior Analysis Certification Board (BACB) to indicate a baseline level of competency at behavioral services delivery.
RBTs often work directly with clients and provide most of the day-to-day service delivery, freeing up analysts to do other work. The BACB describes RBTs as individuals qualified to implement a behavior plan designed by a behavior analyst, but only under the supervision of that analyst or other qualified analysts. The RBT credential was first offered in 2014, and there have been progressive revisions to the RBT process since it's inception.
|Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (n.d). BACB certificant data. Retrieved from https://www.bacb.com/BACB-certificant-data.|
The job expectations of an RBT are rigorous. Some of the individuals that RBTs may work for will exhibit serious or dangerous behavior, and RBTs may work with these individuals for hours at a time.
The technical expectations of the job are numerous, and varied. RBTs may be expected to implement task analyses, assist with functional assessment, implement verbal skills training, and collect & measure behavior before graphing it.
RBTs are required to write session notes, create case notes, and collect accurate data on behaviors of interest. To do this, they may also require some training / experience with basic software, such as using spreadsheets (Excel, Google Sheets, etc.) or specialized practice management software.
They are also expected to behave professionally and ethically, sometimes in trying scenarios where the correct choice may not be clear. The Board has an ethics code specifically for RBTs.
There has been a massive influx of individuals becoming RBT certified over the past few years. As of this posting in July 2018, there are over 28,000 BCBAs, 3,000 BCaBAs, and 37,000 RBTs registered with the BACB. As shown on the right, an RBT in 2018 will most likely be working with children or adults with a diagnosis of autism (ASD). This will likely be the case for awhile as the research in applied behavior analysis continues to investigate applications that may make behavior analysts more effective at serving those with autism.
Common Duties of an RBT:
- Working directly with clients receiving behavior analytic services
- Collecting and graphing data
- Receiving supervision from a certified behavior analyst
- Ongoing competency training
Behavior Analysis, as a profession, does not yet offer fully nationally recognized licensure in the US. The BACB, itself, is a recent advent - it was created in 1998 to "protect consumers of behavior analysis services worldwide by systematically establishing, promoting, and disseminating professional standards" (BACB). Since it's inception, the BACB has created various levels of certification to:
- Ensure quality of services delivered
- Minimum competency standards
- Standardize training for analysts
- Protect consumers from the unqualified
This is no small task, and over the years, the BACB has imposed increasingly more rigorous requirements on applications for the various certification levels. Many states have adopted licensure, but there are still many states that have not yet made licensure for available for behavior analysts. The different levels of certification offered by the board - RBT, BCaBA, BCBA, BCBA-D - all require different, progressively more difficult, levels of mentorship and an increasingly difficult examination.
OK, I'm ready - how do I become an RBT?
Before you can apply to become an RBT, you must first be able to satisfy the following requirements:
|1||18 years of age||You gotta be an adult|
|2||High-School Diploma||Gotta have a high-school diploma (or equivalent)|
|3||Complete a 40-hour behavior analytic training||
The instruction should be aligned with the RBT Task List.
This training can be done online - you can search Google for a training course, but it's recommended that some or all of your training be done in person with a BCBA in the type of setting you expect to work in.
You MUST receive a 40 hour training certificate at the end of your training. The BACB will require you to upload a copy for their records.
|4||Obtain a Responsible Certificant||
You need a BCaBA, BCBA, or BCBA-D to agree to provide supervision ongoing supervision. You can change your responsible certificant, but you must always possess at least one in order to provide service.
You will need their CERTIFICATION NUMBER to register for your exam.
|5||Complete the RBT Competency Assessment with a certified analyst||A certified analyst needs to observe your work with a client and complete the RBT Competency Assessment as you demonstrate mastery of each item on the checklist.|
Once you meet these requirements, you have ONE FINAL REQUIREMENT: you will need to sign up for and pass the RBT exam.
Registering for the RBT Exam:
To register for the RBT exam, you must create an account on the BACB's website. Once you create an account, the next thing you'll need to do is click the "RBT" tab to begin the sign up process.
|STEP 1: Click the RBT tab|
|Once you create an account, the next thing you'll need to do is click the "RBT" tab to begin the sign up process.|
|STEP 2: Select "Apply for the RBT Credential"|
|Select the "Apply for the RBT Credential"|
STEP 3: Ensure your personal information is correct, then click continue
STEP 4: Fill out the professional information details:
- Emphasis of your work? (e.g., Behavior Therapy)
- Primary Area of Work? (e.g., Autism)
- Primary Age Group of Clients? (e.g., Children)
Step 5: Enter your educational information (highest level you've earned)
Step 6: Upload your 40-hour Certificate of Completion that you got for completing your 40 hour RBT training.
