Registered Behavior Technician
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Mental health is a substantial aspect of human well-being. Mental health care services are thus a fundamental element in supporting individuals’ overall health and their ability to contribute meaningfully to their local community and society.
The American mental health care system features an intricate network and variety of skilled professionals and employing organizations whose focus is supporting, rehabilitating and advocating for the wellness of the populace. Individuals may choose from a variety of roles to work within this system. The registered behavior technician is one role that requires a relatively small investment of time and education but nonetheless provides good compensation and future advancement opportunity.
A registered behavior technician (RBT) is a paraprofessional skilled and certified in behavioral analysis. For the purposes of this page, the terms certified behavior technician and registered behavior technician are meant to be understood as interchangeable, synonymous terms. An RBT often addresses learning behavioral challenges with individuals or small groups. An RBT collects data and implements treatment protocols or behavior plans.
RBTs customarily provide these behavior analysis services under a trained RBT supervisor, an RBT requirements coordinator and/or a board-certified behavior analyst (BCBA). Individuals in supervisory roles within this profession are responsible for all work performed by RBTs under their supervision.
The Behavior Analyst Certification Board, Inc. (BACB) is the leader in behavior analyst certification. BACB, a nonprofit corporation established in 1998, serves the professional certification needs of varied clients including behavior analysts, governments, and consumers of behavior-analytic services. The mission of BACB is to protect consumers of behavior-analytic services through the creation, promotion, and dissemination of professional standards of practice.
In regard to the discipline of applied behavior analysis, BACB’s primary purpose is to operate certification programs. In this sense BACB operates in a manner similar to a regulatory board. Specifically, the BACB establishes practice standards, administers examinations and articulates both ethics requirements as well as a disciplinary system for each certification program it operates.
Education is a vital component of becoming a registered behavior technician. After completing high school or an equivalent education, individuals aspiring to become an RBT must complete a 40-hour training. Maintaining a current certification necessary for continued practice requires annual demonstration of competency within the skills required to work as an RBT.
Read on to learn details about the process required for entry into this field, what typical job duties are, and how much registered behavior technicians may earn.
How to Become a Registered Behavior Technician
To become a registered behavior technician an individual must complete a number of steps. Taken as a whole, these steps include meeting educational, assessment, application, and certification maintenance requirements.
Step 1: Graduate from High School or Obtain a GED (Four Years)
Becoming a registered behavior technician requires individuals to have, at minimum, a high school education as evidenced by a diploma or GED. Documentation of such education must be presented as part of an application to become an RBT. Acceptable documentation includes a high school diploma, a high school transcript or a transcript from a post-high-school institution that proves the applicant completed high school.
Step 2: Meet Additional Eligibility/Training Requirements
In addition to a high school education requirement, applicants must also meet a number of requirements to be eligible to become an RBT. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age when they submit an application, complete and pass (within 180 days) a criminal background check as well as an abuse registry check similar to that required of other job series such as home health aides and child care professionals, and complete a 40-hour training that meets the requirements outlined in the RBT 40-Hour Training Packet. This training must be overseen by a qualified BACB certificant and may be completed any time before a certification application is submitted. This training must be completed within 180 days but no less than five days. The BACB does not offer this required training. Prospective RBTs can typically complete this education in one of three ways, namely within their own agency, through a training company or through university coursework.
Step 3: Complete an Initial Competency Assessment
Upon completion of the 40-hour training, prospective applicants must document their competency to perform the tasks outlined in the RBT Initial Competency Assessment. This assessment must be overseen by a qualified BACB certificant, and completed no earlier than 90 days prior to submitting payment for an RBT certification application.
Also, as indicated by the sequencing of this process, this assessment must be completed after successfully finishing the required 40-hour training. In other words, a student cannot take and pass the assessment before completing the training and have that attempt be used as part of their application even if the outcome is satisfactory.
Step 4: Apply to become a Registered Behavior Technician
Applying to become an RBT requires the completion of three sub-steps. These three steps are creation of a BACB account, completion of the online certification application, and scheduling the required examination. Creating a BACB account requires basic information such as name, email address and other essential profile information. Applicants should keep their account information updated. Completion of the actual application involves a number of steps which are detailed at length here. The examination is continuously available with results available on-site at the exam location usually immediately after exam completion. Applicants generally have one year from the date their application is approved to sit for the examination.
Those applicants whose application is not approved receive both feedback and instructions via email. If application requirements are not fully met within 90 days of submitting an application, an applicant must submit a new RBT certification application and also pay another certification application fee.
Step 5: Pass the RBT Examination
The examination assesses knowledge of the current edition of the RBT Task List typical of that of an entry-level behavior technician. Applicants must always test using the current edition of the RBT Task List. If a new edition is published during the applicant’s authorized window of time to take the exam, the applicant must test from the current edition. No exceptions can be made regarding this policy.
