Most autism therapy providers’ biggest challenge is the shortage of Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBAs). The increasing demand for autism services is outpacing the increase of new BCBA graduates causing a bottle neck in providing autism therapy. The BCBA shortage is complex due to multiple factors causing it:

  1. Increased Demand: Demand for Board Certified Behavior Analysts has increased due to the increasing prevalence of autism and a growing recognition of autism treatment effectiveness, such as Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA).

  2. Lack of Certified Professionals: Becoming a BCBA is not easy. Several requirements are necessary including intense education, specialized training, thousands of hours of supervised experience, and passing a rigorous certification exam.

  3. Demanding Job Requirements: BCBA roles, while fulfilling, can also demand long hours complex caseloads and emotional intensity. These factors could lead to fatigue over extended time periods.

  4. Lack of Awareness: Behavior Analysis is still a growing field. Many new entrants into the job market are not aware of BCBA careers and the rewards of providing effective autism treatment to children.

The Growing Prevalence of Autism

The number of diagnosed autism cases has increased across the board in 2023.

  • 1 in 36 children in the US have autism, which increased from the previous rate of 1 in 44, reported in 2018. — Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • A nationally representative survey suggests that about 1.5 million US kids have autism. – NBC News
  • Autism can be reliably diagnosed by age 2, but the average age of early intervention in the US is 4.7 years. —  The National Autism Data Center

Following the increase in autism diagnoses is an increased demand for more RBTs and specifically, BCBAs, to provide the services for these children.

  • The nationwide demand for BCBAs has almost quadrupled the last 5 years from 2018 to 2022. —
  • In 2010 there was less than 1,000 certified BCBAs in the entire country. —

What Exactly Does a BCBA Do?

Board Certified Behavior Analysts are the supervisors of your care team. BCBAs create unique behavior plans for children with autism and oversee all monitoring of treatment progress. BCBAs will continue to adapt plans as behavior patterns change and evolve for each child on their caseload. Other BCBA responsibilities include:

  • Conducting initial behavioral assessments at the start of services to determine a child’s treatment plan.

  • Supervising and mentoring Registered Behavior Therapists (RBTs), who conduct 1-on-1 treatments and collect data from each session.

  • Interpreting the progress of an autism treatment plan and adapting the plan to maximize a child’s progress.

  • Provide Parent Training to incorporate the treatment approach at home and communicate the treatment progress with parents.

How to Become a BCBA?

The process to become a BCBA takes time, education, and dedication. Many BCBAs start as RBTs, which can be a valuable starting point in the behavior therapy field. People looking to become a BCBA have to hit the following qualifications/certifications:

  • Completed a 4-year bachelor’s degree

  • Earn a 2-year Master’s degree from an accredited institution with an approved ABA program.

  • 2,000 hours of supervised fieldwork experience, which many BCBAs fulfill through working an RBT role.

  • Pass the BACB’s official BCBA® Exam to become board certified.

While Helping Hands Family is experiencing challenges with BCBA hiring, we are also taking steps to solve this problem. We have built a best-in-class BCBA Fellowship Program to help new BCBAs enter the field. Our Fellowship program fulfills many of the supervision hours needed and provides more structured training post completion of graduate education.

HHF’s BCBA Staffing Strategies for Fulfilling the Need

According to the Behavior Analysist Certification Board, two of the states that we serve ranked in the top 10 states with the highest demand for BCBAs in 2022.

  • New Jersey ranks 5th in BCBAs needed.

  • Pennsylvania ranks 7th in BCBAs needed.

We are passionately working to increase the amount of qualified BCBAs to help our families. Some of our efforts in this goal included:

  • Strengthening our BCBA Fellowship program, which now includes 92 Fellows who will become new BCBAs in the next 2 years.

  • Doubling the size of our BCBA and RBT recruiting team.

  • Attending several BCBA conferences for in-person recruiting opportunities.

  • Offering company benefits to attract top candidates such as paid maternity leave, PTO, Continuing Education Opportunities, etc.

Even though we’ve prioritized BCBA hiring, our selection process stays rigorous:

  • We keep our hiring meticulous to ensure the best interests of our clients and families.

  • We will not hire an applicant that does not meet our quality standards.

  • We use a 3-interview and onsite evaluation process.