The need for a credible professional credential became apparent early in the history of applied behavior analysis. The first efforts to develop a system that identified behavior-analytic practitioners having a specified level of expertise in the profession began in the early 1970s. Over the years, a number of credentialing initiatives were developed in an effort to meet the profession’s growing needs for a means of establishing a meaningful professional identity. This article reviews the evolution of these initiatives, culminating with the Behavior Analyst Certification Board and the more recent movement toward state licensure.
This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.
Buy single article
Instant access to the full article PDF.
Price includes VAT for USA
Subscribe to journal
Immediate online access to all issues from 2019. Subscription will auto renew annually.
This is the net price. Taxes to be calculated in checkout.
We use the term “profession” to refer to ABA practitioners and their professional infrastructure and the term “discipline” to refer to behavior analysis as a whole.
A certificate program differs from certification in that the former is an assessment of a learner’s performance following a specific training experience and the latter indicates that an individual has met more extensive eligibility requirements (e.g., degree, coursework, supervised experience) and passed a psychometrically sound examination.
Agras, W. S. (1973). Toward the certification of behavior therapists? Journal of Applied Behavior Analysis, 6, 167–173. doi:10.1901/jaba.1973.6-167.
Alessi, G. (1979). Licensing, certification, and registration: some definitions and implications. The Behavior Analyst, 2(2), 40–41.
American Educational Research Association, American Psychological Association, & National Council on Measurement in Education. (2014). Standards for educational and psychological testing (2014th ed.). Washington, DC: American Educational Research Association.
Association of Professional Behavior Analysts. (2017). Licensure and other regulation of ABA practitioners. Retrieved from http://www.apbahome.net/APBALicensure.php.
Autism Speaks. (2017). State initiatives. Retrieved from https://www.autismspeaks.org/state-initiatives.
Ayllon, T., & Michael, J. (1959). The psychiatric nurse as behavioral engineer. Journal of the Experimental Analysis of Behavior, 2, 323–334. doi:10.1901/jeab.1959.2-323.
Bailey, J. S. (1975). Response. In W. S. Wood (Ed.), Issues in evaluating behavior modification: proceedings of the first Drake conference on professional issues in behavior analysis: 1974 (pp. 13–17). Champaign: research Press.
Bailey, J. S., & Burch, M. R. (2016). Ethics for behavior analysts (3rd ed.). New York: Routledge.
Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2015). BACB Newsletter, October 2015. Retrieved from https://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/BACB-Newsletter-10-15.pdf.
Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2017a). Translations of behavior analysis terms. Retrieved from https://bacb.com/terms.
Behavior Analyst Certification Board. (2017b). BACB model act for licensing/regulating behavior analysts. Retrieved from http://bacb.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/BACB_Model_Act.pdf.
Boada, K., & Crowe, E. (2012, August). Colorado passes certification law. The ASHA Leader, 17, 1–25. doi:10.1044/leader.AN1.17102012.1.
Dorsey, M. F., Weinberg, M., Zane, T., & Guidi, M. M. (2009). The case for licensure of applied behavior analysts. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 2(1), 53–58.
Green, G., & Johnston, J. M. (2009a). A primer on professional credentialing: introduction to invited commentaries on licensing behavior analysts. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 2(1), 51–52.
Green, G., & Johnston, J. M. (2009b). Licensing behavior analysts: risks and alternatives. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 2(1), 59–64.
Institute for Credentialing Excellence. (2017). National commission for certifying agencies (NCCA) standards. Retrieved from http://www.credentialingexcellence.org/p/cm/ld/fid=66.
Johnston, J. (2011). What is happening to our field? APBA Reporter, February 2011. Retrieved from www.apbahome.net/newsletter.php?nid=26&aid=262.
Johnston, J. M., Mellichamp, F. H., Shook, G. L., & Carr, J. E. (2014). Determining BACB examination content and standards. Behavior Analysis in Practice, 7, 3–9.