The BACB recommends applicants prepare for the exam by reviewing the current edition of the RBT Task List as well as material from the previously completed 40-hour training as well as the competency assessment.
The RBT examination consists of 85 multiple-choice questions in which ten remain unscored. Each question has one correct answer. Applicants have 90 minutes to complete the examination. The exam consists of six content areas. These areas are measurement, assessment, skill acquisition, behavior reduction, documentation and reporting, and professional conduct and scope of practice. Skill acquisition content is approximately one-third of the total content of the exam.
Applicants are generally informed of their exam status through the issuance of a pass/fail report at the actual exam site. Those who pass typically receive an email from BACB with an attached certification document within 24 hours. An RBT may begin using the certification immediately after its issuance and upon having a qualified RBT Supervisor and/or RBT Requirements Coordinator on record with the BACB. This supervisor and/or coordinator is responsible for supervision of the RBT.
More information on examination accommodations, exam site technology requirements, behavioral protocols and more can be found in the Registered Behavior Technician Handbook.
Step 6: Certification Maintenance
As is true of many professions, an RBT’s responsibilities do not end upon successful initial achievement of registration. An RBT must then regularly do the following:
- Receive ongoing supervision that meets the RBT supervision, supervisor and documentation requirements
- Adhere to RBT Ethics Code as well as self-reporting requirements
- Complete an annual renewal of their registration by completing both a renewal application and a renewal competency assessment. The renewal process must be completed within the last 45 days before the registration reaches its expiration date. Renewal also requires payment of fees.
More details regarding certificate maintenance, responsibilities of RBT Supervisors and Requirement Coordinators and still more can be found in the aforementioned handbook listed above in Step 5.
Step 7: Fulfill Additional Practice Requirements
In addition to maintaining professional certification, a practicing RBT will need to fulfill additional job requirements common across roles as well as those unique to certain employers. One common requirement for active practice is holding professional liability insurance. Given the variety of roles an RBT may fill as well as variation in requirements based on factors such as geography it is incumbent on prospective RBTs to learn about and meet all requirements before seeking to practice.
What Do Certified Behavior Technicians Do?
As noted above, an RBT works under the regular supervision of an individual such as an RBT supervisor, an RBT requirements coordinator and/or a board certified behavior analyst (BCBA). Though an RBT may hold a variety of job duties and responsibilities, these responsibilities typically fall within one of five primary objectives. These objectives are development of social and life skills, employment training, provision of family guidance, behavior reduction, and reporting and documentation.
In terms of served populations, RBTs often work with people with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They are trained to work with people of a variety of ages including children, teenagers and adults.
Duties will vary according to the populations an RBT primarily works with, place of employment, level of experience and other factors. Typical daily tasks include, but are not limited to, any of the following:
- Establish and maintain a safe and effective therapeutic relationship through consistent demonstration of competency and adherence to ethical standards
- Promote safe and socially acceptable replacement behaviors as a means of establishing a collection of effective communication, social interaction and problem solving skills
- Increase the frequency and length of safe, appropriate replacement behaviors
- Accurately collect behavior data such as A-B-C, count, frequency, duration, latency, inter-response time, event, and interval based recording
- Follow treatment plan goals and interventions using good judgment, consultation with a supervisor or other actions appropriate to the situation
- Collaborate with family and treatment team members to provide treatment that is both effective and minimizes the risk of disruption to the environment or other individuals sharing that environment
- Educate individuals such as parents and guardians regarding reinforcement and early intervention
- Educate individuals in a variety of contexts regarding the role of an RBT
- Successfully function within the skills, expectations and professional boundaries associated with the work of an RBT
How Much Do Registered Behavior Techs Make?
Given the fairly small time commitment necessary to fulfill the requirements to become a registered behavioral technician, an RBT can earn a reasonably good salary. According to data from Salary.com, the median wage for an RBT is $18 per hour.
The percentiles for hourly wages are:
- 10th percentile: $15
- 25th percentile: $16
- 50th percentile (median): $18
- 75th percentile: $21
- 90th percentile: $23
Salary data specific to the RBT profession is not available from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (US BLS). However, a salary expectation for an RBT can also be reasonably inferred using US BLS data for a job series that has responsibilities analogous to what an RBT does. A useful similar job series for such inference is that of psychiatric technicians and aides. According to BLS data, the median annual wage for psychiatric technicians in May 2021 was $36,570.
The salary any particular individual will earn depends on a number of factors including educational attainment, existing certifications, skills, experience, location and market demand for such professionals. When choosing a career path, reviewing salary data for jobs with similar responsibilities, training, and educational requirements can help individuals to make a more informed decision about their professional future.
Registered Behavioral Technician Professional Associations & Resources
Top professional associations and resources for registered behavior technicians include: