People who want to help others and make positive changes in the world may be interested in becoming a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT). These professionals work in the field of applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy.

RBTs work directly with clients who have developmental disorders that affect behaviors, especially autism. ABA therapy has been found to be one of the most effective methods of reducing maladaptive behaviors and helping people with autism succeed in the world.

In 2022, the process of becoming an RBT is straightforward. You’ll go through a step-by-step process that can be completed relatively quickly.

The Work of an RBT

RBTs help BCBAs (Board Certified Behavior Analysts) administer this important approach to behavior treatment. Registered Behavior Technicians work with individual clients or small groups of clients, so that more people with autism can get ABA treatment. A BCBA, RBT supervisor, or other ABA specialist can manage a team of RBTs.

The position of RBT is an entry-level health care position with some basic requirements to qualify for the certification.

You must complete specialized training through specific businesses or organizations that are approved by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board. Then, you must pass the BACB’s certification exam. You will know immediately after you finish the test whether you passed or not. If you passed, you will receive your certification within a week.

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Once you have your official certification, you can begin to work as an RBT. As long as you maintain your certification requirements with appropriate supervision and annual recertification, you can continue to practice.

As an RBT, you will help people with autism learn better approaches to managing maladaptive behaviors, communicating and socializing with neurotypical individuals, and understanding and managing emotional reactions. Through your work, you’ll help autistic individuals to feel more secure in their ability to take care of themselves.

How Do You Become an RBT? 

RBTs need a specific level of training in order to implement programs with the public. To pursue this certification, you must meet basic eligibility requirements before applying. You must:

  • Be at least 18 years old.
  • Have a high school diploma.
  • Pass a background check.
  • Complete the 40-hour training course.
  • Complete the initial assessment of competency.

Once these requirements have been confirmed, you can apply for an RBT certification.

Training will be overseen by a qualified BACB certificant. You may complete this training any time before applying for RBT certification.

You must complete the initial competency assessment within 90 days, or three months, of submitting payment for your RBT certification application. After the application has been approved, you can then take the RBT exam.

If you already work for a company that offers ABA therapy and want to pursue further professional certification, you can ask about in-house training. There are also many outside training programs. These are often available through a training company or a post-secondary institution, which you can apply to on your own.

Many colleges and universities offer the 40-hour training program. This coursework takes place in different divisions and settings. For example, some post-secondary schools may offer the training in class over eight weeks, with a professor managing the pace and structure. The course could also be an entirely online class that you finish at your own pace, as long as you complete all the coursework. 

The RBT Task List

Professionals practicing ABA therapy need to be certified by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB). There are several types of professionals that can practice ABA therapy. BCBAs and BCBA-Ds create the treatment plans, and RBTs implement them.

A Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) certification is a type of paraprofessional accreditation. As an RBT, you will work directly with clients on the autism spectrum, to train them in skills that reduce problematic or negative behaviors.

Someone who works as an RBT must be competent in the standards listed on the RBT’s Task List, as specified by the BACB. These principles are: 

  • Measurement.
  • Assessment.
  • Skill acquisition.
  • Behavior reduction.
  • Documentation and reporting.
  • Professional conduct and scope of practice

RBTs help other ABA professionals deliver this type of therapy directly to clients.

The BACB acknowledges that while the RBT Task List outlines core components to perform this type of therapeutic work, it may not be a complete list. An RBT supervisor may specify other areas that are required, based on an individual client’s needs or organizational needs.  

How to Take the RBT Exam & Get Certified

The 40-hour training gives you all the information you need to understand how Registered Behavior Technicians work with supervisors and administer this form of therapy to clients.

You will learn about the certification process. This process involves collecting all the required materials, which include: 

  • A copy of your high school diploma or college degree
  • Certification that you completed the initial training and passed your background check.

You will also need to contact an RBT supervisor or requirements coordinator to complete a portion of your application confirming that they are willing to supervise you after you become a certified RBT.

When your application is confirmed, you will receive information to schedule your RBT certification exam. This exam is consistently available, and you can get the results on-site, so you know immediately if you are certified to be an RBT or not.

If you do not pass the exam the first time, you can take it again a week later. You will be authorized to take the examination for a year after finishing the 40-hour training.

You will need to pay application fees to take the exam. These may change over time, but as of 2022, required fees include: 

  • A certification application processing fee of $50, paid to the BACB.
  • An exam appointment fee of $45, paid to the exam company Pearson VUE.

There are 75 total questions on the exam, based on the RBT’s Task List. These include:

  • 10 questions about measurement.
  • 8 questions about assessment.
  • 24 questions on skills acquisition
  • 12 questions on behavior reduction
  • 10 questions on documentation and reporting.
  • 11 questions about professional conduct and scope of practice.

The BACB’s RBT Handbook provides detailed information on the exam along with practice questions. This information can help you understand how the multiple-choice examination will be structured. There has also been an important written component to the exam since December 2015.

Provided you meet the requirements for training and complete the program, you can get certified to become an RBT in any geographic location. As long as there is a local test center, you can study and complete the certification process.