Johnston, J. M., & Pennypacker, H. S. (1971). A behavioral approach to college teaching. The American Psychologist, 26, 217–244.
Johnston, J. M., & Shook, G. (1988). Developing behavior analysis at the state level. The Behavior Analyst, 10, 199–233.
Krapfl, J., Adelman, J., Hake, D., Hall, B., Harshbarger, D., Poppin, R., Vargas, E., & Wylie, R. (1977). Recommendations of the MABA Education and Evaluation Committee – 1977. Chicago: Midwestern Association for Behavior Analysis.
Krasner, L., & Ullmann, L. P. (Eds.). (1965). Research in behavior modification. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Martin, R. (1975). Legal challenges to behavior modification. Champaign: research press.
Members of the Executive Council. (2011). ABAI’s direction: an update from the Executive Council. Inside Behavior Analysis, 3(1) Retrieved from https://www.abainternational.org/media/74450/IBAvol3iss1.pdf.
Michael, J. (Chair). (1972). Training behavior modifiers. In G. Semb (Ed.), Behavior analysis & education -- 1972 (pp. 26–33). Lawrence: University of Kansas.
Miltenberger, R. G. (2010). The ABAI Model Licensing Act, educational standards, and the protection of the profession. Inside Behavior Analysis, 2(1) Retrieved from https://www.abainternational.org/media/74441/IBAvol2iss1.pdf.
National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy. (2017). State license info. Retrieved from www.nbcot.org/state-license-info.
Peterson, M. E. (1978). The Midwestern association of behavior analysis: Past, present, future. The Behavior Analyst, 1, 3–15.
Risley, T. R. (1975). Certify procedures not people. In W. S. Wood (Ed.), Issues in evaluating behavior modification: Proceedings of the first Drake conference on professional issues in behavior analysis: 1974 (pp. 159–181). Champaign: Research Press.
Rutherford, A. (2009). Beyond the box: B.F. Skinner’s technology of behavior from laboratory to life, 1950s–1970s. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
Shook, G. L., Johnston, J. M., Cone, J. D., Thomas, D. R., & Greer, R. D. (1988). Final report: Task force on credentialing, quality assurance and right to practice. Kalamazoo: Association for Behavior Analysis.
Starin, S., Hemingway, M., & Hartsfield, F. (1993). Credentialing behavior analysts and the Florida behavior analysis certification program. The Behavior Analyst, 16, 153–166.
Sulzer-Azaroff, B., Thaw, J., & Thomas, C. (1975). Behavioral competencies for the evaluation of behavior modifiers. In W. S. Wood (Ed.), Issues in evaluating behavior modification: Proceedings of the first Drake conference on professional issues in behavior analysis: 1974 (pp. 47–98). Champaign: Research Press.
Thomas, D. R. (1972). Training behavior modifiers: A summary and a proposal. In G. Semb (Ed.), Behavior analysis & education -- 1972 (p. 34). Lawrence: University of Kansas.
Thomas, D. R. (1979). Certification of behavior analysts in Minnesota. The Behavior Analyst, 2(1), 1–13.
Ullmann, L. P., & Krasner, L. (Eds.). (1965). Case studies in behavior modification. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.
Williams, C. D. (1959). The elimination of temper tantrums by extinction procedures. Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology, 59, 269. doi:10.1037/h0046688.
Wood, W. S. (Ed.). (1975). Issues in evaluating behavior modification: Proceedings of the first Drake conference on professional issues in behavior analysis: 1974. Champaign: Research Press.
Conflict of Interest
The second and third authors are employed by the Behavior Analyst Certification Board, one of the article’s main topics.
This article is dedicated to the memory of Jerry Shook, whose tireless efforts on behalf of professional credentialing will continue to strengthen the profession for years to come.
About this article
Cite this article
Johnston, J.M., Carr, J.E. & Mellichamp, F.H. A History of the Professional Credentialing of Applied Behavior Analysts. BEHAV ANALYST 40, 523–538 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40614-017-0106-9
- Behavior analyst certification board