Step 7: Upload your RBT Competency Assessment
Step 8: Upload your Diploma (high-school, college, etc.) or Transcript
Step 9: Enter your Responsible Certificant's Certification Number
Step 10: Contact your responsible certificant and tell them to check their email - they will need to verify that they approve of your application.
Once your certificant verifies you, you will need to log into your account to complete your application, like so:
|Select "complete application" to continue|
STEP 12: Read the terms & conditions + click "agree"
STEP 13: Double check - is everything accurate and correct?
STEP 14: Click "checkout" and input any card information needed to pay for the cost of your application
STEP 15: Wait! You'll get an email from the BACB with further instructions, depending on whether your application was approved or not:
- Good News! Your application was approved!
- Bad News! You need to fix something!
If your application was approved...
STEP 16: In your approval email, make note of your BACB ID Number
STEP 17: Follow the link to Pearson VUE's website which will ask you to create an account, using your BACB ID Number
STEP 18: Click the RBT - Registered Behavior Technician Exam when prompted to select an exam.
STEP 19: Click Schedule Your Exam and, again, input your payment information (yeah, it sucks you have to pay for the exam)
STEP 20: Study! I have practize quizzes right here on this site, for free, because you've already paid enough money at this point.
STEP 21: Show up on the date of your exam, take the test, and pass. You'll do great!
STEP 22: Treat yourself to something nice, like ice cream (positive reinforcement is always positive)
After you complete the RBT sign up process, you're now ready to go out and work as an RBT. You will also need to make sure you are behaving ethically, logging your direct care / supervision hours, and doing your best to represent our profession in a positive light.
What is Supervision, exactly, and does it hurt?
Supervision is performance oversight, typically carried out in person (but not always) while you work with your clients implementing their behavior plan(s).
A BCaBA, BCBA, or BCBA-D can supervise you - you can have multiple supervisors, and your supervisors don't have to be your responsible certificant. You need to have at least one meeting with your responsible certificant per month, unless you have a special arrangement set up within your company (see the Board's requirements here if you have a special case). You will need to carefully document the number of hours you provide direct care each month with your clients, as well as the number of hours you are supervised. This is important because the board is dedicated to ensuring the competent delivery of behavior analytic service, and adequate, effective supervision is a big part of that. They may audit you randomly or as part of a formal inquiry at your agency, and if your documentation is not up-to-date, you may have your certification revoked.
Supervision is not unique to behavior analysis - doctors, nurses, occupational therapists, speech language pathologists - all of those folks use supervision in their service delivery model as well.
Per the BACB:
Each RBT must obtain ongoing supervision for a minimum of 5% of the hours spent providing applied behavior-analytic services per month. Supervision must include at least 2 face-to-face, synchronous contacts per month, during at least one of which the supervisor observes the RBT providing services. In-person, on-site observation is preferred.
Supervision consists of a variety of activities, including:
- Performance feedback following direct observation of your work with clients
- Improving your behavior-analytic problem solving
- Reviewing your session / case notes
- Feedback regarding the professionalism, thoroughness, and appropriateness of:
- your response to feedback from supervisiors
- the content of your case / session notes
- your interactions with caregivers and other stakeholders
- any other reports / documentation required by your posting
- Are the outcomes & objectives of your client(s) improving as a result of your behavioral service delivery?
- Are you becoming better, overall, as a behavioral technician?
Maintaining Your Supervision Log
A minimum of 5% of your direct care hours (working with clients) must be supervised by an analyst. This means that an RBT must be supervised for 2 hours a week if they work full-time (40 hours / week). You must maintain a log to document this, so that in the event that you or your agency are audited, you can provide supporting documentation to attest that you were, in fact, supervised to this minimum requirement as mandated by the board. You can download a copy of the board's example supervision log here.
You can download a spreadsheet version of the BACB's log that automatically calculates (and verifies) your hours for you here: https://app.box.com/v/rbt-log
Supervision sounds really scary!
In my experience, a lot of people new to the field may not have encountered supervision prior to working in ABA. Some find it a little stage-fright inducing to have a supervisor quite literally watching you work for what can be hours at a time. Done correctly, supervision is a collaborative process. Supervision is not the time to have your client "be on their best behavior." Quite the opposite - the purpose of supervision is to evaluate whether a behavior change program is working. If you set your session up to avoid any of your client's "eggshells" that might evoke problem behavior, you're doing a disservice to yourself and your client. If your supervisor has designed a program that isn't working, it's their job to fix it. If you are implementing the program incorrectly, it's their job to (politely and professionally) provide you with additional training and assistance. All of this will ensure that your client makes the most efficient progress towards whatever their goals are in the least amount of time.
