How to Become a Registered Behavior Technician

Learn what it takes to find a career in this high demand field.

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Behavioral health services is a field experiencing increased need and a shortage of professionals to meet demand. Applied Behavior Analysis, which uses the science of behavior to treat intellectual disability and mental illness, has proven effective in helping individuals struggling with substance abuse, dementia management, brain injury rehabilitation and autism, among other areas.

For people with behavioral difficulties to receive the day-to-day help they need, a Board Certified Behavior Analyst® can develop a behavior plan for their client to follow. But for the implementation of that plan, a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) is needed to provide direct care.

If you’re passionate about helping other people improve their lives in meaningful ways, you may be interested in a career as an RBT. Here’s what you need to know about how the job, and its training process, works:

What does a Registered Behavior Technician do?

A Registered Behavior Technician operates under the supervision of a Board Certified Behavior Analyst®, BCBA), working directly with a client to carry out an instructional or  behavior plan — for example, helping a student with autism function better at school or working with a client in a clinic.

“RBTs can be thought of as ‘paraprofessionals’ or ‘direct-care aids.’ They usually work in special education classrooms directly with students, usually students with disabilities of some sort,” Thomas Zane, Director of Online Behavior Analysis Programs at KU, said. “They also are hired in private special education agencies that serve individuals with autism and other intellectual disabilities, and some also work at residential agencies.”

Who does a Registered Behavior Technician work with?

RBTs might work with clients who have intellectual disabilities, are dealing with substance abuse, or living with dementia. Many work with clients on the autism spectrum. RBTs could function as general or special education teachers, childcare administrators, reading specialists or in other similar capacities. Some RBTs work in residential group homes as special needs staff or administrators.

What skills do I need to be a Registered Behavior Technician?

Registered Behavior Technicians require certification through the Behavior Analyst Certification Board (BACB®) proving they have formal training in using applied behavior analysis methods, as well as measuring the effectiveness of those methods and adhering to a strong code of ethics in their work.

“Many people call themselves behavior therapists or behavior specialists; their training and preparation can widely vary, with no standard curriculum or training requirements,” Zane says. “However, an RBT certification is recognized as a formal certification, with minimum standards of competence, and with a required supervision of their work. The standards and training are much higher than other preparation for this type of work.”

RBT certification includes guided training requirements, and passing the BACB’s RBT Competency Assessment. KU offers a self-paced online training course to help those working for RBT certification meet the BACB’s requirements, and acquire the knowledge to help pass the RBT exam.

Tune into the BACB podcast to hear about KU students' RBT exam pass rate

Zane says the program, which has more than 500 graduates, combines KU’s strong legacy of excellence in behavior analysis studies and training, with a format that ensures students who complete the course have mastered the material.

“KU has a long history of excellent training in radical behaviorism and behavior analysis, and the application of behavioral principles to a host of human applications,” Zane says. “The self-paced nature of our RBT training is considered to be best practice in education, allowing students to move at their own pace, and only after demonstrated mastery of the previous material.”


About Behavior Analysis

KU’s Applied Behavior Analysis for Practitioners online course

KU Department of Applied Behavioral Science

KU’s Online Masters in Applied Behavioral Science

The RBT Handbook

Interested in becoming an RBT? Apply for KU’s Applied Behavior Analysis for Practitioners online course, or learn more about our online M.A. in Applied Behavioral Science.

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