You will receive a pass/fail report at the test center. After passing, the BACB will email you within a week with a digital certificate letter, which includes the expiration date so you know when to renew and your certification number, which is attached to your BACB account.

You can start using your RBT certificate as soon as you receive the email. You will appear in the Certificant Registry through the BACB, so potential employers can verify that you have these vital credentials.

Applied Behavior Analysis Therapy

As an RBT, you’ll be working directly with clients, using ABA therapy methods. You won’t create the treatment plan — a Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA) will — but you’ll be putting that plan into action.

Applied behavior analysis (ABA) therapy is a therapeutic treatment that focuses on developing certain skills in people with developmental conditions like autism. These skills may include learning or studying, verbal and nonverbal communication, and life skills, such as the skills required to get a job and maintain overall health.

ABA therapists and technicians work in a range of environments because this form of therapy is adapted to individual needs. RBTs often go to a client’s home, work with a school program, go to office environments, or operate out of medical clinics. For children with autism, the therapy most often takes place in the home.

This form of therapy has been life-changing for people on the autism spectrum. Since ABA therapy became popular, empirical evidence has been gathered to show that consistent therapy sessions can help many people on the spectrum learn important skills. This helps them to navigate the larger culture they live in and become independent.

Necessary Supervision

An RBT will practice under the supervision and direction of an RBT requirements coordinator or an RBT supervisor. These two specialists are responsible for managing the work that RBTs perform.

RBT supervisors must have either a BCBA certification or a BCaBA certification. They could also have a license in a different behavioral health area, provided that ABA is in the scope of practice. If the latter is how they qualify to be an RBT supervisor, they can only practice under the supervision of an RBT requirements coordinator. 

An RBT requirements coordinator manages RBT supervisors, though they can also manage RBTs directly themselves. These professionals must hold current BCBA certifications.

Code of Ethics

RBT training requires that a potential technician sign a code of ethics focused on improving the lives of clients with autism. This code includes, but is not limited to:

  • Upholding and promoting the core principles of ABA therapy.
  • Creating an honest environment to promote and support truthful behaviors in others.
  • Conforming to the ethical and legal codes of professional and social communities of which they are members.
  • Providing a current and accurate set of credentials, like RBT certification.
  • Supporting the legal rights and preferences of clients.
  • Avoiding, and refusing to, share information about clients per privacy laws.
  • Maintaining, storing, distributing, and disposing of records and data relating to their services and clients in accordance with all applicable laws, regulations, and policies.
  • Practicing with clients only under required supervision.

This code of ethics creates the foundation for practice, and this manifests in an RBT’s regular tasks.

The Importance of a Behavior Plan

The RBT will work off a written behavior plan that is created by a BCBA. A written behavior plan is the document that forms the structure of each individual therapy session, as well as the overall treatment plan. The plan features: 

  • Operational definitions of target behaviors.
  • Replacement behaviors to practice.
  • Modifications of consequences to focus on positive reinforcement.
  • Emergency measures.

Interventions must be:

  • Based on evidence.
  • Focus on socially significant behaviors.
  • Create objective goals that can be measured.
  • Directly assess changes in behavior with visualized information, like graphs, when applicable.

There must also be a crisis plan, strategies for consequences when steps are not completed, and information on baseline behaviors and skills before ABA therapy was implemented.

What Services Do RBTs Provide to Autistic Clients? 

RBTs work directly with clients who have autism. Some RBTs specialize in working with children in specific age groups or adults with different levels of autism severity.

There are three basic levels of autism severity. RBTs might choose to work with specific groups based on certain skills that need to be learned. For example, understanding subtle social cues and body language may be most important for a high-functioning individual with autism, but an individual with low-functioning autism may need more assistance with acquiring and maintaining motor skills.

As these skills are learned, part of the written behavior plan should include details on reducing rewards for changed behaviors. This helps the person fully integrate new, positive behaviors into their lives, so they no longer seem unusual or special; however, the process of ending rewards can take some time, especially if positive reinforcement was an integral part of each therapy session. Maladaptive behaviors can return, so the crisis plan addresses if the client suffers a lot of stress that may trigger behavioral issues.

RBTs do not provide treatment alone. While they often work one on one with clients, they are supervised by other practitioners who give the RBT specific assignments in their task list, understand measurements of change and success, and adjust the treatment plan, as necessary. 

Maintain Your RBT Certification to Help People With Autism

After becoming certified as an RBT, you will need to maintain your professional certification. This requires ongoing supervision for your work, adhering to the ethics of ABA practice, and renewing your certification every year.

To maintain your certification, you must uphold supervision requirements as you practice for the next year. You should complete the renewal application and the renewal competency assessment 45 days before your certification expires.

Behavior analysts are in high demand, so becoming an RBT can be a great career choice. As an RBT, you can make positive changes in the lives of many people, enjoy a steady salary, and feel good about your career.

Elemy has launched Ecademy: a fully-paid, 3-month, training-and-certification program for registered behavior technicians (RBTs).