Supervisors receive some training on how to supervise, but they may not always be instant gurus at it. Some might even suck at it, frankly speaking. You will encounter many different styles of supervision: some supervisors may sit nearby and quietly observe, taking notes, only providing feedback at the end of the session. Other supervisors may frequently interrupt with feedback while you are working. You may prefer immediate feedback (latter example) or delayed feedback (former example). As different behavior analysts have different supervisory styles (and different levels of efficacy implementing supervision), you may want to provide feedback to your supervisor regarding your preferences regarding receiving feedback and training. By no means does BCBA certification instantly make a person a wonderful supervisor or grant a BCBA with super-human interpersonal skills. You will meet jerks, and you will meet people that will truly grow you professionally. You may even meet a few jerks that make you grow professionally. There exists a continuum of quality when it comes to supervisors, like in any field, and it is your responsibility to advocate for yourself and seek supervisors that will help you become your best. A crucial skill, in any profession, is learning to communicate effectively and with kindness. Should you decide to pursue BCaBA, BCBA, or BCBA-D certification later on, you may find yourself supervising individuals much like yourself right now - so treat others with the same respect and professionalism that you'd like to receive.
Still sounds really scary - I hate being watched! It makes me nervous!
As a person with plenty of social anxiety and stage fright, I found supervision pretty intimidating at first, and to an extent, I still do. I think a lot of thoughts when I'm being observed - typically, things like "I should have done ____ better" or "I feel like I'm doing _____ terribly." You can insert whatever you want into those blanks, I've probably had the thought at some point during a service observation. I find it helps to "anchor myself to the moment" or practice mindfulness. That might sound like a lot of hippie mumbo-jumbo, but there's actually a lot of research and empirical evidence to support it. Mindfulness treats your own thoughts as private verbal behavior that you can shape in the same manner as you might shape any other verbal behavior. I've found Russ Harris's discussions on mindfulness, defusion, and staying in the moment to be tremendously helpful for me, and if you're a hyper-caffeineated sociophobe like myself, they might benefit you too. You can read about more about mindfulness, and the branch of behavioral science it stems from (ACT - Acceptance and Commitment Therapy) online or by reading some of the research articles by Steven Hayes (he's also the guy behind RFT, in case you were wondering).
Maybe the strategy of practicing pragmatic mindfulness will be helpful for you in reducing your anxiety during supervision. Maybe just simple practice will desensitize you to the aversiveness of being observed by a supervisor.
Are we Preparing RBTs Adequately Enough to Succeed in Behavior Analysis?
Since the introduction of the RBT credential in 2014, tens of thousands of folks have become certified. The introduction of the RBT exam made it more difficult to obtain the RBT credential, but many thousands of people have successfully passed the exam. There has been some concern in the behavior analytic community that the requirements to become an RBT are not strict enough. For example, Leaf et al. compared requirements to become a RBT vs requirements to become a LPN (licensed practical nurse). LPNs are comparable entry-level technicians in the medical industry. The requirements, as described by Leaf et al., are far more strenuous for the LPN to obtain their licensure than for the RBT to obtain their credentialing, although their duties are similar in complexity.
|LPN vs. RBT Requirements|
|RBT:||LPN (source: Florida, US)|
|$50 Application Fee||$85 Licensure Fee|
|40 Hours Training||1 year of hands-on work + coursework|
|Pass the RBT Exam||Pass the NCLEX-PN Exam|
|RBT Exam Fee - $35||NCLEX-PN Fee - $200|
The Take Home: other professions might be doing a better job preparing folks for their jobs than we are doing in behavior analysis.
RBTs have a great many duties and responsibilities, ranging from:
- implementing verbal skills utilizing elementary verbal operants (mand, tact, intraverbal, etc.)
- managing severe behavior like aggression or SIB
- Assisting with functional assessment procedures
- Collecting and graphing data in various phases (baseline, treatment, maintanence)
- Understanding basic principles of behavior, such as reinforcement and punishment.
- Basic knowledge about the population they serve, such as individuals with TBI, Prader-Willi Syndrome, Autism, etc.
How can someone master all of these skills with just 40 hours of instruction? It seems like an impossible task, and perhaps the solution, for right now at least, is to commit yourself, as an individual, to continued education, even if you master the "RBT Competency Checklist." Who wants to be basically competent, anyway? You want to be extremely competent! You want to be the best you can be, and it's safe to assume 40 hours is insufficient to that task. There has been lots of research that has examined the quality of parent and teacher training packages, but limited research on the success of RBT training packages in terms of preparing individuals to succeed clinically.
Even after you pass the RBT Exam, your education should be ongoing and continuous - don't settle for basic competency. Always strive to improve!